Outsourcing marking April 9, 2010Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV302 , trackback
The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an article about outsourcing the marking of assignments from Universities to private companies. These companies employ people with degrees in various fields whose job is to grade assignments according to a rubric provided by the professor who made up the assignment.
Some bonuses of the arrangement include: students get their assignments back earlier, comments are more thorough, the markers are experienced and can offer more instructive feedback than TAs at the university where the students are located. Of course, outsourcing may be cheaper than employing TAs locally.
Potential problems include a detachment between professors, TAs and students, and threat that fewer TAs would be hired locally, which would be hard on the graduate students who depend on TAs for funding.
An non-obvious benefit observed at universities using the outsourced service is a reduced dropout rate among undergrads:
Holly Suarez, an online instructor of sociology at West Hills, says retention in her class has improved since she first used Virtual-TA, two years ago, on weekly writing assignments. Before then, “I would probably lose half of my students,” says Ms. Suarez, who typically teaches 50 students per class.
Because Virtual-TA provides detailed comments about grammar, organization, and other writing errors in the papers, students have a framework for improvement that some instructors may not be able to provide, she says.
With dropout rates climbing here at Waterloo (and elsewhere), this point should arouse some interest locally.
What do you think about Waterloo outsourcing grading?