Last Monday CARET, University of Cambridge hosted a joint workshop for the current JISC Capital Programme Assessment projects. The day provided an opportunity for the projects to demonstrate how the tools they have been developing work together to provide the skeleton of a complete assessment system from authoring to delivery to storage. Participants were also encouraged to critically review progress to date and discuss future requirements for assessment tools.
Introducing the day Steve Lay reminded delegates of some of the detail of the call under which the projects had been funded. This included a focus on “building and testing software tools, composite applications and or implementing a data format and standards for to defined specification” – in this case QTI. The three funded projects have built directly on the outcomes of previous toolkits and demonstrator activities of the e-framework.
The morning was given over to a demo from the three teams, from Kingston, Cambridge and Southampton Universities respectively, showing how they interoperated by authoring a question in AQuRAte then storing it in Minibix and finally delivering it through ASDEL.
Although the user-interfaces still need a bit of work, the demo did clearly show how using a standards based approach does lead to interoperable systems and that the shorter, more iterative development funding cycle introduced by JISC can actually work.
In the afternoon there were two breakout sessions one dealing with the technical issues around developing and sustaining an open source community, the other looking innovations in assessment. One message that came through from both sessions was the need for more detailed feedback on what approaches and technologies work in the real world. Perhaps some kind of gap analysis between the tool-set we have just now and the needs of the user community combined with more detailed use cases. I think that this approach would certainly help to roadmap future funding calls in the domain as well as helping inform actually practice.
From the techie side of the discussion there was a general feeling of there still being lots of uncertainty about the development of an open source community. How/will/can the 80:20 rule of useful code be reversed? The JISC open source community is still relatively immature and the motivations for be part of it are generally because developers are being paid to be part of it – not because it is the best option. There was a general feeling that more work is needed to help develop, extend and sustain the community and that it is at quite a critical stage in its life-cycle. One suggestion to help with this was the need for a figure head to lead the community – so if you fancy being Mr/Mrs QTI do let us know:-)
More notes from the day are available for the projects’ discussion list.