Crowdmark, a graduate of the University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program’s first cohort, was the focus of a February 17 article by Ivor Tossell, The Globe and Mail‘s technology culture columnist.

Created by U of T professor James Colliander, Crowdmark allows educators to quickly and efficiently grade large amounts of tests and exams. Tossell highlighted Crowdmark’s innovation and ease-of-use for the grader. The product is cloud-based, meaning that a team of educators marking the same group of exams don’t have to be in the same room at the same time. Instead, grading can be done remotely.

Tossell spoke with Colliander and Lyssa Neel, Crowdmark’s chief operating officer and a former UTEST co-director. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

James Colliander, a professor at the University of Toronto, found himself staring at about 5,000 pages of papers from a national math exam. Traditionally, a cadre of markers would sit around a large table for marathon grading sessions, assembly line style, each one tackling the answer to one question before passing it on to the next marker.

Mr. Colliander hacked together an expedient: He scanned the pages into a software framework and distributed them to markers digitally. He was essentially able to parallelize the marking process.

“The markers didn’t all have to be in the same place, so they could move much faster,” says Lyssa Neel, COO of Crowdmark, the company that, with Mr. Colliander as CEO, has brought the idea to market.

Crowdmark is an online service that takes the idea of distributed marking and scales it to an institutional level.

Before they give a test, instructors sign up from a Crowdmark account. Once on the site, they’ll find templates they can use to build their exams. Each page is marked with a QR code – students only write their names on the front page. After the test has been collected, the papers are sent to Ricoh, which Crowdmark has contracted to do some industrial-scale scanning. (The company says 10,000 pages can be scanned and returned the same day, or by the next day, for an evening exam.)

Once the exams are digitized, the software breaks each exam apart into its constituent questions. The user sees a grid: Each row is a student’s exam, and each column is a question, so each square is one answer to one question. The marking load can be shared between as many team members as they like, who can tackle their share of the marking wherever and whenever they like. The software handles the totalling of the final grades, which can then be exported to learning management systems.

Crowdmark says this can shave 50 per cent to 70 per cent off the time of grading, not by reducing the amount of time that markers spend interacting with students’ work, but by cutting down the logistical overhead of dealing with large piles of papers.
Full article can be found here.