Some Interesting Work in eAssessment

In Southampton today there was a get together jointly between some people from the HE Academy and JISC CETIS communities to look at developments and directions in eAssessment in the context of the physical sciences and mathematics. A couple of “quite interesting” pieces of work caught my attention…

Martin Greenhow showed us some examples of his new Mathletics (you need to scroll down to find this) and talked about some of the technology (MathML, SVG and an impressive JavaScript library) and challenges in setting maths and statistics objective questions with quite deep elements of randomisation and apparent smartness. It all looked rather well done and the questions work in QM Perception. This really looked like something deserving of much wider use and appreciation as well as an exploration of how some of the underlying technology could be tool-kit-ised and exploited in wider circles.

Aside from the technical perspective, Martin talked about the positive student response and the way the rich feedback had effectively turned what was ostensibly an assessment into a learning resource – mal-rules based on common student errors and misconceptions were linked to feedback in a particularly effective way. Students were keen to work through a surprising volume of feedback material. One of the problems Martin identified is students gaming the system, something that makes the question setting quite challenging, but maybe this student strategy, once understood, can be exploited too.

Frank Margrave gave us a preview demonstration of LinuxGym, which isn’t officially released yet. This is a nice example of assessment in context, in this case linking a live linux box with a set of questions so that students would execute the commands in response to a question and have the consequence of the commands checked against various rules for success.


I’m a bit of a sceptic when it comes to REST and the SOAP vs REST “debate”. There seems to be a tinge of hatred of corporate IT and dogmatic promotion of niche programming languages. There has been quite a lot of REST-o-ranting on the topic and I am not going to go there now.

REST does interest me in the influence it has on service design; indeed I have been a little worried that a lot of alleged SOA is not as loosely coupled as the philosophers would like and that, even when using document-style (rather than rpc style) SOAP, it is too easy to be led astray into, for example: OO thinking, CRUD. REST is both attractive in lending itself to loose coupling and unattractive in drawing one towards class-oriented design rather than business process oriented design so I thought I would have an attempt at a REST approach to IMS Enterprise Services v1. Scott Wilson had a look at a “REST-style” approach to IMS Enterprise Services some time ago but this isn’t in the same style that I look at, which I think is more fundamentalist resource-centric. I don’t think either of us is actually saying that real implementations of IMS Enterprise would never want to use the WS-* stack; it offers a heap of valuable heavy-weight capabilities.

My first cut is available in PDF: IMS Enterprise v1 in Fundamentalist REST form