Questionmark Perception 3 Meets the Test

Final exams. Placement tests. Quizzes. Surveys. Certification exams. Students and instructors are surrounded by tests and assessments. Building a test is a tedious process, but user-friendly test-building software can alleviate some of that tedium.
One of the most popular test-building tools on the market is Questionmark's Perception, now available with enhanced features in Version 3 of its Microsoft Corp. Windows and Web-based products. Questionmark has customers in more than 50 countries, with hundreds of North American higher education clients.
Both the Windows and Web modules are the same at their core. The Windows module is appropriate for creating, delivering, and reporting tests and assessments on the Windows PC platform. Perception for Web, the company’s best-selling product, is for administering them using an intranet or the Internet.
New Perception for Windows Version 3 upgrades the PC-based product with similar enhancements to Version 3 of the Web product, released in fall 2001. In both cases, wizards facilitate authoring questions and storing them within the question/assessment database. The wizards take care of formatting—there is no need to learn HTML. There are new question types, including drag and drop, matching, Likert scale questions, ranking, true/false, yes/no, and select-a-blank questions. Both products offer wizards that use Macromedia Flash questions incorporating dynamic stimuli.
Users assemble questions into tests, surveys, quizzes, or exams using the Windows- or Web-based Assessment Manager. Users can randomize the questions or not, depending on preference. Meta-tags allow users to identify and select questions according to their level of difficulty or other distinguishing features. Once the user has created the meta-tags, he or she can sort and build test banks according to these criteria. Users can import assessment items using ASCII, and export or import them with Qpacks (encrypted and compressed files used in prepackaged bundle situations) or IMS QTI (XML).
Questionmark is actively involved with the IMS Global Learning Consortium. Perception complies with AICC standards and the Sharable Content Object Reference Model initiative (SCORM) and is compatible with many learning management systems.
With Perception for Web, students access the tests or surveys with any standard browser by typing in a user name and password. If they choose, instructors can deliver the tests via the Perception Secure Brower to limit printing, navigating, and saving of the test materials to disk.
Users of the browser-based product also have the option to administer scheduled assessments, limiting the time window for taking the test or quiz. Instructors specify look, feel, and delivery date. Perception also offers the option of instant feedback and scoring. This feedback might include scores, graphics, multimedia, sound, video, links to assessments, and hyperlinks to useful resources. Users can set a prerequisite score and specify what will happen if students achieve or fall below the score. Instructors can provide prescriptive feedback tied to the score.
A nice feature of both products is Perception's topic-based scoring, which enables administrators to pinpoint student performance on specific sub-topics. Topic score outcomes can also be shared with other students, displayed in statistical reports, and passed to other applications. With the Web product, links take students directly to help on that topic.
Perception provides a variety of report form options for the instructor. The browser-based product offers nine report styles, including coaching, survey, grade book, gap, item analysis, and assessment overview. The Windows-based product provides five styles.
Other features include assessment monitoring, time limit management, MathML support, comment boxes, question-by-question delivery, and improved reporting and analysis. The Web product promises more versatile security settings, easier server configuration, e-mail broadcast capability, easier analysis in spreadsheet or statistics programs, and a new browser-based Enterprise Manager that combines all administrator functions within one user interface.
Questionmark Learning Café, available on the company’s Web site, offers tutorials, PowerPoint slides, and other materials to help both users and non-users develop and employ exams and writing assessments.
There is also a presentation about industry standards relating to assessments. Shockwave tutorials take participants through the various stages of writing, authoring, deploying, and reporting on Perception quizzes, tests, and surveys. The company also offers free one-hour Web seminars to anyone who wants an introduction to using computerized assessments.

Recently Questionmark announced a new partnership with Blackboard.com that provides interoperability between Perception and Blackboard's Building Blocks. Contact: Questionmark,
Stamford, CT; (203) 425-2400; www.questionmark.com.

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