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JISC sponsored assessment management software beta released

The TOIA (Technologies for Online Interoperable Assessment) project is a JISC sponsored software development collaboration with Freedom2Learn Ltd. Together, the two have developed a server based system that manages questions and tests from just display to a fully managed high stakes test. The service is free for UK institutions, and available to buy for everyone else.

One of the main objectives of the TOIA system is interoperability- primarily to avoid locking up the value of tests and questions in a proprietary format that will only work on one kind of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or question management platform. For that reason, all questions and tests are importable and exportable in IMS Question and Test Interoperability format, an can be rolled into IMS Content Packages, if so desired. Metadata about the question and test items are IEEE Learning Object Metadata (LOM) compliant, and a test can be populated with groups of students by uploading IMS Learner Information Profile (LIP) conformant records.

The depth and breadth of standards support is explained somewhat by the fact that the project consortium was led by Niall Sclater of Strathclyde University, who is also involved in the running of the CETIS Assessment Special Interest Group. The assessment SIG, then, had rather a hand in the development of the QTI bits. The commercial software development partner, Freedom2Learn, is a Joint Venture between Excelsoft Technologies from Mysore, India and Dynamic Distance Learning in Newcastle, UK.

The system itself is meant to provide a full assessment management solution across a whole university. It does authoring, storage and running of tests with anything from a couple of simple fill in the blanks questions to the management of a formal test process, including multiple results processing reports.

The TOIA system is designed as a single dedicated server that sits alongside any VLEs an institution might have. Normally, that means that students will have to log in to the assessment manager separately, though that's not necessary for things like simple questionnaires. The team is exploring ways of facilitating deeper integration. There is also the possibility of exporting questions, and uploading them in a VLE. For the pilot and beta releases, the system has effectively been made available to UK HE and FE institutions as a hosted service from Strathclyde.

The server system runs on various post-NT Microsoft Windows flavours and requires Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) webserver software and the Microsoft SQL database. On the client end "Learners, authors and administrators can access TOIA using Internet Explorer 5.0+ on any platform" but preferably not a Mac or Windows older than ME. There is no Microsoft Internet Explorer for Linux, but I suspect users will probably find that recent flavours of Mozilla and Konqueror can mimic Internet Explorer just fine on any platform.

Resources

More information about TOIA can be found on the TOIA website.

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