Automated Grading System

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University of Maryland
Institute for Advanced Computer Studies Department of Computer Science

College Park
UMIACS-TR-94-59 CS-TR-3275

KASSANDRA: THE AUTOMATIC GRADING SYSTEM
Urs von Matty January, 1994

Abstract. An automatic grading system is presented for grading assignments in scienti c computing. A student can interactively use this system to check the correctness of his program assignments. The grade for a correct solution is automatically recorded. This paper also considers the security problems with such an automatic grading system. Key words. Computerized grading, science education, computer aided instruction.

This report is available by anonymous ftp from cs.umd.edu in the directory /pub/papers/TRs. It also appears in SIGCUE Outlook, 22 (1994), pp. 26{40. y Institute for Scienti c Computing, ETH Zurich, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland; current address: Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; e-mail: na.vonmatt@na-net.ornl.gov.

KASSANDRA: THE AUTOMATIC GRADING SYSTEM
Urs von Matt

Abstract. An automatic grading system is presented for grading assignments in scienti c computing. A student can interactively use this system to check the correctness of his program assignments. The grade for a correct solution is automatically recorded. This paper also considers the security problems with such an automatic grading system. Key words. Computerized grading, science education, computer aided instruction.

1. Introduction. At ETH Zurich an undergraduate course in scienti c computing is lectured by W. Gander every year. About six teaching assistants have to handle up to 200 students. The grading of assignments represents a major activity for the teaching assistants. Kassandra was designed to alleviate this problem. Kassandra is based on the observation that numerical assignments can be tested fairly easily. Typically the student has to implement a procedure which operates on given input data and generates some output. If this procedure computes the right answers for di erent inputs we assume it to be correct, and the student gets credit for it. We use the software packages Maple 2] and Matlab 5] in the aforementioned course in scienti c computing. Consequently, the student must express his solution in terms of these languages. Besides, we also make use of a classical programming language, namely Oberon 9, 14], the successor of Modula-2 13]. Section 2 of this paper gives a short overview of the history of automatic grading. In section 3 we discuss the functionality of Kassandra from the student's point of view. Section 4 is devoted to the security aspects that such a grading system has to meet. From these requirements we can derive the internal structure of Kassandra in section 5. We discuss in section 6 how assignments are incorporated into Kassandra. Finally, section 7 reports our experiences with Kassandra. 2. History. There are a number of publications concerned with assisting teachers in checking the homework of their students. An approach, which is closely related to Kassandra, was described in 1965 by Forsythe and Wirth 3]. Their system was used for numerical analysis courses at Stanford University. As part of their homework the students had to write subroutines in the Balgol language, a dialect of Algol 58. Their solutions were turned in on punched cards. Then, the teacher ran a grader program which called each of the solutions in turn. Forsythe and Wirth give an example of a grader that tries to evaluate the quality of integration subroutines written by the students. In 1969, J. Joss also developed a similar system at ETH Zurich. Unfortunately, his work has never been published. Outside the area of computer science, several papers have been published on the grading of homework assignments. In most cases these systems check the numerical values that have been computed by the students. The data is usually entered into the computer by some sort of reading...
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