Interactive Self-Assessment Questions within a Virtual Environment

Interactive Self-Assessment Questions within a Virtual Environment

Chris Evans, Luis Palacios
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/jea.2011040101
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This study considers the impact that different levels of interactivity have on the memory and understanding. In particular, it focuses in the use of interactive self-assessment questions (ISAQs) as a mechanism to help students learn better. An ISAQ is a computer-based multiple-choice or text-entry question that requires input from the learner, and provides feedback based on that input. This study extends some of Mayer’s (1990) multimedia design principles and considers their applicability in this context. The study also takes into account whether the incorporation of ISAQs has a measurable impact on learning as indicated by their performance in tests. The study considers three different types of ISAQs, designed to engage either memory or understanding, in an effort to determine which one is the most effective. It considers the effect of adding interactivity in the form of memory (retention) and understanding (transfer) self-assessment questions in a learning-object content management system used by undergraduate students at Brunel University in West London, UK. It was predicted that both types of ISAQ would increase the performance of learners in tests but with different degrees. The results indicate that transfer tests have a significant impact on retention.
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1. Introduction

Interactive Self-Assessment Questions as a mechanism for student’s feedback has a relevant and important effect in learning. Feedback used as a procedure to indicate the learner of when and how their learning experience can be improved has long been recognized as an important instrument for improving education (Marieke et al., 2008). Their research on the effectiveness of different types of feedback specific feedback content (elaborate versus global) and feedback timing (immediate versus delayed) for learning genetics in a web-based learning environment showed a significant positive effect of global feedback on learning outcomes for higher prior knowledge learners.

Feedback is usually related with assessment as a constructive response to coursework and exams (Gibbs, 1999). It is specifically a mechanism for providing either the teachers or the learners with vital information for improving their teaching/learning methodology and determines where mistakes have been made to reflect on them and becoming more effective, self-assessing, self-directed learners (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

High-quality individualised and meaningful feedback is expensive to provide. It takes time to design and implement (World Economic Forum, 2002) as research in the Open University has demonstrated, however, its effectiveness in improving learning has made valuable its implementation (Gibbs, 2003). It compensates the effort by actively engaging the learner and increasing the depth of student understanding in terms of increased performance in problem solving transfer questions (Evans & Gibbons, 2007). Different implementation has been used to maintain or increase these positive effects while diminishing the burden on cost and workload. For example Gibbs (2003) describes a two-stage test used in medicine that implements formative and summative assessment. In the first test, it is formative assessment only used to inform the students, grab their attention and provides remedial feedback that provides diagnosis and remedial suggestions for changing future actions. The second test, on the same topic area, two weeks later, implements summative assessment only, with marks but no feedback, to determines what has been learnt.

ISAQs to be effective must be embraced to pedagogical methods to elicit performance and designed following well established design principles (Mayer, 2001).

These principles applied to the design of web learning content create the playground to foster deep learning where interactivity play a crucial role in student education (Evans & Sabry, 2002). Basic characteristic of interactivity is learner control of the pace of a multimedia presentation which establishes that students learned better when they were allowed to control the pace of presentation of a narrated animation (Mayer & Chandler, 2001).

The interactive e-learning systems developed for this study were constructed, and delivered using a browser-based proprietary Learning Content Management System (LCMS) called ForceTen. The technology employed in this virtual learning environment is object technology. It is tagged with metadata based on the SCORM standard to describe the elements of content (Palacios, 2008). Learning Objects (LOs) as the main component in this virtual environment are defined (Figure 1) as a re-usable self-contained digital entity, with embedded metadata resources and a learning strategy, that might interact with other objects, encapsulate other resources (information instances), in an interconnected and platform independent environment (Palacios, 2002).

Figure 1.

Learning object as part of an InfOb layout


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