Posted on October 13, 2009 · Posted in SF Fellow

Today I received the good news that the assessment bank I mentioned previously has been approved and we will begin building it as soon as possible, hopefully on Monday.

We are not going to re-invent the wheel and will be extending (NOT forking) an already existing assessment bank that has been developed by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) which they are calling TARMii. The HSRC has indicated that they have no objection to us creating an open bank as they’ve released their source code under the Gnu General Public Licence (GPL). The HSRC implementation locks down the authoring side of the bank to a few specific users at the HSRC. Their bank is populated with Grade 4-6 (Intermediate phase) items for English and Mathematics and will allow teachers to:

  • create class-lists,
  • generate a test extremely rapidly, providing a question paper and memorandum,
  • capture learners results for the tests, and
  • generate reports on a learner-by-assessment standard basis.

We will keep all this functionality, which they have already tested, as it is really useful to teachers but we want to allow them to benefit from such a tool for all subjects and grades as quickly as possible. The HSRC will spend some time trialing the site with teachers and the items they have created before extending to other learning areas/subjects and grades.

To make this available to everyone we need to open up the authoring side and provide some means for community vetting. Our extension to the assessment bank software will cover:

  • community feedback:
    • ratings
    • comments
    • verify as correct
  • authoring:
    • simplify UI
    • allow question cloning for minor modifications
    • add version control
  • test generation:
    • allow test to be tweaked (not currently available)
    • browsing for additional/replacement questions.

This compliments Siyavula as it will bring more people into a the OER space but channel time and energy that Siyavula is not trying to channel as teachers spend a lot of time sharing, adapting and creating assessment items. The possibility of integrating the two exists as TARMii has made use of a number of tools/standards used or developed by Connexions, for example the WYSIWYG MathML editor, and the same development team, Upfront Systems, that has helped us extend the Rhaptos platform, on which Connexions is built, built TARMii and will do the extensions for us.

The community of teachers in SA is chomping at the bit for an assessment bank. We have had multiple requests for bank software that communities are already prepared to populate themselves. Providing the different groups with a single tool will allow them to feed off each others energy and allow us to begin with a bang. Working with existing communities also makes the tool much more sustainable.

It is great to be building a tool in response to a real demand as a lot less energy needs to go into advocacy and messaging.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.