Grammarly storms Simpson this spring


Photo by Coby Burg

by Rachel Neumann, Staff Reporter

Simpson College students will have the opportunity to polish their writing assignments using school-sponsored Grammarly Premium subscriptions this spring.

In the next couple of weeks, the college plans to announce the purchase of campus-wide access to the digital writing tool that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to strengthen writing.

Amy Gieske, the dean of continuing, graduate and online programs, says the college chose Grammarly over other online writing resources.

“Grammarly was the one product that seemed more student-focused and not punitive,” Gieske said. “The others were faculty trying to catch students cheating, and we didn’t want to approach it that way. We wanted to empower students to understand where their work was authentically their own and where it might not be before they turn the assignment in.”

In addition to checking plagiarism, Grammarly can correct spelling, grammar, word choice and much more.

Cami Schmalz, one of the few students who pilot-tested the tool, says it drastically improved her writing.

“I found it very helpful mainly for spelling, punctuation and grammar,” Schmalz said. “It would tell me if my sentences were too complex and then give me more effective synonyms. I have never really struggled with my writing, but it definitely made me more purposeful and was a good way to double-check before I turned papers in.”

Professor of Education Barb Ramos also tested Grammarly with her SC 101 students and asked them to rate the writing tool one through five on its helpfulness.

On average, students rated Grammarly a 4.88 on improving their writing, 4.75 on its user-friendliness and 4.81 on using Grammarly for papers if Simpson were to purchase the subscription.

“It was crazy to hear them talking to each other and me about some of the comments Grammarly had given them,” Ramos said. “What does passive voice mean? How should I fix this? They were very engaged, and I hope we move forward with this.”

Some of Ramos’ students felt they learned more from Grammarly Premium than their high school English classes.

Wade Gibson, a non-traditional Simpson student, appreciates the tool’s web browser compatibility. Writers can check any online documents.

“I use Grammarly for all my papers here at Simpson as well as my emails,” Gibson said. “It has given me a lot more confidence than I had prior to using it. I was skeptical at first but would hate to write a paper without it now.”

Funding for Grammarly Premium will come from an “online fee.” Students began paying this fee after the introduction of online programs in 2018.

“That fee revenue is supposed to all go back into supporting high-quality online teaching and learning,” Gieske said. “I want students to really feel like they are getting value added for that fee revenue.”

Students may activate their accounts in the upcoming months. In the meantime, Grammarly offers a free version with fewer, less-advanced features.