Marking: Pain or Privilege?
Coracle provide e-learning tools and therefore you probably think this post will be about extolling the virtues of automated marking services that can handle essays.
If that’s what you’re hoping for, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.
The truth is, we think automating tests works well for some test types, but not all. By which we mean some tests can be fully automated (eg, multiple-choice) and some can have some automated assistance (eg, demonstrating skills) and some remain best suited to a skilful human eye (eg, reading an essay).
In this article I want to consider two topics that require human marking: ‘the essay’ and ‘the demonstrate you can do something’ and how we can make life easier for markers by working on the parts that computers excel at - handling the data.
Some people argue that marking essays is something of a clichéd chore. The familiar image is one of a teacher facing piles of similar regurgitations from students who theoretically benefitted from the same information in a lesson. But does the image reflect reality? Many people see marking essays as a privilege and that seeing a learner develop and express themselves gives satisfaction and a sense of pride.
Can computers mark essays?
The short answer is yes, insofar as computer scoring is commercially available. Since the 1990s there have been software packages available to automate the essay marking process, but their use has not been welcomed everywhere. Some universities have witnessed petitions being raised to stop their use, but technology continuously improves and inevitably machine driven testing will remain a fact of life.
Can computers improve the process?
If we consider one aspect of a successful essay, that of nuance, then it doesn’t take a computer algorithm to work out that an experienced assessor should be able to identify subtleties in submitted work, both positive and negative.
In the same way as a computer spell checker wouldn’t correct the sentence, ‘weather you like it or not, your getting your righting wrong’, to the correct ‘whether you like it or not, you’re getting your writing wrong’, so computer marking will struggle to correctly identify nuance in an answer.
Teachers have been amused for generations as students score near-misses with well intentioned answers. After all, what is actually wrong with the pupil who exclaims, ‘Opium? We’ve done it in history!’ Would a computer scoring system identify this as the faintly ludicrous, if risible, statement that it is?
Whether the environment is academic or corporate, a large part of training and education relies on the ability to demonstrate an ability to do something.
For example, someone may be instructed to take a template, to make a series of changes to that document, to save it and then share it with others. Marking and giving feedback for this type of practical task can be problematic if the candidate body is spread across a wide area such as in multiple offices around the world.
Coracle’s solution to these issues is to provide a simple means of benefiting from (free) tools such as Google Drive. Not only are the advantages of the cloud storage apparent, but Coracle offer a neat plug-in which means that a marker or assessor can simply press the ‘passed test’ button and a statement is generated on the candidates’ Learning Line in the format ‘I passed the test’ where ‘the test’ links back to the document in question.
Using the comment function under the statement the marker can leave additional comments for the candidate, thereby creating contextual conversation.
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