Grading essays can be a tedious and time-consuming task for educators who could otherwise be directing learning in the classroom or focusing on their professional development.
Recognising this, two academics teamed up in 1999 to collaborate on the development of an automated essay grading program, called Blue Wren Software.
The company distinguishes itself from its opposition through its Automated Essay Grading Systems (AEGS) – which identifies not only phrases but actual concepts as well.
This year, Blue Wren Software released a new product. The latest system does not require any training essays or model answer, and can grade any narrative essay on any topic and any number of words in two to three minutes.
Designed originally as a grading support to for educators, the system originally needed 100 model answers to assist with grading.
However, Blue Wren Software’s current version, developed over the last six months, has been reengineered so that no model answers are required to be pre-loaded and that essay grading is on demand.
Below, The Educator spoke to the company’s managing director, Dr Robert Williams, to find out more.
TE: From what you’ve heard/experienced, what are some of the most common frustrations when it comes to educators marking essays?
RW: The most common issue educators have with marking essays is the amount of time they have to spend doing so. A second issue is that of consistency in evaluation over time. After a few hours tiredness creeps in, and remembering criteria applied earlier is difficult. A third issue is that poorly written essays are much harder to grade, and take much more time, than well-written essays. Automated grading overcomes all these issues.
TE: Can you tell us about the most significant features of this new product for educators who are grading their students?
RW: The most significant feature of our new product is that for a narrative essay there is no need for human graded training essays and model answers. Narrative essays on any topic and any number of words can be graded online. Typically an essay of 500 words can be graded online in two minutes. The way we have designed the grading engine software, any school or organisation can connect to it as an essay practice tool or we can create a bespoke site for the schools to share with their parents to help practice at home. For example, we have created a NAPLAN narrative essay practice site that uses seven of the 10 grading criteria for NAPLAN narrative essay writing.
TE: Can you share any feedback you’ve received from schools that have used/trialled this product?
RW: We have only recently completed development of our new system. We are now inviting interested educators to trial it and provide feedback. However one university professor submitted his 7,000 word published research paper and received the top rating for his paper, which pleased him, and us too. After all, it only took about 20 minutes in total to grade the paper!