7 Replies - 3099 Views - Last Post: 14 June 2012 - 01:43 PM

#1 Janian  Icon User is offline

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A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:17 AM

Hello DiC, I don't know if this belongs in this discussion board (if it's not, can a mod please move it?). I'm an intern programmer at an educational facility, so far my boss has had me set up some simple websites that I breezed through - yada yada yada -

My boss came out of nowhere asking if I could program an automated essay grader that we could upload onto a website for a local elementary school - meaning little kids log onto the schools website and have their essays graded - like a test. I told him I could look around for some open source ones, which I had no idea if there were any, and let him know if I came across any.

I've found one from a ph d, Elijah Mayfield, and I have no idea how to work with it.

Is there anyone that could point me in the right direction to get started - ebooks, applications, anything really? Last resort is to program the thing from scratch, but considering I'm a 2nd year CS student - I doubt that.

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Replies To: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

#2 modi123_1  Icon User is online

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:24 AM

Okay expand on how you want these essays graded... That's always a large problem of just keyword searching versus content generating..
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#3 Janian  Icon User is offline

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:31 AM

The grader is to fit the criteria of: performing proper punctuation, fragmentation, and capitalization checks; check if the student keeps on topics, grade on a scale of 1 though 4, check for gibberish and run-on sentences, and give a quick insight to students on why they got their grade.

What we want to get started is something that could be like a handy helper to elementary language arts teachers :/
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#4 blackcompe  Icon User is offline

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 13 June 2012 - 03:40 PM

To check for proper grammar usage, you can try parsing the sentence to validate its syntactical structure. English is not only a natural language, it's the most complex of all, and one person trying to write a useful parser for it is pretty much insane. Luckily, a solution exists. :^: I see good things from this quick look at what it can do, and it says it provides an easy to use API. Try entering a sentence with improper grammar or punctuation, and it returns "No complete linkages found". I'm impressed. The software doesn't seem to pick on capitalization, but that's something you can check for yourself.

At first glance, it seems that judging whether an essay is on topic would be quite hard to do. If all students were writing on the same topic, you can get some idea of how relevant the essay is, by having the grader input a list of specific words to look for. This is very weak, but is probably close to the best you could do. Not even a machine learning algorithm can judge how well an essay is written. That takes human intelligence. And, if you actually implemented this in your system, I would give the grammar portion a lot more weight in the overall grade.
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#5 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 13 June 2012 - 03:46 PM

I know someone doing something like this at Amazon, for classifying multilingual learning textbooks into the appropriate category (ie., for native English speakers learning Spanish, etc.). A lot of this is advanced AI research. Certain checks can be done, but I wouldn't trust an automated essay grader over a human grader. And such a project would take a team of senior developers months, at the very least, to develop.
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#6 Janian  Icon User is offline

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 14 June 2012 - 11:47 AM

Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence :death:
Agreed, this is a project that is way out of my league, hence the thread name, but I got to try something.

Thanks compe for that link, going to look over the program right after lunch; the website demo looked promising.
So far, I'm grabbing at things like an open-source spell checker, using the link-parser for sentence structure, going to make a grading system that counts the errors the writer makes and deducts a total, as for making sure an essay stays on topic - Im guessing that is something akin to a program that checks for certain keywords? I dun know.

Not really asking anyone to do this for me, just a point in the right directions :?
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#7 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 14 June 2012 - 11:56 AM

It's not a diss to say that you're not likely to invent good NLP algorithms from scratch. That's something people have been working on for decades - you'd have to absorb fifty years of heavy-duty linguistics just to have a chance at it.
Fortunately, this is not a wheel you have to reinvent. Did you have particular questions about the LightSide application you found? The manual looks pretty impossible, but if it does something useful, it'll be a lot easier to figure out the manual than to write something that does what it does.
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#8 cfoley  Icon User is offline

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Re: A question from a novice programmer way out of his league

Posted 14 June 2012 - 01:43 PM

MS Word has a very good grammar checker with optional readability statistics. If you are after something quick and dirty then I'm sure you could knock something together with VB macros pretty quickly.
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