Thursday, April 12, 2012

Constructive Response Question Types and Learning Management Systems

This week I have been looking more closely at using dynamic questions with Examview Pro to replace Microsoft Word created assessment items. I will post more on that in a later blog. However thinking about the whole testing and evaluation online piece got me thinking about a conversation that I had a few years ago with the CEO of one of the Learning Management System vendors.

The conversation surrounded online testing and constructive response questions. Basically I had asked this CEO for a constructive response question type for mathematics. One where a student could "write" the solution and submit the solution for grading. This CEO did say that it was being worked on. I decided to write this blog today in hopes this CEO reads it and brings this question type out of the development cycle and into LMS reality. Hopefully for others to emulate :)

Most LMS vendors will tell you that they already allow for constructive response questions and they would be correct. However, it just opens a text field in which you type in an essay type answer. And if you are a math teacher you know how hard it is to type math type. The question type, as it exists, is not practical in an online testing situation for mathematics.

To be able to create a true math constructive response question type, the question needs a field in which a student can handwrite their response. I see the traditional text field being replaced with a very basic whiteboard. In its most basic form it would only need a pencil tool and a white screen. To add a bit of functionality, line and shape tools with grid/axes images could also be included. I see a student clicking on a button to open up this whiteboard tool. If accessed on a tablet it would open an app. When the student is finished writing their solution, the whiteboard saves the solution... and when the test is submitted, these whiteboards are converted to PDF.

From there, the teacher can download the PDF files, grade them with a PDF writer and return to students. Ideally, the teacher should be able to open the PDF, grade it, and save the corrections directly back into the same test.

For this to work, students would need either the ability to write their solution with their finger (for a tablet) or they would need something similar to a Wacom tablet, with a pen or touch sensitivity.

If you really think about it, most all synchronous tools have whiteboard functionality. Some LMS vendors have whiteboard functionality that they offer in addition to the traditional LMS product. Technically, the ability to create this question type is already there. What I am hoping to generate with this blog is a greater willingness. So... if there is a CEO reading this... please add this to your LMS. Math teachers, and others, will thank you.

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