EdX: The Future of Student Evaluation

One of the prime goals of Edureach101 is discussing and affirming the changing atmosphere of 21st century education. What better way to epitomize this than automatic essay grading. EdX is a non-profit enterprise founded in 2012 by Harvard and MIT that offers courses on the internet for just about everybody.

edX

EdX boasts being from the top universities in the world, topping the QS World University Rankings. But courses aren’t all edX offers. They offer automatic essay grading too. Edx has created automated software using AI to grade student essays and provides it free online to any institution that wants it.

Impressive? I’d say so.

We’re all pretty used to Scantron and its familiar beeps and ticks. Making sure to use a No. 2 pencil to properly bubble in the answers has been become second nature to our students. Automatic essay interpretation changes the game. While it’s not necessarily brand new technology, institutions like edX have created their own version of its interpretation algorithms to mimic human-type thought. Moreover, they offer it free! (Yes, that’s my favorite word 😃 )

Scantron Card
Scantron Card

EdX Courses

EdX uses a learn-at-your-own-pace course methodology. They offer over 1500 courses and currently have achieved over 42 million (yes, million!) course enrolments. Some of its more popular courses are:

In terms of demographics:

  • 67% are Lifelong and Career-focused Learners (25 years old +)
  • 27% are University-age Students (19-24 years old)
  • 6% are High School Students (13-18 years old)

Online Marking vs Human Interpretation

There is a prominent school of thought positing that this technology will give instant feedback, allow students to robustly improve, and free up time for educators. Critics say that marking algorithms are able to be fooled and nonsense essays can be submitted to ‘beat the system’. They remain adamant that teacher feedback and opinion cannot be replaced electronically.

Both debates offer sound and rational reasoning grounding their perspectives. As an educator, I’m most interested in how it works. It’s important for the creators to let educators know so that any assignments submitted can be evaluated appropriately as per the parameters (limitations) of the system. If a question is unable to properly be assessed online the educator should be informed so as to work around that.

That being said, there is value in professional interpretation. The most ideal teaching environment would consist of the educator propelling an environment of balance. 21st Century Learning is founded in this type of pedagogy. Balance and differentiation of instruction, evaluation, assessment, and activity exposes our students to the best of each method. It allows a holistic approach to curriculum delivery and gives opportunity for success in each and every one of our students.

Harvard and MIT certainly created some great technology, and educators should integrate it with a sense of balance and appropriateness in the sea of evaluation methods. 

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