Development of a Web-based question database for students' self-assessment

Maya M Hammoud, Mel L Barclay
Academic Medicine 2002, 77 (9): 925

OBJECTIVE: Computer-based testing (CBT) for the purpose of the national licensure examination has increased interest among medical students in this modality of testing. The advent of Web-based question-delivery systems for self-assessment and learning has made it possible for students to practice this technology and participate in self-directed learning. Test Pilot(TM) is a Web-based program that provides a fast and easy tool for the development and deployment of online testing. Our objectives for introducing the program were to (1) develop a large database of questions for students' practice and self-assessment; (2) include multimedia tools such as illustrations and short videos to enhance learning; (3) provide a feedback tool for clerkship and site directors regarding student performance; and (4) evaluate this tool in terms of students' frequency of use, students' satisfaction, and its potential effectiveness in enhancing learning.

DESCRIPTION: The Obstetrics and Gynecology clerkship at the University of Michigan is held at four different sites. In the past, students have been provided with access to floppy disks that contain about 500 self-assessment questions. These questions have been reformatted, updated, and transferred to Test Pilot. Visual illustrations have been added to the questions along with more varied formats, including extended matching, fill-in, and essay questions. The questions are divided into ten-question quizzes. The students get immediate feedback after answering each question and a summary of performance at the end of each quiz. Security, access, and analysis are facilitated because the questions and responses are stored centrally. In addition, Test Pilot captures information regarding individual and collective students' performances. At the end of the rotation, students fill out a form evaluating the Test Pilot program and comparing it with the quiz disks. In addition, we are collecting data regarding the actual use of Test Pilot, which will be compared with the students' surveys and final exam scores.

DISCUSSION: Test Pilot has many benefits, including access control, immediate feedback, automated scoring, interactive learning, and data analysis. The enhancement of material permitted by a Web-based system increases the depth and variety of the learning experience by adding perceptual dimensions. Test Pilot also provides the clerkship director with the capability to obtain improved measurements of student performance and captures the student's self-learning and testing process. It can potentially identify weaknesses or inconsistencies across the different sites and recognize students who may need additional help early in the rotation. Over a one-year period, most students have switched from the quiz disks to Test Pilot. The students reported satisfaction with the Web-based format and found it user friendly. They especially liked the immediate feedback. The students have requested more questions and multimedia options be added. We plan to continue the development and assessment of this learning tool.

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