Can a Computer-Based Assessment Grade Essay Questions?

The implementation of computer-based assessment has raised a lot of questions regarding its ability to deal with essay question. This comes after the Ministry of Higher Education’s decision to apply this type of exams in Egyptian universities.

Read our article on “Standardized Tests: History and Implementation in Universities.”

In the middle of computer-based assessment’s debate, its supporters and opposition remain left with the same question: computer-based assessment does not focus except on MCQs only, a type of questions that many see as a hindrance to students’ creativity. So, is this true?

Computer-Based Assessment - students

To answer this question, we must first determine the type of system we are talking about. There are dozens of programs and systems that we can mention which can offer computerized assessment.

Here, we will discuss Qorrect, the computerized assessment system, in specific, since it is considered one of the first unified systems in administering tests and assessing students performance (read about “Cheating in Exams: Psychology behind It and How to Stop It?“). Besides, Qorrect helps you have question banks with more than 20 types of questions.

What Are Essay Questions?

John M. Stalnaker, one of the leading figures in scholar tests, defined essay questions in 1951 as “A test item which requires a response composed by the examinee, usually in the form of one or more sentences.”

John believes that determining essays as right or wrong is out of the question. Judging their accuracy and qualities differs from one person to another. It depends on the person grading being a specialized one.

Importance of Essay Questions in Education Assessment

Many professors and researchers in assessment and testing see that essay questions differ completely from the rest of the questions.

They test students ability to come up with an answer instead of choosing it. For this, examiners use these types of questions, since they have the means to find out a student’s ability to think, create, analyze, and even judge and assess.

Qorrect was able to cover both of the following views in relation to essay question assessment.

1. First Opinion

There is science, and there is always what is beyond science: humanity. However we progress in science and technology, computers will always be lacking in feelings and human emotions, our very essence.

creativity - art

Therefore, this opinion’s supporters see that we cannot merely put feeling and complicated emotions inside a chip or a program.

Until now, there is no computer that can judge one’s aesthetic expression in an essay. It is ever-changing from one student to another. Savoring it depends on a collection of empathy, understanding, compassion, warmth, affection, sadness, and even anger, feelings that are what separate us from computers.

This is especially evident in faculties like the faculty of Al-Alsun, Arts, Education, and others alike. (Read “Standardized Tests: History and Implementation in Universities.”)

For more information on Qorrect, please press here.

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Direct Grading

Qorrect computerized assessment system specifies a place for students to write their essays. Then the answer is offered to the professor to grade it. Qorrect takes a picture of the essay the student writes in their paper and then shows it to the professors to see it.

This way the college professor has a full opportunity to savor the essay artistically and literary, opening up a chance for the students to use their skills and creativity.

2. Second Opinion

The other opinion believes that man’s capabilities have no limits. We have made thousands of accomplishments and technology and AI have covered many different needs in all kinds of fields for many years now. That’s why we can never anticipate what’s next in technology.

For example, most of the research organizations as well as universities rely now on dozens of different developed programs to detect similarities in fear of plagiarism and text theft.

These programs read texts produced by the researcher or the author and then compare them with other previously published texts to guarantee copyrights, check quality of the text, and prevent cheating.

computer assessment - smell

Technological progress did not just stop at scientific research. Recently, a computer that was able to recognize smell was invented. Murthy, a professor of molecular and cellular biology, succeeded in training a computer to recognize neural patterns connected to different smells through specific algorithms.

Murthy’s computer was then capable of differentiating between any smell even if it is mixed with other ones. This experiment depends on the fact that every single smell triggers a neural activity that is different than any other pattern.

This is not far from the AI technology Real Eyes has. Real Eyes could read the emotions and facial expressions of people watching ads in an assessment of their quality.

In 2018, Real Eyes’ inventor, of British origin, was able to analyze one’s reaction to a famous Christmas ad in his country back then, by Elton John, the singer.

He found the result to be as follows: viewers were moved by the child showing at the end of the ad more than they were by their favourite singer! So, this means that the ad makers could have cut much of the singer’s scenes, since many considered them boring. Instead, the child could have had more scenes.

In conclusion, we cannot reject the idea that science and computer could one day deal with emotions, right? Now, comes the rubric system for grading essays.

New System: Rubric

A new modification is now the talk of the edtech community, rubric system, applied soon by Qorrect assessment system. The rubric system when applied will significantly change the way essay questions are graded, gradually. It is considered a futuristic step to be taken, but one that will definitely open the gates of an edtech revolution in essay question assessment.

What Is the Rubric System?

The rubric is one of the tools used to assess essay questions when using a computerized assessment. It mostly saves the professor much time.

Instead of hundreds of essays written by students, the professor will be able to pre-determine the sentences or answers that should be in the essay, so that the system can detect them and show them to the professor. The professor, in this case, still has authority to grade students’ essays. But the rubric is considered a step out of the box in essay questions in a computerized assessment.

What Is after the Rubric?        

Many people interested in educational technology look forward to an invention that would be able to grade essays completely with no human intervention. But applying such a thing will not be done so far without a very important factor. This factor is entering thousands of perfect, good, and passable essays into the system so that it can compare between them and grade future essays based on this data. This is basically how AI works.

Such an invention would be an out-of-the world program indeed! It will save a lot of hassle for college professors and examiners. So, what is the problem? What is stopping us from doing just that?

Peter Greene, a specialist in education, recently wrote an article in Forbes about just that. He says that such a program would be a big obstacle to essays. Who will decide which article is good and which is not? Who will choose the article samples? Doesn’t that bring on some sort of bias?

On the other hand, Peter says that this limits independency and freedom of expression. Using AI in grading an essay completely means that a good article is only good because it looks like several other ‘good’ ones! Doesn’t that shackle thinking diversity and our ability to discover new brilliant talents?

However, the future calls on us to work towards ‘what we think’ is impossible. If we go back in time tens of years, we will never imagine what we now have!

To know more about Qorrect, the comprehensive assessment system, please press here.

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About Yasmine Nasr

Yasmine Nasr has been part of the content world since 2017. She has worked as a translator, content writer, editor, copyeditor, and English language instructor. She holds a BA degree in English, Translation, and Literature, plus a degree in literary and media translation from the American University in Cairo. Today Yasmine is a content writer interested in education technology, especially exams autograding, computer-based exams, evaluation & assessment systems, and LMS, in relation to academic accreditation with the aim to improve exams quality and student learning and experience.

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