Creating and Managing Large Question Banks
Article Last Updated July 2020
This article discusses some considerations in using eClass to create and manage large sets of quiz questions. For most courses the question bank doesn't contain too many questions - for those cases, the basics of using quizzes are discussed in the articles Adding Questions and Using the Question Bank.
New in Summer 2019 - Question Tagging - See link to learn more about how to better organize your question bank.
But over time as question banks grow and for cases where instructors or administrators want to deliver numerous, homework-style formative quizzes or require high-stakes summative assessments that pull questions from deep question banks to ensure randomization, several options are available.
Options for Bulk Creation of Quiz Questions
As manual creation of quiz questions one-by-one can be time consuming, eClass offers a number of solutions for populating question banks.
Import questions - If instructors already have exam questions in text documents (eg. MS Word), it is often possible to reformat the questions slightly and convert the document to a text file (.txt) and import it directly:
A wide range of different text formats are available for import, each with slightly different structure and uses:
The simplest choice is the AIKEN text format which can mass import questions in the formats below:
A sample file with a few importable questions in AIKEN format can be downloaded here. It is often possible to use find and replace tools in text processing programs to convert existing files into compatible forms for import. Please see the detailed moodle documentation on importing for more information on the full range of formats and to determine which might be the easiest to convert existing questions into. Note: most direct-import formats are text-only so if images are required within questions, Respondus is the only current option.
Respondus Quiz Authoring Tool - U of A has a site-wide license for the Respondus Quiz Authoring Tool, a windows-based application which can import, manage, and publish quizzes and questions. It can accept imported questions in a wider range of file formats than the basic import routines and supports embedded images in MS word files. The tool can push questions directly into eClass courses or even specific quizzes via an integration and has a slightly different question syntax than AIKEN format:
Quick Start Guide for Using Respondus (graphics updated to latest version of software)
Full User Guide for Using the Moodle (eClass) Personality in Respondus (screenshots show older version of software but all functionality is the same)
An additional feature of Respondus that can be especially valuable is that a number of publishers have partnered with Respondus to provide question banks associated with some of their textbooks. The Respondus Text Bank website has a searchable interface allowing instructors to check if their particular text has any existing questions which can be downloaded into Respondus and then pushed into eClass courses. These types of questions make excellent 'homework' style quizzes that can be automatically graded and provide students formative assessment feedback throughout the term.
Creating and Using Categories in the Question Bank
The question bank in courses allows instructors flexible options for creating and organizing categories of questions. While not strictly required, categories have several useful functions, the main one simply being better organization of large numbers of questions. By default all questions in a course appear in a long list and adding categories can make locating specific questions easier. It is also a good idea to develop a standard system for naming questions including some kind of unique identifier and/or subject information shorthand.
Question categories are also the functional units used to construct quizzes when using 'Add from question bank':
It is only possible to pull multiple questions into a quiz from within the same category in a single operation:
Similarly 'Add random question' pulls a specific number of questions from the selected category. It is possible to nest categories so that a series of sub-categories, for example organizing questions along a different dimension, can be included in pulling random questions:
Quiz-Level Question Banks
An important note regarding the question bank is that there is an additional, built-in level of categorization possible when accessing the question bank from within a quiz:
Questions stored at the quiz level are not accessible or visible from the regular course-level question bank but are useful because they can be copied within and across courses without including a course's entire question bank (see below). Questions already added to the default category (or any course-level category) can be moved into the quiz context using the regular management tools within the question bank, accessed from within the quiz.
Re-Using Quiz Questions WITHIN Courses
Any quiz questions added by default to a quiz or to the course question bank can be easily re-used in different quizzes within the same course by creating new quizzes and adding existing questions from question bank (using the process described above of adding 'from the question bank').
Duplicating a quiz in a course will create a complete replica of the quiz but will not create copies of the questions within it. This means that editing questions in a duplicated quiz will also edit the questions in the original quiz (they are stored a single time in the course question bank). The exception to this is if questions have been moved to the quiz-level in the question bank (see above) - duplicating a quiz with under those conditions will create copies of questions, self-contained within the new quiz-level question bank. Instructors who want to make variations of questions also have the option of duplicating the question in the course-level question bank, re-naming them accordingly, and using them into new quizzes.
The import functionality can be used to copy quizzes from one course in eClass to another but due to the random question mechanism, this will always copy the original course's entire question bank along with any quiz imported. This is true using the Import functionality even if questions are stored at the quiz-level of the question bank.
To copy a single quiz from one course to another, the questions must be stored at the quiz-level in the question bank. The quiz can then be backed up in the source course and restored in the target course (a manual process using the same backend functionality as Import.)
Alternatively, it is also possible to use the question bank to export and import entire categories of questions. This can be useful to select specific topics, concepts, etc. from one course and transfer them to another course.
Re-Using an Entire Course Question Bank in New Courses
By default, every course requested for a new term in eClass will copy the entire past course's question bank and all quizzes forward into the new course. In cases where instructors want to clean up a question bank in a course, it is possible to copy a course forward but exclude the course question bank. This is achieved via the checkbox on the 'Content copy' step of the request process:
This can also be useful for faculties or departments that want to manage quizzes and question banks at a more central level by pushing quizzes from Respondus into specific courses. For units requiring those capabilities, the Category Question Editor and Sharer roles may provide additional functionality - please contact IST eClass support for more information.