Computer-based assessment: from objective tests to automated essay grading. Now for automated essay writing?
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Assessment of student learning is an important task undertaken by educators. However it can be time consuming and costly for humans to grade student work. Technology has been available to assist teachers in grading objective tests for several decades; however these true-false and multiple choice tests do not capture the deeper aspects of student learning. Essay writing can be used to assess this deeper learning, which includes a student's ability to synthesize his/her thoughts, and argue for propositions. Automated essay grading systems are now starting to be used in the educational sector with some success. They can reduce the cost of grading, and they also eliminate the inconsistencies that are found amongst human graders when marking the same essay. The next development in essay processing technology is automated essay writing. This development will present a new set of challenges for educators. The detection of automatically generated essays may be difficult, and students may be given credit for writing which does not reflect their true ability. An understanding ofhow these systems would work, and the characteristics of the generated essays, is thus needed in order to detect them. This paper describes the components we believe an automated essay generator would need to have, and the results of building a prototype of the first of these components, the Gatherer.
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