Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mark 740 tests in 60 seconds

The Challenge

How can you mark 740 assignments in less than a minute?  Can you imagine the MIS system that would be required for this and the many thousands of dollars required? To top it all, you have no budget for this and no server hardware.

Surprisingly, you can actually do it using completely free software!  You will need a little programming expertise and a plan to break up the onslaught of data you are about to receive!


Here's what you will need to pull it off:
  • Google Apps - So long as Google Apps are not blocked, then that should be enough.
  • Internet connection - Unless you have amazing WIFI I would not recommend doing this in the main hall. In our case students were in classrooms, which in most schools puts much less strain on the Internet.  If this is likely to be a problem, then you can still achieve rapid results, but it will be limited by the number of students you can get on the Internet at once.  It's also perfectly feasible to use 3G, if your students are on mobile phones. 
  • A device each child can have access to - Students can share by taking a turn each, but it will be slower. 

How it was done

1. Split up your entries

It is important that you limit each Spreadsheet to about 200 entries for high speed marking.  You could split it up by year group or school house.   These can be put back together again later, but at an individual teacher level you are likely to only need to see a small number of the entries.

2. Create a Form

Firstly you need to create a Google Form with either multiple choice questions or one word answers. Web of Notes has a nice guide for this.

3. Mark it with Flubaroo (Optional)

If you would like to send an email to the student and have the whole cohort marked, then Flubaroo is a great way to do this.  If you are a classroom teacher marking your own class, then you can stop here, but for the speed we need you will need a faster method.

4. Importing the data

On row 3 use an importrange command. 
(Row 1 will be used for titles and row 2 for Awesome Table commands.)
You need to import all the information that you are going to process. See the video for a full breakdown of the command.

5. Marking the Data

There are two ways to do it. Either you can fill the form out yourself as the first entrant or you can hard code the answers in.  Hard coding is slightly faster, but your code will be reusable if you put the answers in first and it works with Flubaroo.

The first method works like this:
I used an if(H$3=H3,1,0)

You use the if formula and if the answer is correct you give it 1. If you would like to weight answers you can change the numbers accordingly.

H3 = Being the cell where the answer is.
The $ means that when you copy and paste it won't move down.

Optional: To make the spreadsheet look more effective I added the isblank command, but it does not have to be used:

You can also use conditional formatting to see at a glance how students are doing.

6. Creating a front end for the sheet

I used Google Sites to make a Website that broke down the various checkpoints and houses.
One very useful feature of Google Sites is that you can use Insert -> Subpage listing.

For the large Scale study we had 4 checkpoints split across 4 houses. Making 16 individual quizzes in total.

I created a front page and then on each sub-page I copied and pasted the questions. This enables you to display more columns in the page itself.

7. Awesome Table

To display the actual results for individual teachers I used a gadget called Awesome Table. (Which is also the reason I used Google Sites.)  This is why we needed to leave rows 2 blank.  For each column decide how Awesome Table should handle it:

  • CategoryFilter
  • CategoryFilter - Hidden
  • NoFilter 
  • Hidden

The CategoryFilter enables you to choose which columns teachers can see and what they can filter on.

Number based columns appear as a slider and text based appear as a drop down. (You can select multiple keywords)

8. Roll Out the Forms

Once everything is in place you will be able to roll out your forms, teachers can see the data that they need for their groups, heads of year can see their whole year at a glance and senior management can quickly evaluate all of the data.   

To provide a whole school view, you will either need to use several import range commands for a live Spreadsheet view or copy and paste once data collection is finished.

By using this method mentors had immediate access to filtered data via the dashboard on their students and up the ranks, leaders could target students who were likely to need more help.

The Result

I expected it take up to 5 minutes for the data to come rolling in, but I found that data was being delivered significantly faster and in most cases the slowest part of the process was the time taken to load Awesome table.  Raw results were coming in less than a second and teachers had access to those results in under 60 seconds.

Piloting it in your school

My advice is to have a go with something low stakes. You can start with something as simple as a quiz that you might do in form time. (Homeroom time).  Test if your Internet can handle it and if so you have an amazing opportunity to collect and analyse data in near to real time.  

Future enhancements

1. The viewer worked very well for Mac or PC based teachers, but did not work quite as well for iPads.  We are looking into how we can address is this.
2. Live charts - Live charts are a possibility, because we found out that each tab is a separate task in Google Sheets.

With thanks to the following people

The amazing teachers and staff at Garden International for making the large scale study such a success.