Artificial Intelligence Helps Grade Exams 90% Faster

Four UC Berkeley researchers developed a program to help grade papers during their time working as teaching assistants – and now, they’ve added artificial intelligence to their app to help instructors speed up the grading process.

The team launched the online grading app Gradescope two years ago and have accumulated 10 million answers to around 100,000 questions from a wide range of college courses – the app has already shortened the grading process by 50 percent due to its friendly interface and the ability for multiple teaching assistants to grade papers in parallel.

Their new AI features addresses three challenges: identify question types, distinguishing between different written marks, and recognizing handwriting.

AI helps turn grading into an automated, highly repeatable exercise by learning to identify and group answers, and thus treat them as batches.

The addition of AI promises to slash grading times by as much as 90 percent, said Sergey Karayev, a Gradescope co-founder who finished his PhD in computer science in 2014.

“Traditionally, if you were to give a test to 100 students and they all write the correct answer, you would have to go through all 100 and mark them correct,” said Karayev. “With AI-assisted grading, you could grade one answer and it would apply to all 100 students.”

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To help with the complex feature for recognizing numerical, single-word, and single-line answers, the team used Tesla K40 and GeForce GTX 980 Ti GPUs along with CUDA and the cuDNN-accelerated TensorFlow deep learning framework to train their models. Down the road, they plan to apply the recognition feature to grade complex chemistry and engineering diagrams.

Co-founder Pieter Abbeel, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley’s AI Lab, said he used an early version of the company’s AI-boosted grading feature for a computer science final given to more than 600 students and it cut grading time by 75 percent.

The app is currently in beta testing and will become available this fall.

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