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An Experiment in Computer-Assisted Assessment

Trevor Hawkes, Mathematics Institute

Editors Notes

Mathematics is built on a hierarchy of concepts and students who fail to consolidate at each stage increasingly fall behind.

This article describes how computer aided assessment has been used successfully to ensure that students maintain momentum throughout their course. The development involved a strategic blend of face-to-face instruction, peer support and individual online assessment. The article includes an honest account of the technical and logistical teething problems encountered in grappling with a new technology. The approach was validated by the best test available - final exam results have substantially improved.

Since this work was carried out, Warwick has invested in a site license for Question Mark Perception and in servers to host the question sets, allowing any academic to author, deliver and analyse their own online tests. The overall rate of take up has been slow however and the protocols are not yet in place to support full scale summative assessment. The software also still suffers limitations in handling mathematical notation.

The work has led to larger initiatives and Trevor Hawkes now leads a large-scale university-wide project looking at the support for mathematical education via computer aided assessment across the Science departments.

First appeared in Interactions Issue 6 Autumn 1998