Professor Builds Tool That Automatically Grades Writing Assignments

Well this is a bit spooky. An innovative web tool claims to be able to automatically grade writing assignments.

The future is here.

Or is it?

It all depends on how it performs in the classroom. SAGrader was developed in 2009 by psychology Professor Joe Swope at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.

How It Works

- Teachers can assign online essays through the web tool.

- Students then write their essays.

- Using what can only be assumed is magic, SAGrader quickly analyzes and offers feedback in a few seconds.

- Students are then able to take the feedback and fine-tune their essays to improve them.

According to the website, SAGrader uses artificial intelligence to analyze, track, and grade essays. It is able to know if a student (or really anyone writing an essay) comprehends, identifies, and organizes the lessons meant to be taught in the exercise.

How Accurate Is It?

One of the most interesting points to make about this tool is that it’s more than just a tool that analyzes keywords. That’s a big part of how search engines basically work. What this web tool does is actually understand concepts. It’ll let the student know if their essay is not hitting on the key points that need to be made.

So how accurate is it? Research done by SAGrader shows that the tool agrees with what human graders 93 – 98% of the time. So while it’s not perfect, it’s worth trying out to at least see how it fares in your classroom.

Right now, there are already a few schools using the tool. They include the University of Missouri, San Jose State University, and the University of Central Florida.

Questions You Probably Have

The following are questions (and answers) from the site’s Frequently Asked Questions:

Does SAGrader grade spelling and grammar?

Answer: SAGrader focuses on assessing the content of students’ writing, but you can also add metrics to your assignments that evaluate general writing skills. These metrics evaluate things like spelling, grammar, reading ease and word count. It’s worth noting these metrics are currently experimental, which means we’re still ironing out some rough edges.

How much do you charge? Who pays?

Answer: Generally, if you teach a college course, students will pay for SAGrader as a course supplement. There’s no charge for instructors. We can work with your bookstore to sell enrollment codes through them, or students can pay us directly online. We can also work out payment from your school or department, but we still charge per student.

High school classes are a bit more complicated since you generally cannot charge students directly. We charge per student, but we can arrange payment from you or your school in whatever manner works for you.

How is SAGrader different from other automatic essay grading programs?

Answer: Most other essay grading programs base their scoring and feedback on statistical models of human-graded papers. This allows them to provide fairly generic advice across broad dimensions, like style or focus.

In contrast, SAGrader uses linguistic strategies like Natural Language Processing (NLP) to assess the specific ideas discussed in a submission. This enables us to deliver incredibly specific, topic-based suggestions for improvement. As a result, SAGrader is the only program ideally suited for content area classes concerned with teaching students substantive content through writing assignments.

For a more detailed comparison between SAGrader™, MYAccess!™, WriteToLearn™, and Criterion™, download the SAGrader comparison document.

Are there assignments SAGrader cannot grade?

SAGrader is not useful for grading broadly defined essays with no specific content focus. SAGrader is designed to assess a student’s knowledge about a substantive topic as expressed in a specific writing assignment. In other words, we don’t recommend using SAGrader in a creative writing class or to assess general writing skills in an English class.