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A Simple and Efficient Markup Tool to Generate Drawing-based Online Assessments

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Hybrid and Online Teaching of Mechanics

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Paper Authors


Nicolas Nytko University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Nicolas Nytko is a M.S. student in the department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research interests are in computer science education and scientific computing.

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Matthew West University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Matthew West is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining Illinois he was on the faculties of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis. Prof. West holds a Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems from the California Institute of Technology and a B.Sc. in Pure and Applied Mathematics from the University of Western Australia. His research is in the field of scientific computing and numerical analysis, where he works on computational algorithms for simulating complex stochastic systems such as atmospheric aerosols and feedback control. Prof. West is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award and is a University of Illinois Distinguished Teacher-Scholar and College of Engineering Education Innovation Fellow.

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Mariana Silva University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Mariana Silva is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been involved in large-scale teaching innovation activities, such as the development of online course content and assessments for the mechanics course sequence in the Mechanical Science and
Engineering Department and the numerical methods class in Computer Science. Silva is currently involved in two educational projects involving the development of online assessments for computer-based testing and creation of collaborative programming activities for computer science classes. She is also involved in a project that aims to create a software that facilitates collaborative problem-solving activities in classrooms, through which both the instructors and students learn more about collaboration skills. Silva is very passionate about teaching and improving the classroom experience for both students and instructors. She has been included in the List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent five times and has received the Engineering Council Outstanding Advisor Award every year since 2014.

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Due to an increase in student enrollment in engineering programs, many instructors are now adopting automated computer-based systems to deliver homework and exams to students. Commercial and free online learning systems such as Gradescope, Pearson MasteringEngineering and PraireLearn give instructors the ability to import or create auto-graded questions involving a mix of multiple-choice, multiple-select, numerical, and symbolic input. However, the ability to auto-grade questions that involve graphing or sketching is still very limited. This constraint has great impact in introductory engineering classes where the ability to hand-draw diagrams and graphs is an important learning objective. For example, drawing free-body diagrams in Statics, bending-moment diagrams in Strength of Materials, and circuit diagrams in Electronics.

In this study, we present an online tool that uses a simple HTML markup language to create automated drawing-based questions, allowing students to draw diagrams, graphs and design solutions on the computer that are instantly auto-graded by the computer. While solving homework questions, students receive immediate feedback about their drawing, and can practice this skill until they achieve mastery. Instructors can also use the drawing tool to generate randomized drawing questions for computer-based exams and homework. A key advantage of this new tool over previous work is that the question author does not need to write any explicit programming code.

The drawing tool has been used to generate homework and exam questions in four large courses (Statics, Solid Mechanics, Dynamics, and Numerical Methods) at a Midwestern University, and it can be easily extended to other courses. This paper will focus on three aspects of the drawing tool: (1) description of the markup tags that create mechanics objects, such as pins, rods, pulleys, forces and moments, and how they can be adapted to create drawings in different contexts; (2) how these objects can be created using random parameters, so that students receive different versions of the same question; and (3) the algorithm used to grade student drawings and the type of feedback provided. We present results from student interaction data with the system, student surveys, and feedback from instructors and question authors.

Nytko, N., & West, M., & Silva, M. (2020, June), A Simple and Efficient Markup Tool to Generate Drawing-based Online Assessments Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34049

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