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Professors should notoutsource grading

Overburdened with the task of grading papers, some U.S. professors have started outsourcing the job overseas.

When graduate teaching assistants (TAs) don’t cut it, some teachers turn to a service called Virtual-TA, which employs graders to read assignments and provide detailed feedback. But it is up to the professor to assign grades.

Though the company behind the service, EduMetry, is based in Virginia, the graders are concentrated in India, Singapore and Malaysia, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The company claims that all graders have at least a master’s degree and must pass a writing test, but it was unwilling to provide the Chronicle with any actual names or degrees.

Setting aside the potential for unreliable feedback, the sheer laziness demonstrated by professors using this service is a concern. Grading papers is what teachers are supposed to do. Few other professionals have the option to keep their jobs and just outsource the boring parts to cheap overseas labor.

Some supporters of the service claim that the virtual TAs do a better job than real TAs at providing comprehensive feedback.

“We tend to drop the ball when it comes to giving rich feedback, and in the end, this hurts the students,” Chandru Rajam, one of the founders of EduMetry, said to the Chronicle. “I just thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.'”

On its Web site, the company claims it relieves teachers of the “burden” that grading papers brings. The service helps educators “get a more accurate picture” of what their students know. However, a teacher would get the most accurate picture by actually reading the papers.

Though many colleges are wary of the service, it has won some supporters.

Terri Friel, dean of the business school at Roosevelt University, said to the Chronicle that she doesn’t see a problem with it.

“Faculty have this opinion that grading is their job … but then they’ll turn right around and give papers to graduate teaching assistants,” Friel said. “What’s the difference in grading work online and grading it online from India? India has become known as a very good place to get a good business education, and why not make use of the capability?”

There is a difference between real and virtual TAs, though.

Online graders are not privy to in-class discussion or lectures and don’t know the students on a personal, human level. Also, some worry that teachers will rely too much on the graders and not even read the feedback.

Outsourcing grading is a step in the wrong direction and one that should not gain acceptance at U.S. universities.