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All entries for March 2007

## March 28, 2007

### MADCAP Musings

Follow-up to Informal Workshop at Warwick on 26th March on CAA with Maths from Computer-aided assessment for sciences

For 5 hours on Monday, a score of us shared thoughts about online assessment, especially the assessment of mathematics. Here are some of my headline takes on the day:

- Computer-aided assessment of mathematical knowledge and understanding has special needs but offers special rewards

*SToMP*,*PROMPT*,*Mathletics*,*iAssess*,*OpenMark*,*STACK*,*WeBWorK*,*Maple TA*are among the many maths-friendly CAA packages used by or known to people attending the workshop. These tools have many common features but can rarely talk to each other. So much work duplicated but not shared. Does it really have to be like that?

- Question and Test Interoperatibility (QTI) standards to the rescue? Not with the generic Version 1 at least. A better chance with the developing Version 2, which will admit optional extensions users can create to handle special needs, in particular those of mathematics. Will they ever work sufficiently well to justify the limitations they impose and extra attention they require?

There are plans to produce a proper report of the day. Watch this space.

## March 19, 2007

###
Informal Workshop at Warwick on 26th March on **CAA with Maths**

Follow-up to MADCAP from Computer-aided assessment for sciences

**Venue:** The Mathematics Institute in the Zeeman Building (find us)

**Outline Programme**

10.30 onwards: Coffee in Maths Common Room

11-00 till 1-00: Short presentations and long discussions in B3.02

1-00 till 1-45: Lunch in the Maths Common Room

1-45 till 3-00: Short presentations and long discussions in B3.02

3-00 till 3-30: Summing up and future plans.

3-30 onwards: Tea in the Maths Common Room

## 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.