After six months of planning, development, and testing, we’re so excited to share the biggest enhancement of Kids Discover Online to date: Assessments.
When we launched Kids Discover Online last September, we were excited to bring over 1,200 articles of science and social studies material to the web. So far, the response from our community has been amazing. One of the benefits of the digital age is that we’ve been able to get feedback more quickly than ever before, and since launching, the most requested feature has been a tool for educators to measure how well their students grasp the material they’re being taught.
So, about six months ago we started to research the current state of Assessments. How are students taking tests now? What does today’s homework assignment look like? And how do teachers test their students’ knowledge in a flipped or one-to-one environment? With these questions in mind, we (anonymously) surveyed and interviewed educators across the country about what they were looking for in an assessments tool.
What we found is that assessments come in all shapes and sizes. A series of short homework assignments can be just as important as a cumulative exam, and it would be useful if one platform could create a range of options. We designed a bank of over 5,000 questions that correspond with our topics and come in multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and discussion formats. And we gave educators the option to “lock” reading material for formal exams or “unlock” it for open book or homework assignments. Whether it’s a quick “exit-ticket” at the end of a reading or an end-of-year history exam, we designed Assessments for maximum flexibility.
From our research we also found that educators don’t just want run-of-the mill assignments; flexibility within the platform was key. They want to be able to add, delete, and customize questions based on what their lesson calls for and their students’ grade level. As one educator put it, “Teachers should be able to edit the assessments, so they can be adapted to different learners.” Another said, “Making the questions editable would be fantastic. Teachers can add their own to focus on a strategy being taught in class.”
Leaving our questions fully editable has been a feature that has already garnered praise from our users. Educators can even create entirely new questions from scratch – making this a fully flexible assessments tool. “Other online assessments corner you in and don’t allow for teacher input,” said one commenter. “Thank you. I look forward to using Kids Discover Online next year.”
Another highly-requested feature was to make each custom Assessment printable, for offline use. As one educator put it, “Not all schools have the resources to allow students to get on the computer very often. If assessments were in an easily printable format it would be very helpful.” Our print feature makes it easy for teachers to print out assignments and then lead a lesson on a projector, or send homework assignments home to students without computer access.
Finally, we knew how important it was to be able to record and measure student development during the course of a school year. One educator asked for “Performance [results] of [the] class on each question to identify common misunderstandings or overall lack of knowledge.”
In response to this and many other similar requests, we developed a grading system that effectively tracks how students do on every assignment, and also clearly compares how the entire class did on specific assessment questions so teachers can spot any holes in their class’s comprehension.
We want to thank every teacher and librarian who participated in our months of research. User experience and working with the community that we serve is at the center of our company’s mission, and with the help of our users, we’re proud to have developed a tool that has already been called “outstanding” and “excellent” by Ed Tech Roundup during our first week live.
In the coming months and years, we hope that your experience with Assessments is simple, effective, and most importantly, impactful for your students. If we can save you a little time from creating your own homework assignments, tests, and quizzes from scratch, then that’s a big plus too! After all, less time searching for resources and creating assessments, means more time focusing on the individuals in your classroom.
All comments are quoted verbatim from our survey conducted March 2016.