More than half of college students write below a 12th-grade level. A recent survey from StudySoup used an application to analyze writing samples from 20 different universities and found students at several schools were writing even as low as the sixth-grade level.
“When we were younger, we read books and magazines. And those had been edited,” says Guy Arthur Canino, the owner of a school for English language learners, in the StudySoup blog. “Now, people are reading Twitter, Facebook, and everyone has blogs, and not all of these have been edited.”
While experts think technology has played a part in lowering the writing skills of students, tech tools can also make students better writers.
Microsoft and Google Features Boost Communication Skills
In honor of the Windows 10 anniversary last year, Microsoft released a number of updates to its Office 365 products. Those updates included Researcher and Editor modes for Microsoft Word that make it easier for students to cite sources and write using correct grammar and style, Laptop reports.
Aimed at college students, Word’s Researcher mode uses context clues to suggest related web articles and lets users drop quotes from those articles into the document.
While Microsoft Word has had a spelling and grammar checker since its first iteration, the new Editor feature provides detailed explanations of why something is wrong.
“By knowing what different phrases mean, writers can learn how to write better, rather than just blindly accepting suggestions from Word and making the same mistakes over and over again,” reads the article.
Google also released some recent updates that make it easier for professors to create templates for academic papers, which students can follow so they can worry less about formatting.
Apps and AI Provide Real-Time Feedback
To analyze student writing for its survey, StudySoup used the Hemingway App, another editing tool to help students. StudySoup reports that in addition to proofreading, the tool also evaluates the clarity and readability of a student’s work.
Gradeproof, an app powered by artificial intelligence, checks spelling, grammar, plagiarism and writing style. Using AI, the app learns as writers use it and tailors its suggestions accordingly.
Over the next few years, students and professors alike will likely turn to AI and machine learning to easily evaluate writing. For example, a team of educators at the University of Michigan developed a tool that uses automated text analysis to help streamline the grading process in large classes and help students grow their writing skills.