STUDENTS could have their work “marked” instantly using groundbreaking technology being pioneered by Bolton College.

The college is developing FirstPass, an instant marking and automated feedback tool for “open ended” questions , meaning students waiting to find out how to improve their assignment could be a thing of the past.

Currently such technology is limited to automated marking of multiple-choice questions but the college believes it could help improve students’ learning beyond that. Initial trials have proved promising, with the college’s work highlighted in a study on “The Future of Assessment” carried out by the education technology not-for-profit Jisc.

The college has received £100,000 Government funding to developing the assessment tool designed to reduce workload for teachers and allow students to improve the quality of their work instantly.

Aftab Hussain, information learning technology manager at the college, said: “We have received funding from the Department for Education to create this tool to give real time feedback to students. Traditionally, students would have to wait for their work to be marked and it would be passed back and forth. Initial trials have shown that students’ work improves. If students are away from the classroom or in the library they can get instant feedback with the computer analysing their work.”

Mr Hussain said that the assessment tool had the advantage of reducing teachers’ marking workload to an extent. The tool would be based on model answers provided by teaching staff to work.

“Teachers would always carry out a final review of the work, the nuances in the English language means teachers would always have the final say,” said Mr Hussain, who said more wider trials were being planned.

Bolton College started developing the new technology following the success of its chatbox Ada ­— named after Ada Lovelace who is regarded as one of the first computer programmers ­— which helps deliver personalised learning and assessment for students and deal with queries about attendance and curriculum requirements.

The trial is set to be widened to include healthcare students and ESOL ­— English as a second language ­— students in the near future.

“I am really impressed with the work of my colleagues, including Jonathan Hart who has been working on this for the last 18 months,” said Mr Hussain, who stressed the technology would never replace teachers but give students a chance to improve their work before it is seen by a teacher.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “We know there is potential for technology to be a force for good for schools, colleges and universities.

“Our recently launched EdTech Strategy set out our aim to support and enable the education sector in England to help develop and embed technology in a way that cuts workload, fosters efficiencies, removes barriers to education and ultimately drives improvements in educational outcomes.”