Higher education is going through radical changes and struggling universities are moving online to increase their reach and balance their budgets. A number of studies have shown that standardization doesn't lessen educational quality and provides consistency in course instruction. Despite standardization there are two things that still need qualified faculty to complete effectively.
Grading papers and engaging in conversation require a guiding hand to fully function as intended. Both of these course activities are based in qualitative measurements that are very difficult for automated algorithms to calculate. It takes considerable experience and human insight to understand the student's current vantage point and propose new information to push their knowledge.
Each paper comes with a blend of course information, learned experience, thought processes and communication abilities. Professors must try and follow the train of thought and make judgments on the students understanding. For example, the understanding could be high and the writing skills low. The professor can make proper recommendations.
The same thing occurs in grading participation in discussion questions. The individual exists within an online conversation and it is beneficial to determine course understanding by assessing the student as an individual in a group discussion. This requires following complex group ideas and how those ideas build off of each other and create meaning for the student.
Professors ability to effectively grade and further knowledge among students is difficult to assess automatically. Someday this may not be the case yet as of now the qualitative assessments are too difficult for mechanical understanding. Professors skill in assessment and development of their courses is a learned skill that is enhanced over repeated focus and practice. Seasoned online professors are worth their weight in gold bring a human touch to the virtual learning world.