(from MIT News) In an effort to bring a more human dimension to the online-education experience, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Associate Professor Rob Miller has developed a new computer system that will help provide students with feedback on their homework assignments and create more interaction between students, teachers and alumni.
Crowdsourcing homework assignment review? This is groundbreaking. What’s in it for everyone?
“What we are trying to do is to learn how to use a crowd of people with mixed expertise in an intelligent way; one that helps students and ‘the crowd’ expand their knowledge and improve on their expertise,” Miller says.
The code-reviewing process also teaches students a skill that could serve them well down the road, as software companies need developers who can track down bugs and other glitches in code.
Miller hopes that by linking students, alumni and TAs with different backgrounds and programming experience, he can increase learning opportunities for all parties. “Every time you interact with a new person, it’s an opportunity to learn, whether it’s a student demonstrating a new technique to a TA, or an alum providing a student with a valuable piece of industry advice,” Miller says.
How does it work?
The Caesar system has three components: the code selector, the task router and the reviewing interface. Once students have turned in an assignment, the code selector divides their work into chunks and prioritizes the chunks that need review, based on features of the code that suggest it will need attention. The task router then assigns these chunks to a diverse group of reviewers.
By distributing the evaluation process across a large pool of reviewers, Miller hopes to provide students with useful feedback that will improve their work. At the same time, he hopes that this type of crowd-sourced code reviewing can serve as a new learning platform for students at MIT and elsewhere.
The reviewing process itself takes no more than three days, a much shorter timeframe than traditional methods for giving feedback on student assignments. The quick speed with which the evaluation is completed allows students to receive feedback before they tackle their next assignment.
Like Facebook and other social networks, Caesar provides opportunities for other kinds of interaction among its users. Reviewers can agree or disagree with fellow reviewers’ comments via an “upvote” or “downvote,” a process similar to the “like” feature on Facebook, and can also leave comments for both students and other reviewers.
Caesar is already being adopted in other MIT programming courses, and plans are in the works to use it in edX, the online-learning initiative founded by Harvard University and MIT. Miller believes that the system could also be adapted beyond academia to industry and other fields.
I think it inspires us about what openness can revolutionize our education.