Some of my colleagues and I have been looking ways to implement Data Driven Instruction (DDI), one of the components of the educational reform being implemented by NYSED’s Race to the Top. We had looked into packages such as LinkIt, but these comprehensive services are only interested in working with schools rather than individual teachers. Worse yet, district superintendents are simultaneously being told to go full speed ahead with reforms, and that they are responsible for any that later prove to be unsatisfactory from the point of view of NYSED. Meanwhile, grade 4-8 ELA and Math teachers are subject to evaluations this year that include criteria focused on implementation of DDI. Searching for a solution, I came upon starQuiz.
Unlike much of what I have featured on this blog, starQuiz is not open source software. It is a product of a one man software company called CosmicSoft run by Adam Ernst in Hortonville, WI. starQuiz is assessment building software that sets itself apart from others with powerful data analysis tools coupled with a modest $40 price tag. It is available for both the Mac and Windows.
Since the chief reason for seeking such software is data driven instruction, it is most appropriate to begin with an overview of the data analysis tools. When the quiz is delivered online, starQuiz can be configured to automatically grade the quizzes (with some limitations) and present the results.
The Summary results page gives a quick overview of results by student on the upper pane and by question on the lower pane. quizStar offers several other view of the data as well.
The Student Report view can be toggled to any individual student in which questions that have been answered incorrectly are highlighted in red. It displays each question, the correct response, and the student’s response.
The Graph/Stats view displays overall class results. It can also display results be individual questions.
starQuiz is a flexible quiz creation tool with a simple interface.
It provides a number of options for question format including: multiple choice, multiple select, fill in the blank, short answer, true of false, matching, numeric, essay, or survey. I have only used the multiple choice questions and have yet to explore the other options. A variety of media can be added to the questions: images, movies, and sounds. Web links can also be inserted into questions. The media must be files that are saved on the local hard drive. It would be nice to be able to copy and paste images or drag and drop media into the question.
There are many other options for configuring the test. Questions and answer order can be randomized for web delivery. You can provide instructions and time limits. There a number of scoring options.
Once the test is created, there are several captions for delivery. They may be printed on paper—of course that option will not yield a test that is automatically corrected with results displayed in the previous section of this article. The other options, giving the test by computer, are required for data analysis. It offers a number of options for delivery via computer. You can have the students take the test on the computer itself, on the school’s local network, on CosmicSoft’s server, or on your own server. If you publish to CosmicSoft’s server, they provide a unique url for the test.
CosmicSoft provides free access to their server for tests with up to 1 MB of resources. If you needs more space, you can subscribe to starQuiz Pro, allowing tests with resources up to 5 MB., for $5 per month. A text based 30 question quiz came in at just under 400 KB. If you use a lot of images, you might need the Pro service. Otherwise, you could upload your quizzes to your own server or an inexpensive shared server account.
You can configure the tests so that they may be taken on a web browser. My class took a test this way and it worked well except one student working on a Mac Lion laptop inadvertently made a gesture that made the test disappear. Using the free starQuiz NetClient would probably eliminate this hazard.
When publishing the test, you can also provide a class list for student login requiring an individual password or other individual information, or you can require students to type in their name.
starQuiz is a very useful tool for delivering test and analyzing results. One of its strengths is the fact that both tests and results can be stored both on your computer and the cloud. Unlike many other options, you have total control of your data and you’ll never lose access because a subscription has lapsed. It includes powerful data analysis onboard. It could be improved by better handling of media, and perhaps a few more options for exporting data to spreadsheets. I like the fact that starQuiz is run by an individual rather than a corporation with links to textbook/assessment complex.
It is a viable option for an individual teacher in a district that is unable to provide such a service because of fiscal constraints and aversion to risk. Teachers can create custom assessments in a reasonable amount of time.
I’ll experiment more with the software as I implement it as a component of my DDI program. I also plan to offer an inservice on starQuiz next month for our faculty. I encourage teachers in similar situations to give it a try the 15 day free trial. I’ll report back in the future as my colleagues and I further explore this program.