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Online tests and homework

March 24, 2011

Three faculty members discussed the challenges and benefits of online tests and homework and described their use of tools such as Blackboard, Poll Everywhere and WebAssign:

  • George Patterson talked about his experience putting practice licensing exams on Blackboard.  Students complete these timed 50 question multiple choice exams within a given week.  Students are not given feedback about whether their answers were correct, but the questions are reviewed in class after everyone has completed the exam.  The exams count for a small part of student grades in the course.  Some of the advantages over a paper and pencil exam include: the exams are automatically graded; students get practice taking computerized exams that simulate the licensing exam; class time is not used for taking the exam; and students have flexibility about when to take the exam.  Challenges include technical issues, especially when students choose to take the exam late at night, and the inability to ensure that students don't consult their books or other students when taking the exam.
  • Allan Frei talked about his transition from using Blackboard for high impact exams to using Blackboard solely for low impact quizzes.  Allan gives these quizzes primarily to encourage students to study.  To address the issue of cheating, exams are constructed from questions chosen randomly from a pool and the order of answers for each question is also randomized.  Students are allowed several attempts, each of which is for a different exam since questions are randomized, and the highest grade is chosen.  When the exam is completed, students see their own answers and whether they are correct, but do not see the correct answers for questions they missed; instead, students are encouraged to figure out the correct answer.  Allan noted that giving these quizzes seemed to improve student study habits - at his review sessions, students had many specific questions, unlike in previous years when they had only a few general questions.
  • Frank Steen talk about using WebAssign for student homework and Poll Everywhere for in-class quizzes in an introductory calculus class.  Frank asks students to complete homework assignments on WebAssign the night before class and uses the results to decide which problems to go over in class.  He uses Poll Everywhere, a polling system that allows students to respond using text messages or using web-enabled mobile devices, to give quick quizzes to assess student understanding.