Assessing Writing in MOOCs: Automated Essay Scoring and Calibrated Peer Review™

Stephen P. Balfour   |    Email Article Download Article

Two of the largest Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) organizations have chosen different methods for the way they will score and provide feedback on essays students submit. EdX, MIT and Harvard’s non-profit MOOC federation, recently announced that they will use a machine-based Automated Essay Scoring (AES) application to assess written work in their MOOCs. Coursera, a Stanford startup for MOOCs, has been skeptical of AES applications and therefore has held that it will use some form of human-based “calibrated peer review” to score and provide feedback on student writing. This essay reviews the relevant literature on AES and UCLA’s Calibrated Peer Review™ (CPR) product at a high level, outlines the capabilities and limitations of both AES and CPR, and provides a table and framework for comparing these forms of assessment of student writing in MOOCs. Stephen Balfour is an instructional associate professor of psychology and the Director of Information Technology for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University.

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