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All entries for Wednesday 14 March 2007

## March 14, 2007

### Elephant's Trunk

As a cockney I enjoyed this “clue of the week” in a recent copy of *The Week*:

*Canned music producers*(6,3,5)

### MADCAP

On Bill Foster’s initative, we are plannng a small informal workshop at Warwick on Monday, 26th March to discuss priorities for computer-aided assessment (CAA) in Higher Education (HE). Bill accepts responsibility for the acronym MADCAP, short for “Mathematics and Computer-Aided Practice Group”. He has had considerable experience using the *i-Assess* package for large-scale mathematics assessment at the University of Newcastle. We will be joined by colleagues exploring other approaches at Birmingham, Brunel, Portsmouth, Surrey, The Open University, and Warwick.

Here are some topics we hope to talk about:

1. Assessing symbolic material (in particular mathematics) online. Which tools handle this well? How effectively can their functionality be bent to serve our pedagogic needs? Here are some aspects:

**Authoring.**Types of input: LaTeX, Asciimath, MathML, plug-ins

**Student Input.**Formal or informal syntax, WYSIWYG, symbolic menus/palettes

**Feedback**Making intelligent use of student answers. The role of computer algebra systems such as*Maple*or*Maxima*

**Question types and Conceptual Understanding.**Is CAA only effective at the early stages of mathematical education with large classes and concomitant efficiency gains? Can we go beyond the standard question types to probe deeper understanding in such different areas as Analysis, Algebra and Statistics

**QTI issues.**Are these relevant? Do we care? (See below)

2. How can HE institutions influence and gain some control over the development of assessment tools? Are there models of development beyond “buying out of the box”?

- JISC is funding the major development of an assessment tool which meets the Question and Test Interoperability standards (QTI 2.1), but its specification does not accommodate symbolic input. Is this a problem or should we make do with variants of MCQs and numeric input types to satisfy the assessment needs of mathematics or statistics? Alternative products handling symbolic content are available but commercial software usually means some loss control. (One commercial developer will be present at this meeting to outline plans for joint development of assessment tools with HE institutions.)

- How important is it to develop within QTI standards?

- What policies do universities have towards computer-based assessment and how do they influence the choice of tools?

Follow-up workshops are planned at Heriot-Watt and the Open University based upon the outcomes of this meeting.