Niihka servers were restarted Oct. 13 between midnight and 2 a.m. because of a bug in the Turnitin website that was allowing students to view other students’ graded work via Niihka.
There are several tools within Turnitin, but the bug occurred within the integration tool where papers are graded and returned, said David Scoville, learning systems coordinator.
“There was a certain setup where in certain cases if a student were to click on the grade-mark button on the Turnitin site, they could see the grade-marked papers of other students,” Scoville said.
The issue was brought to IT Services’ attention by a professor who had been alerted by a student that this was occurring. Scoville said they investigated the situation and found this was possible.
“We discovered this a couple of days before we fixed it,” Scoville said. “Those couple of days were spent finding where the problem was and how we could fix it. It could be that they could have been able to see this since the beginning of the year.”
There was nothing that professors or students could have done to prevent this, it was just a glitch in the system, according to Scoville.
“We test applications the best of our abilities, but things like this will certainly crop up,” Scoville said. “There’s no way to test every possible case, the best we can do with this is we enroll ourselves as student users and run tests.”
Senior Director of Strategic Communication and Planning Cathy McVey agreed that while these sorts of issues aren’t common, when they do occur IT Services works hard to fix it as soon as possible.
“It’s really quite rare,” she said. “But as soon as it’s brought to our attention, we try really hard to test it and fix it as soon as possible.”
In addition to logging on as student users to test the problem, Scoville said they also have community discussions about issues pertaining to glitches in the systems.
“We also keep tabs on the community discussion board so to speak which is where we can find information on these bugs that crop up,” he said. “There is a large community discussion that makes people aware of issues like this.”
Even though students’ privacy was accidentally breached, some students said they believe that glitches in the system are bound to arise and students shouldn’t panic.
“I feel like it’s unfortunate, but there’s no way they could have foreseen it,” junior Valerie Volkman said. “Yes, it’s a big deal, but people shouldn’t freak out about it, especially because it was fixed.”