December 01, 2009

Self Evaluating Question Papers : A simple homegrown approach

With the debacle of the CAT getting out of the bag and the rubbish of it being attacked by a virus being bandied around by semi-literate experts, I thought of digging deep into the innards of my laptop and locating a very simple tool that I had built a long time ago to automate the evaluation of examination scripts.

Despite all the progress made in telecom, internet connectivity remains a challenge especially when you have to consider users who are not only geographically dispersed but who have to operate in conditions that an American company like Prometric/ETS really cannot envisage. A design for India has to factor in a breakdown of communications and this is where the store-and-forward technology [ first used in the now defunct Lotus Notes product ] can provide a good model.

KwizAuto - the tool that I had built while teaching at the Praxis Business School, Calcutta is based on Excel and it works like this :

  1. Have KwizAuto available on the test machine or download it from a central location.
  2. Open it ... it will ask for  password [ in a real exam,   this password will be announced  in the exam hall ] ... in this case it is praxis2008
  3. Excel will throw a warning that  Macros have been disabled. There will be an option to enable Macros ... please do so as otherwise the tool will not work
  4. In this case you will face a simple Quiz in Quantitative Techniques consisting of multiple choice and true/false type of questions
  5. Answer it to the best of your abilities .. or just type in at random [ after all, you are not a student with grades to look afer ]
  6. Once you are done, press the LOCK button and you will be asked (a)  your name and (b) your roll number 
  7. This will create a new Excel sheet with the roll number appended to the name.
  8. You will see (a) your name (b) roll number and (c) your marks  ... but you cannot change anything anymore
  9. Close this new sheet and mail it  to the tabulator or upload it to some central server.
The tabulator can open the sheet with the same password, note the marks. He cannot change anything either.

This little tool obviously has all the answers inside it but they are protected by a simple encryption technology. This is obviously not military grade security and can be cracked by a competent hacker but most students will not be able to crack it in the limited time available. Obviously the tool can be improved upon but what is important in this architecture is that it cannot result in a situation where the student could not complete the examination -- unless of course the power fails and is never restored !!

Being a lazy person, I had designed this tool to save on the labour that a teacher has to put in to evaluate answer scripts but I feel that an architecture like this can be used for online testing as well. If any teacher wants to use this tool I would be more than happy to help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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