April 19, 2013

Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break

EdX, a nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will release automated software that uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers.

Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the “send” button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program. And then, instead of being done with that exam, imagine that the system would immediately let you rewrite the test to try to improve your grade.

EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such a system and will make its automated software available free on the Web to any institution that wants to use it. The software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers, freeing professors for other tasks.

The new service will bring the educational consortium into a growing conflict over the role of automation in education. Although automated grading systems for multiple-choice and true-false tests are now widespread, the use of artificial intelligence technology to grade essay answers has not yet received widespread endorsement by educators and has many critics.
Anant Agarwal, an electrical engineer who is president of EdX, predicted that the instant-grading software would be a useful pedagogical tool, enabling students to take tests and write essays over and over and improve the quality of their answers. He said the technology would offer distinct advantages over the traditional classroom system, where students often wait days or weeks for grades.
“There is a huge value in learning with instant feedback,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Students are telling us they learn much better with instant feedback.”
But skeptics say the automated system is no match for live teachers. One longtime critic, Les Perelman, has drawn national attention several times for putting together nonsense essays that have fooled software grading programs into giving high marks. He has also been highly critical of studies that purport to show that the software compares well to human graders.
“My first and greatest objection to the research is that they did not have any valid statistical test comparing the software directly to human graders,” said Mr. Perelman, a retired director of writing and a current researcher at M.I.T.
He is among a group of educators who last month began circulating a petition opposing automated assessment software. The group, which calls itself Professionals Against Machine Scoring of Student Essays in High-Stakes Assessment, has collected nearly 2,000 signatures, including some from luminaries like Noam Chomsky.
“Let’s face the realities of automatic essay scoring,” the group’s statement reads in part. “Computers cannot ‘read.’ They cannot measure the essentials of effective written communication: accuracy, reasoning, adequacy of evidence, good sense, ethical stance, convincing argument, meaningful organization, clarity, and veracity, among others.”
But EdX expects its software to be adopted widely by schools and universities. EdX offers free online classes from Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of California, Berkeley; this fall, it will add classes from Wellesley, Georgetown and the University of Texas. In all, 12 universities participate in EdX, which offers certificates for course completion and has said that it plans to continue to expand next year, including adding international schools.
The EdX assessment tool requires human teachers, or graders, to first grade 100 essays or essay questions. The system then uses a variety of machine-learning techniques to train itself to be able to grade any number of essays or answers automatically and almost instantaneously.
The software will assign a grade depending on the scoring system created by the teacher, whether it is a letter grade or numerical rank. It will also provide general feedback, like telling a student whether an answer was on topic or not.
Dr. Agarwal said he believed that the software was nearing the capability of human grading.
“This is machine learning and there is a long way to go, but it’s good enough and the upside is huge,” he said. “We found that the quality of the grading is similar to the variation you find from instructor to instructor.”
EdX is not the first to use automated assessment technology, which dates to early mainframe computers in the 1960s. There is now a range of companies offering commercial programs to grade written test answers, and four states — Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah and West Virginia — are using some form of the technology in secondary schools. A fifth, Indiana, has experimented with it. In some cases the software is used as a “second reader,” to check the reliability of the human graders.
But the growing influence of the EdX consortium to set standards is likely to give the technology a boost. On Tuesday, Stanford announced that it would work with EdX to develop a joint educational system that will incorporate the automated assessment technology.
Two start-ups, Coursera and Udacity, recently founded by Stanford faculty members to create “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, are also committed to automated assessment systems because of the value of instant feedback.
“It allows students to get immediate feedback on their work, so that learning turns into a game, with students naturally gravitating toward resubmitting the work until they get it right,” said Daphne Koller, a computer scientist and a founder of Coursera.
Last year the Hewlett Foundation, a grant-making organization set up by one of the Hewlett-Packard founders and his wife, sponsored two $100,000 prizes aimed at improving software that grades essays and short answers. More than 150 teams entered each category. A winner of one of the Hewlett contests, Vik Paruchuri, was hired by EdX to help design its assessment software.
“One of our focuses is to help kids learn how to think critically,” said Victor Vuchic, a program officer at the Hewlett Foundation. “It’s probably impossible to do that with multiple-choice tests. The challenge is that this requires human graders, and so they cost a lot more and they take a lot more time.”
Mark D. Shermis, a professor at the University of Akron in Ohio, supervised the Hewlett Foundation’s contest on automated essay scoring and wrote a paper about the experiment. In his view, the technology — though imperfect — has a place in educational settings.
With increasingly large classes, it is impossible for most teachers to give students meaningful feedback on writing assignments, he said. Plus, he noted, critics of the technology have tended to come from the nation’s best universities, where the level of pedagogy is much better than at most schools.
“Often they come from very prestigious institutions where, in fact, they do a much better job of providing feedback than a machine ever could,” Dr. Shermis said. “There seems to be a lack of appreciation of what is actually going on in the real world.”

Source: New York Times

April 6, 2013

સેટેલાઈટ માર્કેટિંગ સ્ટ્રેટેજી

સૌ પ્રથમ તો  થોડા સમય માટે કોઈ બીજા ગ્રહ ઉપર રહેવા જતું રહેવું. ત્યાંથી જે ગામડામાં જન્મ થયો હોય ત્યાં બે-ચાર ઇંટો મુકાવીને સ્કુલ અથવા હોસ્પિટલનું અવકાશમાંથી જ લાઈવ ઉદઘાટન કરવું જેથી તમે ત્યાં છો તેવું સાબિત થાય.

મોટા નેતાઓ સાથે સેટેલાઈટ ફોન મારફતે હંમેશા સંપર્કમાં રહેવું અને પોતાના બ્રાન્ડીંગ વિશે પૂછપરછ કરતી રહેવી. પોતાના જીવનનો સંઘર્ષ ફિલ્મની જેમ દર્શાવવો કે જેમાં ઘરની આર્થિક પરિસ્થિતિ હંમેશા નબળી  હોય છે. વાંચવા માટે પુસ્તકો હોતા નથી. માં-બાપ ઉંમરલાયક હોય છે. એવા થોડા સાચા ખોટા અનુભવો કોઈ પ્રોફેશનલ લેખક પાસે લખાવીને મોટા પબ્લીશર પાસે પુસ્તક છપાવવું અને તેને ઉંચી કિંમતે વહેચવું. જો કોઈ સ્કુલ પુસ્તક પોતાની લાઈબ્રેરી માટે ભેંટ સ્વરૂપે માંગે તો તુરંત ભારતનાં પબ્લિક રીલેશન મેનેજરનો સંપર્ક નંબર આપી  દેવો અને પુસ્તકની કિંમત જણાવી દેવી.

જો કોઈ પ્રોફેશનલ બાવા-સાધુ એમ કહે કે હવે તમારે આપણા દેશમાં આવવાનો સમય થઇ ગયો છે તો અહિયાં આવીને ત્રણ ચાર દિવસ રોકાઈ જવું. તમારા ગામની મુલાકાત લઇ લેવી. ગામમાં જઈને મંદિરમાં દીવો, અગરબતી કરવી જેથી ભારતીય સંસ્કાર ભૂલ્યા નથી તેવું ગામના લોકોને લાગે.

પ્રખ્યાત લેખકના પુસ્તકનું ઉદઘાટન કરવું અને ઓટોગ્રાફ આપવો. ઉદ્યોગપતિઓ સાથે બીઝનેસ ડીનર લેવું. અહિયાં ઉત્તમ કક્ષાની યુનીવર્સીટી પકડવી અને તેમાં કોઈ પણ જાતના ઈન્ટરવ્યું અને મહેનત વગર  ડોકટરેટની પદવી આસાનીથી મળી જાય તે માટે અથાગ પ્રયત્નો કરવા કરતા રહેવા. તેના બદલામાં એ યુનીવર્સીટીના વિધાર્થીઓ સાથે વાર્તાલાપ કરવું. પછી ભલે વિધાર્થીઓને ભાષણ ઉપરથી જાય.
ખાસ યાદ રાખવું કે  જે રાજ્યમાં ગયા હોય ત્યાંના મુખ્યમંત્રીનું આમંત્રણ હોવા છતા પણ મળ્યા સિવાય કાર્યક્રમ પતાવીને સીધું અવકાશમાં પહોચી જવાનુંમારા મત મુજબ માર્કેટિંગ સ્ટ્રેટેજી કોઈ પણ મોટી બીઝનેસ સ્કુલ કે સલાહકાર કંપની કરતાં વધુ પ્રમાણમાં અસરકારક થઇ શકે. અને માટે કોઈ મોટી સિંહ જેવી સંસ્થાઓ કે કોઈ વિદેશી યુનીવર્સીટીમાંથી એમ.બી..કરવાની જરૂર નથી.

મારી પોસ્ટ ગમે તો લાઈક કરજો કોઈ જબરજસ્તી નથી. પોસ્ટ કોઈ વ્યક્તિ માટે અંગત અભિપ્રાય નથી જેની ખાસ નોંધ લેવા વિનંતી

April 2, 2013

Think, What Really Makes People Buy?

It's the ultimate question, isn't it? You work hard at marketing to make contact with potential clients. Then you work even harder to get a chance speak with them about what you have to offer. But how do you actually get them to hire you? The answers may not be what you think.

1. Know-Like-and-Trust Factor - When making a buying decision about professional services, the number one factor clients consider is how much they know, like, and trust you. It's more important than how much you charge or even how much they need you. What clients are asking is how much contact have they had with you? Did they recognize your name beforehand? Are you credible as a competent professional? Were you referred by someone they know?

You can influence this factor by focusing your marketing efforts on meeting clients through networking, referrals, and public speaking. If you haven't had prior contact with prospective clients and weren't referred, give them copies of any published work or media coverage you have, and provide them with client testimonials. Be prepared to stay in touch over a period of time so they can get to know you better.

2. Match between your offer and their needs - If you pass the first test of seeming credible and trustworthy, potential clients next look at how closely what you offer matches what they are looking for. Do they have a pressing need for your services? Do they understand exactly what it is that you provide? Do they grasp the benefits of working with you?

The best way to address this issue is to ask plenty of questions. The more you can find out about what the client needs, the better you can explain specifically how you can help. The biggest mistake professionals make when selling themselves is to offer themselves as a solution when they don't yet know the problem. Be sure also to communicate the benefits of hiring you -- not just what you do, but what the client gets as a result of what you do.

3. Justifying the purchase - An often neglected component of the buying decision is whether the client will be able to justify spending money on your services to their spouse, boss, board of directors, or even themselves. In business environments, this is critical. The purchaser must be able to support their decision to hire you with verifiable facts. When selling to consumers, keep in mind there may be a naysayer in the background who will need to be convinced of your value.
Give your prospects the evidence they need to justify your value to others. Provide statistics or examples of results achieved, money saved, or performance improved in your former projects. Share a case study, your client list, or a portfolio of your successes. Help them find the language they need to reassure everyone involved that hiring you is the most practical solution available to the problem at hand.

4. Price vs. budget - The last element prospective clients consider is the price. Yes, cost is important, but if they trust you, your offer is a good match for what they need, and they can justify hiring you, then the only significant issue about the price is whether they can find the money. 

The next time you're wondering why a sale isn't going through, check how you're doing on each of these four factors. See if you can discover the missing ingredients that will convince the client to buy.
The fastest way to turn a prospect into a client may be simply to change how you think about them.