An item bank is a database of assessment items which serves as a central repository of an institution’s test content. In modern assessment scenarios, educational institutions build repositories of tens, or sometimes hundreds, of thousands of test items. Managing your content well and efficiently is no less important than the content itself.
Why is Assessment Item Banking so Important?
Having an efficient assessment item banking system allows you to streamline the test development process, making it easier and quicker to create and manage assessment content.
Using item banking, you can maintain enormous databases of assessment items in an organized, accessible structure. Item and test authors are able to easily navigate their way around the resources available, and create new resources where necessary.
Item Banking offers:
- Hierarchical libraries
- Multiple use of items
- Collaborative authoring
- Access control
- Classification using metadata
Many educational institutions organize their assessment data – both their curricula and the related tests – in a deeply hierarchical way, and the libraries which are used in item banks mirror this structure perfectly. Giving the libraries in your item bank a transparent structure will enhance the test development process greatly.
In TAO, the libraries used in item banking and their contents can be displayed on the user interface. Once you have set up a structure for your libraries, it’s easy to make changes to them to incorporate new users or new ideas. You can move, copy or duplicate items, and you can move both individual items or whole folders of items around.
Multiple Use of Items
The test items in your item bank can be reused, either by the same test author or a different one. A good assessment item banking system will have methods in place which enable this to run smoothly.
TAO allows you to re-use not only complete items, but also the resources you might need as supporting materials in your items. In TAO, when you include resources such as images, or audio or video recordings in an item, they aren’t integrated into the item, but only referenced by it – in other words, their physical location is in the relevant library rather than in your item, so the same resources can be re-used in any number of new items.
It can often be useful for item authors to collaborate with other item authors when creating items: one item author may contribute the text to a particular item, for example, and another the graphics. Item Banking provides this possibility.
Collaborative authoring requires a dedicated function for it to work well, as it’s crucial that item authors are able work on the same item without accidentally overwriting each other’s work. TAO offers a function called Item History, which enables different versions of the same item to be maintained. Authors involved in collaborative authoring can see an item’s history by pressing a button – in other words, the different versions of it – and save new versions of the same item, each author contributing their part.
An efficient item banking system allows you to control access to your assessment materials. This way you can define areas for different authors to work in, for example. When they leave at the end of the day, authors need to be sure that the test items they’ve been working on will still be in the system the next day, in the form in which they left them.
In TAO, the systems administrator defines which users have access to which of its libraries. Access can be granted for individual users, or for all users with a particular role, so that as a general rule, item authors are only given access to the items library, and test authors only to the tests library. Access can then be restricted further for individual users, including allowing different types of access – in other words, allowing some users to only view a specified workspace, and others to work in the workspace specified.
Classifying and Finding your Items using Metadata
The organization of your item bank in libraries goes part of the way to making the items in them accessible, but libraries are only able to categorize the content according to just one aspect, such as subject or grade, for example. As an institution’s collection of items grows, most test authors will find it increasingly unwieldy to locate the ones they are looking for. Using metadata tags offers a way of identifying the relevant items for your test, even when there are hundreds or thousands of Items to choose from, by classifying them according to as many different criteria as you need.
In TAO, metadata is recorded in the properties of an item, and there are different types to suit different purposes. You could create a list, for example, to store information about the difficulty of an item, which could contain the values low, medium, and high. In its advanced search function, TAO offers the possibility of using these values as a search criterion, so if for a particular topic you wanted to assemble a test for beginners, for example, you could search for items whose level has been described as low. To streamline the search further, you can enter multiple search criteria, to access a more specific list of the possible items you need.
Having a high-quality test item banking system in place when preparing test materials is indispensable for online assessments. It makes your test development process much more efficient, saving you time and money, and will help you organize both the work of your item and test authors as well as the resources at their disposal.
Get in touch today to learn more about how TAO can help streamline and simplify test development for your institution.