An interesting new feature that is coming to the EdX platform is the automated essay grading. This features enables the possibility that essays of students are automatically graded. This means that students can get instand feedback on their work.
The EdX assessment tool requires teachers to first grade 100 essays or essay questions. The system then uses a variety of machine-learning techniques to train itself to be able to grade any number of essays or answers automatically and almost instantaneously.
The software will assign a grade depending on the scoring system created by the teacher, whether it is a letter grade or numerical rank. It will also provide general feedback, like telling a student whether an answer was on topic or not.
The software will made available as open-source component of the EdX platform.
Off course there are people who say that this won't work. In the New York Times article about this they mention the group Professionals Against Machine Scoring of Student Essays in High-Stakes Assessment.
I personally like the concept and think it will work for at least 80% of the essays. That is already such an hugh time saving for a teacher. As teacher the good essays and bad essay are usually very easy to detect. The difficult part are the essays on the verge of pass or fail (in the Dutch system between 5 and 6).
DelftX gives us a good platform to experiment with the tool and we will certainly do this one of our moocs.