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Artificial intelligence could ease marking burden

Pearson develops AI program for marking essays, as Hinds calls for 'more effective and efficient' assessment

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools could soon be used to grade learner’s essays

Pearson develops AI program for marking essays, as Hinds calls for 'more effective and efficient' assessment

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools could soon be used to grade learners' essays.

A new program is currently being developed by London-based education company Pearson for a trial in the US higher education sector, the Times Higher Education reports.

Milena Marinova, Pearson’s senior vice-president for AI products and solutions, said the tool was not designed to put teaching staff out of jobs but instead “free up time” for them to focus on more complex tasks.

Ms Marinova added that it could let teachers set more writing assignments for students who would then, in turn, get more feedback and develop better writing skills.

‘An education revolution’

Education secretary Damian Hinds issued a challenge to the tech industry “to launch an education revolution for schools, colleges and universities" in a speech on Tuesday.

It is not yet clear if this technology could eventually be used in UK colleges and schools, but it links to one of Mr Hinds’ five “key opportunities” for the tech and education sectors to work together to make assessment procedures “more effective and efficient”.

Responding to Mr Hinds, Martin Hamilton, a futurist at Jisc – a not-for-profit company that provides IT services for the FE and HE sectors – said learners at schools and colleges should have access to a high standard of broadband and wifi, as well as the devices that will let them use it.

Equal education ecosystem 'crucial'

Mr Hamilton added: “First and foremost, it is crucial to establish a level playing field across the education ecosystem in terms of ICT infrastructure.”

Tim Bozik, head of product development at Pearson, added that the application of AI would give students real-time feedback that is tailored to them when instructors aren’t around.

He added: “More teaching and learning involving digital experience is going to create more data and the opportunity for more meaningful experience between students and teachers."

How it might work

  • Pearson has previously embarked into the field of natural language processing through its use of IBM’s question-answering computer system Watson.
  • The new tool would be able to mark essays in a more sophisticated manner than previous grading assistants as it would allow teachers to train the system.
  • The AI programme would require vast amounts of training data in order to replicate a marker’s methods through the use of algorithms.
  • Once the programme and marker determine there is enough accuracy and confidence in the marking style, the algorithm could then work to the level the marker has approved.
  • The marker could dynamically change the product so it grades essays in the same way they would.
  • This would speed up the marking process, freeing up time for teachers to focus on other activities.

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