[Infographic] Building Engaging Online Assessments with Technology Enhanced Items (TEIs)

technology enhanced items

Today’s modern digital assessments are not only unifying testing, instruction, and learning into a single experience but are also becoming increasingly personalized. Some of the key tools driving this are Technology Enhanced Items (TEIs) and Portable Custom Interactions (PCIs). These are complex assessment items that measure 21st century skills like critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration.

In this post, we break down the core benefits of TEIs and PCIs when used in online testing. The accompanying infographic below also provides examples of custom items specific to TAO that educators can leverage within the platform to build engaging assessments. 

TEIs vs. PCIs: What’s the Difference

So how do you define TEIs and PCIs, and what makes these tools different from one another? While often referred to interchangeably, there are a few defining nuances that make them unique. 

Technology Enhanced Items

As the name implies, Technology Enhanced Items go beyond traditional paper-and-pencil testing questions, like multiple choice. TEIs are computer-delivered assessment items that involve higher order thinking skills and leverage specialized interactions for capturing test-taker response data. These test items connect assessment to real-world learning and problem solving in context, enabling a more authentic assessment experience. 

  • TEIs assess a range of skill sets through a variety of computer-based interactions, allowing educators to identify gaps in knowledge and address them during instruction in real-time.
  • TEIs allow students to engage with content online and show their understanding of the material in a range of ways. In addition, TEIs offer more options for automatic scoring. 
  • TEIs can replace several multiple-choice questions, reducing the time students spend taking tests without sacrificing the depth of assessment.

Technology Enhanced Items are becoming increasingly prevalent in Common Core and state testing. As such, it’s critical that educators expose their students to these types of questions and model problems that require students to demonstrate 21st century skills. 

Portable Custom Interactions

Like TEIs, Portable Custom Interactions (PCIs) are computer-delivered assessment items. In fact, most PCIs are TEIs — however, not all TEIs are PCIs. The key difference: PCIs are custom assessment items built on the IMS QTI PCI standard for interoperability. By leveraging PCIs, institutions and educators are afforded a number of benefits:

  • Technology Enhanced Items built on the QTI PCI open standard are inherently interoperable, meaning institutions don’t have to pay for costly item transformations — if they’re even possible. 
  • PCIs allow educators to impart game-like scenarios and real-world simulations into testing. 
  • PCIs make it possible to collect much more than just digital answers, and provide data to facilitate the feedback loop between teaching, learning, and assessment
  • These items can capture rich log data that allows educators to drill into student interactions with a test question to understand test-taker problem solving strategies. 
  • Educators can then gain insight into how students approach each problem, and identify areas that might require additional focus.

In the past, creating one-off custom TEIs was a costly and time-consuming task. Interoperability was very difficult, and coordinating multiple vendors was near impossible. Using the PCI standard, vendors can reliably exchange and deliver custom TEIs. 

Institutions can further reduce the overall cost of custom TEI development by including options (parameters) to allow test authors to reuse innovative question types. For example, an item author can change the parameters of a graphing PCI to provide different functionalities, instead of creating multiple custom interactions. This not only saves time and money, but also ensures all test questions don’t look the same.

TAO Platform TEIs and PCIs

TAO offers a range of built-in tech-enhanced assessment items —  including common TEIs, like matching and inline choice, as well as graphic TEIs and custom PCIs — that test authors can easily use to create tests. Check out the infographic to see a list of TEIs available within the platform:


Looking for more resources on going digital? Check out our latest eBook, The Practical Guide to Digital Assessment, for a deep dive into how to easily launch a successful online assessment program for your institution.

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