MIT innovation could humanize online education programs

By Sarah Langmead, Assistant Editor
December 20th, 2012

A new crowd-sourcing system allows students to receive more timely feedback in online education programs.

Critics of online education programs commonly refer to the perceived disconnect these create between students and instructors, but a new crowd-sourcing system that offers students personal feedback could help alleviate skeptics’ concerns.

The system is called Caesar, and it was developed by MIT Professor Rob Miller and two of his graduate students, Mason Tang and Elena Tatarchenko, through the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).

Caesar is able to split students’ submitted assignments in a programming course into prioritized chunks through a process called the “code selector.” Caesar then enacts the “task selector,” which sends those chunks that require review out to various MIT teaching assistants, course alumni, and computer science students.

The final step, called the “reviewing interface,” allows multiple reviewers to offer students feedback on their assignments. Students generally receive feedback in less than three days—something that Miller highlights is much quicker than with traditional grading processes.

(Next page: How Caesar works, and how it soon could impact MOOCs)

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