Exit the human marker

| June 4, 2013 | 1 Comment

Another system growing in popularity in the US is also causing controversy. EdX emerged from an affiliation between Harvard University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the University of California, Berkeley; Wellesley, Georgetown; the University of Texas and seven other institutions that recently combined forces to offer free massive, online courses (MOOCs) to anyone across the globe.

EdX is automated software that marks student assignments. It’s not the first automated grading system to be offered to universities and colleges, but its popularity has escalated criticism of the role of automation in education.

Anant Agarwal, president of edX, has said that “the instant-grading software [is] a useful pedagogical tool, enabling students to take tests and write essays over and over and improve the quality of their answers”.

Agarwal also says his research indicates that students learn better with instant feedback. Agarwal is up against stiff opposition. A group calling itself Professionals Against Machine Scoring of Student Essays in High- Stakes Assessment has already collected about 2 000 signatures as part of a petition against edX and other similar systems. In a statement, the group said, “Computers cannot ‘read’. They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organisation, clarity and veracity.”

Other automated marking systems are also being used in secondary schools in Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

As MOOCs become a staple feature of education around the world, there seems no doubt that automated marking will be here to stay. Says Agarwal, “With increasingly large classes, it is impossible for most teachers to give students meaningful feedback on writing assignments.”

Category: e-Education, Winter 2013

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  1. Robert says:

    Why would people appeal something so simple as an automated grading system? Really?

    Have any of you ever had the ‘privilege’ to mark 720 papers for one test or assignment? I don’t think so… Technology in the educational sector is so powerful and useful, and would make the process of assessing to a specific standard so much easier.

    The only reason why I think people would not want this is because it becomes more difficult to cheat students through the system, which defies the whole purpose of integrated assessment in the first place.

    So a student failed, so what, you want to mark papers till kingdom come to get him/her through, because integrated assessment says that they are allowed to re-write till they pass. Or no, you would rather have them pass, or make them pass, just to stop the whole process of having to re-mark all of their attempts, thus sending unqualified individuals into the job market to further tarnish the ever so sensitive markets.

    Please, someone enlighten me on why this is a bad system? If I didn’t wast time on marking I could have more face to face sessions with my students. If I didn’t have to go to bed at 4am in the morning just to wake up at 5:30am for work again I would enjoy educating others even more.

    Really??? This group don’t have the foggiest idea of what a ‘Professional’ is in the first place…

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