Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, March 31, 2002

Online Assessment and e-Readiness Evaluation Tools for Students and Trainers

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In this article:

1. Educause Ready

Educause Ready
Institutional Readiness Assessment Tool
= breakthrough tool
Online service

The READiness InventorY (READY) tool is a decision engine to help higher education institutions determine their organizational, cultural, financial, and philosophical readiness to expand their use of technology in various realms of instructional and administrative activity.

It is structured as a series of self-assessment questions that will lead users to descriptive conclusions, and resources for further analysis.

The READiness InventorY system, as it was envisioned and as it is evolving, is designed as an educational tool, to be used by groups of people (teams, committees, staff) at institutions of higher education that are grappling with decisions about the use of technology.

The READY system has three primary purposes:

1) to help provide: a conceptual framework for complex decisions (identify the key questions and issues that should be considered);

2) a context for a process on campus that encourages and supports useful dialog about those key questions and issues;

3) and a more interactive medium for dissemination and leveraging of intellectual content developed elsewhere.

The tool is primarily composed of questions. The way you answer those questions will determine the responses you are given and the resources suggested.

EDUCAUSE has recruited many of the top minds in the field to serve as content authors and expert review panellists for the Focus Areas (or content) in READY.

The tools is meant to provide a useful way of structuring information about your institution in such a way that campus constituents can understand its significance and use it to

It is anticipated that the primary audience of this tool will be at an institution of higher education in an administrative role interested in the adoption of new technology for training and distance education.

Ready can help those involved in decision-making looking for resources, effective practices, and case studies from other institutions of higher education and for also those who are interested in gathering information about their own institution's current situation and preparation in regards to adopting new technology and skills toward the creation of e-learning programs.

The authors of this tool warn the unprepared readers to be aware that adopting technology can indeed have a profound transforming impact on an institution of higher education.

Ready was also designed to allow users to work in groups. Users create a group under the account management link. Individuals then edit their account to reflect the group identifier. Working in a group allows multiple management people and faculty staff in a campus or in a training institution to collaborate on answering the questions in the READY system.

Each member in a group may be responsible for answering the questions in selected areas of the READY system. All answers and reports will be available to all members of the group.

Among the group collaboration features that I found of interest I would note the ability to view individual responses also when working as a group. It is in fact possible to identify gaps and commonalities by comparing individual answers to the same questions.

I also like the implementation of the to-do list and of the email features to facilitate group work. Email can in fact be used to pose a question to others in the group with extreme ease or to 'assign' it to someone.

The Ready tool is still under development and it offers at present two fully developed Focus Areas:

a) Deliver Online Learning

b) Partner in the Learning Marketspace

The Focus Areas that have been planned but not are not yet completed are:

a) Align Planning

b) Deliver Student Services

c) Engage Faculty

d) Use Transformative Assessment

To get started in using this online resource you will need to create a READY account. Do so by going to:

When you are ready to create an account, there is a link in the top right-hand side of the screen. Then choose one of the Focus Areas listed on the left-hand side of the home page. Within each Focus Area, I suggest that you plan to view the information and answer the questions in the given order.

As most of the questions posed are asking for information not opinions, it is important that you take the time to answer each one of them accurately. You may find the answers to some questions on your institution's Web site or by asking a colleague. Other questions will require more research. You do not have to answer all the questions in one session. Your responses will be saved and redisplayed next time you login.

Note that there is a "Go to last question answered" link on the left-hand column of the home page that will allow you to resume your work with Ready exactly where you left it off.

Some of the responses you give will determine if you are asked for more clarification or see comments tailored to your situation. Other questions will not result in feedback until you have completed all the questions and have accessed the final profile or report.

Some very clever functionalities have been built into this institutional online assessment tool to support and further facilitate use by its specific audience. These are:

1) TO DO: Each question in the Ready online assessment is associated with a [To Do] button. Clicking this button adds that question to your to do list. This is an easy way to keep track of the questions on which you need to investigate or do further research work. When you view your to do list, you will see that you can also email these questions to colleagues, add comments, or respond to the question.

2) REPORTS: All your answers are being tracked and can be accessed through a variety of reports. By clicking on the Reports, you can choose to view your current profile, which is an evaluation of the answers you have provided. You can also see a list of all questions and your responses, or preview reports that will be available to compare your ratings with other institutions.

3) RESOURCES and EFFECTIVE PRACTICES: Each content area has associated relevant resources and effective practices. To view these, click on the links at the top of the page within a content area.

4) POLLS and GLOSSARY: These tools can be accessed within each content area by clicking the links at the top of the page.

5) FEEDBACK: The facility is designed to provide feedback to the authors and developers of this tool.

I highly recommend the use of this tool to anyone institution seriously interested in adopting distance training or e-learning technologies and practices. Beyond the theory of books and manuals this tool forces each one of your key people to deeply reflect and contribute to effectively analyse your effective e-readiness status.

Ready is to be considered also a great time and money saver as it allows many institutions to gauge some important information about themselves without handing over this process to an external consultant or agency. While I am not suggesting that one can directly replace one with the other I think this would be a highly valuable homework for any institution to do. It would save both time and money to any institution when in need to confront an external provider or agency in actually moving ahead in the implementation of a distance training or e-learning program.

Rarely I find online application and tools that demonstrate such good wit, simplicity of use, good interface design, and high value for what they can do. Ready is certainly one among these. If you are involved in e-learning and you want to be serious about it you should give a serious look to this tool.

Highly recommended.

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Free Online Assessment Tool - Create your own assessments
= must have
Online service

What is FAST?

FAST is a user-friendly online assessment tool that allows students to anonymously submit feedback about their course and/or instructor.

The data goes directly and only to individual teachers. It allows an instructor to open an active, ongoing dialogue with their students about the course, content, instruction and the learning process.

Traditionally, teaching evaluations are conducted at the end of term, preventing students from offering constructive feedback while they are still in the course.

Waiting until the end of the term prevents student input from being applied while the course is in progress. FAST is being used by instructors at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Canada, where it was developed.

The FAST initiative is interesting for MasterMind readers as it strives to use innovative methods and low-cost technologies to allow students and faculty to enter a dynamic and constructive dialogue about teaching.

What does FAST do?

FAST allows trainers and facilitators to easily and quickly develop an online assessment questionnaire.

Educators can ask up to 20 questions (and change them whenever they want) to determine how students are finding their teaching and the course.

Students access the questionnaire over the Internet and can complete the surveys at any time. The software automatically summarizes and consolidates the student's comments, in real-time, into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet which can be downloaded at will by the instructor.

To use FAST, instructors need only access to the Internet and Microsoft Excel. Students need only Internet access to submit surveys.

FAST was developed by Dr. Bruce Ravelli, a Sociology instructor at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Canada, and Zvjezdan Patz, an independent software designer. It is currently being used by close to 1000 users at various institutions.

I found FAST easy to use and accessible: Once you register on the FAST website at, the FAST software will send you your password and you can start building surveys immediately.

FAST features a simple, user-friendly interface that allows you to build a questionnaire specific to your class.

FAST operates on two levels - what you see and what your students see.

How does it work?

When you become a user in FAST you are working in an administrative part of the software that allows you to design and manage your assessments. When you build an assessment for a class you are operating at a level your students never see.

Once you finish building your assessment you provide a web-link for your students that takes them directly to their individual course assessment - i.e., they only see your assessment and they have no other administrative access. To enter the assessment (to make sure only your students can participate) your student needs a password that you have defined in advance. You can have many different classes completing many assessments, but each requires its own course name and password.

Students can also find your assessment from the FAST homepage by looking up your name and your course.

Excel spreadsheet functions

FAST allows you to download a customized Excel file for each of your assessments. However, there are a couple of things to know about managing and updating the files.

First, when you download any file from FAST the file name defaults to "fast.xls". When you have more than one assessment, and therefore the need for more than one Excel file, you need to rename the file before saving it to your hard drive in order to keep the data from your assessments separate.

Second, once the Excel file opens for the first time you will notice that there is no data in the file. To make sure that you have the most recent results from your students you need to place your cursor in the centre of the table, right-click the mouse and select "Refresh Data". This command prompts FAST to go out onto the web and gather the student's input. Once you have refreshed the data make sure that you save the file to the name you had previously specified (remember, the default name will once again be "fast").

Third, the written comments from the students can be viewed in aggregate (i.e., "View All Written Responses") or for individual questions ("Responses"). In either format, comments are date-stamped and can be printed easily.

Fourth, FAST now allows you to see all your results directly from the web page. Also, there are multiple display options that you can select to customize how you want to view your survey results.

While any instructor can create as many assessments as he/she likes, there can only be a maximum of 20 questions in each one of them. Research has shown that completion rates for surveys declines as the number of questions increases. If there are more that 20 questions you would like to ask, you will need to have the students return to the site and complete multiple assessments.

One interesting feature of FAST is that when you create a second assessment you are given the option of selecting the questions from another assessment. This allows you to maintain consistent questions across multiple sections of one course.

The Issue Of Student Anonimity

When FAST was originally conceptualised the authors were looking for a vehicle to allow students to comment anonymously to his/her instructor about the course and the teaching. The authors had been using print-based mid-term teaching assessments for over 10 years and had found them to be a great resource to provide them with helpful comments while giving students a voice in their education. As the authors worked at this they became conscious that they might have to sacrifice statistical integrity to secure student anonymity.

During their focus group research, students reinforced that they appreciated that this tool was truly anonymous (unlike ANY print-based assessment strategy). However, this raises a concern with many teachers: how can they be sure that the same student is not entering the site 20 times and telling them something that does not represent the views of the other students? This is a valid and critical concern for many teachers.

However, FAST authors hope is that the instructor would not act on comments received only on the online tool - the FAST software should be only one element of a teacher's ongoing assessment strategy. So, if online comments raise significant concern for you, hopefully you can raise the issue in class and see if the comments represent the views of the majority of students. If FAST was configured to assign passwords, etc., to individual students then it would sacrifice their anonymity (but, even in that case a student could certainly give 20 other students his/her password and we would be back to where we started).

Remember, that the original vision of FAST authors for this tool is for it to become a means for teachers and their students to begin a constructive dialogue about the course and the teaching.

Licensing and Development: Source code for the program is available for licensing to institutions who wish to develop their own front-end and incorporate their own visual identity for the program, either on their own servers or with an external host. For more information, contact:

Dr. Bruce Ravelli
(403) 240-7716

Try FAST at:

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posted by Robin Good on Sunday, March 31 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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