Thursday, January 21, 2021

Helping students succeed in a challenging time

A student wearing a mask checks his smartphone.

A message from the Student Success Office.

The Student Success Office is continuing to offer a breadth of online resources to support students throughout the winter term. We know that the ongoing pandemic has presented students with new challenges, and we’re committed to providing supports that address their unique needs.

Academic development

  • NEW - Students can drop-in to a Warrior Virtual Study Hall - a weekly supported study session. The sessions are facilitated by a Peer Success Coach to introduce new academic skills, help students create study goals and answer questions. The goal of this program is to facilitate academic skill development, community-building and peer-to-peer relationships.
  • Students can book a one-on-one appointment with a Peer Success Coach for personalized support addressing academic challenges and creating a plan for success. Our coaches are upper-year students with experience overcoming their own study roadblocks.
  • Students can attend the Making the Most of Online Learning workshop to prepare for a successful online term. A Peer Success Coach will discuss course resources, how to create a routine that works and setting up a study environment for success. Students can register in UWaterloo Portal for this workshop throughout January.
  • Students can access Online Learning Resources to help them study more effectively.
  • Students can use Tutor Connect to find a student tutor or list their services in UWaterloo Portal. The latest enhancements for Tutor Connect include: grade validation for all UG students, Grad users can now select any courses to tutor (up to a max of 100 courses) and antirequisites/compatible courses have been added.

Leadership development

  • The Student Leadership Program has been updated to provide a more engaging experience for participants. The program now includes three major components: six core workshops, a 10-hour leadership experience and a reflection exercise. Students can register for workshops in UWaterloo Portal.
  • Students can register for the Foundational Training Program for Peer Leaders in UWaterloo Portal to develop core skills for working in a peer-to-peer program at the University of Waterloo.

International student experience

Global learning

  • Second round exchange applications are open from January 15 to 26. Students can attend an information session to get started.
  • The Global Experience Certificate is a good way for students to showcase their achievements in internationalization – even from home.

How Turnitin can improve your students' writing

An illustration of a laptop with a coffee, smartphone, and writing pad.

By Melanie Misanchuk, Ph.D., and Christine Zaza, Ph.D., Centre for Extended Learning.

 Turnitin® is a text-matching tool that is perhaps best known as an easy add-on to a LEARN Dropbox to help “catch plagiarism.” This view is not entirely accurate (e.g., Turnitin does not always verify authorship) and it is a bit simplistic. Many students do not understand what Turnitin is, how it works, or how it is being used in their courses. Here are three recommendations on how you and your students can get the most out of Turnitin.  

Explain what Turnitin is and how you’re using it in your course 

Students need/want clear communication about what Turnitin is, how it works, and how it is being used in their courses (Zaza & McKenzie, 2018). Moreover, students experience high anxiety over Turnitin and fear that they will be wrongfully accused of plagiarism (Zaza & McKenzie, 2018). There is a lot of boilerplate information available from a technical or privacy point of view, but students benefit when their instructor takes the time to explain what Turnitin is and how it is being used in the course. The Office of Academic Integrity website has a Quickguide that instructors can share with their students for more information. It is important to provide a fair and reasonable alternative for those who opt-out of Turnitin, so that opting out is a viable choice for those who wish to do so.   

Choose Turnitin settings that suit your needs 

For each submission, Turnitin generates a Similarity Report which shows how much a submission matches work found in the Turnitin database. The settings you choose have a big impact on the Similarity Report – e.g., including the reference section inflates the similarity score because all of the references will match the published references word for word. Refer to Using Turnitin – Instructions for Set-up to select settings that are most educationally beneficial to your students, while still preserving the plagiarism-detection functionality.

Use Turnitin as an Educational Tool 

Since most instances of plagiarism are unintentional due to under-developed academic writing skills, catching plagiarism is not that effective in reducing future infractions.  

Therefore, we propose using Turnitin as an educational tool, in addition to using it as an aid to detect plagiarism.   

Using Turnitin as an educational tool means allowing students the opportunity to submit a draft of their assignment to the Turnitin-enabled dropbox in advance of the due date so that students can then view their Similarity Report and correct problems before submitting their final version for grading. Having the opportunity to view and correct citation errors on a draft is a good first step, but that alone, doesn’t necessarily lead to improvements in academic writing. It’s more effective to use additional strategies along with the draft submission, for example:   

  • Direct students to the Writing and Communication Centre’s resources on paraphrasing and citation 
  • Connect with the Writing and Communication Centre to see what other options are possible (e.g., custom workshops for your course)
  • Ask students to submit their draft and the Similarity Report of their draft, along with a reflection on what they learned from the Similarity Report (e.g., what types of errors were identified) as a separate deliverable worth a small percentage of their assignment grade.  
  • Ask students to submit a reflection on the ‘before’ and ‘after’ writing (i.e., before and after they reviewed the Similarity Report on their draft) along with their final submission.  

In Conclusion

By providing clear messaging, using appropriate settings, and encouraging writing support, you can continue to use Turnitin as the first line of identification of plagiarism, while also helping your students improve their academic writing and reducing their anxiety.  

Turnitin Resources  

Julian Agyeman will deliver 2021 TD Walter Bean virtual lecture

A collage of TD Walter Bean Professorship in Environment holders.

The 2021 TD Walter Bean Professor in Environment will deliver a public lecture on Tuesday, January 26.

Julian Agyeman.Julian Agyeman, Ph.D. FRSA FRGS is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. He is the originator of the increasingly influential concept of just sustainabilities, the intentional integration of social justice and environmental sustainability. He is the author or editor of 12 books, including Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (MIT Press, 2003), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability (MIT Press, 2011), and Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities (MIT Press, 2015), one of Nature’s Top 20 Books of 2015. In 2018, he was awarded the Athena City Accolade by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for his "outstanding contribution to the field of social justice and ecological sustainability, environmental policy and planning".

In his remarks, Julian Agyeman will outline the concept of just sustainabilities as a response to the ‘equity deficit’ of much sustainability thinking and practice. He will explore his contention that who can belong in our cities will ultimately determine what our cities can become. He will illustrate his ideas with examples from urban planning and design, urban agriculture and food justice, the ‘Minneapolis Paradox’ and the concept of sharing cities.

The TD Walter Bean Professorship in Environment was founded in 1992 by the late Walter Bean, who was president of Waterloo Trust until its merger with Canada Trust in 1968. Since 1994, the professorship has promoted hands-on learning and a focus on youth, education and the environment. Formerly a partnership between the University of Waterloo's faculties of Engineering, Environment and Science, as of 2019, the Faculty of Environment will be the host of the TD Walter Bean Professorship in Environment. TD Walter Bean Professorships in Environment is the faculty’s signature event, attracting top international research professors on the environment to campus to give public lectures, teach classes, and meet with professors and students. 

The virtual event takes place on Tuesday, January 26 at 6:30 p.m. Register now.

Thursday's notes

Regular faculty in the Faculty of Arts, and regular staff in the Office of Research are invited to vote in their respective elections to choose their representatives on the Vice-President, Research & International Nominating Committee. Elections are scheduled to open on Monday, 25 January 2021 at 12:00 noon, and close on Friday, 29 January 2021 at 12:00 noon. All eligible voters will receive a direct email with a link to the electronic ballot on Monday, 25 January.

Please see Nominations and Elections for more information and candidate statements, or contact Emily Schroeder in the Secretariat.

There is still time to sign up for the Sustainability Certificate program being offered in the winter term. This series is intended to help Waterloo embed sustainability into campus culture, one of the major goals of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy. It includes seven modules that cover key local and global sustainability issues, what the University is doing, and tools and resources for employees to integrate sustainability into their own departments, homes, and beyond. Sessions will be held remotely through Microsoft Teams, and registration will be managed through Workday. For a list of session dates and more information, please visit the Sustainability Certificate webpage.

Those interested in presenting at the Seventh Annual Advisor Conference: The Challenge of Change now have until Friday, January 22, 2021 to submit a proposal. Proposals should be a stimulating and/or interactive learning experience focusing on advising best practices, information sharing, or new initiatives. The Advisor Conference will be held virtually April 15 and 16.

Employers on campus next week hosting employer information sessions include Wattpad Corp, Fairfax Financial Holdings, BDO Canada LLP, Overbond, Datadog, Capula Investment Management, FDM Group, Grapevine, Mosea Technologies, and Genesys. Make sure to register through WaterlooWorks and check the calendar for any updates.

Link of the day

Lincoln Alexander Day

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Updated Course templates are now available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly. Support for Winter 2021 is available.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Independent Remote Course Design Essentials. Self-directed, continuous self-enrollment course in LEARN.

Getting Ready to Facilitate Online Courses: TA Training, Monday, January 18, 2021, 8:30 a.m. to Friday, February 12, 4:30 p.m. 

Microsoft OneNote - Class Notebooks, Wednesday, January 27, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Introduction to PebblePlus (CTE7527), Thursday, January 28, 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

Whether you’re a student or faculty member, the Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help you with all of your academic writing needs. This term we have added evening and weekend one-to-one appointments with our peer tutors, and our NEW one-to-one workshops, where you can learn the content directly from one of our writing advisors.

  • Undergraduates: Work with us to brainstorm, draft, revise, and polish your assignments in one-to-one appointments. Ask questions and learn writing tips at our Instagram Live Q&A sessions, and beat isolation while improving your writing skills at the weekly PJ-friendly writing groups.
  • Graduates: Meet with our advisors in one-to-one appointments. Join the online writing community at the Virtual Writing Cafés, learn how to present your work at Speak Like a Scholar, or get moving on your dissertation at Dissertation Boot Camp.
  • Faculty and Instructors: Request custom workshops for your courses, join the Waterloo writing community at the Virtual Writing Cafés, or make progress on your article, book, or chapter in one-to-one meetings with our faculty specialist.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre facilitates the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and provides culturally relevant information and support services for all members of the University of Waterloo community, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty.

WUSA supports for students:

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at More information at

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more from Warriors Athletics and Rec. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

Warrior Reset, January 11 to February 4. Free online program with three live fitness classes per week along with tips, tricks and worksheets to help you define your path to better health while being part of an online community. Register by January 10.

Warrior Rec Free Programs for Students, January to February. Wide range of free opportunities available to keep students active and healthy including:Fitness Classes (On-Demand), Health and Mindfulness Webinars, Personalized Nutrition Guides, Personal Training Consultations, Small Group Trainingand Warrior Reset. Register today.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Warriors truLOCAL Kickback Program, January 20 to February 20. Support your Warriors  varsity teams by purchasing a pre-set truLOCAL box filled with the best quality locally sourced meat and fish. Find out more information and purchase a box today.

IT Seminar: Information Security Services (ISS) Update, Friday January 22, 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Join online.

Master of Taxation Virtual Information Session, Saturday, January 23, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Register at

Employee Wellness Session: Everyday Accessibility Tools for Everyone, Monday, January 25, 11:00 a.m. Register by January 22.

Gender Differences in Waterloo Graduate Engineering Student Experiences, Monday, January 25, 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., online/virtual.

Virtual Celebration of Life for Pearl Sullivan, Tuesday, January 26, 11:30 a.m.

Centre for Career Action presents Building Upon Our Resilience: Practical Mindfulness and Wellness Strategies for Challenging Times, Tuesday, January 26, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. Register on WaterlooWorks (under Career Centre Events).

Concept Working Session: Building an Entrepreneurial Mindset, Tuesday, January 26, 5:30 p.m., virtual event.

NEW - 2021 TD Walter Bean Professorship in Environment, "Just Sustainabilities in Urban Planning, Policy and Practice," Tuesday, January 26, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Applying for tenure workshop, Wednesday, January 27, 10:30 a.m.

NEW - Noon Hour Concert: Still Singing, Wednesday, January 27, 12:30 p.m. Anneli Loepp Thiessen presents a lecture recital on the new Voices Together Hymnal, which includes many female composers and writers. Free event, online.

NEW - Concept Intro Session: What's Your Problem? Wednesday, January 27, 6:00 p.m., virtual event.

Bell Let’s Talk Day, Thursday, January 28. Join your fellow Warriors and nearly 200 other universities and colleges across Canada to participate in the world’s largest mental health conversation. Now more then ever, every action counts! Find out how you can be involved.