Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break

Description: Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the “send” button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program.


Date: April 4, 2013

The new service will bring the educational consortium into a growing conflict over the role of automation in education. Although automated grading systems for multiple-choice and true-false tests are now widespread, the use of artificial intelligence technology to grade essay answers has not yet received widespread endorsement by educators and has many critics.

Anant Agarwal, an electrical engineer who is president of EdX, predicted that the instant-grading software would be a useful pedagogical tool, enabling students to take tests and write essays over and over and improve the quality of their answers. He said the technology would offer distinct advantages over the traditional classroom system, where students often wait days or weeks for grades.  READ REST OF STORY

 Questions for discussion:

1. Comment on the following statement “The technology is available therefore we should be using it?”

2. What do you see as the two biggest benefits of this technology and what do you see as the two biggest detriments to using this technology?


12 thoughts on “Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break

  1. Abraham Sarthak

    The professor always have a huge task grading the papers of a lot of students and sometimes it takes more time then expected so this software would easily reduce the work load on professors .I think now they can concentrate more on their classes and the materials they provide they provide .But there is a huge question about the success of this software .In real world there might arise certain circumtances where there is no one answer to the question and it would be difficult to judge the answer provided by the students .But it is always good to know the marks immediately after you have given the exam you can actually figure out the mistakes you have made and correct on that instead of waiting for around 2 or 3 weeks.Well still the use of this kind of technology would depend on the professor and the course he is teaching , whether this would be a success depends totally on the results .The students may or may not like the marking and then what would happen thats the big question .Probably for some subjective paper it would still not be possible to use this kind of software.

  2. chow sau pui

    1. Comment on the following statement “The technology is available therefore we should be using it?”
    This technology is useful for re-do intend to get AI learn from the past. However, it cannot be used in all because we need the past work from the student to evaluate the present work. If we lack of the accurate detail, the system is failed. I have no doubt to say it is convenient software ;however, we should not count on it. The main and necessary is better to use “human brain" to eveluate.
    2. What do you see as the two biggest benefits of this technology and what do you see as the two biggest detriments to using this technology?
    The biggest benefit is convenient and saying cost because AI is 24 7 a week and it could reply atomically.However, it lacks of human sense and real situation evaluation.
    We shouldn’t depend on this technology but use it in the right time. The right time should be concerned by human but not AI analysis.

  3. Colin Stevenson

    Technology is merely a tool that should be utilized by humans to increase efficiency. The problem with technology is that sometimes it seeks to replace humans all together. I feel in this case simply because some technology is available does not necessarily mean that it should be used. I for one have no problem with multiple choice and true/false question exams being graded by a computer. It is a simple task that can be easily programmed. This is a perfect example of freeing up the professor to do more important things. However, grading essay and short/long form answers is an entirely different task. It is impossible for software to replace the human mind. Professors have vast amounts of educational and practical experience that cannot merely be programmed into software. Also there is a benefit from human interaction that a student gains from a Professor. The two main benefits of this type of software would be instant feedback for the student, and more time available to the Professor. Unfortunately the two main drawbacks of this technology are reduced involvement with an actual human being. More importantly what is the measure of reliability of this software? How can a student be assured that the grade they received was actually fair. I would not appreciate a computer marking my essays. No amount of algorithms can replace the context of a human mind. I pay a lot of money to attend University and I expect that a Professional teacher will be there to grade my work according to a human standard. Artificial intelligence is just that artificial.

  4. Brogan Mueller

    This technology offers some potential benefits such as faster grade results, professors would spend less time grading and there would be a standard of consistent grading. However, this technology has some very dangerous cons, such as, errors in grading, no grey areas in answers and less professor-student interaction. I am sure every student would be happy with instant feedback, however, if the feedback is not 100% accurate, it is useless. I cannot imagine this software being very feasible at all. Just because this technology is available, I don’t think we should use it. I mean, if all of our exams are going to be marked by a computer, why don’t we just have the computer teach our classes as well? I don’t think any student would be on board with that. I believe essays are a huge grey area, which cannot be marked based on a predetermined computer program. I believe, that this technology will take away from essays have any expression, or personality in them. Also, if a student can figure out exactly what this program is based on, he/she could write an essay that triggers these sensors and get a good grade, without handing in any sort of substance. Imagine a student received their grade from this software, and was not happy with it, who do they go talk to? If he/she goes back to the professor, the professor is just going to have to re-read the whole paper in order to appeal any issues the student has, thus the software would not actually save anytime. I do not think this software should be used at all.

  5. Navreet

    Software that grades essays? Writing an essay is not a science or math. It does not have any right or wrong answer, only how original, unique or intellectual the thoughts presented are. How is it possible to understand the logical coherence of the essay along with the hidden meaning behind it by a mere software? The maximum that it could probably do is check if grammer, punctuation and sentence structure is correctly used in the essay. Every instructor has a different style of marking. What might be acceptable for one instructor might not be tolerated by the other at all. Which is why, I believe that this software has more disadvantages than advantages.
    1. No human contact which could have adverse implications on students
    2. Accuracy of the software is not guaranteed
    3. If a student wants more explanation about the way he or she was marked, they can approach a professor, Software is not approachable
    4. The software cannot stand on its own. It needs humans to maintain it.
    5. Software can be hacked or meddled with and it could be tricked into giving a higher grade to students.
    Advantages: Probably the only advantage is saving time, but at what cost.
    I think that these kind of software can be developed soon or in the near future. I just believe that this particular software has not reached that level of expertise just yet to employ it right away without having a good look at its pros and cons.

  6. Jake

    Just because techonology is available, does NOT mean we should be using it. Not every new technical development is a gem and it should be known that human touch is irreplaceable in some cases. In a society that is losing its grip on written and oral communication, EdX demonstrates yet another demon that will sink us deeper into this growing sea of illiteracy. An essay cannot be graded by a computer system because it limits the response of the writer. A computer can only know what the developer installs in the software. This means that a completely original paper will not receive the recognition it deserves. There is a danger of the system distributing bad marks to good arguments because they appear “irrelevant” to the grading software when in reality, a human would be able to read the connection to the topic. As a student looking to acquire internships, it is evident that most companies main concern with an applicant’s qualifications is their ability to communicate orally and in writing. Unfortunately, systems such as EdX are not helping the situation and I feel students will miss out on an essential part of the learning experience if these systems become accepted.

  7. Katie Guccione

    This technology offers the benefits of saving time being able to offer immediate feedback, which are two things that are essential when it comes to grading essays. This technology has drawbacks and that is that the guarantee of having the proper grading outline is being used as well as the software might be out of date, or not aligning with the exact style of essay being marked. Students would be happier with the instant feedback and grades and teachers would be more satisfied not having to mark each assignment individually. Unfortunately This type of technology would likely have errors within the grading process, and lacks the human intellectual power that is needed to properly grade essays. This takes away the personal touch that should be put into an essay by each individual, essays are no longer based on expressing yourself, but instead they will have to be a certain style in order to be marked by the paper, everything will have to be similar. This is very similar to the “spell check” but the difference is that people are able to hit ignore and override the action that the computer wants to do. This entire process will take away the personal connection that is meant to be in the essay because computers cannot mark papers based on students personality, papers will no longer be personal. This is a great technology for assignments that do not ask for personal style, but with this type of technology comes a loss in control that professors have over the marks,

  8. Crystal Smallface

    Just because the technology is there I do not think we should automatically use it and take it for granted that it will work properly. A software that grades essays seems too good to be true. How does one know that it is grading essays properly? or that the software program is programmed to do what it is supposed to do. I think the main two benefits of this type of technology would be time and immediate feedback. Time to grade papers is greatly reduced and students will receive immediate feedback on their marks. The two main disadvantages would be errors in the grading process and the absence of human intellect. When professors grade an essay they make intellectual decisions during the grading process, they can assess whether the essay is really good or not. Sure a software program can do the same but the computer cannot make intellectual decisions as humans do when they read. I would disagree with this type of grading process because the software program is programmed to check the validity of essay writing by comparing it to predetermined calculations. It would seem like this type of software program is really just like Word Perfects Spell Check option. We all know that there are errors with spell check and sometimes we just ignore the suggestions that it makes.

  9. Dallon Martin

    That phrase is pretty up front, i think Marc said it well that there are nuclear bombs available, should we be using them. I think there are certain situations that yes, the technology can and should be used but i don’t believe it should be used everywhere. I think a benefit, of this technology would be that it provides immediate feedback which is always nice, because usually it takes teachers awhile to return papers and by then students usually dont look over the paper and the marks that the teacher has made. And the idea of being able to do it over again right away, while its all still fresh. Another benefit could be that teachers use the markers as guides that help them mark the papers, and that way everyone is getting a broader view on there paper and marks are then more consistent.
    I think students might try and be able to find ways to cheat and by that i mean find ways to get high marks by not actually doing their assignment. They will be able to find ways around it. I feel that the technology will have a hard time understanding the emotion in paper or other things such as political issues. The instructor will be able to understand these things.

  10. Brendan Schlossberger

    One benefit is the instant feedback that allows the students to improve on what they did far better than by waiting a week or two. A week later the essay isn’t fresh in your mind still and you’re not engaged in it still and most students likely don’t have the time to re-examine the essay because they are busy with new assignments the next week. Another would be the more available feedback. The system would provide more feedback than human markers can because the simply don’t have the time. a disadvantage is the inability to converse with an automated system when you disagree or need clarification. Another is the fact that this automated marking can hinder our ability to write to a person’s preferred style like it is in the real world. People prefer things in styles they are comfortable with and computers may make everyone’s work generic since each paper would be marked the same. Just because a technology is available doesn’t mean it should be used. The potential is great but that does not warrant its use everywhere. The testing and small samples that US universities are doing are the right way of handling this technology. It has its place but they need to use it to find out what the real advantages and disadvantages actually are.

  11. ibrahim.akinola

    Although this technology offers a lot of advantages, the two biggest benefits of this technology will be instant feedback and reduction of professor’s task.
    Let starts off with instant feedback, by allowing students paper to be graded quickly and returned the students are able to view his/her scores and evaluate their performance. As a student I can relate because most of the times, it takes teachers longer times to grade our papers and by the time we receive it, some of us are less likely to pay attention to the corrections we mad; but through this technology we are able to see our mistakes instantly and understand what is expected of us next time, also it reduces the amount of students that will have to wait in line to book and meet with the professor.
    The second benefit is reduction in the professor’s task. It frees up time for the professor to focus on other things and answer students who have difficulties in other areas.

    The two detriments are:
    1) There might be problems when it comes to grading because every students essay papers are different, hence it will be better if the professor grades them because he/she has a better knowledge of interpreting and understanding a student’s paper.
    2) It brings about free time for professors which can also be a disadvantage because the professor tends to become lazy since the technology is doing everything and in some cases can lead to layoff of other young teachers, since departments won’t require a lot of staffs due to this technology.

  12. Marc

    1. The statement is a little bizarre. Nuclear bombs are available, should we be using it? The existence of a tool doesn’t justify its use.

    2. Benefit: A second marker to double check that a human marker is paying attention. This will bring attention to the markers and instructors that grade papers without reading them.

    Benefit: A computer can spot plagiarism more accurately than a human can. The automated marker could flag a paper as plagiarism and provide a sample of the writing that it suspects was copied for the marker’s review and decision.

    Detriment: Instructor laziness. The ease of automated marking for multiple choice exams has shifted public education from creation to recognition. I’m honestly a lazy student, but I’ve gotten pretty good at writing multiple choice exams. I’ve noticed the implications in the rest of my life, that I cannot provide creative solutions readily, but I can recognize a good solution when I see it. It’s two entirely different cognitive tasks, and like exercising the same muscles repeatedly without exercising others (see: every day is upper body day memes), the brain rewires itself to suit recognition instead of recall.

    Detriment: Lack of understanding of the student. There are some ways that technology can’t yet replace humans… such as understanding and feeling relationships. If a person speaks in a way that the professor understands, but the computer doesn’t, the automated marking system could give lower scores.


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