Imagine a time when not only the multiple choice section of your test is graded by a computer but also the free response section. That time is now.
EdX, a nonprofit founded by Harvard and MIT, has joined a small group of companies that are now making this cutting edge technology available. EdX is one of many other software companies that provides online courses from major universities often called MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses). As time goes on the traditional classroom is moving further away from a physical place and joining the digital world. The beauty of an online course is that you may participate from any location with an Internet connection and thus education is more readily available.
Learning from an online course, however, is much different than submitting your final essay for a class to a software program for grading. One reason to use this software is to free teachers from grading responsibilities and to allow them to focus more heavily on teaching. Professors also may be able to teach more students if the grading is completed by a software program rather than by hand. A second argument for the adoption of this software is that it allows for an immediate critique of the written work, thus allowing the writer to have a better chance to improve the piece. A student can submit an essay, get immediate feedback, and then proceed to redraft the piece and submit it again to see if his or her grade improved.
One may wonder how the software grader compares to a teacher. The process begins when human teachers evaluate one hundred essays. The software then takes this data and uses it to grade future essays. Those involved with the software development believe that it is approaching the abilities of a human grader. The president of EdX said, “This is machine learning and there is a long way to go, but it’s good enough and the upside is huge. We found that the quality of the grading is similar to the variation you find from instructor to instructor.” In Indiana, for example, the software is being used to double check the accuracy of human graders.
Many academic professionals are opposed to the idea of a software program grading students’ written pieces. These individuals have strong and credible reasons to prefer a teacher rather than a software program. We must remember, however, that many of the critics come from prestigious academic programs where the graders are superior to any software program and that not all academic programs are fortunate to have superior teachers. In some schools it may be extremely beneficial to implement this software grading system to increase efficiency, allow immediate feedback for students, and have a consistent grading system.