Spotlight on Startups: teachers can cut exam marking time in half with Crowdmark
Math professor and his team develop concept at U of T
It's been several long weeks since the excitement of back-to-school, meaning teachers are starting to drown in their homework and exam marking right about now.
But what if time spent marking could be drastically reduced, while the quality of evaluation and communication between teachers and students could be improved?
U of T mathematics professor James Colliander’s startup, Crowdmark, is poised to revolutionize exam marking and eliminate hours of inefficiency through a new tool developed with the help of several of U of T’s entrepreneurship support systems.
Crowdmark's story is part of a new U of T News series called Spotlight on Startups, which profiles the many entrepreneurial efforts growing from the hundreds of companies spun out from research and connections sparking every day at the University of Toronto:
U of T hosts more than 50 enterprise-fostering courses, programs, labs, clubs, contests and speaker series across its faculties, departments and campuses — and then there are all the innovations developing in informal settings. U of T ranks No. 1 in North America for number of startups launched. And its roster of spin-off companies driving innovation in Toronto and around the world continues to grow.
Colliander explained how Crowdmark came about to U of T News.
We used skilled human volunteers to assess 70,000 pages of hand-written math papers. Some of the volunteers could only mark pages one, two and three. Others would only grade pages 10, 11, 12, etc.
I remember seeing one of my colleagues, a strong research mathematician, waiting for a pile of exams to mark. I remember saying to myself, frustrated and under my breath, "serialization" and then asking myself, "How can I parallelize the grading workflow?" Then the first idea came to me.
How did U of T support you and help you develop the concept?
You put Crowdmark to the test with a major math competition-- what was that experience like and what did you learn from it?
The Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge—which inspired the concept for Crowdmark in the first place-- was our first live test of the Crowdmark platform. This involved working with 150 graders from eight Canadian universities, working simultaneously over a weekend. We knew there would be bugs but we also knew this was a great opportunity.
Any interesting news or new testing scenarios since then that you want to mention?
Yes! Crowdmark has been validated as an exciting technology by teachers in elementary school: it was recently used by groups of teachers at Golf Road Junior Public School to carry out moderated marking of grade 3 and grade 6 mock-exams. The experiment was a tremendous success! (Read more about the experiment on the Crowdmark blog.)
What's next for Crowdmark?
Crowdmark is developing into a business that empowers teams of skilled humans to work together and exponentially improve global education.
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