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Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
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David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
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8/5/2013 | 4:34:19 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
If you have tested or used software like this, we would love to get your comments here. - David F. Carr, InformationWeek Education
Michael Fitzgerald
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Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/5/2013 | 6:51:26 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
i'd also like to hear from teachers about how hard it will be to add such tools to class, when the tools are ready.
JulieP840
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JulieP840,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/5/2013 | 8:38:21 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Education is like other sectors in that technology can -- and should -- be used to leverage what people do best. When technology like this is done well, it can be a boon to teachers and students, not a job-killer (or nap-inducer). Technology like this also has the potential to help teachers target the students who need help, the areas of content/skill that most need addressing across the group/class, etc.
Cara Latham
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Cara Latham,
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8/5/2013 | 8:47:14 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
I think there is definitely a benefit to helping students learn the basics of grammar. A teacher can then focus on more important ideas -- themes, writing style, whether or not the paper flows, and other creative commentary. I don't, however, think one can grade creativity without a human element involved.
FrankCatalano
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FrankCatalano,
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8/5/2013 | 11:08:52 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
"They cannot get such feedback now." Not entirely true, as the earlier aside "which has been around for a while" implies. While this may be new to a MOOC or higher ed audience, automated essay graders have been both around and actively in use in K-12 for years. The usual use is not high-stakes scoring, but providing opportunities for students to practice writing and summarizing skills with teacher-directed settings for what kind of feedback to provide, and at what threshold.

For example, I worked on Pearson Knowledge Technologies' launch of WriteToLearn in 2006, based on an underlying engine from what had been called Knowledge Analysis Technologies before it was acquired by Pearson. Active competitors at the time were ETS and Vantage Learning, among others, with their own engines. Many, if not all, of these products are still on the market and in use. (I haven't had a direct affiliation with any of these products for years, in the interest of full disclosure.)

This isn't to say the underlying tech can't be improved, as it has been regularly since then, and perhaps by its efforts EdX can spur continued improvement.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
8/5/2013 | 11:51:27 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Thanks for sharing the history, Frank
Michael Fitzgerald
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Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/6/2013 | 6:34:14 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
Thanks, Frank. how widely used are/were these tools? I would love to see them adopted broadly.
FrankCatalano
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FrankCatalano,
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8/6/2013 | 7:00:38 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
I know Pearson's WriteToLearn is still actively being sold and is in use in schools. ETS, as I recall, licensed its Criterion service, based on its E-Rater engine, to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for use in its digital products in K-12 and still offers it directly for other education segments. Vantage Learning's My Access product, based on its IntelliMetric engine, appears to still be available for school and home. (I found active pages for each via Google.)

Side note: Oddly, the harder task is not so much providing good feedback on essays, it's being able to do the same with short answers. That's sort of the Holy Grail of automated text scoring, and I don't know of any organization that has been able to comprehensively nail that.
JulieP840
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JulieP840,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/8/2013 | 4:14:55 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
See also this same debate playing out in the medical field: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/20...
Michael Fitzgerald
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Michael Fitzgerald,
User Rank: Moderator
8/9/2013 | 1:54:48 PM
re: Automated Essay Grading Software Stirs Debate
here's a link to an interesting blog post by Vik Paruchuri, quoted in the story above, about the commercial and non-commercial approaches to essay grading. http://vikparuchuri.com/blog/o...
Thx, juliep840
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