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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Online Quizzing in the Absence of a CMS

I survived my first semester of online teaching sans Blackboard. Overall I felt as if it was a success, but there were some things that I just wasn't happy with. The biggest being the lack of a good quizzing feature. Now I'm not saying quizzing in Blackboard was any treat, so this is by no means a negative on my switch to Wordpress for my online classes. In fact, I think if I were still using Bb, I'd more than likely start using my new quizzing solution with it as well.

So here's the run down. I like to give reading quizzes to keep my students on their toes and hold them accountable for the required reading in the class. These quizzes are not major and usually consist of about 15-20 questions. I'm not a fan of "multiple guess" questions, so I like to be able to ask questions in a variety of ways. My favorite quiz question types are fill in the blank and matching. My solution last semester was to use ClassMarker to create and deliver my quizzes online. It's actually a fairly good tool, but I had two problems with it. First, I couldn't write fill in the blank and matching quiz questions. Well, I could do fill in the one blank, but no multiple blanks, and no matching at all. I was bummed, but I made do. The second problem was that I couldn't embed the quizzes into my Wordpress site. Students had to visit the ClassMarker site, log in with a username and password, and then take the quiz. This doesn't sound like much of a problem, but it just creates one more username/password for students to remember. They already have email, the class site, and the online gradebook, plus we used Diigo and Bibme for our research projects. I did simplify things my making everything I set up for them use the same student ID for username, but I still felt guilty about the number of required logins students needed.

So for this semester my goal was to try to simplify things for them, and my first solution was to retire ClassMarker and find a better quiz solution that would allow me to create flash quizzes that I could install on my own web server and then embed right in the course site. I don't really need anything fancy for storing or analyzing quiz results. This is not real assessment for me. I just want a score. I was surprised to find many tools available, but I narrowed it down to two. What follows are my thoughts on the two products.

Wondershare QuizCreator

Wondershare QuizCreator is a powerful Flash quiz maker that enables trainers and educators to make quizzes with multimedia objects for online testing.
I like QuizCreator because it is easy to use. I can create 9 different questions types, and I can create questions with images, audio and narration, and embed videos. But best of all I can publish a flash quiz to the web that sends student results to my email address. I created an orientation quiz in QuizCreator. I was able to create the kinds of questions I like: True/False, Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Fill in the Blank, Matching, Sequence, Word Bank, Click Map and Short Essay. But one downfall is I couldn't create fill in multiple blanks questions. Also I didn't like that you couldn't easily award partial credit for a question if students got part of the answer correctly. To do this, I think I would have to make each part of the answer worth at least 1 point and then go in individually and designate each part of the answer as worth 1 point. That makes the question worth too much then. I would like to have partial points (1/4, 1/2). I like how I could add images, videos, and audio. I can either upload or record audio right in the question, but videos have to be in the flash format (swf or flv). That was a bummer.

In quiz properties I had the option to collect name, email and other information about students or even create accounts for students. That was a nice touch. The default was to ask for a username and email address. I would love to have it ask for a real name instead of the username. I could also create a one password entrance to the quiz and set it up so the student results are emailed to both me and the student. You can buy a QuizCreator educational license for $99.95, and I certainly think it is worth it.

iSpring QuizMaker

iSpring QuizMaker: Create interactive and fully customized Flash quizzes with 10 different question formats and results based feedback.
QuizMaker is also very easy to use, but right off the bat I noticed that QuizMaker has a much nicer look on the published quizzes. I'm not sure what the difference is, but it just looks nicer. It also has different question types: True/False, Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Type In, Matching, Sequence, Numeric, Fill in the Blank, and Multiple Choice Text (Choose one correct answer in each drop-down list). The Fill in the Blank can have multiple blanks (Yay!), and I've never seen the Multiple Choice Text question, but I already love it. Questions can be marked to score with partial credit without having to figure out the scoring on your own. It does it for you. I can add photos, videos and images. I can't record audio directly into the question, like with QuizCreator, but for videos I could upload all the major formats (avi, mpg, mp4, wmv). I'm guessing it converts it to flash for you, saving you the extra step.

In the Settings, I don't have as many options for collecting student data. Default is to request real name and email address. Quiz results are sent of my email address by default, but there is no option to send results to the student as well. You can buy a QuizMaker educational license for $150, although I think that is just a tad bit high if I have to pay out of pocket. Interestingly enough if you buy a User Pack of 10, the price is $98 each, so it's cheaper if you get your school to buy it for you and 9 other teachers.

Overall Impressions

I really like both, and both do so much more than I mentioned in this post. I just tried to touch on the differences. For instance, they both have customizable players, integration with Blackboard and SCORM compliance, offer an online LMS to manage quizzes, testing time limit, pass score, shuffle questions, question pools, custom feedback, and self grading. Both are fairly inexpensive and offer a free trial so you can try it out. I could live with either, but iSpring QuizMaker almost makes it feel like I'd be choosing a Mac over a PC. They both work great, but it seems to work and look just a little bit better. And just like a Mac, it costs more. I have 30 days to decide, or better yet, beg for some money from the college. I haven't tried that yet at GCC. Wish me luck.