Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Mechanical What?

For the Win A line in Cory Doctrow's For the Win (which you should read btw. Globalization? My arse!) set me thinking about Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

Part of "doing more with less" is going to involve doing less - assessment in my case. I'm replacing a hand marked online submission that takes a lot of time with a VLE quiz for formative feedback. This involves generating, within a set series of parameters, a question bank based on an existing spreadsheet. And this is so mind-numbingly boring that I've been putting it off for months. And it's expensive too, because if I spend a couple of days doing this, I'm not writing those papers and grants (only so many hours in the day).

So what are the ethics of using Mechanical Turk to create the question bank? Not upload them to the VLE, just generate the variations?

(In this case, the amount of work required for the setup means it's not worth it. This problem doesn't scale sufficiently. In other cases though, it might be worth it. This post is about the ethics of the practice rather than the practicalities.)