George Washington University professor Dr. Chandru Rajam, is unhappy with the tedium of grading papers and thinks there is a better way, outsourcing the work to India. He hired Virtual-TA, a service of EduMetry Inc. to grade and comment on student assignments.

Inquiring minds are reading Profs now outsourcing marking to India.

“Our intent is not to cheapen or degrade the learning and teaching equation,” Rajam told the Star. “We think there is a better model. We never outsource the responsibility, we’re just outsourcing the activity.

“I like to half-jokingly point out that a mother is outsourcing childcare to a daycare provider. If you can entrust the care of your infant to a third person, any form of outsourcing should be fair game.”

Since it was created five years ago, EduMetry has assembled a team of adjunct professors, retired teachers, “homemakers with masters’ degrees” and other university-educated staff, most in India but some in Singapore and Malaysia, to grade 2,000 student assignments a week. A selling point, said Rajam, is the extensive comments that accompany each grade – something graduate assistants and professors can seldom supply.

Among students, he said, “any apprehension at first blush goes away when they see the quality of the feedback.”

“Everyone who has ever had a college degree knows what it’s like to just get ‘good’ written in the margin and wonder what it means,” said Terri Friel, dean of the business school at Roosevelt University in Chicago. “This gives students a great deal more guidence.”

Friel used Virtual-TA at her previous university, Butler in Indianapolis. At Roosevelt, she has used one of EduMetry’s other programs.

A western Canadian college or university is among EduMetry’s dozen clients, but Rajam declined to identify it. The University of Houston director of business law and ethics, Lori Whisenant, is a client, as are professors at the University of Iowa College of Business Administration, West Hills Community College in Coalinga, Calif., Ohio Northern University and George Washington.

Whisenant’s seven teaching assistants had to wade through papers from 1,000 students each year.

“Our graders were great but they were not experts in providing feedback,” Whienant told The Chronicle of Higher Education about her teaching assistants. With Virtual-TA, “we’re working with professionals.”

Prices vary per course, but Virtual-TA estimates the program costs a university about $12 per student per assignment. Six assignments for 20 students would cost $1,440. EduMetry graders receive from $500 to $1,000 a month, depending on hours worked, according to GlobalPost, a news service.

“As a business school professor, what I find is there are double standards,” said Rajam. “As long as outsourcing meant for the last 30 years only the flight of blue-collar jobs, that was okay. The moment it extends to knowledge work, immediately people get defensive. The idea that EduMetry can’t mark an English Composition 101 paper is ludicrous.”

Complete Agreement With Rajam

I am in complete agreement with Dr. Chandru Rajam. I think outsourcing grading papers is a tremendous idea. I also think outsourcing Dr. Chandru Rajam is a tremendous idea.

Over the internet, professors in India could simultaneously teach classes at George Washington University, Roosevelt University, the University of Iowa, Northern University, and Canadian universities as well.

The cost savings for students would be enormous. Why should students have to go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt just to pay absurd salaries and benefits to university professors, when they can get a better education if only universities and colleges would take the next logical step: outsourcing the whole shebang?

Yes, I am serious. No matter how good Rajam is, I am quite sure I can find better teachers at Virtual-TA willing to work for 10-20% of what Dr. Chandru Rajam makes. Heck, even 33% would be a bargain.

Let’s bring down the cost of a college education. The way to do it outsource university professors and administrators alike to Virtual-TA.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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