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Formative Assessment Techniques Online – Practice Quizzes

No team wins in sports without practice first.  The same can be applied to assessments in online classes.  A variety of tools are available to allow for students to practice and master concepts before summative tests are given.

LON-CAPA has very powerful processes built in to allow students to work problems multiple time with different variables, so that students can self-assess their progress and gain proficiency. 

VCU's learning management system makes it easy to provide this ongoing assessment.  Blackboard quizzes can be set so that students can take them multiple times for practice without impacting their grades of record.  Research has suggested that students who take advantage of practice tests tend to perform better on the summative tests of record.

Leith Sly (1999) of Curtin University of Technology investigated the influence of practice tests as formative assessment to improve student performance on computer-managed learning assessments. Sly hypothesized that students who selected to take practice tests would outperform students who did not select to take practice tests on the first and second unit exams in a first year college Economics course. The students who selected to take practice tests did significantly outperform those who did not take practices tests on both unit exams one and two.

Cassady and Gridley (2005) looked at the effects of online formative assessments on test anxiety and performance.  They found a small benefit for using online practice tests prior to graded course exams. This effect appears to be in part due to the reduction of the deleterious effects of negative test perceptions afforded in conditions where practice tests were available. The results support the integration of online practice tests to help students prepare for course exams and also reveal that secure web-based testing can aid undergraduate instruction through improved student confidence and increased instructional time.

To add practice quizzes to your class, you first need to build a “test” in the Blackboard Test Manager.  To optimize your practice tests, we suggest that you first build a pool of questions in Pool Manager, and then create a Test in Test Manager that randomly draws from this pool.  In this way, each time the student takes the practice quiz, they will have a different test.

Once the test is created in Test Manager, go into your content area and click the “Add Test” button on the Menu Bar.  Select your test.

Remember to make the link available!  In the example above, we have set this practice quiz so students can take it up to 4 times.  If you have a deep enough pool, you could use the unlimited attempts.  Given that it is a practice, there may or may not be a need to have it timed.  That will vary by discipline.  Also, remember to un-check the Include score in Gradebook in part 3.

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 09/22/2009
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