You are on page 1of 8

Assessment Tools in the Online Environment: A Closer

Look at ExamBuilder, TeacherEase, and Wikis.


By: Candice Carlisle, Robyn Kramer, and Chris Gamel

Introduction

The field of education has entered into a new technological era. Hundreds of innovative learning
technologies have become available which in turn has generated creative opportunities in
developing unique learning environments. Instructors have a difficult task staying informed
about the influx of new technologies. It is to that end we created this toolbox review of three
assessment tools—ExamBuilder (a quiz and test creator); TeacherEase (a grade book and lesson
planner); and Wikkis (online tools used for collaboration).

Quiz and Test Builders: ExamBuilder


(Contributed by Candice Carlisle)

ExamBuilder is used to create exams in a web browser, deploy to the Internet, automate
registration and retakes, analyzes reports and statistics and is free for 30-days. After the 30 days,
Pricing is based on the number of unique students per year who will be taking exams. There is no
charge to create exams nor is there a charge for each completed exam. The term of the license is
1 year. Licenses are strictly non-transferable. http://www.exambuilder.com/

Uses and Benefits:


Creating and adding questions is easy. Web-based forms make entering questions effortless;
images such as graphs or charts can be easily uploaded and displayed with the question.
Question ordering is automatically randomized during the exam and multiple choice answers are
automatically scrambled during the exam. Easy search by question text, type or pool, or print
specific categories of the exam or the exam in its entirety, and randomly draw a designated
number of questions out of the total created to generate an exam.

ExamBuilder has automated features such as, students who fail an exam can be automatically
scheduled for a retake, students via email can be alerted they are scheduled to take an exam, self
registration for new students to create their own ExamBuilder account, instructor notifications
alerts staff members whenever a student completes an exam and auto schedule that can configure
ExamBuilder to automatically schedule everyone in your account for designated exams.
ExamBuilder provides multiple scheduling options, bulk scheduling an entire groups of people,
individual scheduling, manually schedule a student for an exam, view student's history spanning
all attempts, delete specific exam attempts, add time to an exam, removes scheduled exams that
are ready to be archived, as well as easy to read tables showing who's scheduled and who's not, a
display of students who failed their last attempt, shows all students who have an exam in
progress and icons that alert the students who have never been scheduled.

Weaknesses and Challenges:


Your evaluation account only allows you to administer exams to up to 5 students with no charge
or obligation; pricing is based on the number of students per year who will be taking exams.
They don't charge per exam, only per student and don't charge for exam retakes, they require that
licenses are non-transferable; and one student can’t be substituted for another student during the
term of the license, only 30 day trial.

Example of ExamBuilder in an Online Classroom:


Student assessment could be created in an online class and student data could be collected.

Learning Objective:
Students will be able to differentiate each of the 7 Habits of Successful People by completing a
multiple choose test.
Students will be able to compare and contrast 7 Habits of Successful People by answering essay
questions.

TeacherEase, Common Goal Systems, Inc.


(Contributed by Robyn Kramer)

TeacherEase is a web-based hosted classroom management system that helps teachers save time,
communicate with parents, and increase student performance by aligning classroom instruction
to standards and benchmarks. There are two separate modules available within the TeacherEase
package—Grade Book and Lesson Planning/Curriculum Mapping. Each module may be
purchased separately, or the modules may be purchased together with the second module 50%
off.

Being a hosted service, there is no software to install nor maintain. You can access the program
from anywhere via the Internet. All that’s required is a simple log in by enrolled participants and
payment of a yearly subscription fee.

Module Yearly Investment per Staff Member


1-19 20-29 30-49 50-99 100-199200-499500+
Grade Book or Lesson Planning/Curriculum $89.95 $79.95 $69.95 $64.95 $59.95 $54.95 call
Mapping
Second module $44.95 $39.95 $34.95 $32.95 $29.95 $27.49 call
Common Goal Systems, Inc. offers several incentive programs to encourage teachers to try
TeacherEase. The most popular incentive allows the first three teachers from one school to try
the program free for one year.

Gradebook:
The grade book within TeacherEase has the following electronic grade book features:
• Define students, classes and rosters

• Create assignments

• Enter grades and comments

• You can use traditional grading or standards grading

• You can set up individual grading scales for specific students e.g. special needs modified
curriculum

• Grades are automatically linked to classroom standards if you are using the curriculum
mapping module. Results can be shown in histogram format so progress can be visually
tracked

• Track attendance

• Generate progress reports for grades and standards

• Communicate with parents over the internet, email and printed format

The grade book is very easy to set up with clear directions and excellent examples. In addition
to printed Help files, on line video tutorials are readily accessible as you work on each feature
making each task much clearer. The manual is both on line and in PDF format for user
convenience.

Lesson Plan/Curriculum Mapping:


TeacherEase provides a platform for teachers to write lesson plans, align them to standards,
check for standards coverage, continuously improve lessons, and share lessons with colleagues.
It also supports standards-based curriculum mapping on the web. Teachers enter the units and/or
topics they actually teach. It can then be shared with their colleagues who inspect, search, and
analyze the curriculum to identify gaps, overlaps, and cross-curricular integration opportunities.
The staff can then work on collaborating in order to improve the student learning experience.

This module provides teachers with

• a web-based tool designed to save lessons in a secure database


• pre-loaded state standards

• a way to identify standards that have been missed or taught too frequently within his/her
classroom.

• the opportunity to collaborate with other instructors.

• the ability to easily map his/her curriculum

◦ using Heidi Hayes-Jacobs approach (document what you teach)

◦ using official district approach

The lesson plan module also was fairly easy to set up. The directions were clear with good
examples. There are no online video tutorials, however, for this module. The linking to the
grade book was seamless and required very little effort.

The major disadvantages to TeacherEase included the following:

• Annual subscription fee

• No software ownership

• Total dependence on the internet—if it goes down you have no access to your grade
book or lesson plans

• Basically a K-12 purchase—does not appear to be compatible with Blackboard or other


learning management systems

Example of TeacherEase in an Online Classroom:


Student would create a unit lesson plan and align the unit lesson to state, district, or other
standards.

Learning Objective:
Provided with TeacherEase Lesson Plan/Curriculum Mapping Module, the student will create a
5-day lesson plan for a specific on line course. The lesson plan will include for each day (1) Title
of Lesson; (2) Date of Lesson; (3) Goal of Lesson; (4) Standard(s); (5) Goal of Lesson; (6)
Assessment for Lesson.

Wikis
(Contributed by Chris Gamel)

A wiki is an internet website that can be accessed and edited by its users. It is easy to use and
does not require any programming skills or knowledge of HTML. A wiki is designed to take
advantage of the wisdom of the group, permitting anyone with something to add to participate in
an ongoing conversation between users. At their best, wikis provide a diverse community of
participants who each contribute their knowledge and expertise toward a common cause. At
their worst, wikis devolve into a disorganized mess, with individuals destroying the work of the
group.

Wikis are an online tool designed to ease the process of collaboration. In a teacher’s ongoing
effort to increase authentic assessment in the classroom and to align learning objectives with real
world projects, wikis are a powerful collaborative tool for students and teachers. Wikis provide
educators with an opportunity to increase student participation and involvement in traditional
classrooms and help to bridge the spatial gap in the online classroom. Wikis provide students the
opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to something larger then themselves as they
develop collaborative and technological skills for the future.

Uses and Benefits:


Wikis are based around the idea that everyone should have a voice and be able to contribute to
the larger community. With this idea in mind, wikis provide a number of advantages in the
educational setting. These advantages can be broken down into four broad categories:
collaboration, the ongoing nature of wiki development, an expanded audience, and integration of
technology.

Collaboration:
Repeated interviews with members of the business community indicate that American high
school graduates demonstrate poor collaboration skills. They are unprepared to participate in the
group projects that form a major component of work in the 21st century. Wikis, by their very
nature, are collaborative. Participants are not only able to contribute in a positive way; they are
expected to. In effect, a wiki acts as an ongoing conversation with each member contributing
what they know. Through participation with others, students become part of a group identity that
shares a sense of common purpose. They begin to develop the skills needed to work together
towards a common goal and the end product benefits from the wisdom of the group.

Ongoing Nature of Wiki Development:


Traditionally, most student writing projects have taken the form of the term paper, an exercise
that horrifies students everywhere. Reflecting on my own experience as a high school student,
my typical research paper consisted of the following: (1) pick a topic (usually completed the
night before the deadline), (2) conduct research (hours spent creating research notecards that
would never again be looked at), (3) an intense writing session with the purpose of just getting
the assignment finished, (4) turning in the assignment, and (5) getting the assignment back,
looking at the grade, and promptly forgetting about it (What do you mean the teacher wrote
comments on my paper? Was I suppose to read those?). My experience was not unique and I
see a similar pattern in high school students today.

Are wikis the solution to poor writing? No. They do, however, provide a useful tool for teachers
who wish to approach writing in a non-traditional way. Instead of marathon writing session,
wikis provide students with the opportunity to participate in a less formal environment where
they can review and contribute at their own pace. Contributions are ongoing and not limited to
writing as most wikis supporting a variety of multimedia. The collaborative nature of wikis
permits each student to contribute in their own way, utilizing their strengths in an empowering,
interactive, and engaging way.

Expanded Audience:
Another advantage wikis provide is the ability to share the material with a larger audience.
Often, written assignments and group projects are written for an audience of one, the teacher.
Once graded, the project is forgotten as it has served its sole purpose: getting the grade.

Wikis provide contributors with multiple readers and the positive feedback that comes from
knowing someone else not only is reading what you wrote, but actually responding to it. Along
with the larger audience comes an increased sense of urgency to “get it right” because others
depend on you. The wiki community produces a form of peer pressure for readers to not only
contribute, but to contribute in a meaningful way. Good contributions receive positive feedback
while the community quickly deals with negative contributions.

Integration of Technology:
The students of today have grown up surrounded with technology. The students in my high
school class have never known a time without CDs, DVDs, or cell phones. Most of them can’t
imagine going more then a few hours without texting the details of their lives to all of their
friends. Technology is an integral part of their lives and they thrive on its use. Eliminating
technology in the classroom, or restricting its use, results in a disconnect between the “real
world” and the classroom. By integrating technology into the learning process, we provide
students with real world skills and make a stronger connection with their day-to-day lives.

Wikis have the added advantage of being internet based, meaning their use is not limited to the
classroom. Any time students have access to the internet, they have access to the wiki. This
24/7 availability provides students with ample opportunity to work and collaborate outside of the
classroom. This is especially beneficial to online students who might be separated from each
other by great distances. Increased availability also gives students more time to reflect on how
they can contribute and how their contributions will best fit.

Finally, in these tough financial times, wikis provide the added advantage of being available to
students and educators for free.

Weaknesses and Challenges:


By far the greatest challenge wikis present come in the form of management issues. Ironically,
the flexibility and ease of use that make wikis so engaging also contribute to a number of
challenges. Ideally, wikis provide students with an online collaborative environment where they
can explore and experiment to their hearts content. Unfortunately, exploration and
experimentation are often messy processes and can produce unexpected stress for the supervising
teacher. Keeping up with numerous edits, organization and formatting issues, side tangents that
crop up during the creative process, as well as the unstructured nature of many wikis can drive
anyone little crazy. The key is to educate students about expectations and to provide guidelines
around which they can work.

Another area of concern is security. On the large scale, all schools are rightly concerned about
internet safety and the well being of their students. The challenge is to establish the correct
balance between safety and use. Rather then banning the use of beneficial tools, schools and
teachers need to develop policies to deal with security issues before problems arise.

On a smaller scale, security issues also included the risk of vandalism. With anyone being able
to edit the content, wikis are susceptible to vandalism by individuals more interested in
entertainment or mischief then in legitimate contributions. One way to decrease the risk of
vandalism is to permit only authorized contributors to modify the wiki (i.e. class members). The
downside to this action is that other potential contributors will be locked out unable to provide
their knowledge to the community. On the plus side, undoing changes to a wiki is easily
accomplished so the work of vandals can be undone with little effort.

A final challenge presented by wikis is their dependence on technology. Limited computer


availability, computer problems, or poor internet access can prevent students from participating
in the wiki community.

Examples of Wikis in the Classroom:


Since their first appearance in 1994, wikis have found their way into many classrooms around
the world. Below are three examples of how wikis have been integrated into modern classrooms.

The Horizon Project: This wiki is part of a Flat Classroom collaborative project between high
school students in five different countries (USA, Austria, India, Australia, and China). The
students worked together to design their vision of what classrooms of the future might look like.

The Monster Project: This wiki showcases the monster creations of second and third grade
computer students from five different states. The wiki describes the project and provides
descriptions and images of the resulting monsters.

The Digital Arts Technology Academy: This impressive wiki has the look and feel of a
professional website. The wiki acts as a school portfolio of student work and a guide for classes
at the academy.

Learning Objective:
Students will demonstrate their understanding of how to edit in the wiki environment by logging
onto the wiki, adding a short introduction about who they are, and providing a link to the digital
portfolio they created last month in class.
Wiki Resource Links:
Wikispaces
PBworks
Wetpaint

Summary

To support learning about assessment we investigated three different tools instructors could use
to improve student learning. It is our hope that the reviews can assist educators in two ways: (1)
by suggesting methods for promoting student engagement in learning that connect to real-world
applications; and, (2) exposing educators to the process of and possibility for an alternative
model of assessment.