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Automated and Manual Essay Scoring

Automated essay scoring software reads and evaluates students’ essays, and then provides feedback. The feedback can be provided in the form of a rating or grade, often from 1 to 6. It can also come in the form of written suggestions and criticisms. Early versions of this software did little more than count words and verify that the essay was as long as it should be. Today, the software is much more advanced. Automated scoring software can now execute the following functions:

  • Search for keywords
  • Detect plagiarism
  • Detect spelling and grammar errors
  • Inform student’s if they may have misused a word
  • Point out use of passive voice
  • Determine grade level and complexity of writing
  • Make writing suggestions

Critics say that this software can never be accurate enough to replace manual scoring. To some extent this is correct. It would be grossly unfair, for example, to leave the grading of a major writing assignment in a college class solely up to a software package. A student with a very simple vocabulary and writing style, but lots of good insight might score lower than a student with a complex vocabulary and writing style, but little insight. In spite of this, using an automated essay scoring software package can be a good idea in specific situations.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

By now, most people are familiar with Khan Academy, Coursera, iTunes University, Edx and other entities offering online courses that are open to the general public. Most of these course offerings are free and they attract thousands of students to them. It would be nearly impossible for these course offerings to exist, if the expectation was that their would be a human being manually reading through assignments and grading them for content and mechanics. It only makes sense that the writing done in these courses is evaluated by a software package.

Helping Students Improve Writing Skills Through Practice

The best way for students to improve their writing skills is to go through the essay writing process as frequently as possible. Unfortunately, staffing and economic issues in many school districts make it impossible for teachers to keep up with grading and evaluating writing assignments while also managing classrooms, instructing, and planning. With automated software, students can complete essay assignments on their own and receive helpful feedback that will help them improve their writing. The instructor can also view that feedback and work on helping the students who are struggling significantly. This may not be an ideal solution, but it is an improvement when staffing and other resources are not adequate.

Self Evaluation

As a student, you may not have access to the same automated grading software your instructors might use, but there are plenty of websites and apps that can provide you with feedback on your writing. Grammarly and Hemingway are two examples of these. These tools may not provide you with all of the answers you need about your writing, but they provide enough insight to make them worth looking into.