It Might Not Be Your Professor Grading Your College Work

As Web 2.0 technologies advance, and concerns mount about grade inflation, some colleges and universities have sought alternatives to the long tradition of professors grading the work completed in their own classes. In fact, at some schools, grading is outsourced to someone other than the professor, and occasionally outsourced to a computer grading program, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For instance, one of the ways Western Governors University, a nonprofit online school, avoids the potential for grade inflation is to farm out all grading to adjunct professors who serve as professional evaluators, the article pointed out. In other words, one person teaches the class and serves as a mentor while another person grades the homework for that class. A WGU official indicated in the article that this leads to a more unbiased means of grading. The team of adjuncts who grades the school’s high-stakes homework assignments never have contact with the actual students, and therefore don’t base their grading on emotional attachments to students or student pleading or sob stories — students either demonstrate they know the material or they don’t, the article indicated. WGU takes a competency-based approach to higher education, in which student knowledge of the subject material in each class is tested, and students move on once they’ve mastered the material.

The other side of the coin is taking the human factor out entirely and having homework graded by computers. Most students are familiar with Scantron tests that allow students to fill in multiple-choice bubbles, submit their tests, and have them graded quickly by a computer. However, fewer are familiar with the fact that essay-style tests and exams can be graded by computer software as well. At the University of Central Florida, some instructors use software to accomplish what some have dubbed "robot grading" for essay tests. One UCF professor told the Chronicle that after comparing the computer’s grading of her students’ essays to her teaching assistants’ grading of essays, she realized the computer was actually more accurate. This was because the computers were able to grade more consistently; the TAs, on the other hand, became tired after grading several essays in a row and started to slip on catching errors, the article noted. Professors never have to worry about a computer getting tired and messing up on grades, provided the software is set up correctly.

Computer software grading of essay tests may also help reduce the time it takes to grade essays from courses with large class sizes. Multiple-choice tests are usually the order of the day for classes with hundreds of students because they are easily scanned and graded. As a result, professors of such large classes don’t often use essay testing. With computer grading of essay tests, professors may have more opportunities to use different testing styles on large class sizes.

In conclusion, while relatively few universities appear to be choosing these alternatives to professor grading yet, a trend of outsourced and computer grading is indeed beginning to emerge.

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