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ASU announces partnership with Big History

April 18, 2016

Today, Arizona State University announced a partnership with the Big History Project (BHP), established by Bill Gates to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to history to learners around the world.    

As ASU begins to turn its attention to course delivery at scale, developing the capability to grade writing at new levels has become increasingly important. Writing is a critical tool in helping students succeed, both as a study in itself, and as a way to assess students' understanding in other subjects. However with the current system relying on expert human graders, incorporating writing assignments in digitally scaled courses is a significant challenge.

Researchers from ASU's University Academic Success Programs, funded by the partnership announced today, will work with the bgC3 (Bill Gates Catalyst 3) Big History team to provide consistent, high-quality writing feedback for tens of thousands of Big History essays over the 2016-2017 school year. The data produced by this exercise will be used to accelerate ASU's investigation of next-generation grading approaches, including those based on machine learning driven by natural language processing.

The Big History project is already working with thousands of teachers to expose students to David Christian's unique approach to teaching the history of humanity in the context of the evolution of the universe. BHP hopes the ASU grading service will help encourage more teachers to adopt Big History as part of their curriculum by making it easier for teachers to give their students high-quality feedback on major writing assignments.

“Our mission is to find ways to more effectively use writing assignments in Internet-scale courses,” said Adrian Sannier, Chief Academic Technology Officer for EdPlus at ASU. “We want to make it easier for teachers to incorporate opportunities for students to write as part of their coursework by providing more scalable support for writing evaluation”

ASU and the Big History Project announced the venture at the ASU GSV Education Innovation Summit, the annual event where education and technology converge in the spirit of innovation and where the BHP founder, Bill Gates is a keynote speaker this year.

ASU's EdPlus anticipates that this program could be used to enrich course assessments in its own large-scale courses, including the Global Freshman Academy, which has had more than 120,000 students since its launch in fall 2015.

For more information or media inquiry, please contact Carrie Lingenfelter by emailing

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