FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Note: Pricing, terms, and conditions are subject to change.


What is EssayTagger?

EssayTagger is a Web-based essay grading tool that helps you grade essays more efficiently. You still do all of the evaluating and thinking while the tool eliminates a lot of the repetitive manual labor. 

All you need is an internet connection and a web browser and you'll be ready to use our system. Your students' essays and all of your comments and grades live "in the cloud" and as such are always available to you whenever and wherever you're online.

So the computer does the grading for me?

No!! Computers are definitely not smart enough to "read" essays themselves and assess them for you. No way, no sir. Or, at the very least, we're not smart enough to train a computer to be that smart!

You are still the brains of the operation. You read the essay, you identify the core elements of the assignment, you evaluate the quality of those elements, you choose the appropriate feedback comments. It's everything you normally do when grading essays but it's all just more efficient.

Setting Up an Assignment

Defining the assignment's rubric

Everything starts with your rubric. Any rubric is essentially a list of the core elements you're looking for in that particular assignment and the possible quality levels for those elements.

One rubric might look something like this:




While another could be:

   4  3  2  1
Figurative Language
Character Details

You define the elements you're looking for, the possible quality levels, and what those quality levels should be called.

What's unique about EssayTagger.com is how you then apply the rubric to each student's essay.

Grading an Assignment

Now that you've defined the rubric you can begin reviewing and evaluating the students' essays.

Identify the rubric elements in each paper

You begin by "tagging" the rubric elements as you read. Let's say that "Thesis" is in your rubric. When you identify the student's thesis, you use our drag-and-drop interface to drag the "Thesis" element from your rubric and "tag" the sentence containing the thesis.

As soon as you release the mouse button the evaluation options popup for the "Thesis" element.

Now it's time to:

Evaluate the quality of the element

Let's say you chose to use a "High", "Medium", "Low" quality scale. Decide which column this particular thesis ought to fall under. Once you've decided, add an appropriate feedback comment in that column.

For example, let's say that you decided that the thesis was of "Medium" quality and your feedback comment is "I see where you're going with this, but there isn't actually thesis here yet." You type that comment into the "Medium" column and select it. The comment--and its associated quality level--is attached to the thesis.

Your rubric grid would now look like this:

  "I see where you're going with this, but there isn't actually a thesis here yet."



Pretty sparse and unimpressive. But that's okay; we're not done yet.

Continue reading and evaluating the rest of the essay for the remaining rubric elements until you're finished.

And when you grade the next essay:

Re-use comments as needed

This is one of the killer features of our grading tool. That comment you just added for a "Medium" thesis is ready to be re-used on subsequent essays. Students tend to make a lot of the same mistakes and it gets really aggravating and time-consuming to keep writing the same comment over and over again as you work your way through a stack of papers.

Being able to reuse comments and having them sorted by rubric element and by quality level is one of the key time-saving features of EssayTagger.com.

However, you can also continue to:

Add additional comments

At some point you'll come across a "Medium" thesis that has a slightly different flaw that you need to point out. That comment you created before just doesn't apply here. That's fine. Add another comment in the "Medium" quality level column and then select it for this thesis.

Now your rubric grid looks something like this:

  "I see where you're going with this, but there isn't actually a thesis here yet."

"This is a thesis but I'm not sure anyone would disagree with you. Is there a real argument here?"



As you continue to grade essays for this assignment, you'll quickly build a collection of reusable comments for each element in your rubric and across most of the quality levels. By the end your rubric will have morphed into what we call a "comment grid" instead of a standard rubric.

And once that comment grid is assembled, you'll be able to:

Reuse the rubric/comment grid for subsequent assignments

All of that organization and all of those feedback comments should live on to be useful to you at a future date. If you have a series of assignments that all use the same rubric, you're all set for the next one. Or the next time you teach this class and use this assignment, your rubric's grid of comments is waiting for you.

Even better, if you've developed a really strong rubric and a really amazing set of feedback comments, we encourage you to:

Share your rubric/comment grid with the community

Because these rubrics and comments are at the heart of what we do, we want to make it as easy as possible for other teachers to get started with a collection of rubrics that have been shared to a common rubric library.

Teachers will be able to peruse the rubrics in the library and apply them to their own assignments. Once applied, each teacher can further customize the rubrics and comments as needed.

We are already working with a small group of phenomenal teachers to build a collection of rubrics and comments based on their grading styles.

Revolutionary Student Data

Evaluating the essays and building reusable comment grids are just one part of the story. Because EssayTagger stores all of your evaluations in a database, incredibly powerful new resources suddenly become available to teachers.

This is where EssayTagger's
patent pending evaluation system gets really exciting!

Aggregate class performance data

Because you evaluated the quality of each individual rubric element, you can now generate a report of how well your students did for each element. How many kids had a strong thesis? How many used good evidence? How many are still struggling with links?

It's the kind of data that writing instructors have always wanted, but there was previously no good way to keep track of it all.

Identify specific groups that are struggling with specific skills

After grading a set of papers, you know generally what most of the kids need to work on. But now you can generate a specific list of exactly the kids that need help with, say, transitions. And even better, you can generate a list of the kids who were strong at transitions and pair them up. You don't have to commit all this to memory; the system has stored it all for you in its database.

Retrieve samples of specific elements and quality levels

Because you tagged each element as you were evaluating it, the system knows exactly what the text of each element was. What was that one thesis that was really amazing? Just ask the system to pull up all the theses you marked with an "Excellent" comment. Want to do a workshop on bad links? Pull up ten random samples of links that you marked with a "Needs work" comment.

Aggregate class progression data

(coming soon)
If you have multiple assignments that use the same rubric or that have some overlapping elements (e.g. they all have a "Thesis"), then you can track your class' performance on that specific element over time. What percent had a strong thesis on assignment 1? And how many on assignment 2? We just spent a whole week on evidence - did their follow-up papers show improvement?

Individual student progression data

(coming soon)
Similarly you can see how each student is progressing in specific skills. This sort of skill-specific view is becoming more and more common in Math and Science. But it's difficult to do this in English and Social Studies because the skills are so interrelated and hard to quantify. This isn't a complete solution, but EssayTagger.com gets us a lot closer to the specificity and focus of the Math/Science world.

It just isn't enough to know that Jimmy's papers have gone from a 67% to a 72% to a 77%. Which specific areas are improving and--more importantly--which specific areas does he seem stuck in?



$20/month per teacher. 

Teachers gain unlimited use of the system: unlimited assignments, students, and graded essays.

Group licenses are available via the group license quote request form. Group licenses are billed in a single invoice and are valid through the duration/remainder of the school year.

Personal individual subscriptions are also available and are billed as a recurring monthly subscription.

Monthly subscription details

Monthly subscriptions are automatically renewed each month. If you begin your subscription on, say, February 10th, you will be charged again on March 10th. Each payment is for the upcoming month's service. 

You may cancel your monthly subscription via the Amazon Payments website or by contacting us at support@essaytagger.com. Your account will remain fully-functional until the end of the current subscription term.

We will preserve all of your data in the hopes of seeing you return in the future. Your data will even remain fully accessible (it's your data, we shouldn't keep it from you!).

Is there a free trial?

Yes! You can create an account and use the system to grade one full assignment (up to 99 essays) -- completely free.

Once you commit to a subscription all of your data from the free trial period will still be there and you can continue where you left off, but this time with no limitations.

How do I get my school or university to pay for this?

We will work with departments and districts to facilitate purchases at those levels (see the next item below on group licenses). But we all know how notoriously slow administrators can be in approving funds.

There are plenty of education companies that will only sell at a district or university level (e.g. Blackboard, Turnitin.com). If your school doesn't have a contract with them, there is no way for you to create an individual account for yourself. We wanted to make our system available to everyone and price it aggressively so that teachers won't suffer too much of an additional burden if they aren't reimbursed for the expense.

Ways to get your institution to cover the costs:

  • Ask your department head to fund an EssayTagger.com technology pilot. Throw around terms like "digital classroom" and "21st-century tools". Also show your administrator our powerful data analytics--they love, love, LOVE data!! This video is a good start.
  • Talk to your IT/CIS/tech support people. They generally have a modest amount of discretionary funds to run their own tech pilots (and they're usually geeky enough to get excited about our kind of service!).

And if you do end up paying for the service yourself, you can talk to your tax advisor about claiming it on your income taxes as a non-reimbursed work expense.

Do you offer group licenses?

Yes! We support department, school, and district sales. Discounts apply for 10 or more licenses.

Please fill out our Group License Quote Request form and we will send you a formal quote (generally within one school day).

We set up your user accounts for you and provide you with the appropriate logins.

Do you simplify billing for group licenses?

Yes. Group licenses are billed in a single contract for the school year (as opposed to our standard monthly subscription) with the final month of the school year pro-rated accordingly.

We will provide a quote and a final invoice with your school's Purchase Order (PO) number.

Privacy and Security

How do you ensure student privacy?

Students' personal information is encrypted in our database using industry-standard best practices to guide our selection of encryption algorithms and encryption strength. If a hacker were to gain access to our records, s/he would only see the encrypted values:

 firstName lastName email
BsBzpBQkQIN9s6RwV7fr58G2eY8qn2a6 yNd9sZ056n5xS14Qe5uZd3hefgY3s59ivA8ezh8Vlm3W9WscfkFGQw4C

Each piece of information is individually encrypted in such a way that "cracking the code" for one value does not make it any easier to decrypt the other values. 

In fact, EssayTagger's own internal view of the database makes students' information appear just as garbled to us as it would be to an outside hacker.

We have taken these precautions even though it is highly unlikely that our database would be compromised. We are running on Google's computing infrastructure and therefore Google's efforts to safeguard their own computers are our first line of defense. Their computing infrastructure is among the most robust and powerful in the world and any improvement they make to the security of their system automatically protects EssayTagger.com under the same umbrella.

We will never contact a student unless it is an assignment-related notification (e.g. to tell them that their graded essay is available for their review) or if there is a technical issue that requires action on the student's part in order to be resolved.

We will not sell or share students' personal information with any third parties or use students' information for marketing or any purposes outside of what is required to facilitate student-teacher interaction in our system. 

Students are not added to any mailing lists. 

What if my school or district doesn't allow student contact information in third-party systems?

Instructors can choose to enable or disable student email support for each of their courses. When student email support is disabled the site will never ask for a student's email address and will be incapable of contacting a student.

Technical Details

What are the system requirements?

The grading tool runs in a Web-browser using Adobe's ubiquitous Flash plugin.

We've seen the best results with Chrome and Firefox, though our testing includes Safari and more recent versions of Internet Explorer (IE8+). However, while the core functionality of the site has been tested against IE, we do not recommend its use. If another browser option is available, please avoid using IE.

The only other limitation is that iOS devices (iPad, iPhone) do not support Flash and therefore the grading app will not function on iOS.

An internet connection is required.

How do I get my students' papers into the system?

Teacher batch uploads: The most basic method is to have teachers upload the essays themselves. This places the burden on the teacher, but makes sense for those teachers who have a "hand-in" folder on the school network or who receive their assignments via email.

Students upload to an assignment link: No logins are required. Each assignment is given a unique five-character upload code (e.g. "WE4T2"). Give this code to your students and the site will guide them from there. This has the added advantage of building your class roster for you (see this video for details).

Other options

We have a number of other possibilities for getting essays into the system that have not yet been implemented. We will listen to our users to help us prioritize which ones to work on first. Those options are:

Students have their own logins: This is how all of the online learning environments work (e.g. Blackboard, moodle, Sakai). Students log in and then submit their assignment. We're able to identify the essay by student and by section. The downside is, of course, that the students will have yet another login to remember. Perhaps if the usernames and passwords are very simple (e.g. first.lastname and studentID) this will be a little less frustrating.

Moodle integration: Link your EssayTagger.com account to your school's moodle server so that we can copy the submitted essays from moodle and import them for you. This is one of our preferred methods, but obviously only works for the teachers that have access to and use moodle.

Sakai integration: Same as moodle integration, but a lower priority.

Dropbox integration: You are using Dropbox, right?! If not, read why you should! With Dropbox integration you'd be able to place all of your students essays in a particular Dropbox subdirectory and then link your EssayTagger.com account so that we can copy the files for you.

Google Docs integration: You would have your students share their documents with you and then once you link your account to EssayTagger.com we would copy the documents and import them for you. The downside of this is that Google Docs is not very good at document organization. It quickly becomes messy and confusing if you have multiple sections and multiple preps sharing documents with you.

How do students view their graded papers?

When you hit "Mark essay as Graded" in the grading app we generate a marked-up version of the graded essay with all of the comments incorporated into the text. 

If you opted to "Enable student email support" for your course, the site can email the graded papers to each student.

The graded papers can also be viewed directly on the Web or you can print it out. 

The marked-up version also includes a completed rubric grid that reflects the student's performance on the assignment.

This is really just the beginning. One of the more powerful possibilities within EssayTagger is that the graded essays don't have to be the end of the process, but rather the launching off point for the next phase in the student's education.

Future features:

  • Student interaction with comments: have the kids view their graded essays in our system and have them click on each comment and then select "I agree" or "I disagree or don't understand". That could then trigger a discussion (in person or through the system) about a specific comment you made on the paper. Note: We would love to go forward with this feature, but we need to know that our users will find it useful before doing so. It would take a fair amount of work to implement, but we think it would be well-worth it.