The paper “An AI-based system for formative and summative assessment in data science courses” by Pierpaolo Vittorini (University of Aquila), Stefano Menini and Sara Tonelli has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education. The work applies NLP methods to short answer grading and  integrates them in an end-to-end system for students’ assessment.

Paper abstract:

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) provide hundreds of students with teaching materials, assessment tools, and collaborative instruments. The assessment activity, in particular, is demanding in terms of both time and effort; thus, the use of AI techniques can be useful to address and reduce the time and effort required. This paper reports on a system and related experiments finalised to improve both the performance and quality of formative and summative assessments in specific data science courses. The system is developed to automatically grade assignments composed of R commands commented with short sentences written in natural language. In our opinion, the use of the system relying on NLP for short answer grading can (i) shorten the correction times and reduce the possibility of errors and (ii) support the students while solving the exercises assigned during the course through automated feedback. To investigate these aims, an ad-hoc experiment was conducted in three courses containing the specific topic of statistical analysis of health data. Our evaluation demonstrated that automated grading has an acceptable correlation with human grading. Furthermore, the students who used the tool did not report usability issues, and those that used it for more than half of the exercises obtained (on average) higher grades in the exam. Finally, the use of the system reduced the correction time and assisted the professor in identifying correction errors.