Fractal courses can vary from three weeks to a semester. This variable course duration along with multiple possible start and end dates within a semester result in traditional methods of mid and end semester examinations being not very useful in the context of fractal courses. Further, conducting written paper based quizzes continuously throughout a course is time consuming, requires additional man power for evaluations and is not very eco-friendly. A possible solution is a self-grading google forms based multiple choice quiz. Several videos exist on YouTube that explain the process of creating such a quiz, for example, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0T7fRtHL_T4. The motivation of this article is to discuss various strategies that make such a web based continuous evaluation more meaningful.
An important issue with continuous evaluation is the frequency of the evaluation itself. For example, a quiz at the end of each class is a good way to check the attention of the students but can be a bit demanding on the students and leave little time for assimilation of the concepts. On the other hand,a quiz in two weeks or more might result in only two such evaluations for the whole fractal course. Hence, a quiz a week is possibly a good solution for regular evaluation of the students. Taking at least some of these quizzes unannounced also results in resolving the issue of student attendance in the class. By taking a quiz at the end of the class and including the syllabus from at least the current and the previous class can resolve the dual issues of student attendance and assimilation of concepts. Since the form based quiz can evaluate itself it ensures that the students can get a regular feedback of their performance in the class.
Usage of unfair means in web based examinations is another important issue. Thankfully, google form has a built in option of shuffling the questions as well as the answers. This results in each student getting a randomized set of questions and answers. Negative marking for incorrect answers with suitable weightage can be used to discourage guess work in the multiple choice questions. Further, some question in which none of the options are correct should also be included in the quiz to ensure students attempt question they are confident about. However, a web based examination suffers from the fact that the students have access to the Internet and in a large class it will not be possible to stop at least some of them from searching the web. A fair strategy in this case is to allow all students open access to the web while keeping the test duration short and the quiz conceptual. This limited time approach partially ensures that the student can either solve the quiz or search for answers but not do both. Still more needs to be done in this direction. Further, the form can be designed in such a fashion that it requires a student to login before submitting the answers. This reduces the risk of false submissions.
In conclusion, a web based approach is a relatively new way of continuous evaluation which has clear advantages in terms of regular evaluations and feedback in a fractal course. However, more needs to be done to make these evaluations more fair and secure. Usage of such evaluation methods over a longer period of time will generate more insights on their impact on the existing learning ecosystem.
I would like to thank Dr. Ketan Detroja and Dr. Siva Kumar K. from IIT Hyderabad for their guidance on Google form based evaluation.
Many undergraduate students at IITs are the brightest student of our country. Although many of them are interested in pursuing higher-studies abroad, they often find it difficult to get admission in good universities because of not having research exposure. If they have one or two good publications during their undergraduate studies, they can get admission in top colleges, even without having a high CGPA. For these abroad universities, it is very hard for them to evaluate a student just based on the student’s course projects or CGPA because these are relative measures of their academic background. Undergraduate students do not have the flexibility of MTech/PhD students to spend a good amount of time on a particular research problem and take it to a full publication. However, they are very good (especially in groups of 2-3 students) in completing course projects within a very short time due to the course submission deadlines.
For advanced research courses, I have found it quite useful to engage all the students in the class in the research of my MTech and PhD students. I ask my MTech and PhD students to list down all the research problems they are working on, and break it into smaller modules that we can give to the undergraduate students as a part of their course project for the whole semester. For example, for a course that I taught recently had 60 students and I divided them into 15 groups. I gave each group one different project so that they cannot copy and at the same time collaborate with other groups working on similar project. The undergraduate students were mentored by my graduate students for the whole semester, and by this the undergraduate students were able to learn the different components of research. In the following semester, around 15 students from the course continued to work on the course project as their Mini/Honors project. This course had helped my graduate students quite a lot in making progress in their research.