2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


LINDSLEY-GRIFFIN, Nancy, Griffin Resources, 1315 Westmont Drive, Jacksonville, OR 97530-9766, GRIFFIN, John R., Geosciences, University of Nebraska, 214 Bessey Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340 and BROZEK, Jeremy M., Biological Sciences, Univ Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0118, 4tusker@gmail.com

On-line student assessment at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is achieved through software developed in the mathematics department and accessed by nearly 30 disciplines in the physical/social sciences and humanities. Available 24/7, the system is accessed from any computer connected to the Internet. Question types include multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, clickable images, matching, mastery, and essay. Images and other supporting data are easily inserted into any question. Except for essay questions, which require instructor input, the software automatically records grades, times, and number of interactions in the instructor's on-line grade book. Instructors can program assignments to allow a wide variety of learning strategies, such as number and frequency of repeat attempts, times and lengths of assignment availability, point value of individual questions, hints, and comments. They can also require the previous assignment to have been passed before moving on to the next.

We have used the system for 5 years in oceanography, physical, structural, and environmental geology. Assignments range from simple reading tests and vocabulary drill to complex problem-solving such as interpreting geologic history from photos of rocks, outcrops, or landforms. The oceanography course is a self-paced reading course with unproctored on-line reading comprehension tests; the physical and environmental geology courses are large lecture format with homework assignments to be completed at student convenience; unit exams are given in a proctored computer lab. Because geoscience is a highly visual discipline, our test banks are rich in images and diagrams to allow students to learn both verbally and visually.

Analysis of student attitude surveys and performance data indicates that students respond positively to on-line assessment and that number of repeat engagements with assignments correlates with better performance on assignments as well as in the course. Students tend to attempt assignments more times when unlimited attempts are allowed, retaking them until satisfied with their performance. Many students use textbook or notes while working homework assignments. These data support the idea that repeated engagement with the subject matter benefits both short- and long-term student learning.