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.