AI virtual learning platform Edgenuity gamed by students

Occurred: September 2020

US students discovered a way to cheat an algorithm grading their work by simply typing out a list of words relevant to the topic. 

Having worked out online learning system Edgenuity was using artificial intelligence to scan students' answers to online questions, twelve-year-old Lazare Simmons and his mother fooled the software by writing a couple of coherent sentences on the topic at hand: Constantinople’s prime geographical location in the Roman Empire, followed by a formless jumble of words that could be relevant: 'profit, diversity, Spain, Gaul, China, India, Africa.'

Simmons had calculated that the platform was using AI to grade work due to the speed with which it graded his work - However, Edgenuity told Here & Now that it 'does not use algorithms to supplant teacher scoring, only to provide scoring guidance to teachers.'

The incident raised questions about the robustness of Edgenuity, and about the impact of similar systems on the ability of students to develop critical thinking skills and excerbate student inequality.

Operator: Williamson County Schools
Developer: Imagine Learning/Edgenuity
Country: USA
Sector: Education
Purpose: Grade student work
Technology: Scoring algorithm; NLP/text analysis
Issue: Robustness
Transparency: Governance