EdX, the not-for-profit Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology founded in order to provide free and interactive online learning experience, will introduce its automated essay scoring software, which applies artificial intelligence technology to grade essays. As opposed to the traditional classroom experience, the instant-grading software will give students the chance to rewrite their essays based on immediate feedback and improve their written answers accordingly. We asked our Zintro experts how effectively this software could evaluate student essays and whether they think universities will integrate this automated system into their curriculum.
Archana Bharatee, an expert in software architecture and design, agrees that the immediate feedback provided by the machine learning based software designed for the evaluation of student essays will help students improve their answers. “It will help students eliminate errors such as incorrect usage of words as well as spelling and grammar errors. The software will not be able to analyze the content of the essay for logic, deductions and relevance of examples in its review,” she notes. “However, even being able to point out some errors would be a good start since it is next to impossible for a human teacher to review all essays submitted by students on the platform.” As Bharatee further points out, the number of examples used for manual checking and later in training the software will have a critical effect on the software’s effectiveness. “We can expect the software to get better at its job with usage. One idea is to use a ‘peer-review’ of the answers after it is accepted by the essay checking software. The peer reviewer’s feedback can be further used to add more training examples to the software,” she adds. “It will be interesting to see if the software will perform better at essays involving more semantics and less deductive reasoning.”
According to software engineer, Francisco José Gómez López, even though instant-grading software is a great tool for students, it has to be a complement to the traditional classroom system. “This kind of software will give a more objective grade, therefore the grading system will be ruled by several restrictions, constraints or learning patterns. These patterns are useful to teachers as well as students, to be more precise while giving students final marks,” he explains. “Different patterns or constraints could also limit the creativity of students in the improvement of their writing skills.” Moreover, López believes that the use of instant-grading software will improve students’ learning process and will help teachers decrease the time they spend in corrections and increase the time spent in research and finding better ways to teach new concepts. “While students complete their homework, this software can evaluate and generate grades in just a few seconds. This feature minimizes the time a student has to wait from presenting an essay until they get the corrections back from their teachers,” he adds. “This will help teachers reduce the correction time and let students become more independent and self-motivated in their learning and creation process.”
By Idil Kan
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