Question Authoring System

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shaffer's picture
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Joined: 2009-05-28
Points: 2019

An important part of our eTextbook vision is assessment exercises. The Khan Academy exercise infrastructure provides incredible flexibilty for writing exercises. The problem is that one has to be a JavaScript programmer to write questions. Depending on what you are trying to do, and the availability of suitable models, this isn’t a huge challenge for the programming inclined, but not so practical for many instructors.

Our friends at the Connexions project are working on Quadbase, a question bank and authoring tool with a graphical user interface intended to make it easy to author questions. See to get an idea of where they are going. Unfortunately, the system is currently limited to static multiple choice questions, meaning that you have to fix the text of the question and the text of the answer choices. Unlike the KA exercises, there is no support for automatically generating variants on question instances and then evaluating the student answers against those problem instances.

The dream system would be one that had a graphical front end for authoring a flexible range of questions, including mechanisms to generate random problem instances. One of the student projects for my graduate class was an experiment to do exactly  this. Their system started with the ideas of the Quadbase interface, and added some simple facilities for auto-generating problem instances. They defined a simple file format for storing the questions (so that one can pull them up and re-edit later). And they also wrote a translater to Khan Academy exercise format. So if you want to write fairly simple questions, you can see the results as a KA exercise.


You can see the demonstration prototype at:

The resulting exercises are at:

I am hoping that we will be able to continue making progress on this.