Respondus and Sakai: The Answer to Online Quizzes

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

You’ve been using a course management system (CMS) for your courses, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re completely online, completely onground, or somewhere in between. The CMS has some advantages, and you’re making use of them. If you’re like me, then you’ve also toyed with the idea of putting quizzes online.

It makes sense. It frees you from the drudgery and loss of class time associated with paper ‘n’ pencil tests. Students can take the quizzes on their own time, 24/7, as long as they complete them by a specified date. You can set it up for mastery learning so they can take it as many time as they need to before the deadline, with only the highest score being recorded.

And the scoring is done automatically, instantly, and the scores are recorded in the gradebook automatically, too. Students can log in to check their scores. You can log in, too, to look at their scores. Sounds great – until you actually tried to set up a simple quiz and found the klutziest interface in the world. So you remained with paper ‘n’ pencil or did away with quizzes altogether and replaced them with discussion forums geared to readings.

But the problem of students refusing to complete required readings unless there’s a quiz attached to them persists. The top third of the class will do the readings, but the rest will wing it. It hurts their performance, but they can’t or won’t make the connection. For these students, reading is a means to avoid the pain of flunked tests, not a means to learn, to improve performance.

So I returned to the testing function built into our Sakai CMS. It’d been a few years since I last tried it. Maybe it’d gotten better. But after a few minutes of poking around in it, I found it was just as klunky as ever. After rooting around for a bit in our university’s IT help files looking for a miracle, I found something called Respondus.

Respondus is an app. Our university system provides it free to all faculty. Yours probably does, too. The IT help page provides a click-here trail that leads to the site, followed by a download and set up on your computer’s desktop. Click the new icon, and, voilà, your test and quiz creation woes are over.

Respondus is a relatively simple to use test development app. It allowed me to create a ten-question multiple-choice quiz quickly and, dare I say it, naturally. This is done outside the CMS — which at once explains the ease of use and highlights the shortcomings of CMS environments.

After you’re done, the next step is to get the test into the CMS so your students can take it. The process is logical. You need to convert the quiz into a format (QTI) that Sakai can understand. Respondus does this for you when you click on the button to “Preview & Publish.” It walks you through a few steps and creates a folder where you want it. I chose the desktop. In the folder is the quiz file in the required QTI format.  Continue reading

CFE 2015 Faculty Showcase at UNC: ‘Teaching Less in More Depth’

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 5th annual Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) Faculty Showcase at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This event is indispensible for those who want to gain a concise overview of emerging trends, proven approaches, best practices and innovative experiments in Carolina. CFE organizes the gathering to offer faculty an opportunity to learn more about specific instructional techniques or technology from their peers. For many attendees, showcase talks are the spark that ignites interest in considering changes for courses they teach. It also serves as a reminder for faculty to make use of the many instructional design and pedagogical consulting services the campus has to offer.

The day provided a chance to hear firsthand about the capabilities of the University’s Makerspaces, how teachers use Google Earth’s Liquid Galaxy display and Lightboard, which is currently being built on campus. What makes the showcase an exceptional learning opportunity for instructional designers is the mix of cutting edge technological innovation and low- or no-tech tips and tricks – be it gender neutral language, better writing assignments, role-play or reflective teaching practices and course evaluation. The showcase event closed with a presentation format I particularly enjoyed: Five-minute-long introductions to a variety of topics and projects with the explicit invitation, “Steal my idea!”

mary-huber 2The keynote speaker, Mary Taylor Huber, consultant at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, characterized the CFE event as the “greatest illustration possible” for the theme of her talk, “Building an Academic Commons Through SoTL.” Huber stated that the relationship between teaching and the institutional environment has changed noticeably over the past decade. Teaching is increasingly recognized as a valued academic activity in both general public debates and in the scientific communities. “Teaching is on a fast train,” explained Huber, and pointed out several catalysts for change: diversity, technology, new pedagogies (i.e., undergraduate research, service learning), authentic participation and educational research. Throughout the day, many examples of exceptional teaching brought these concepts to life.  Continue reading

Online Charter Schools Failing According to National Study

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

According to a study released on 27 Oct. 2015, online charter schools are failing in comparisons with traditional and blended schools. The findings are reported in three separate volumes, which are available online as PDF files. The following are links to the introduction, with a brief summary, and the three volumes.

Introductory Press Release [with brief summary], 27 Oct. 2015

Volume I – Inside Online Charter Schools by Mathematica Policy Research [“Describes the universe of online charter schools, the students they serve, and their operations.”]
Brian Gill, Lucas Walsh, Claire Smither Wulsin, Holly Matulewicz, Veronica Severn, Eric Grau, Amanda Lee, Tess Kerwin
October 2015

Volume II- The Policy Framework for Online Charter Schools by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) [“Describes the policy environments of online charter schools and provides recommendations to state policymakers.”]
Rosa Pazhouh, Robin Lake, and Larry Miller
October 2015

Volume III- Online Charter School Study by CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes) at Stanford University [“Describes the achievement effects of online charter schools.”]
James L. Woodworth, Margaret E. Raymond, Kurt Chirbas, Maribel Gonzalez, Yohannes Negassi, Will Snow, Christine Van Donge

New Instructional Design Association in Higher Ed: An Interview with Camille Funk

By Stefanie Panke
Editor, Social Software in Education

The newly founded Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD) targets higher education instructional designers, multimedia teams and administrators. The group’s vision is to foster networking and collaboration, offer professional development opportunities, support research, and create publication opportunities. On April 7-8, 2016, the first annual HEeD conference will be hosted by George Washington University in Washington.

I spoke to Camille Funk, founder and president of HEeD, about the niche that the organization is trying to fill, the idea behind it and its current initiatives.

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille Funk, founder and president of Higher Education eDesign Association (HEeD)

Camille, you are director of eDesign Shop at George Washington University. Please describe your current work environment as an instructional designer.

We are a newly organized course production shop. The team consists of four instructional designers, a video producer, videographer, animator, and a team of five student employees. Currently, our shop has two production cycles (six months each) and produces an average of 30 courses a year.

What was your personal journey to the instructional design profession?

I came into the field, as many do, by happenstance. I received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master’s in International Educational Development. My intent was to pursue educational administration with a global reach. I chose to teach elementary school for a few years in preparation for an administrative role. I then took a position with Brigham Young University, Independent Study, as an administrator. In this role, I was introduced to instructional design. BYU Independent Study had a team of about ten instructional designers and a large multimedia shop to facilitate high-level course design.  Continue reading

Language Learning: Games, Social Media, and Apps


Memorize a list of vocabulary words or do a crossword puzzle? Which is more engaging? In “Try this game in your next vocabulary lesson” (Multi Briefs: Exclusive, 14 Oct. 2015), Debra Abrams refers to some recent research that shows the importance of using games and puzzles in the classroom. She goes on to explain a strategy she uses with her English language learners where they identify words they want to learn and create their own crossword puzzles.

In “Getting Started With Game-Based Language Learning” (Edutopia, 16 Oct. 2015), David Dodgson points out that, while GBL (game-based learning) has been receiving quite a bit of attention, little has been written about how it can be used with English language learners. He recommends four resources for GBL with a focus on language learning.

In “New app connects Valley high school students to English learners” (KPHO, 11 Oct. 2015), Erika Flore describes an app that is being used by students at Desert Vista High School to connect with students in other parts of the world to help them learn or improve their English. The Desert High students are volunteers who use a website, mobile app, and/or social media to connect mostly with students in China.

In “New ISU software helps students learn english” (Iowa State Daily, 12 Oct. 2015), Jake Dalbey describes CyWrite, a program “developed by students and professors” that gives specific feedback on writing errors. He explains that this program works better than others like it because the developers started with English linguistics and developed the program around it, unlike most other programs that start with the software and plug linguistic features into it.

Poverty, Reading, and Technology

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

In his article “Technology Holds Promise for Students With Poor Vocabulary Skills” (Education Week, 23 July 2015), Steven L. Miller argues that technology offers one solution for creating individualized learning experiences for students to develop better literacy skills.

Miller’s premise is that children, especially from impoverished backgrounds, also come to school with impoverished language skills. He asserts that “children with lower vocabulary skills are often poor readers, so they continue to fall further and further behind in academic language and cognitive skills.”

While Miller’s article offers an effective solution to the problem of building vocabulary and consequently literacy skills, we have to be careful about generalizations regarding students from low-income or poverty situations. He bases his argument on research demonstrating that they hear more negative communication while students from professional families hear more positive and encouraging communications.

However, there is a broader range of research on the impact of poverty on learning, showing that while communication may be one aspect of literacy development, there are other factors such as poor nutrition and inadequate healthcare.

Regardless of the causes, education and educational technology can, as Miller states, help students with poor vocabulary skills. For example, he says:

Using speech-recognition software … students receive one-on-one guidance and real-time feedback from an unbiased listener as they read aloud. Using this approach, students can improve their reading grade level by up to 50 percent more than the students who only receive classroom instruction in the same time period.

Miller’s article is based on Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley’s 1995 study Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. For a summary, see Hart and Risley’s “The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3”  (American Educator, spring 2003).

TCCfx: Free Online Mini-Conference for Students & Faculty 28 Oct 2015


This fall, TCC Hawaii, in collaboration with graduate students from Learning Design & Technology (LTEC) at the University of Hawaii College of Education, will sponsor a FREE mini-conference, TCCfx, for graduate students and interested faculty. Undergraduate students are invited to participate as well.

Please share this information with your colleagues or interested students.

Bert Kimura

University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Education

University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Education

TCCfx 2015: Come Together, Engage & Learn

October 28, 2015
5:00 pm9:00 pm Hawaii Time
Online (

Complementary Registration

View other timezones 

TCCfx 2015 is a complimentary mini-online conference that serves as a platform for the growing learning design and technology (LTEC) community. This online conference aims to connect, collaborate, create, and improve teaching and learning in the 21st century by empowering current and prospective LTEC (or educational technology) students and others to prepare for success in their graduate programs and their future professions. Interested educators are invited to attend as well.

This event is sponsored by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Learning Design & Technology Department, College of Education; and AECT-HI (Hawaii Chapter) in collaboration with .

For more information, contact conference chair Kimberly Suwa <>.


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