Guest writer Steven Burrell introduces four robust online assessment applications that incorporate learning analytics.
Educators at colleges and universities use many tools to assess their students’ grasp of academic subjects, including traditional paper-and-pencil quizzes and tests taken in the classroom. Now a number of computer software and Web-based programs have been added to teachers’ tool kits for evaluating learning outcomes, whether their classes are conducted in person or online.
These programs all offer reporting and analytics tools to help educators gauge the status and level of students’ comprehension. Armed with a comprehensive set of data, instructors can modify their teaching to help those students who need assistance to succeed academically. Three of these applications are commercial solutions, and one is a proprietary offering for Purdue University students.
Wonderlic Learning Outcomes Assessments (learningoutcomes.wonderlic.com)
The Learning Outcomes platform offers interactive, online exams that test students’ knowledge and competencies. The exams were developed with the help of educators, employers, accrediting organizations and programmatic boards, according to the Wonderlic, Inc.
Users can customize the test questions to align with their course curriculum and objectives, the company explains. The tests can be taken from any computer with Internet access, and the results are available within minutes so students get immediate feedback.
In addition, the Learning Outcomes program reports outcomes at a variety of levels. The faculty report, for example, provides details and summaries of each course and class, while the program and campus reports show the same information at each of those levels. Teachers can also compare their students’ scores with campus, school and national averages.
Learning Catalytics (learningcatalytics.com)
This program provides feedback to students during class to support instruction. It also gives teachers and students the option to review material outside of class.
According to the company’s website, the program enables educators to “assess students in real time, using open-ended tasks to probe student understanding. Students use any modern Web-enabled device they already have — laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Engage students by creating open-ended questions that ask for numerical, algebraic, textual, or graphical responses — or just plain multiple-choice.”
Learning Catalytics offers a free trial for instructors.
This company provides a number of online tools for measuring and analyzing students’ knowledge and skills. Its Perception assessment management system enables educators to create surveys and exams on any topic, pinpoint knowledge gaps and place students in appropriate courses, as well as evaluate questions and tests for fairness, validity and reliability, according to the company. Perception’s reporting and analytics tools include features such as gap analysis, to understand needs and facilitate prescriptive learning, and coaching reports to help identify development needs and provide guidance to improve performance.
Purdue University’s Course Signals (itap.purdue.edu/learning/tools/signals)
This application, which was developed by Purdue University, monitors students’ behavior patterns and academic performance to gauge whether they are at risk of getting a low grade in a course. Teachers can then recommend steps that academically at-risk students can take to improve their grades. The application also lets students know if they are underperforming and nudges them to take steps, such as using study materials, teachers’ office hours and other resources at their college, to improve their performance.
To identify students at risk academically, Purdue says, Course Signals combines predictive modeling with data-mining from Blackboard Vista. Using a specially designed algorithm, the application assigns each student to a risk group. The course instructor can send “intervention emails” to each risk group to help its members successfully complete a course.
Purdue’s use of Course Signals is a great example of how learning analytics, assessment, and early intervention can be combined to produce clear gains in retention and outcomes. “Students in courses using Course Signals receive more Bs and Cs and fewer Ds and Fs than previous sections of the course that did not utilize courses Course Signals. As and Bs have increased by as much as 28% in some courses. In most cases, the greatest improvement is seen in students who were initially receiving Cs and Ds in early assignments, and pull up half a letter grade or more to a B or C.”
About the Author: Steven Burrell enjoys researching and reviewing different student assessment tests. When he’s not doing that, he’s usually sharpening his mandolin skills.
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