Monday, June 11, 2012

The Hewlett Foundation: Automated Essay Scoring

As we enter the exam part of the semester, lecturers minds turn to the task (dare I say chore) of exam marking. Part of the skill of setting an exam is creating questions that are easy to mark. I for example like questions that can be answered with a diagram - much quicker to mark than several paragraphs of bad hand-writing. Of course multiple choice questions can be automatically marked by machine, but are considered inappropriate where students need to show understanding and synthesis of complex ideas.
  Thus, the idea of machines, AI's, being able to read and mark essays has long been a dream of educators. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is sponsoring the Automated Student Assessment Prize (ASAP).  "Hewlett is appealing to data scientists and machine learning specialists to help solve an important social problem.  We need fast, effective and affordable solutions for automated grading of student-written essays."
   A good article at the Singularity Hub called "Automated Grading Software In Development To Score Essays As Accurately As Humans" explores the issues surrounding this competition.

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