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Online assessment

Sorry... I forgot I was supposed to write things here :)
And thanks to David Cox's recent post on ExamView to prompt me to return to writing ... not to mention that I'm at Educon this weekend and everyone there is a prodigious blogger.
But back to ExamView. ExamView seems to be another online assessment tool and David writes how he is using it in his classroom and how he plans to use it. I've been using an alternate tool, MapleTA and had considerable success with it.
I think the strength of MapleTA over the other assessment tools is that it is based on the computer algebra system Maple -- and therefore, when you ask a question or the student enters a solution, it can involve any manner of mathematical content. Not just numbers but also algebra and graphs. And we managed to jury-rig Geometer's Sketchpad to provide dynamic diagrams (yes, we'll be switching over to GeoGebra when I find some time).
I think the most important aspect of online assessment is the use of a mastery protocol. A student can continue to practice their skills until they achieve some level of success. Obviously these are skill-based questions; yes, it's a technological drill-and-kill. But I'm okay with that. It's the efficiency that attracts me - a student who know how to factor will breeze through the questions and can stop. A student that is challenged can attempt the problems without penalty until they become proficient. The assessments are set up to show the worked solution (not just the answer) so they can see how others would have done the question. The frustration is something you have to work through with the student -- I keep track of the gradebook and can see which questions the individual students are challenged by, what their attempted solution and provide some prompting by email (thank you Jing for screencasting quickly) or in class.
There are issues of course. No one knows if your dog is doing your homework on the internet. There is a level of frustration when the student keeps getting the wrong answer -- but this is something that happens with regular homework and they can give up too easily on paper. And, when it comes to inputting algebra or matrices, say, online, that can be a challenge.
And the biggest impediment -- students don't read the question. While MapleTA understands that 2(x+3) and 2x+6 are the same answers and will mark both correct, it will not accept x2 for x^2.
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