For our post this week, we were asked to read about/explore an aspect of online/blended learning of interest, and then blog about it, being sure to touch on our thoughts/reactions. We could respond to a particularly interesting article, or an exploration of a mode/format/strategy for online/blended learning that we haven’t touched on, or further research into a course topic of interest. The broadness of this was offputting at first – where do I begin? Then, I realized it was a huge relief because I could focus my time on something that would be of value while designing my blended course for my AP students.
Of particular interest to me at this point in the design process is what I could use to incorporate testing into my course. There are certain assessments that I use consistently with my AP students – for example, these kiddos need to practice AP style multiple choice questions. We currently do these as a pen and paper exam, which takes a full class period to administer. Then, we take some more time and correct them together. After compiling the data on which questions they do well on and which they seem to struggle with, I go back and reteach concepts, vocabulary, or whatever else they seem to need. The whole process is time consuming. To be honest, I dread the time it takes to gather the data. Of course there is a better way – use technology to make my job easier. Work smarter, not harder!
When I developed my course profile I decided I would include some online AP multiple choice quizzes/exams that my students could take on their own time (or in class, if we decide to go that route), which could be “marked” automatically. This will provide me with data to guide my teaching and what our next steps should be. It could also provide instant feedback to the students on their exam success (or lack of success), and will allow students to practice their multiple choice strategies. So, as my exploration for this week, I investigated the use of Classmarker as a tool for developing the online tests.
I found out about Classmarker because I’ve taken tests on the site. The sport governing body for which I’m an executive board member (Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association) uses Classmarker as a component of the coaching certification process. Coaches are given an access code and must complete the exam within a specific time frame (30 minutes) and with a certain percentage (80%) to be considered a “pass.” Coaches get three attempts – if they exceed their attempts without a passing grade they must pay for another access code. The prospect of having online testing such as this for classroom use really intrigued me because it has the potential to make my life so much easier! For a quick video describing how Classmarker works, click here! For a more detailed demonstration of how Classmarker can save you time, click here!
Watching a video that tells me how easy something is versus the actual experience of using the tool is always an interesting comparison. So here is my take on using Classmarker…
Signing up is simple and the site usability is very good! The format of the “back office” part of the website where you create quizzes is pretty standard, I’d say. It is fairly easy to navigate, mostly intuitive, and the parts that had me confused were easily explained by clicking on the “help” buttons. The hardest part of the whole process was entering my questions – since my questions were all on paper and not yet digitized (and since I haven’t yet upgraded my account), I couldn’t use the handy importing tool.
The differences between the free account and the upgraded account can be found here. For an “Educational Professional 1” account, the cost is $19.95 usd per month – or if you pay for a whole year you would get two months free ($198 usd for the year). That’s fairly pricey for a single teacher to use, but if our whole ELA department wanted to share an account, for example, that would make it much more affordable! That would allow 400 tests to be taken – probably way more than we would need in a month. The two months free is a bit funny… so the two months I have of “summer vacation” could be considered free? There are also Credit packs that users can purchase to allow them more tests. This would likely be what I would utilize if it were just me and I found I needed the upgraded features. More information on the Education pricing options can be found here. Business options are also available at about double the rate of the Education pricing.
The upgraded version of Classmarker allows for tests to be embedded directly onto a website for an online course. By using Webhooks/API, the instructor does not have to divulge usernames or passwords in order for third parties to collect data. This seems like a really good thing if you think about, say, a huge MOOC with hundreds of students. You can check out the information about how Webhooks/API works here.
Using the iFrame code on the Classmarker website, I am easily able to insert a sample test into my blog for you to see:
In my AP classes, the students sometimes use pre-developed units from Prestwick House. These are great time-savers for teachers, especially those new to AP! There are Practice Multiple Choice tests in the units, designed to help students become more comfortable at answering the MC portions of the AP exam. These are some of the exams I am hoping to input and have students access via Classmarker.
Overall, I am pretty happy with the benefits of using Classmarker, but I also think that the testing options on my chosen LMS (Canvas) could prove useful as well. I’m still exploring this! In my explorations, I found a great collection of online exam software here as well as this list geared specifically to teachers with some paid and some free options. Another article I stumbled across gave a breakdown of great options for WordPress online exam plugins (some paid and some free).
If you are wanting to develop online testing, there are many options to choose from. The key will be to know what features are important to you and then you can find the product (and price!) that will work best.