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The software learns how to do so from human professors

Short answer and essay questions on exams could one day be graded by computer software, but many educators aren't happy about it. 

EdX, a nonprofit enterprise started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has created a software system that is capable of learning how to grade the way a human teacher would and then grades both short answer and essay questions based on this method.

The major benefit is that students will receive a grade instantly rather than waiting days or weeks. Not only that, but students could use this software to keep rewriting essays until they reach a desired grade (since the grading process is instant), helping them to learn rather than just accept a grade and move on.

“There is a huge value in learning with instant feedback,” said Dr. Anant Agarwal, an electrical engineer who is president of EdX. “Students are telling us they learn much better with instant feedback. 
"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.” 

The EdX software allows a human teacher to grade about 100 essays first while it observes the grading technique. From there, the tool learns how to grade and does so on its own. 

While this software could help students learn faster and free up some of the professor's time to tend to other things, it has been criticized in the education sector. Les Perelman, a retired director of writing and a current researcher at MIT, said that software can never compare to a human professor. Perelman has written fake essays with bogus "facts" in it and tricked computer software into giving him a decent grade.

“My first and greatest objection to the research is that they did not have any valid statistical test comparing the software directly to human graders,” said Perelman.

While software for grading basic tests like multiple choice are widely adopted, it is yet to be seen whether the same will happen for essays and more detailed tests, which require the knowledge of a professor to score accurately. 

Source: The New York Times

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RE: What's the fun in that?
By TourGuide on 4/6/2013 6:04:01 AM , Rating: 0
You are an ignorant person who clearly has had a bad experience in school. Grading papers isn't about being 'subjective'. It is about achieving the desired response.

The real issue with this topic is that soon your standardized test scores will be graded with this type of system or a similar one. Think humans are unforgiving? Wait until the software processes your score and it is a one shot deal for your SAT or college entrance essay. It is certainly a cost savings to the institution implementing such a system. No people have to be paid to read papers. That is the real appeal of computerized scoring.

But then the professor can't give you a bad grade because they didn't like the stance you chose when answering the prompt. Or the way your face looks. Or the font you chose. Or what size your margins were. Teachers will never use this; it takes all the subjectivity out of grading papers.

RE: What's the fun in that?
By Solandri on 4/6/2013 3:33:37 PM , Rating: 2
You are an ignorant person who clearly has had a bad experience in school. Grading papers isn't about being 'subjective'. It is about achieving the desired response.

I'm of two minds about this. First, what you're describing is the ideal. OP is completely correct that in reality bias exists among professors and teachers. I've tested for and confirmed it (by turning in sequential assignments with vastly different levels of effort put into them, but with viewpoints agreeing with or contradictory to the teacher's own viewpoints). If you view school as a means of education, then this sort of thing is unacceptable, and teachers/professors should be disciplined for it.

But if you view school as preparation for real life, then you want this sort of mentor bias to rear its ugly head from time to time. You're not going encounter perfectly objective people at your job either. And much of life is about learning to prioritize, compromise, and to bite one's tongue against a particularly annoying person so you can complete a greater goal.

So in that respect, turning schools into an ideally objective learning experience means they'd fail to teach you one of the skills crucial to coping with real life. i.e. This sort of imperfection among teachers/professors is actually desirable to a small degree. Just make sure the students have a means to deal with it when it becomes insufferable (in my case, after talking about it with administration I was allowed to switch courses and/or instructors).

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