Technology Is Rapidly Lowering the Cost of Testing

People may view this as something for the good news/bad news file, but technology has quietly made it significantly easier to grade tests electronically. For example, a new paper in the Journal of Science Education and Technology highlights a system called “Eyegrade” :

While most current solutions are based on expensive scanners, Eyegrade offers a truly low-cost solution requiring only a regular off-the-shelf webcam. Additionally, Eyegrade performs both mark recognition as well as optical character recognition of handwritten student identification numbers, which avoids the use of bubbles in the answer sheet. When compared with similar webcam-based systems, the user interface in Eyegrade has been designed to provide a more efficient and error-free data collection procedure. The tool has been validated with a set of experiments that show the ease of use (both setup and operation), the reduction in grading time, and an increase in the reliability of the results when compared with conventional, more expensive systems.

It’s easy to worry about how these new systems could lead to more testing, but their ability to grade paper-and-pencil assessments could also make teachers’ lives a lot easier. Of course in the long run the debate about assessment will be moot because eventually everything will be assessed instantly and electronically. When every answer on every assignment is digitally stored and analyzed by complex algorithms you don’t need a state exam to determine proficiency levels.

Fisteus, J.A., Pardo, A., & Garcia, N.F. (2012). Grading Multiple Choice Exams with Low-Cost and Portable Computer-Vision Techniques Journal of Science Education and Technology DOI: 10.1007/s10956-012-9414-8

2 Responses to Technology Is Rapidly Lowering the Cost of Testing

  1. James says:

    I think many teachers would like to use something like this for interim, formative assessments. The current scanning set up seems cumbersome, but since this is open-source, it seems likely that folks could quickly develop alternative input methods. Two that come to mind are camera phones and document-feeder copiers or scanners. The camera phones are now ubiquitous, and with well-marked corner icons, should be able to adjust the perspective of an angle shot to snap a regular, rectangular image of a test sheet. The document feeder would really leverage existing technology that many schools have in the office–at the end of a quiz, the teacher runs a stack of these through the document feeder, and gets back a PDF or a set of TIFF images, which then get analyzed by the software, sending a report to the teacher for review at the end of the day. If grading (and analyzing) the weekly quiz were made faster and easier, I think more teachers would use such quizzes to inform subsequent instruction, and tailor it to the needs of their particular classes.

  2. Eric Horowitz says:

    I don’t have a good sense of how many teachers use these kinds of things, so it’s good to hear your perspective. Hopefully these innovations will have a positive effect, but the broader point is that the fight over testing tends to overlook how much assessment is likely to change over the next decade.

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