I am no great fan of outsourcing, least of all after spending 4o minutes on the phone (poor connection) yesterday with a woman on another continent–who, though pleasant, was not 100% adept in English–trying to fix a bug in Rosetta Stone. It struck me that after spending 700 large on their fine products, I deserved better.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, in what is apparently not an April Fool’s joke (too late for that), reports that some American colleges and universities have started to outsource some of their grading. A service called Virtual-TA hires “assessors” in India, Singapore, and Malaysia to comment on and, if desired, grade students’ written work, charging the American colleges roughly $12 a paper.
My immediate reaction was that this was killer app that will change my life. I started to fantasize about all my teaching energies being devoted to Socratic dialogues in the classroom. No more scrawling “awkward” and “comma splice” in the margin and trying to parse the difference between a C+ and a B-.
Then I gave myself a dope slap upside my head and thought, “Are you kidding me?” Right now, students are paying high, sometimes stratospheric sums to be educated on-site. Grading/correcting/commenting on papers is a key part of the educational process, including being able to talk to the grader and sometimes question the grade. If I were a student, having this assessment done by a faceless person half a world away would be a deal-breaker.
Thus endeth my reverie. The bottom line is that for any responsible college or professor, outsourced grading will always reside in the same territory as a voice recognition program that can transcribe interviews and no-fat cheese that tastes as good as the real thing. Fantasy land.