Davis, HC, White, SA and Dickens, KP
Focusing on the Question: an XML Testbank.
At The 8th International Conference ALT-C, Edinburgh,
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E3AN  is a HEFCE funded project to develop a network of expertise in assessment issues within electrical and electronic engineering. A major focus of this project is the development of a testbank of questions for use both in formative and summative assessment. During 2000, consultants (subject specialists) from the partner institutions met to identify important learning outcomes for their subject specialism, and then produced sets of appropriate questions (and model answers) to assess those learning outcomes. The questions were peer reviewed. It is intended to repeat the whole process again, starting this year, using many more consultants from across the country. The resulting testbank will contain thousands of well constructed and tested questions and answers from which teachers may select questions appropriate to their students' needs. When the questions are ready for use they must be stored electronically in a form ready for distribution. A significant number of these questions are objective tests (multiple choice, numeric answer etc), and such questions may be delivered both on paper and on-line, possibly using dedicated test engines such as QuestionMark Perception or, possibly by using the test engines within virtual learning environments such as Blackboard or WebCT. Other questions are intended for use in contexts such as example classes and examination revision. This paper describes the database that we designed to store and distribute the questions. It examines the issues relating to standards and portability for the database, the issues of moving questions, which include equations and drawings, from one platform to another and the issues of making the database searchable. It also looks at the lessons we have learned and how we intend to improve the processes and the database for the next round of consultants. In the first round of question production authors used MS-Word templates to enter their questions, and these templates also required the authors to enter metadata - information about the questions such as the subject the question examines, the level of the question, the type of question, the cognitive skills required, the time expected etc. This information was used in the database to design an interface to allow teachers to select appropriate sets of questions from the testbank. In order to allow the transfer of objective questions from the database into test engines, the data is stored using an enhanced version of QTI (Question Test Interoperability) which is an emerging XML standard designed for exactly that purpose. The QTI has been expanded to allow the representation of non-objective questions, such as short answer questions and written exam questions. As well as importing questions into test engines, our requirement is that users can browse the questions on-line, using a standard web browser, and can print or export the questions from the browser. The presentation of this paper will include a demonstration of the database in action.  E3AN: Electrical and Electronic Engineering Assessment Network. FDTL Phase 3 project (No. 53/99) . Lead by University of Southampton in partnership with Bournemouth University, Portsmouth University and Southampton Institute. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/E3AN.
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