More than 140 Fresno State professors are trying out a computer tool that taps into video-game competitiveness to improve student writing, reports the Fresno Bee. Those professors and close to 7,000 students are part of a pilot project using a web-based evaluation program. Students submit essays electronically and get near-instant scores and notes on grammar, mechanics, organization, and more. The program highlights errors—a run-on sentence, a misspelled word—but students correct the mistakes. Faculty members also can offer comments, and students can revise and resubmit essays for better marks. “I have some students treating it like a video game: ‘I can get a higher score on this,’” said Kim Morin, a professor in the theater arts department who brought the program—ETS Criterion—to campus. The project is part of a larger effort to boost student writing, a skill lacking in many new freshmen. Averaging close to 100 students in an online class, Morin wanted more time to focus on the content of essays. She settled on Criterion after sorting through several other similar programs, including SAGrader and Intelligent Essay Assessor. Some weren’t a good fit, and others were too expensive, Morin said. With Criterion, there is no cost to the university. Each student pays about $15 per semester for access to the system…

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Denny Carter

Dennis has covered higher education technology since April 2008, having interviewed some of the most recognized IT pros in U.S. colleges and universities. He is always updating eCampus News with the latest in pressing ed-tech issues, such as the growing i