In college, there were usually two types of professors when it came to grading essay papers: the one's who knew so much they could never be satisfied with an undergrad's missives; and the one's that preferred dry, regurgitative, tell-it-to-me-like-I-told-it-to-you essays.
In the paper-grading future, it may not matter where your professors' proclivities lay, a computer can grade those essays for them-a lot faster, too.
Ed Brent, University of Missouri professor of sociology invested six years into developing Qualrus, using the last two years to test it on his students.
Brent said the program is sophisticated enough to analyze sentence and paragraph structure and is able to judge the flow or arguments and ideas. Keywords and concepts are pre-entered by the teacher.
Students can upload their papers on the Internet and receive instant feedback and scores. Numeric scores are based on whether the writer addressed the most important elements of the assignment.
The idea is to save teachers the tedium of reading scores of essays on the same topic. According to Brent, he himself has shaved off 200 hours of paper grading.
The software, though approved for university use, is only used by Brent among his colleagues. The program faces two obstacles to wide scale usage: believability, and the ability of students to beat the game.
Many have scoffed at the idea that a computer program can pick up on subtle nuances and what can be quality, stylized, groundbreaking writing, claiming that only a human can truly know the difference.
But Brent sticks to his guns.
"The quality of the drafts that come to me is much higher because students get so much help from the program," he said.