Your test items will always contain a question or a task. This forms the interactive part of the item – the part where test-takers can provide their response. You may, however, also need to add supplementary materials to your test items, such as media and text, to provide test-takers with the information they need to form their responses.
Define the Materials you Want to Include
The materials you might want to use can be anything from images and texts to larger media such as audio recordings or video clips. What you decide to include will probably depend on both the general nature of the test, but also the specific nature of the task you want to set for a particular item. For example, in a language listening test you will need to use audio recordings, whilst in a geography test you might want to include images of maps. For students of literature you might wish to put in texts, such as an extract from a novel.
Important Considerations Concerning Support Materials
Before you decide how to create (or locate), as well as upload and organize, the materials you want to use in your tests, there are some important considerations which will improve your authors’ experience when creating tests, and also make for a more efficient process overall. The main considerations are the following:
- Format and size
- Creating your own materials and/or using existing ones
- Re-usability and organization of your materials
Format and Size
Before starting to create or collect resources to use as support materials, you’ll need to check the formats that are allowed in the assessment software you are using. TAO, for example, supports most common formats for media resources like images, audio and video, as well as xml and pdf files.
You’ll also need to know what size constraints there are, if any. Typically, the maximum file size for supporting media depends on how your server is configured. The file size also has other implications, as large images or other media may have a negative impact on the download time of an item. Because of this, it’s worth thinking about including an optimization step into your workflow. It’s also good to bear in mind that oversized pictures can be a problem, so you should know the largest possible display size and adjust your materials accordingly.
Creating or Finding Resources
Most support materials will be imported into your environment as finished resources. In other words, they are created outside of your assessment environment. Your institution can either choose to create them internally, or obtain them from an external source. Creating them internally provides more flexibility, but using existing resources saves time.
If you decide that your team will create their own resources, the corresponding set-up will need to be in place, such as recording equipment for creating audios for your listening tests, as well as the relevant software. There are also many resources available on the internet and which can be bought or downloaded free of charge. Creative Commons, for example, offers access to over 600 million reusable resources, including audio and images. Pennsylvania State University has also compiled an extensive list of free media resources for accessing audio, video, images and 3D assets. It’s good practice – and often also a legal requirement – to quote the source of the resource if you use it in your tests.
It’s a good idea to maintain a healthy balance between the time and effort you spend on creating your materials and the use you will get out of them. You don’t want your authors to invest masses of time in resources which will only be used in a single test. This leads us to the next consideration.
Reusability and Organization
If possible, you want to be able to re-use your materials in future tests. This involves organizing them so that not only the author who created or added them to your assessment environment knows what and where they are, but other authors can access them easily too. Re-using your resources means that authors will not invest unnecessary time and effort in creating new ones when suitable ones are already available.
For this purpose, TAO has an integrated Asset Manager. The Asset Manager provides a space to store your supporting materials. It’s a universally shared space, and as media are often heavy in terms of size, there is the added benefit that storing your media files here means you don’t need to keep uploading the same files for use in different items. The Asset Manager is organized into libraries, making it easier to locate the materials you need. As you navigate around it, a preview will automatically be shown of any asset you click on.
As well as providing a good way of managing your support materials, TAO’s Asset Manager also provides an efficient workflow: when you use a resource in a test item, it is only referenced by the item instead of being integrated in it, so its physical location stays in the Asset Manager (rather than in your item). The advantage of this is that there is only one version of it, so if it’s updated, for example, all items which reference that particular resource will automatically also be updated.
Support materials often form crucial elements of assessments, and it’s worth taking some time to consider in some depth what the system requirements are, how to obtain existing materials or how best to create new ones, as well as how to manage and use your materials efficiently.
Using a systematic, well-thought-out workflow in every aspect of your support materials – including their creation, storage and usage – will make for an environment which is much easier for your test and item authors to use, thus providing numerous benefits for your organization.
TAO offers transformative assessment technology to streamline and support your digital assessment needs end-to-end. Get in touch to learn more about how our solutions drive better testing experiences.