I’ve mentioned before how conflicted I am about electronic assessment because of its focus on multiple choice (if at least you’re going to take advantage of computer grading, which is the advantage of electronic assessment). ItsLearning, our CMS, offers short answer questions (as many do) but also offers automatic assessment. I tried it out this morning and it works pretty well.

A simple vocab quiz for my Latin class. Last time I did this, I made it multiple choice. I don’t love that not only because of the multiple choice but also because coming up with distractors can be both difficult and time-consuming. So I decided to try the short answer quiz. But, of course, I wanted the computer to grade it. ItsLearning allows for automatic assessment (it’s a check box to be checked at the bottom of the page). There are then two approaches to the automatic assessment: either providing an answer (when there is only one clear answer) or (and here’s the genius part) a keyword with alternatives. So for the vocab quiz I included the first definition as the keyword and the other definitions as alternatives.

Students took the quiz in class and then worked on a derivatives exercise (using Wallwisher). I checked the quiz and was going to manually check the quiz to check for any deviations from my alternatives. This seemed to defeat the purpose of automatic assessment (especially since ItsLearning frustratingly defaults to showing only 10 questions per page and there doesn’t seem to be a setting to change this), which means that you have to link to a new page to see the rest of the questions.

Instead, I decided just to let students come up and show me if there were any, well, questionable answers. One student had spelled grief wrong (greif) which ItsLearning kicked out as wrong, so he got credit for that, and I think four other students (out of 22) came up with questions / petitions. Dealing with those was much easier than checking all 22 quizzes.

So all in all a successful experiment with ItsLearning’s grading of short answer quizzes.

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