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CASE STUDY: At Florida Gulf Coast University, Intelligent Essay Assessor Helps Save Required University Course

Situation
In 2000, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) was considering canceling one of its required courses in the General Education Program. As one of the newest institutions in the Florida state university system, FGCU offered “Understanding Visual and Performing Arts” as a required course for entering freshman. Enrollment at the new university quickly exploded, and by 2000, the school had more than 800 students in 30 sections of the course taught by adjunct professors. The number of staff required not only led to inconsistency in the coursework and grading, but was also a large drain on university resources. Jim Wohlpart, Ph.D., associate dean of Arts & Sciences, was charged with revamping the course.

Implementing Intelligent Essay Assessor
Wohlpart worked with university faculty to completely overhaul the class. The first step was to put it entirely online, facilitated by one full-time professor and one full-time administrator, plus part-time “preceptors,” or graduate students who assist by moderating Web discussions and meeting with students. As a next step, Wohlpart evaluated software for grading online tests, including essays in which students analyzed works of art. However, Wohlpart says, getting rid of the essay portion of the exam was not an option. “A large part of the course requires that students employ critical thinking, and we needed to keep the short essay section in the exams.”

“I think it’s absolutely essential that we only use technology in appropriate places in our teaching. It’s not going to fix everything or take over, but when it works, students come

For FGCU, Intelligent Essay Assessor (IEA) from up with wonderful Pearson Knowledge Technologies fit the requirements perfectly. For the essay, students analyze a work of thoughts and ideas.” art – such as a painting, a sculpture or a piece of architecture – or a...
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