Outsourced Grading – Good Strategy? Or Sad Reality?

on Monday, May. 23rd

Professors don’t have it easy these days, especially in today’s college system where community college class sizes are at maximum capacity and professors often have to fight for funding to keep their departments alive. Some have even started outsourcing their grading.

According to the Fresno Bee, a small number of professors at West Hills Community College in Coalinga, CA send their students’ papers out to a third party company for grading and feedback.  One company that provides this service is Rich Feedback.

Evaluators from Rich Feedback are located all over the globe, and must be fluent in English, though it doesn’t have to be their first language, according to Tara Sherman, Vice President of Client Services for Rich Feedback, LLC.  “We have a standard hiring process that includes interviews, validating experience and references, and testing,” she said with regards to their hiring process.

“Our goal is to provide written feedback that reflects the course material, supports the relationship between the faculty member and the student. and continues the learning process,” said Sherman.

West Hills students quoted in GOOD Magazine criticized the practice because they say it feels awful to get a paper back with comments from a stranger in Bangalore – though Sherman insists the evaluators are qualified for the job. The company matches evaluators with written assignments in their area of expertise. “A resource with a PhD in Psychology would only assess Psychology papers, never Marketing,” she said.

According to Sherman, Rich Feedback doesn’t do anything that traditional grading systems can’t – but it has simply “professionalizes the process.” They only evaluate online assignments and the feedback is returned within five business days. “Comments are detailed and specific to the course material… Additionally, a summary report provides the professor an overview of the class/section’s performance with highlighted areas where additional focus is suggested,” she said.

She mentioned the scarcity of resources on college campuses available to professors. “Some faculty have access to on-campus TAs for support.  For various reasons however, these resources have become scarce.  Even if they are available, there are still issues (e.g., untrained in assessment, other priorities, high turnover rate).  Our service addresses this need,” she said.

GOOD Magazine came to the conclusion that it makes sense for professors to utilize this service in the current economic crunch – especially when professors complain about spending lots of extra hours correcting simple grammar mistakes in their students’ writing.  Perhaps, GOOD suggests, the real problem is that we’re not preparing college students for the caliber of writing expected in college.

But this makes me wonder – will students try to improve if they know their work is being graded by a stranger across the ocean? From experience, I know that my own motivation when writing a college paper was 30 percent due to interest in the subject matter and the rest by an intense desire to impress my professor.  I don’t think I would have accomplished as much if I hadn’t been terrified and inspired by professors – knowing they would read my thoughts and judge them. Professors as evaluators is an essential component of higher education.

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