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University of Birmingham team develops AI platform for academic marking


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Graide on a laptop
Image source: Jisc

A team at the University of Birmingham has developed an AI powered assessment and feedback platform for maths and science subjects.

Named Graide, it has been picked up by Jisc, the membership organisation for technology services in higher education, for a pilot project supported by its national centre for AI in tertiary education.

Development of the platform has arisen from a PhD these written by Robert Stanyon and supervised by Professor Nicola Wilkin in the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

The university said its algorithms give it the ability to learn an assessor’s marking style and can assess a student’s workings as well as final answers. As the assessor progresses through marking an assignment Graide will begin to automate more of the feedback until all the marking is complete, and it saves the assessor having to grade the same paper twice.

It also accepts handwritten and digital responses, does not require programming and can fit into existing workflows.

Saving time

The development team – which includes Stanyon, Manjinder Kainth and George Bartlett – has estimated that the platform can reduce grading times by an average of 89% and give students more than seven times as much feedback.

The platform has been in pilot since September of last year in the university’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The team has set up a company named 6 Bit Education, with Stanyon as CTO, to commercialise the software.

He commented: “Assessment and feedback are a longstanding staple of teaching, but until recently, very little has changed about the basics of this process.

“Automated marking is an attractive option but existing computer aided assessment tools generally require assessments to be modified to be compatible with the CAA platform. Also, they are not able to mark elements such as mathematical working – they can only grade the final answer.”

A spokesperson for Jisc said it is currently in the discovery phase of the pilot, which involves working with around a dozen colleges on how well Graide deals with specific problems, and that it plans to select four of the institutions during May for an active trial of the platform.

Digitised future

The organisation’s head of edtech, Sue Attewell, said: “This work with Graide is part of Jisc’s program to increase the skills, understanding and readiness of the education sector for a digitised future.

"The pilot will enable all participants to find out more about the positive impacts of using AI. At the same time, implementing Graide will help staff increase their confidence and skills in using the AI tools needed for Education 4.0.” 

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