Why more US universities will outsource grading to India

Is it a good idea for a US university to outsource the grading of students’ assignment papers to India?

At least one Professor at the University of Houston has taken the lead on this.   The Chronicle for Higher Education has an article on Ms. Lori Whisenant, director of business law and ethics studies at the University of Houston.  She teaches about 1000 students and has 7 Teaching Assistants (TAs) and outsources assignment grading to India (and other countries) through an outsourcer called EduMetry which is run, not surprisingly, by a PIO – Chandru Rajam.

The graders working for EduMetry, based in a Virginia suburb of Washington, are concentrated in India, Singapore, and Malaysia, along with some in the United States and elsewhere. They do their work online and communicate with professors via e-mail. The company advertises that its graders hold advanced degrees and can quickly turn around assignments with sophisticated commentary, because they are not juggling their own course work, too.

The idea behind this is that it frees Professors and TAs to do more research and teaching.  From a student’s perspective, though, this means very little feedback on his/ her assignment and the grade received.

Here’s an (imagined) conversation which is possibly happening right now at Houston :

“Why did you give me a C+ ?” asked the student to the TA.  “I thought, I did, like, quite well, you know. ”

“I don’t know,” shrugs the TA. “I didn’t give you a C+”.

” ‘Course you did”, says the student. “Says here – see?  C+.”

“Yes, but I didn’t grade you”, says the TA.  “And none of the other TAs did, either.  Someone in India gave you the C+. And no, you can’t ask him why, because I don’t know  who that was.”

“What does someone in India know about my paper? ”

“A lot, according to him.  He says you use too many apostrophes in the wrong places. He said your paper was “backwas”.  What’s backwas, do you know?”

 Prof. Lori Whisenant (Pic courtesy: The Chronicle of Higher Edu.)Prof. Lori Whisenant (Pic courtesy: The Chronicle of Higher Edu.)

Jokes apart, you’d think that the seven TAs should be adequate.  But as someone I know who has been a RA/ TA says:

If it were to take 5 mins to grade each student (and this is definitely on the low side, I would think), each
TA woud spend about 13 hours a week grading 150 students. Plus, say 3 class hours, so 16 hours right there. Plus hold office hours for 150 students: 20 mins each for the 10% of the students who actually come asking questions, and that’s another 5 hours. And undergrads can be insanely dense: I’ve spent an entire hour just repeating stuff for a couple of students …

The remaining 20 hours go towards taking classes (10 hours a week), doing homework (another 10 hours), so when does the thesis get done!

The key issue here of course is that a single Professor is teaching 1000 students.  That seems an unusually high class size.

But I wonder if, going forward, really large class sizes are going to become the norm.

Almost every US university has a funding shortfall.  They can only cut so many costs; they need to increase revenue too.  What do you think they will do?  Would it surprise you if they decided to admit more students (and even better, full-fee paying international students?)

But at the same time, they wouldn’t want to hire too many more permanent, tenured faculty, so perhaps they would resort to more adjunct faculty.  But you cannot have Adjunct Faculty teaching Econ 1o1, so what do you do?

Increase class size.

I suspect this will probably happen a lot more at second and third rung universities.  There used to be a time when any US university was a good university, and any US degree was better than an Indian degree – in people’s minds, that is.  But from an international student’s perspective in these financial-aid starved times,  one wonders if it still makes sense to apply to any but the top US universities.

Think about it, not only are you less likely to get a job after graduating from Tier 2 and Tier 3 US universities, you are now going to face the ultimate insult – the people grading your assignments graduated from the same Indian universities you rejected.


17 thoughts on “Why more US universities will outsource grading to India

  1. I doubt that many Americans would go to Universities where papers aren’t graded by people they can’t look in the face.

  2. WTF… how can you do like this ? whats the purpose of sending such stuff outside the university.. such stuff are confidential and to the professor only..

    nonsense.. this won’t work.. doesn’t seem practical..

  3. I doubt whether this even legal ,since grades are not to be divulged anywhere not to anybody ,this is guaranteed by charter of the university and the university is bound by it .And where the hell do you get 1000 students in all the classes that prof teaches.And if prof is gonna have 1000 students in all his/her classes, i better not take courses under him/her because i wont learn anything.So much for being public university.

    • I wonder whether the Grade Disclosure rules apply to the final grade in each course, or the grades in every assignment or test you take. The other way to work around this would be to ask the Indian graders to grade anonymous papers (e.g. use a numeric ID instead of student name).

      • well my next question .is ..the subjects taught here usually have less equivalents as such in India esp at graduate level .The grader here who grades usually has excellent grades in that course and knows the course .Does the university expect that the student papers be graded by people who have no idea about what the course is about??

      • From the article, EduMetry seems to be using graders with Masters degrees (and higher) to grade undegraduate courses. Their claim is that the graders know the course (or at least the subject) very well indeed.

        Even in areas where there’s a difference, it shouldn’t be a problem. To think of an example- I’m sure it won’t take long for say, a CA in India to pick up the differences between US GAAP and International GAAP.

      • Phd/Masters ppl are so vela… this is news to me …seriously…Well your example limits to commerce and stuff such as arts ..What about science or Engineering .Another question are indian masters students who slog so hard are ready to work as a grader ?? and wheres the question of accountability if something goes wrong ??

        The rules in my university are ..

        [Name of University] complies with the Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which governs access and release of information from student educational records.

        This statute, in part:

        * permits students to inspect their educational records
        * provides the opportunity to challenge the accuracy of such records
        * limits disclosure of non-directory information such as grades and class schedules to persons outside of the Institute without the student’s written permission.

  4. Well, if that happens the universities would disclose that they are doing this and this would significantly reduce the quality of the applicants there and ergo wouldn’t work in the long run as it would only hurt the universities’ already “second-tiered” reputation.

    And the last part about any US university being a good university back in the 90s is true. Ask any class topping Indian from top tier UG school in India now and he would only be applying to tier 1 schools in the US. Because everyone from Tier 2 UGs here are applying to Tier 2 and tier 3 PG schools there.

    • That’s possible (that it would hurt the university’s reputation). But if this practice gets adopted by more and more universities, the stigma will lessen. The other question is – can universities use a disclaimer clause to get away without disclosure?

      I didn’t get the last part of your comment: Because everyone from Tier 2 UGs here are applying to Tier 2 and tier 3 PG schools there. Is “here” US and “there” India?

  5. I’d argue that however good the grader might be, not having come out of the same system as the gradee (?) means they’re already not on the same plane as them.

    you are now going to face the ultimate insult – the people grading your assignments graduated from the same Indian universities you rejected.

    Can you not see the conversation already?
    “Eh what re – how come you came back huh? No job huh?
    “No re. Thanks to stupid grades by people who weren’t even my professors”
    “Oh yah? Wait – didn’t you major in (x) from Hickstown U?”
    “Hahahaaha….I graded you man”
    “…..you….you….” *dishoom*

    • I’d argue that however good the grader might be, not having come out of the same system as the gradee (?) means they’re already not on the same plane as them.

      Have you seen the general level of undergraduates in the US? Douglas Adams would describe them as “Mostly Clueless”.

      That conversation makes me remember something I’ve always wondered – has anyone ever called customer service, been connected to a call center in India and recognized the voice at the other end?

    • It’s good for India that people are thinking of these innovative ways to capture more service ideas. Not so good for the country which thrives on foreign goods and foreign services.

  6. “Think about it,.. the people grading your assignments graduated from the same Indian universities you rejected.

    Yeah, Indians are dumb blokes. They still go to Nalanda and Taxila.
    America is of course the place to be. heaven. from where only menial jobs are to be outsourced to India. Yeah.

    Indians can’t grade assignments. They are too dumb. And I am a coconut you know, brown on the outside, white inside. Being in America does that to me. Yeah.

    • “Indians are dumb blokes”

      I dont mean to start an argument here but I really doubt thats the case with atleast 10 indians consistenly making the ranks within the top 50 thinkers of the world and 2 Indians in the Top 5 richest of the world every year.

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