Towards deep learning models for automatic computer program grading
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Automatic grading of computer programs has a great impact on both computer science education and the software industry as it saves human evaluators a tremendous amount of time required for assessing programs. However, to date, this problem lacks extensive research from the machine learning/deep learning perspective. Currently, the existing auto-grading systems are mostly based on test-case execution results. However, these approaches lack insight into the syntax and semantics of the codes, and therefore, are far from human-level evaluation. In this study, we leverage the power of language models pre-trained on programming languages. We introduce two simple deep architectures and show that they consistently outperform the shallow models built upon extensive feature engineering approaches by a high margin. We also develop an incremental transductive learning algorithm that only requires a single reference solution to a problem and takes advantage of the correct implementations in the set of programs to be evaluated. Furthermore, our human evaluation results show that the proposed approaches provide partial marks having a strong correlation with the marks given by human graders. We prepare and share a dataset of C++ and Python programs for future research. Finally, we provide some interpretations and explainability of the deep-learning models as well as insights to the decisions and potential feedback to programming submissions in real-world applications.