Saturday, September 29, 2012

Online Testing and Evaluation... From Concept to Implementation

In a previous blog I wrote about how a group of us e-teachers were looking at using ExamView Test Generator in conjunction with Desire2Learn to create, administer and grade student work online. I am extremely pleased to let you all know that we have developed and are presently implementing our model. Here is what we are doing:


One of the biggest issues with online testing and evaluating is being able to generate enough unique items from which to draw assignments and tests. In addition to getting a large question pool together, ensuring that the questions that you use also have the correct answers and detailed solutions can also be a challenge. This is where ExamView comes in. With ExamView we have been able to create dynamic questions. With the use of variables which can easily store both numbers and strings, we have been able to create questions in which the values, wording and diagrams change with the click of a calculate button. As a result we can create multiple versions of a question in which the questions look dramatically different, but the mathematics that lie under the question is similar. By building the rationale or solution to also be dynamic, whenever the solution to one question is correct, all subsequent solutions in duplicate questions are correct for that question as well. As a result one question can be replicated numerous times, evaluate the same outcome or objective, but look unique. Because the solution is dynamic, when the question is duplicated it is also unique to that question.

By creating these dynamic questions with dynamic rationale (solutions), we are now able to create a huge pool of questions from which we could create random sets for testing and evaluation.


If you have read any of my previous blog posts you will quickly realize that the Learning Management System (LMS) that we use is Desire2Learn (D2L). In terms of its Scorm tracking, quizzing and content manager, it is very powerful. But it provided us with perhaps our greatest hurdle in terms of being able to successfully bring ExamView generated questions into Desire2Learn. First of all there is no Export to D2L option in ExamView. To overcome this problem we had to use one of the other Export to LMS options, namely Blackboard 6-7. This allowed us to export in a zip file format and import into D2L as a question library. From here we could create a new D2L quiz, create random sets and... voila... students have evaluation items that are from the random sets and are very unique to students. Online testing problem solved? Not so fast...

The second major problem that D2L provided to us, and again it is because there is no Export to D2L option, is that the rationale or solution is only visible inside Desire2Learn if the question type is a multiple choice question. At first this caused us immense grief since our work samples and tests have both selected response (multiple choice) and constructive response (long answer) question types. We could not give a multiple choice worksample only. To work around this for constructive response questions we created multiple choice questions with only two choices for the answers (inside ExamView) and placed instructions for the constructive response question in where the multiple choice possible answers would be. That way it still looks like a constructive response question but D2L "thinks" it's a multiple choice question and displays the solution to students when graded. And we're done... not quite...

The third problem we encountered was one of appearance and again a result of the Export to D2L being non existent in the ExamView software. It would seem that equations created in the math editor in ExamView are saved as images when exported. When viewed after being imported inside D2L, the equations (images) when positioned between text appeared out of line with the rest of the text. While not a major issue, it did not look good. So we examined typing the entire question and rational inside the ExamView equation editor. When we did this and imported the questions again we noticed that the entire question and rationale were simply images and the alignment issue disappeared completely. Now we're ready.

Going forward:

With all the issues resolved to our satisfaction our plan going forward is to conduct all evaluation, with the exception of midyear and final examinations, online using this model... for one course for now. In terms of online testing we are going to use Respondus Lockdown Browser to ensure even further validity/reliability of our tests. The randomness alone will go a long way, Lockdown Browser is like icing on the cake. Schools will still supervise exams and scan/send the constructive response items. They will be unique to individual students as a result of the randomness but... the solution key that the teacher needs to grade the individual test will be embedded within the student attempt within D2L. To grade the test, the teacher needs to go inside the attempt anyways to assign a grade to the constructive response items so it seems logical that the solution key is there too. This will hold true for all worksamples and tests that we administer.

As a final note:

1) Teachers in the regular classroom should really look at ExamView as their question generator. It is very powerful and can reduce workload significantly if used in the way I have described.

2) Publishers need to create dynamic questions with dynamic rationale for all question banks. It's a much better product for the teacher if they do so.

3) E-Instruction (who makes ExamView) and Desire2Learn really need to work together to make their software packages talk to one another. We are making this work with some tweaking... whereas cooperation between the two would make this seamless.

No comments: