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Google Sheets for Realtime Assessment and Analysis of Less-Structured Problems

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computing and Information Technology Programs II

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


James D. Palmer Louisiana Tech University

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Virgil Orr Professor of Chemical Engineering
Director of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering

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Universities are under increasing pressures for efficiencies in education with declining budgets, increasing enrollments, and increasing expectations/accountability by students. A traditional approach with engineering or science computations is to parse the answers in a multiple choice selection. Grading of these problems are efficient and have evolved from scan-tron systems to Clickers, to open source online solutions such as Moodle, Google Forms, or WebWORK. This method does have its limitations. An investment is required in identifying the array of possible answers. In addition, multiple choices allows a student to provide guesses when they might not have an idea how to approach the problem. In the grading that is performed as a batch, the instructor looses the temporal resolution which is most helpful in determining which areas are giving students particular issues.

The controlled sharing and import of individual data through Google Sheets provides educators an opportunity to utilize a spreadsheet for collecting and assessing answers real-time. This is easy to do in a manner where all students see all answers, but individual shared sheets can be setup to provide a private interaction with each student. There are several advantages to this system over many current approaches: students can continue to change their answers until the time that the instructor "grades" the assignment, the instructor has a real-time view of the student's answers and grades at any instant (with the opportunity to provide direction), tolerance values can be built in along with a median value of student answers, and sort features in Google provide real-time information on the students and concepts that are having the most issues.

This approach has been piloted in a Capstone Senior Design class for Chemical Engineering where structured concepts were taught and assessed (economics, relief sizing, etc.) and open-ended designs were utilized (where the instructor did not have a "right"/"wrong" answer, but significant deviations could be discerned).

Palmer, J. D. (2016, June), Google Sheets for Realtime Assessment and Analysis of Less-Structured Problems Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25413

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