What is AI Marking & How Can It Benefit My Organisation?

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We’re now in the phase of AI development where it’s not just about getting AI to handle the small stuff, but actually having deep, meaningful chats with it. Gone are the days when AI was only used to set up alarms or slot appointments into our calendars. Today, it gets us. It can read between the lines of our nuanced language and respond in kind, but with an edge: it’s trained on a massive data pool to draw from and forgetfulness? Not a thing for AI. So, how’s this all playing out in the world of e-assessment, you ask? 

Today, we’ll delve into an emerging trend that promises to change how we approach e-assessments: AI-assisted Marking or Grading. AI Marking brings a host of benefits that can streamline the assessment process for both organisations and candidates alike.

What is AI Marking?

AI-assisted marking is an advanced system for e-assessment that leverages AI to facilitate and refine the grading process. Two critical components make up “AI marking”: Automated marking, particularly short answer and essay questions, and intelligent feedback provision. These elements work together to deliver an efficient and personalised exam experience, and give your organisation a much-needed upgrade.

Automated Marking: More Than Just Grades

Automated marking involves using AI to grade candidate exams automatically. Instead of manual checking by human markers, automated systems apply predefined rules or algorithms to evaluate candidate submissions.

Automated Marking: The Early Years

The inception of automated marking brought a sea change in the educational landscape. Initially, the primary use of this technology was for objective questions such as multiple-choice, true/false, or fill-in-the-blanks. These questions had definitive answers, making them perfect candidates for automated checking.

The technology had its benefits, offering consistency in grading, speeding up the marking process, and allowing for immediate feedback. It was a major boon for instructors who otherwise spent hours upon hours manually grading papers. It also minimised errors and discrepancies that can happen with the human grading process.

The Evolution: AI Essay Grader

While the initial stages of automated marking had a transformative impact, the AI-driven advancements that followed brought a paradigm shift. With the advent of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning, automated marking systems have evolved beyond binary, right-or-wrong questions and into the realm of complex, subjective responses. 

Today’s advanced AI models can comprehend and evaluate short answers and even full essay questions. These systems are trained on a large volume of text data, learning to understand language patterns, grammar, context, and sentiment. With this capability, AI can evaluate the logical flow of arguments, assess the relevance of provided content, and even judge the style and creativity of writing. 

These advanced systems are more than mere graders; they are analytical tools that can measure higher-order thinking skills. They assess not just the final answer but the thought process that led to it. Whether a student is providing a succinct response to a short prompt or constructing a detailed argument in an essay, these AI systems are equipped to evaluate their work effectively and objectively.

Companies like Blees AI have developed AI-powered platforms that let educators train AI models according to their needs, automatically grade large volumes of essays consistently, and provide personalised feedback as well. 

Intelligent Feedback: The Power of Personalisation

Another cornerstone benefit of AI marking is intelligent, personalised feedback. The goal is to create a learning experience that is as unique as each student. Instead of a simple correct or incorrect notation, AI marking systems can analyse individual responses, identifying strengths and areas for improvement.

Feedback has always been a fundamental part of the learning process. Traditionally, lecturers   provided feedback based on their personal observations and understanding of each student’s progress in the form of handwritten notes on the side margins of a handwritten or printed essay. However, due to large class sizes and the time constraints of manual grading, personalised feedback for each student was challenging, time-consuming, and intensive, if not impossible, to achieve.

Enter technology. As digital learning and exam platforms emerged, so did the ability to provide feedback on a scale previously unimaginable. Initially, this feedback was still relatively generic, offering standard responses based on whether an answer was right or wrong. But as AI and Machine Learning technologies advanced, a new opportunity arose: Personalised Smart Feedback.

The current state of smart feedback….and beyond

With the advent of AI and Machine Learning, feedback systems have become far more advanced. These technologies can learn from vast amounts of data, discern patterns, and adapt their responses accordingly. This paved the way for feedback systems that can understand a candidate’s unique learning process, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and provide tailored advice for improvement.

Today’s AI Essay Grader with Personalised Smart Feedback goes beyond merely indicating whether an answer is correct. It provides insights into why an answer is wrong, points out specific areas of misunderstanding, and offers targeted advice for improvement. It’s like having a personal tutor who knows your unique learning style, strengths, and areas for growth.

Benefits of AI Marking 

AI-driven essay marking promises to revolutionise the way assessments are conducted. The advantages it brings to the table are manifold, catering to both the logistical needs of educational institutions and the academic aspirations of test-takers: 

Advantages for Organisations

For educational institutions or organisations, the benefits of implementing AI marking are manifold:

  • Efficiency: AI marking dramatically reduces the time needed to grade assessments, freeing staff to focus on more value-adding tasks. Based on a benchmark of current grading costs, it is estimated that AI grading may bring about a 60% cost reduction. 
  • Consistency & fairness: AI-assisted marking minimises human error and bias, offering a more consistent and objective grading process.
  • Scalability: Organisations can handle large volumes of assessments without compromising the quality or timeliness of grading and feedback.

Advantages for Candidates

From a candidate’s perspective, AI marking also brings an array of advantages:

  • Timely feedback: Candidates receive immediate feedback on their performance, allowing them to identify and rectify any areas of misunderstanding quickly.
  • Fair evaluation: The objectivity of AI-driven assessments ensures that each candidate is evaluated on merit, eliminating the potential for human bias.
  • Candidate growth: Personalised feedback supports individual learning paths, helping students understand their unique strengths and areas for improvement. This targeted approach allows students to focus on their weaknesses, leading to substantial growth and improved learning outcomes.

Challenges of AI Marking

However, every innovation comes with its set of complexities. While AI essay marking offers many benefits, it also raises certain concerns and hurdles that must be navigated with care. From logistical teething issues to broader ethical quandaries, the challenges are as multifaceted as the benefits: 

Challenges for Organisations

  • Initial Investment: Setting up an AI essay marking system requires a considerable initial investment in both finance and time. It involves procuring the right software, training the system, and ensuring integration with existing IT infrastructure.
  • Scepticism and Resistance: Traditional educators might resist or question the efficacy of AI in grading. Overcoming this scepticism and ensuring buy-in from all stakeholders is crucial.
  • Bias in AI Systems: Even AI is not immune to bias. If the training data contains inherent biases, the AI system might perpetuate these, leading to skewed or unfair grading. Organisations must be especially vigilant to ensure their AI tools are as unbiased as possible. 
  • Transparency Concerns: Organisations may need to clarify how the AI system makes its grading decisions. Achieving this transparency is challenging, especially with complex algorithms, but it’s essential to build trust.
  • Ethical Concerns: Data privacy and the ethical use of AI are significant concerns. Institutions must ensure that student data is protected and that the AI system’s decision-making process is transparent.

Challenges for Test-Takers

  • Perceived Impersonality: Some students may feel that an AI system lacks the human touch, potentially missing nuances or the depth of their argument. It’s a challenge to convince test-takers of the system’s ability to understand and grade complex narratives.
  • Reliability Concerns: Test-takers may doubt the reliability of AI grading, especially when they receive unexpected results. They might question whether a human marker would have interpreted their essay differently.
  • Data Privacy: Students might be concerned about how their data, in this case, their essays, are used, and stored, and whether they’re utilised to refine the AI further.

AI marking represents a transformative shift in e-assessment, leveraging the power of AI to enhance the educational experience for organisations and candidates alike. As we move into this exciting new frontier of education, AI marking is poised to be a significant catalyst in the quest for more efficient, fair, and personalised learning experiences.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blogs on AI Essay Marking, where we’ll explore how Neural Networks and NLP Power AI Essay Marking, how we can overcome some of the challenges associated with AI Marking: bias, transparency and privacy concerns, and share a practical case study of an organisation reaping the benefits of AI Marking.

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Cristina Gilbert
Copywriter and digital content enthusiast, Cristina is motivated by the fast-paced world of e-assessment and the opportunities online exams give students to thrive.
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