Instructor Uses D2L in Unique Ways at UW Platteville

Print Reading Olympics (PRO) Competition

In the beginning building construction drafting class students learn the basics of drafting, the use of AutoCAD and print reading.  Several D2L quizzes have been developed which the students do as out-of-class exercises.  To answer the questions, the students must use a set of building plans which was actually used to build a commercial office building a few years ago.  These sets of drawings were available in the CAD lab and the student center.
Toward the end of the semester, students are put into teams of 3 to 4 members each.  D2L Groups are created for each team.  Each student must write five questions based on the same set of questions .  The students enter the questions into the spreadsheet template provided by D2L for importing questions into the Question Library.  The spreadsheet is submitted to a D2L Discussion which is only available to the respective D2L Group.   The instructor imports the questions, creates a quiz, and makes it available to the authoring group.
It is the responsibility of group members to test drive the questions and to make suggestions for cleaning them up.   The questions are edited in the spreadsheet and resubmitted via D2L Discussion.  The reason for using the Discussion Group rather than a D2L Dropbox is so team members always have access to other team members’ files.   This enhances the collaborative efforts of the team.  The instructor previously created a folder for each team member.  All old questions are purged before a revised set of questions are re-imported.  A quiz is also set up for each student; but the quiz is only available to fellow team members.  The instructor purges all the questions from the students’ quiz and re-imports them from the Question Library.
The instructor bulk emails to all members of the team that the questions have been updated.  The team members can continue to test drive them, make tweaks to the questions in the spreadsheet and resubmit to the Discussion Group.  This process is repeated as often as the students desire.
At the end of the semester, the Print Reading Olympics competition is held.  Each team has a complete set of drawings and computer access to D2L.  For the two-hour lab, each team works to answer as many questions as they can; but they cannot receive points for answering questions authored by any member of their team.  For example, assume there are 30 students in the class.  That means there are 30 quizzes.  With 4 students per team, that means each team has 26 sets of questions to answer.   The team uses the captain’s D2L logon to answer the questions and these answers apply to the whole team.  This simplifies the scoring by the instructor since only 8 student accounts are used.
If a team answers all the questions in a set of questions correctly, the score for that quiz doubles.  This makes the teams take all the questions seriously.  As an added twist, an appeal process is also available during the competition.  If a question is vague or ambiguous, the team can file a request for information (RFI).   Points can also be earned or lost depending on the resolution of the RFI.
The use of the D2L Quizzes, Groups, and Discussion Groups makes this PRO competition possible.  It would be impossible for the instructor to do all the scoring of quizzes on the fly.  The dynamics of team interaction is amazing during the two hours of competition.  It is a fun exercise.  Winning team members receive a PRO Champs T-shirts.

Expanding the Capability of the Short Answer Type of Question Through the Use of a Set of Rules

True/False and multiple-choice questions are the mainstay of machine graded exams.  Even if the student doesn’t know the answers, a “test-wise” student can use the process of elimination to guess the correct answer.  This is not possible with short answer questions; however, the problem is the high number of correct answers (or permutations thereof) that must be must be entered into D2L.
A solution to this problem is the use of a set of rules for answering D2L short answer questions.  Students can have these rules in-hand when doing homework exercises and during formal exam times.  The use of this set of rules actually had its origin in the end-of-semester course evaluations by students.   (Note: These rules apply to short answer, multiple short answer, and fill-in-the-blank questions.)
The list currently has over 30 rules which build on each other.  Here is a small sample of some of the rules:
1. Follow directions
2. Apply English mechanics
3. Always give the singular form not the plural form (without breaking Rule #2); e.g. “What shape represents the 50 states on the USA flag?”  As per this rule the correct answer is “star” not “stars”.  On the other hand, if the question is “There are 50 ____ on the USA flag which represent the 50 states.”  The answer is “stars” since “star” would be an violation of English mechanics.
Fall 2009 is the third semester of using these rules.  Based on D2L quiz results and feedback from students and new situations being encountered, the set of rules is constantly being refined.  It is working out well.
There are several goals which are accomplished by using this set of rules:
1. To provide students with more learning exercises with immediate feedback than is possible via instructor graded exercises.
2. To provide questions which have a very low probability of correct guesses by the student.  A student will be correct only 25% of the time on multiple-choice questions with five choices.  A test-wise student can double or triple the probability of guessing correctly.  The probability of guessing correct to a short answer is near zero.
3. Students can do the out-of-class exercises 24/7 and during times of day that works best for their schedules.
4. Instructor time is freed up to deal with higher level concepts and skill development.
5. Instructor can write D2L questions easier and faster since there are fewer answer permutations.

Submitted by Warner Smidt and Tonya L. Stappert, UW Platteville