The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (NEW ZEALAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 1612-1624
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
The dramatic expansion in the education sector, in particular distance education and the increasing numbers of students has resulted in mounting efforts to develop automatic grading systems. While research in design and development of automatic grading systems has a long history in computer education only a few attempts were made to automatically assess spreadsheet and database skills.

This paper describes the design of an assessment and the development of an automatic grading system to assess students’ Office skills in the Information Systems course at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. The design of the assessment ensures that students are using a software application to find a solution. The automatic grading system makes extensive use of user-defined functions in Excel that automatically check whether a feature or function has been used. Since the outcomes from user-defined functions are scrambled students actually verify their answers by entering the results from these functions into an online quiz. Therefore there is no need for lecturer to download, open and check the actual software application. The system recognises correct answers from these scrambled inputs and allocates marks. This system is fully integrated into the Moodle learning management platform and linked to the students’ academic record database.

Practical experience with the automatic grading system showed the system significantly decreased turnaround time for assignments providing either faster or instant feedback to students. At the same time the system reduced lecturers’ workload freeing them up from administrative tasks and the time-consuming tasks of checking individual aspects of the spreadsheet and database applications allowing them to allocate time to more creative activities and student support.

A comparison of the marks allocated by markers and the automatic grading system indicates little difference in mark distributions in the last six semesters. The automatic grading system allowed for much finer probing of individual aspects of the spreadsheet and database applications with no additional work by either student or lecturer.
Assessment, Automatic grading, E-assessment, Software skills, Distance education, Spreadsheet skills, Database skills.