Crowdmark Lends a Helping Hand with Handwritten Assessments

Crowdmark Lends a Helping Hand with Handwritten Assessments

How one savvy professor is scaling human grading capabilities for handwritten responses

By Tony Wan     Mar 17, 2013

Crowdmark Lends a Helping Hand with Handwritten Assessments

Students aren't the only ones who fret over finals and exams. Just ask any professor or TA, or better yet: see how their their arms and wrists feel by the time they're done grading.

James Colliander, a Professor Mathematics at the University of Toronto, knew this pain all too well. As a grader for the 2011 Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge, he and a team of volunteers had to deal with 70,000 pages of hand-written responses, a "tremendously inefficient, logistical nightmare" that involved paper shuffling and moving boxes of exams.

That's when he started working on a way to scale human assessment capabilities. In April 2011, Colliander joined UTEST (University of Toronto Early Stage Technology), an incubator launched by the University of Toronto and MaRS Innovation, to work on his solution, Crowdmark.

Here's how it works. Blank exams and student rosters are scanned into Crowdmark, which spits out exams with unique student QR codes that the teacher can then print and hand out. After students finish, the exams are scanned again and uploaded into the Crowdmark system. From there on, graders can work alone or in teams to leave scores and comments. It saves graders time--and papercuts--from lugging around stacks of papers. Students are spared from messy handwriting and able to see the grading process in a more transparent manner.

Colliander took his prototype to the 2012 Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge, where he saw that graders using Crowdmark finished in half the time as it took in 2011.

Colliander plans to have a beta ready by the 2013-14 academic year. So far, he's raised "a little over $500K" from UTEST, RIC Centre Venture Start, and Ontario Centres of Excellence Market Readiness. He's gunning for something closer to $900K or $1M to help his platform scale beyond math tests and Canada.

"Universities often do not take advantage of commercialization as an opportunity to share their research publicly," Colliander remarked.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up