Essay-Grading Software Gives Professors a Slack Job

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?


28 thoughts on “Essay-Grading Software Gives Professors a Slack Job

  1. Heather Allan

    Today technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and where it once took years for new technology to evolve it now is only a matter of months. Accompanying this increasing rate of technological development, our wants have also evolved to needing the newest technology at one’s disposal. We have become a technology driven world. However, all technology that is available is not necessarily beneficial. I believe that if we are going to be using this software to grade a students work that it must meet or exceed expectations placed on teachers. We as students pay for our education, we pay for a professor to teach us, and to educate us. The way I see it, technology can rarely see red as green, and continue to go when someone else says stop. As long as you follow the rules and pass exams you are good. But if your answer is something outside of the box the automatic response will be a cross. School is meant to expand your horizons and your visions, so how could you incorporate technology to grade someone’s perspective and innovation. I believe it would be difficult to allow a computer that is programmed with right and wrong answers to justly evaluate the creativity and the frame of mind of diverse individuals. The benefits of receiving feedback are valid, however having feedback from a professor I believe will exponentially outweigh preconceived messages placed on a computer. If we were to implement this system I believe advancements in the technology are necessary before allowing technology to assess a person’s creativity and beliefs.

  2. cpituley

    I think that just because technology is available to you, does not mean that you should be using it. In the case of free essay grading software, I feel that teachers should not use it because there is no way that the software could account for voice. Maybe if the course was purely graded on conventions and a very basic structure, this software program could be helpful. If there are any other grading guidelines such as voice, ingenuity, or expanding on an abstract topic; I feel that grading the paper should be done by someone that can take into account the different dimensions found in the assignment. A multi faceted assignment cannot be graded on one, set rubric. All aspects need to be taken into account. I would say students can take advantage of this software by submitting their papers ahead of time for basic feedback and structural/ convention improvement.
    I see the biggest benefits of using instant feedback grading to be quicker improvements in drafts of a paper with regards to conventions and to inform the student if they are still on topic. If students are off topic, they would know where they were driven off course and where to fix it. I think the two biggest detriments of this technology as replacing teachers and not giving accurate grades on multi dimensional writing assignments. If we start offering completely automated classes, including everything from enrollment to grading of tests, papers, and assignments, I think the need of teachers would slowly begin to deteriorate. If studies are able to show that students learn equally well without a teacher as compared to with, all sources of higher education would be able to cut costs by moving to completely teacher free environments. In regards to my second fear of this software, inaccurate grading, I think that the program is not able to accurately measure “accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others.” I strongly feel that this program could be used by students to improve their writing before handing it in to get a final mark. But, in no way is this program able to replace teachers and their keen eye for important aspects of writing.

  3. Liz Martin

    I think the essay-grading software definitely has some limitations but it could still be a huge asset to the education system if it’s used in specific ways and alongside humans.
    The software could help eliminate instructor bias, prejudice or favoritism, acting as a guide for marking. Critics demand perfection from the software but in reality, instructor’s grading isn’t always perfect either.
    Critics claim the software doesn’t perform subjective measures of work competently enough, such as the ethical stance, creativity, or convincing argument within a paper. I agree that it would be an enormous challenge developing software that effectively does this and that it’s not ready to be used for that yet. But instead of critiquing it for what it doesn’t do well, it could instead be used for improving objective measures of student learning, like grammar skills. It could also be useful for grading work pertaining to factual reporting; checking for basic understanding of concepts. We would just have to put some time into dividing and defining objective learning involving less critical thinking, and work that’s more creative and subjective. If it were used like this the feedback from both activities would theoretically be more immediate, and instructors would have more time to focus on helping students improve and develop their ability to convey ideas, form an argument, etc. instead of marking grammar and spelling mistakes.
    I can understand the discontentment of some intellectuals at this software; if I spent time and money becoming an expert in my field and suddenly a new software deemed my role unnecessary, I wouldn’t be thrilled either. Perhaps intellectuals feel their hard work and knowledge is being undermined by this. Either way I feel the reactions are too defensive and too critical; they overlook the software’s potential.
    Although it’s not a very nice sentiment I do think that if not replacing, then “backing up” or reinforcing some jobs with technology would make us a more productive society. We now have software that eliminates the need for designers – the computer designs the item without any human input. I don’t think anyone wants to be the person who is replaced by technology, but I do think that changes are inevitable with the demands of our growing population and society. Have we not restructured work the same way in the past when old methods no longer meet our needs? Is all our food produced by hand, or have we replaced jobs with technology in the agricultural industry the same way? I think we are only just on the cusp of using technology in the education system. Instructors face increasing demands with larger and larger class sizes and there just isn’t enough time for them to do everything. Either we address the issue at it’s source by decreasing class sizes and train and hire more teachers, or we adapt to it. Incorporating the software will offer students a better quality education by giving instructors more time to actually teach, even though it will inevitably hurt some individuals as their jobs are accounted for by the software.

  4. James Mahoney

    I don’t believe that just because the technology is available that we should be using it. I think the human element is still needed to evaluate essays and short answer questions. At most the system should be used to make sure the teachers don’t have any bias against their students. Although I don’t think the technology should be used it is still a close call between yes and no because of some of the benefits that the program offers. People in favour of this system make a very good point when they talk about the instant feedback element of the program. There have been many times when I get a comment or grade back and can barely remember all the details the marker will be talking about. To have instant feedback would be a way to guarantee that the same mistake wouldn’t be made in the future because it would be fresh in my mind. Another bonus of this is that the teacher will have more time. You would hope that they would use this time to make lessons a lot more interesting for their students and not just kick back and relax. Two issues that spark controversy is that the system can be fooled and that the students don’t know their audience. The possibility of error in the system can be avoided with a human marker, and audience is one of the most important elements of writing. If the audience is a machine then it might be difficult to find the target. Overall I think the cons outweigh the pros but only slightly.

  5. Ahmed Awad

    One of the main objectives of technology is to make our lives easier and more productive. The idea of software grading isn’t brand new, and hasn’t been implemented due to the complexity of the task. Now if we think outside the box, we can see that this idea has two major parts to it; first its benefits and its drawbacks. Some of the benefits include: saving the student as well as the professor’s time, once a student finishes writing up his/her essay they would press send and receive their marks right away and from the professor side, they don’t have to spend time marking the essay. It also enforces equality among all students’ essays. On the other hand, some of the drawbacks may include the inability of determining whether the student actually tried their best or not and whether they did learn those ideas from class or not. The big issue here is, to a machine it’s either 1 or 0 and noting in between. Also this creates an isolation zone comes between the professor and the student, so for the professor, it would be really hard to know if a certain concept is understood by all student and that essay reflects that concept. The second part of this technology is practicality and results within the task. Now writing is a very complex task, and it’s not as easy as “true/false” question or multiple choice questions; where only one answer is the correct answer. It also requires the concept of understanding is written and making sense out of it. Also the software is missing the intellectual aspects of writing even though software can do it faster but yet not smarter. So in-terms of practicality, it could be very impractical since it wouldn’t understand what is meant by the writing. This will also have a huge impact on the results of the marking. For example, if the software looks for specific related words to the essay topic and didn’t find any words that are related to the essay then it would give that essay a zero, and here is the problem an idea could have an endless ways to express it verbally; so the student has expressed his idea in different ways then the software which does not mean it’s a failing essay. To conclude, this idea of software grading is a perfect solution but not for this task and if it was used with respect to this task it would bring more harm than good.

  6. Brad Zhang

    Human beings are lazy, as we all know. That is why the scantron answer sheet was invented for multiple choices and true and false questions. Personally, I totally agree with the idea of electronic marker for tests because I understand how hard and trouble it is for teachers to mark assignments and tests one by one. Technologies save not only time but also resources for teachers and teaching facilities. Besides that, the electronic marker also satisfies teachers and allow them to spend more time on research and teaching instead of sitting in office for marking works which can be done in other ways. I still remember when I was in elementary and middle school back in China, scantron was not fully engaged in all tests and assignments for teachers. So some teachers even asked we students to the office for helping them on marking multiple choices and true and false questions. I think this is kind same with using the scantron in nowadays.
    However, I think the electronic maker is nothing more than a tool as same as a red pen for teachers. The purpose of using it is saving time without harming the accuracy of students’ scores. But I can not understand how the software is about to work on marking essays. Does it mark papers by key words? But how could a computer understand papers in the human ways, and if computers can actually do that, then our world may turns to be the world like what Issac Asimov wrote in his novel I, Robot. Computer controls humans, not the humans use computers.

  7. Jingyi Wang

    Actually I did see a big convienient from this grading software, it can release the professor from the heavy load of grading students’ essey, and students can get their results immediently and get a feedback of their result. The software will also ask students to redo their essey in order to have an improvnment in their score. I prefer to have result right now, because I still remember what I was thinking when doing the test, and it will give me a deeply impression of the wrong things of my answers.
    But , the problem is how dose the sofware give those scores? they are not human intelligence, how do they justify whether or not the article is a good one. I think the software read easey based on the key words. if the key words show up in the essey, then the students will get a high score. I have seen the using of this software in TOFEL test, my teacher has used an meaningless article to test the software, he only put the key words in and place the logical words in the right place and then fill in the blank with the meaningless sentances, the result is he got a considerable score.
    Till now, I agree to use this technology in the multiple choice and true and false questions, but not in the essey.

  8. Litchi Peng

    In my opinion, I think it really depends on what kind of questions on the exams. There is no doubt that it is convenient to grad some answers which are specific like multiply choices. It saves professors’ time and students can get their mark back quickly. Technology cannot make mistakes sometimes compared to people. Therefore, it is a good way to mark this kind of exams using technology. However, some exams have short answers or have to write an essay. I do not think it is still a good way to mark papers using technology. These subjective questions show a person’s ideas and thoughts. There is no wrong and no right of a person’s opinions, so technology marking system probably has not ability to mark these kinds of answers. One of the biggest benefits of this technology is that it does save professor’s time which has not to spend on marking. As professors, they better spend more time in their own studies or time with students rather than marking exams. In addition, professors can easily see the results of exams such as who gets the highest mark and who gets the lowest mark and what the average mark something like this. One of the detriments is that technology has no feeling like a person. It grade exams in their “dead” way, it is not fair to students. The purpose of an exam is to check what students have learned during one short period and how much knowledge they have gained in their exams. However, marking program could not give feedbacks and the right directions to students which are another disadvantage.

  9. Jill

    As a student, I appreciate a timely return of an assignment so that I can make necessary improvements in my work before the next assignment is due. In my short university career, I have noticed a significant improvement in my work in classes where the professor provides useful written feedback than in classes where a professor does not. If technology could grade an essay for technical errors such as grammar, structure or plagiarism, it would allow the professor more time to evaluate the content or ideas, and provide useful feedback to the student. Therefore, I agree with the statement that “the technology is available, therefore we should be using it,” however I think it should be used as a tool to reinforce the instructor’s grade, not to replace the instructor’s grade.

    There are many uses of this technology available to a professor. Perhaps a professor could use the technology as a tool for sorting papers before grading. For example, the professor may want to grade the lower marked papers first while he is most alert, or he may want to alternate higher grades with lower grades to maintain a balanced bias towards the students. He also could quickly determine which parts of the course to include on the final exam based on the computer-generated results.

    If I was a professor, I would want to be sure that the computer-generated results were consistent with the grades I awarded a student for their work. Providing two grades for an essay would ensure a balanced grade and potentially improve the quality of the instructor’s comments.

  10. Matthew Malm

    The idea that a possible technology could be employed just because it is available without a consensus by faculty is a little appalling. The studies that are cited in the article are analyzing the quantitative variables between the two options. They fail to employ any methods that determine physiologic effects of receiving a mark without just cause and no one to hold accountable. It was clear after reading the article that there still is a variance between the abilities of automated marking and physical hand marking by professors. I do realize that there is an absorbent cost associated with offering real feedback but I believe it is important in fostering the abilities of youth. Proponents of this system may cite such examples as the current variance between human markers as an example why this system should be employed. However, I personally believe that the feedback on how you can improve your abilities that is offered by a professor is irreplaceable. In addition, in the event of a discrepancy between the opinion of a student and computer, there is no one held accountable for the decision of the mark given.

    The two underlying benefits of this technology are the cost effective nature and unbiased marking. The only potential for marking a string of things incorrectly is a flaw in the algorithm. However, if such a flaw exists every single paper will be subjected to incorrect marking. This is one major disadvantage to using such a technology. Another is the lack of accountability behind the marks given. If someone receives an unrealistically low grade on a well thought-out paper, who is he or she to address about their concern?

  11. Yaqian Diao

    I don’t agree with the statement “The technology is available therefore we should be using it”, even though the system has been tested for a great amount of times.
    There are two main advantages of the Essay-Grading Software. First of all, it can make it easy and fast for the professors to grade for students. Students don’t need to wait for a long time to get their marks. On the other hand, the professors also can save more time on grading essay, and doing the research. The second advantage is that it can provide the feedback. It can help students improve their essays with the exact proof, and also can provide the citation for professors, if they want to read the essays.
    However, there are also some disadvantages. The biggest problem is thoughts. We have to accept that the technology is just a system, which is narrow and limited. As we know, the system can grade multiple-choice and true-false tests, find and correct the grammar faults, and figure out the citations, but it cannot determine whether or not an idea is right, or if it is useful for the topic.
    As a student, I prefer the professor grading my essay to the system. I think I can get a better and more real feedback from the professor. If I can’t understand the feedback, or I don’t agree with it, I can come to see the professor and talk about my essay and feedback. While, how can I communicate with a system or computer?

  12. Tammie Tuccaro

    My first thought was a saying that my mother used to say to me, “if your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you?” I think the analogy is similar as to the question being asked. Just because the technology is available doesn’t mean we should be using it. This world is becoming so automated and it almost seems like these types of programs are making human beings, especially teachers in this case, lazy.

    The benefits to this type of program would of course be that it is much quicker to get marked and returned to students BUT how does one feel like they are expressing themselves when they know that a computer will be grading them. I know for myself personally I like receiving feedback regardless if it is positive or negative as it also includes someone else’s point of view per say.

    Another benefit would be that it gives teachers more time to do other tasks. On the other hand, my question would be how did teachers get all of their other work done in the past when these types of efficient marking programs weren’t available?! I think that there are too many of these programs that people rely on nowadays when the human brain should actually be analyzing essays as they show emotion, empathy and so on.

  13. Blake Bolton

    I shouldn’t have read some of the other comments before starting mine. This isn’t the Manhattan project EdX is working on, I doubt the creators of this software will be as regretful as Oppenheimer when he quoted the Bhagavad Gita. The benefits of this software might not seem as obvious as the drawbacks, but it definitely has both.
    Instant feedback is the largest benefit. I’ve become accustomed to it with multiple choice exams; to the point I was angry when my 100 question exam result in MGT 2060 was not available as soon as I hit submit. In my case, being able to review my work as soon as I complete it makes it easier to understand my mistakes than after significant time has passed. If implemented correctly, this software could help alleviate some of the strain on a stressed educational system. I am not greatly informed about the status of the American educational system, but it’s my understanding that things aren’t going very well for them in the public sector and software like this or any other tool that would help out their struggling teachers would be welcomed.
    The disadvantages are more noticeable. The quality of inspection wouldn’t compare to a human teacher. Students have learned how to write multiple-choice exams without actually grasping the material (I’m guilty of this in a few classes), and that is a possibility with this software. Or even worse, the grading scheme could be discovered and students would have a formula to write flawless essays without learning a thing.
    But, like all technology, if you don’t give it a chance to grow it will go nowhere and while they might not have the best software initially, it might evolve into a very useful tool for instructors. Or to use an outrageous comparison, telling EdX to leave marking to teachers is akin to telling the Wright brothers to leave flying to the birds.

  14. Songxuan Wu

    “The technology is available therefore we should be using it” is not right. There are so many technologies that are available, but they are many ethic disputes around these technology. I think using the essay-grading is also a technology which has the ethic dispute.

    There are many ways to judge if an essay is good or not. The grammar is only one way of It., but it doesn’t means it’s the only way. Sometimes the emotion in the essay is more important. The software’s working is kind of rigid; it can’t work the same as the people. Especially the essay in the University, there are so many students coming from all around the world. The way they are writing is very diversity. The software may be able to understand it.

    The first benefit of this technology is it can make the professor’s life easier. The professor could have more time to spend with their students or work on their own studies. This could release the professor pressure. The second benefit of this technology is the technology could give feedback to the students immediately, students could release from the waiting time. This could also make the students feels less pressure.
    The first disadvantage is the software is only software. There are so many emotions that the software could not get, it’s doesn’t have the personality or the humanity. It may miss many good essays. The second disadvantage is this technology is it has the ethical problems. The software could mark the essay, so does is means the students could use the software to write an essay? Or one day, the software wills instead professor to do everything.

  15. Regi Rocha

    Not too long ago, I turned in an essay via a computer program that could check for plagiarism, grammar help mark my work and although I felt safe about my paper, the idea that a computer was checking it was not really comfortable for me. Regarding the statement “the technology is available therefore we should be using it?” not all technology is 100% beneficial or accurate and we need to evaluate it before we use it. In the case of EdX, where computer software automatically grades essays, I do not personally see any benefit of this technology. I would rather have a grade from my professor with a comment at the end telling me where I can improve, rather than a cold immediate reply saying to try again. Though I don’t think this technology is beneficial I could see at least two advantages. First, this software would give teachers time to work in other areas rather than reading hundreds of essays. As well, it would give students a chance to write until they improve and eliminate their mistakes.
    The drawback to this software is that it will read and analyze grammar mistakes but without understanding the content. Another problem is that students and teachers will slowly get used to the system and papers will eventually lose their quality. In conclusion no computer or software will ever behave like a human being capable to think critically, have common sense and use judgment. These traits only humans have, unfortunately we have made mistakes but this software is a mistake that could change our education system for the worse.

  16. Rongxiang Zhang

    I disagree with the idea that we should use the technology just because it is there. There are couples of reasons. One reason is that whether the technology is useful for some purpose. For example, phone is a useful technology because it makes communication easier and timely. Another reason is that if the technology is easy to handle. If the technology is hard to handle, the costs of handle that technology will be very high. Moreover, before we use one technology, we need to see if it has many substitutes or it hard to be substituted. If one technology has many similar technologies so that it can be replaced, why should we use it?
    The Essay-grading software has advantages also disadvantages. One main advantage of essay grading software is it provides timely feedback. As Dr. Agarwal said in this article, students tend to learn more from instant feedback. However, grading by professors usually takes many days or weeks. So students may lose their fresh memory for some questions and ideas. Another advantage of this grading software is it allows students to revise their essay until they got a higher grade. Because of revising instantly, students know where they can make an improvement and where they did a mistake, and they know how to change that mistake.
    On the other hand, one disadvantage is this grading software does not have human sense to comprehend an essay, just as said in the article “They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence…” Another disadvantage is the costs of future use of the grading software, because it needs to be upgrade. And it means many authorized professors sit together again to come up rules of assessing an essay for the software, which is a huge cost.

  17. Hailin Wu

    Some technologies are not created to replace human works although some are. The essay-grading software does not provide the full equivalent of human’s intelligence, because they are working on the different ways – or, to be precise, machines and programs are thinking in the way of only “0” and “1”, not even “2”, while we humans are thinking theoretically, critically, philosophically, and logically. Just because it is designed for essay, the answers vary, the opinions vary, the grading methods will vary as well. Or, more simply, the software does not have a brain or thought as we do. If you know more than one language, it will be easier to demonstrate this argument by typing a random paragraph essay into Google Translate and click the result of the other target language. The only reason that automated grading systems for multiple-choice and true-false tests are now widespread is because the systems are programmed to be only one answer, which might be “00111000 11010100 01010100”. Other than that, all other different answers will be wrong.

    However, I am not saying that this technology should be avoided or abandoned. I believe professors will find it beneficial in the future just because the computers are designed to be smart and accurate. In my point of view, this technology is not by accident – every existent thing has a cause. This essay-grading system should not be doing professors’ job but students’. Just as Dr. Agarwal said, “There is a huge value in learning with instant feedback” for us students. Since this system is designed for students’ good, rather than using it to take over professors’ job, we can use it as fault check system no matter for checking grammar, punctuation, and sentence structures errors, or other advanced purposes.

    Therefore, my suggestion on this issue is the university can apply this technology into students’ account, for example, bridge account or webmail account, and let students use it free according to their own wishes.

  18. Carlie Willimont

    The above statement “the technology is available therefore we should be using it” reflects the opinions of many. For me personally I agree that any advancement in technology that has the potential to increase efficiency and time management are well worth it. Regarding it making the professor’s job more “slack” isn’t necessarily a concern for me. I believe that if the professors are spending less time actually marking the exams they may have more time available for office hours, help sessions and other resources that may help students.

    The two biggest benefits I see to these advancement in technology is the efficiency of the marking system, students wont have to wait for their marks for what could be weeks instead they will know soon after they complete the exam. I also believe that students generally have the advantage of writing these exams at their own leisure within a time period provided by the professor. Much like at the U of L testing center. This provides students with the opportunity to plan when they will write the exam when they see best fit instead of having a scheduled exam, which could be on the same day as another exam.

    The two biggest detriments to this new service would be the potential for a miscommunication in someone’s response and therefore being marked wrong for a correct answer. Many online test banks require exact decimal places, brackets around negative numbers and several other possibilities. If a professor where to mark this exam by hand they may see the simple mistake and give the student the mark when the computer system will mark it incorrect. Next I believe that most test services are completely multiple choice which can be a disadvantage to some students who have a better chance at getting marks on written response questions.

  19. Calvin Chu

    First to answer the question above “The technology is available therefore we should be using it.” Since technology is developed, things get faster, more accuracy than human work. This doesn’t mean they are perfect. Some of the technology might be unsafe or injurious. Therefore, it doesn’t mean you should use it because it is available but think carefully before use it.
    The benefits from this technology are huge. It can save time and money and facilitate the convenience of online learning. This technology is convenience to both the professors and the students as it save them tons of time. It is so convenience to the students since they no longer have to wait a week to get their essays back and check their grade and feedback. Also, it is convenience to the professors as well. They could avoid spending many hours on grading essays but instead to put more time to focus on their research or spend more time to prepare for their class.
    The detriments will be “computers cannot read”, they cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others.’ In my opinion, I consider it is unfair to the second language learners and cultural minorities. Also, the computer cannot grade students’ work as good as a good teacher can. Therefore, I do not believe the software can replace professors. Moreover, more tests could be short-answer or essay, which tend to test knowledge better, rather than multiple-choice because they would be equally easy to grade.

  20. Nathan Duncan

    This grading software may sound extremely appealing and if it works the way they claim it can, on the surface it looks like a great tool for not only teachers, but for the students as well.Instant feedback on essays and teachers now are practically a thing of the past with power point, google, and hey why not just toss in a computer programmed voice that can read out all the class material for us as-well!? Think of the money that schools and government could save with firing all of their faculty and having only a select few to oversee things!!! (sarcasm)

    However, what is more likely to happen is in 6-12 months after the program has been used schools will see essays and papers written by other software created to trick this grading software and a whole new set of problems will arise.

    Technology cannot teach a person how to write properly, but can teach a person how to write properly for that certain programs grading criteria…If anything this will create worse essay writing and more problems for students than anything else and actual writing skills will be lacking. With certain things in life short cuts can work;however, in this case I believe that taking a short cut like this will only program the students writing skills to a set code of standards set by a computer, which will not induce proper writing skills and techniques. In some cases such as this humans are still required to teach other humans skills.

  21. Sean Annis

    Seems to me that society fears what it does not know, or at least not know well. I think that this technology has the potential to save a great deal of time and money. In the future, after this software has become more widely used/accepted, i would support the incorporation of this software into lower level university and college courses. I feel that if the software has the ability to accurately represent the grading tendencies of the professor who uses it, then it will be an asset to educational institutions.

    Although i would support the use of this software in lower level courses, i would not support the use of this new technology is higher level, more important, courses. With being in a more specialized and focused course, student enrollment will drop and the professor will have the ability to grade the papers and short answer questions and provide an adequate amount of feedback to the student. My support of this software earlier is based on the fact that in low level classes, especially in larger institutions, have enormous classes which make marking a horrendous task for the professor.

    Universities will likely support this technology. I say this in light of the fact that the professors are there to do research primarily. This software will free up more time for these professors to complete their research and publish their papers. Ultimately i feel this matter will come down to the more cost effective solution.

  22. Brad Melchin

    Just because technology is available, doesn’t mean that we should be using it. There are many technologies out there that are harmful (Nuclear Weapons). Also, even though a technology is available, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any bugs that need to be sorted out. Some technologies with bugs can be harmful as well.

    One of the biggest benefits is obviously how much of a time saver this technology is. It is convenient for students, because they can receive marks instantly, and get the feedback they need in order to improve their essay. But not only is it convenient for students, but for teachers as well. Teachers can save hours of time by not having to grade papers, and could use that time to move forward in the class.

    The second biggest benefit is that it eliminates the markers attitude as one of the determinations of one’s grade. Depending on the mood of the marker, they may mark easier or harder one day, while this new technology will mark the same every day of the week.

    The biggest detriment would have to be the allowance for students to cheat. Say there was a take home essay, but upon finishing, their essays were graded by this software. Now since it is a software, there are going to be people that are able to pirate this software. This would allow students to continually run their essay through the software until their grade was near perfect. This would leave students who don’t pirate the software at a disadvantage.

    The second biggest detriment would be the accuracy issue. The article said that one person was able to trick the software into thinking that a poor essay was actually really good. In an academic setting, these mistakes cannot happen.

  23. Kristina Madarasz

    I don’t believe technology should be used just because it is readily available to us. Some technology may actually hurt us more than it helps us. There are lots of hoops to jump through even before implementation of such technology can be made in learning environments like the University of Lethbridge. One of the biggest ones is buy in. The new technology may get approved, but if the faculty are not on board with the new product they will be unwilling to learn and might not ever learn how to use the technology. If no one is going to end up using the product because of a “culture” on campus, why should we even purchase it? I strongly believe that everyone must be on board when purchasing products that will greatly affect all stakeholders, otherwise it will fail and it will become a sunk cost to the organization.

    One of the biggest benefits of this technology would be the instant feedback for students. They would be able to get the help they need 24/7 instead of having to wait for when their professor is available. Another big benefit is the more time available for the professors to support the students in other ways now that they won’t have hundreds of essay’s to mark by hand.

    One downside to using this technology is having to get buy in and training people to use it. Another downside to using this technology would be future costs and upgrades to the system which means potential and unexpected downtime for students when they were depending on the system to be available to them.

  24. Victoria Wells

    While there is a vast amount of potential for this software, it needs to be implemented in a way that still adheres to the pedagogy of a University class. There are many benefits to using this software, but a grain of salt needs to be taken and the professor using the software also needs to use the program in moderation.
    One of the benefits of the software is that it is perfect for quantitative, black and white contexts where the grader is simply looking for the correct answer. With this software, the practical knowledge such as grammar and structure can easily be identified and graded within an essay. This saves the professor time as he/she will not be spending as much of their grading time correcting grammar and structure.
    Another benefit can be seen when the software is used in the proper setting. As has been previously stated above, students can use this software to study and practice and receive immediate feedback on their results. This can act as a tutorial for students, thereby eliminating the need for the University to offer a tutorial time. By doing so, this frees up the time of the students and professors. For the software to remain as a benefit, it has to remain in a quantitative, black and white, and practice context.
    More specific knowledge that relates to content and overall quality of the argument is not as black and white as grammar or multiple choice questions, and must therefore be assessed by someone who has the proper experience and knowledge base to understand and therefore assess the work. This is a massive detriment to the idea of the software as the main marker due to the fact that the main function of an essay is to argue a point with evidence and ideas. This argument is complex and requires background knowledge in the content as well as experience in assessing essays to be able to grade the quality of the argument. It can be said then that this software is deficient in its ability to assess in qualitative contexts.
    In addition, another detriment that this software causes is the fact that professors will not have a grasp on the overall learning that his/her students have achieved. By eliminating the professor as the marker, the professor is then unable to reflect on the results of the assessment and understand what had happened. For example, perhaps the professor is reading the results of the first essay the students wrote from the program and over half of the students received a failing grade. That’s a red flag for an educator! Something, whether it is in the students’ understanding of the topic or the software malfunctioned, went wrong and now the professor has to re-read all of the papers to try and understand why. Because the professor has to correct whatever error had occurred, this has resulted in an even larger loss of time than if the professor had just assessed the essays himself/herself.

  25. xinying

    Well, it is the first time that I heard the new technology named essay-grading software. It is cool that students can receive their grades very soon, so they do not need a lot of time to worry about their grade before professor give them. For professors, it is good for them to save time. They do not have to read their students’ essay. I conclude two benefits for this technology. First, this technology can decrease professor’s work. Most of time, professor teach two or three classes at the same time. Professor not only to teach but also to grade their homework which makes them so tired. This technology can help them to decrease their work. Second, this technology can reduce the situation that students are not equally treated when professor give grades. This technology is automatic, so it can eliminate this situation. I also conclude two disadvantages. First, we should find out what is the standard to grade an essay. Machines are not human being, so we cannot only depend on technology. Second, if professors do not read students’ essay, they do not know what students can learn for their class. Lack of contact can not only bad for professors but also for students. Professors have no idea that what their students’ essay look like. Students also do not have the comment for their professors, so they cannot have learn from their essay. In conclusion, this technology needs to be consummate and test. If it is good for people, then we can use it.

  26. Kai Zhao

    First of all, people should not be using a technology just because it is available. As the development of technology, people get better and better services. However, in this case, academic writing is different from multiple choice question or true/false question, it needs work to be done from specific professors. Moreover, even though some kind of high level technology, like artificial intelligence, is invented someday in the future, these academic essays still should be graded by professors. Otherwise, professors would miss the opportunities to figure out lots of potential problems that are existed in their students’ writing. As a result, they are most likely do not know how they should solve these problems during lectures.
    This new technology would for sure provide some benefits. For example, students could download this software by themselves and practice in their own time. According to this article, it says students can get feedback instantly by using this technology, so they can know where they shall improve and revise. That would save them plenty of time. The other benefit could be the convenience. As an undergraduate student, I know how complex it could be to make an appointment with a professor to discuss about my essay, especially the week before it is due. With this technology, students can get more choices. For the two biggest detriments, one would be the differences of opinions between professors and this technology, and this would get students confused due to they are not sure which one to follow. The other one is unemployment. Many professors might lose their jobs and get replaced by this technology.


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