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May 08, 2013 9:00 AM Outsourcing College Grading

By Daniel Luzer

It looks like we can outsource anything. While college students might expect their work to be read by real professors (even if adjuncts or grad students) carefully scrutinizing their work, it turns out careful scrutiny is just getting too expensive.

And so, like so many credit card companies and telemarketers, colleges are sending student work to India. According to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, University of Houston director of business law and ethics studies Lori Whisenant found that her professors just couldn’t keep up with the all the work required of her department’s nearly 1,000 students. Students needed “consistent, detailed feedback.” And so,

She outsourced assignment grading to a company whose employees are mostly in Asia.
The graders working for EduMetry, based in a Virginia suburb of Washington, are concentrated in India, Singapore, and Malaysia, along with some in the United States and elsewhere. They do their work online and communicate with professors via e-mail. The company advertises that its graders hold advanced degrees and can quickly turn around assignments with sophisticated commentary, because they are not juggling their own course work, too.


OutsourcingCollege

EduMetry says its services allow professors to “spend more time teaching and doing research.” And many colleges using the service say it does allow for more substantive feedback than real employees have the capacity to provide.

Several people interviewed in the article point out that the outsourced grading has improved course retention.

That’s a good thing, but what’s unclear is whether the feedback provided by India, Singapore, and Malaysia is really all that good. Are students learning just as well?

Furthermore, the assumption here seems to be that if a department can’t grade assignments from 1,000 students with its own staff, the best solution is to outsource the work. Perhaps, but has anyone considered the possibility that the department (“ethics studies” and all that) should consider assigning only material it has the capacity to process? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

Comments

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on May 07, 2013 3:34 PM:

    "...the assumption here seems to be that if a department canít grade assignments from 1,000 students with its own staff, the best solution to outsource the work.

    Or they could just not admit that many damn students to begin with. Executed like a true capitalist: overpack the program with students like sardines in a tin can, collect their tuition, and save cheddar by outsourcing the grading rather than hiring more faculty (or enslaving more TAs and adjuncts). I bet they're makin' a killin'...

  • mfw13 on May 07, 2013 10:23 PM:

    Dirty little secret....all your undergraduate teaching dollars go to fund professors research....if you want good value for money, go to a community college.

  • Walker on May 07, 2013 11:40 PM:

    @mfw13

    Dirty little secret....all your undergraduate teaching dollars go to fund professors research....

    Not true. The top research universities are fairly meticulous about keeping those budget items separate.

    With that said, I do not understand what this means in the article:

    EduMetry says its services allow professors to "spend more time teaching.."

    If someone else is giving your students feedback, what the hell are you doing that could be considered teaching?

  • undrgrndgirl on May 13, 2013 3:41 PM:

    or perhaps those departments could HIRE more staff, including recent graduates. and not for TA stipend wages!