Too Bad Higher Education "Experts" and Vendors aren’t Graded

I was inspired by a TeachSoc post from Kathe Lowney today to have a look at two articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education on computer essay grading.
The articles are “Professors Cede Grading Power to Outsiders—Even Computers” and “Can Software Make the Grade?”

My Review: A typical Chronicle hack job to my mind.  Articles like this remind me of National Enquirer.  Author makes little attempt to critically assess comments from his sources and gives little weight  to contrary information (failing to infer, for example, anything from reported fact that in six years of marketing, almost no one has bought into the computer grading product mentioned).  He jumps on grade inflation bandwagon instead of offering an analytic take on it.  In typical COHE fashion he sets up false dichotomies and debates between advocates and defenders as if there is a big divide down the middle of higher education.  In effect, articles like this are just product placement — hopefully without kickbacks — and “if someone says it then it’s a usable quote” journalism.  As with many COHE articles, it reflects journalism that’s more in touch with the higher education industry than with higher education.   It’s mediocre work such as  this that makes me let my subscription lapse every year or so.  It’s interesting how COHE  seems to have no qualms at all about trashing educators and educational institutions but only ever so rarely do they seem to take an even gentle critical look at education vendors.

On the accompanying “compare yourself to the computer” article : I think I’d fire a TA who graded like that — the words “capitalism” and “rationality” showing up constitute “concepts related to him” and an answer on Marx where “expelled for advocating revolution” = “significance for social science”?  I scored them 4 and 2 and that was generous.   I’d be mighty disappointed if I were the makers of that software and this is how my product placement in COHE turned out — would anyone buy it based on this portrayal?! 

Author: Dan Ryan

I've been an Academic Program Director at, a professor at University of Toronto, University of Southern California, and Mills College teaching things like human centered design, computational thinking, modeling for policy sciences, and social theory. My current mission is to figure out how to reorganize higher education and exploit technology so that we can teach twice as many twice as well twice as easily.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: