Computer-Assisted Personalized Assignments, Quizzes, and Examinations

Author Information
Author(s): 
Janet Moore
Author(s): 
The Sloan Consortium
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Michigan State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

The Learning Online Network-Computer-Assisted Personalized Approach (LON-CAPA), developed at Michigan State University, is open source software that enables instructors to create personalized assignments, quizzes, and examinations.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Lon-Capa has received numerous awards which are listed on its website, with user reviews. Today (Fall 2003), LON-CAPA is serving over 13,000 course enrollments per semester at MSU alone, and well over 23,000 course enrollments system-wide, ranging from middle school to graduate level courses. Disciplines include astronomy, biology, business, chemistry, civil engineering, computer science, family and child ecology, geology, human food and nutrition, human medicine, mathematics, medical technology, physics, and psychology. Estimated costs associated with this practice: LON-CAPA is free to users. A collaborative, ongoing project adopted at numerous institutions, LON-CAPA is partially funded by NSF. Its goal is to create a cross-institutional learning community and resource pool around a collaborative open-source software platform, which will: - Create a database and process for peer reviewed content and problems. - Develop a research testbed for content evaluation and student learning outcomes. - Provide customized learning environments based on individual students' preferences. - Develop embedded learning tools and supports for instructors and students, e.g., online help room, collaborative learning tools. - Develop a royalty payment system for content providers. - Develop an individualized exam system.

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

faculty satisfaction: Originally developed at Michigan State University, the Learning Online Network-Computer-Assisted Personalized Approach (LON-CAPA) is open source software that enables instructors to create and/or assemble personalized assignments, quizzes, and examinations with a large variety of conceptual questions and quantitative problems. These can include pictures, animations, graphics, tables, links, etc. The writing and development are facilitated by numerous templates designed to encourage students to collaborate and discuss concepts while insuring that problems differ for each student to inhibit cheating. Students are given instant feedback and relevant hints via the Internet and may correct errors without penalty prior to an assignment's due date. The system keeps track of students' participation and performance, and records are available in real time both to the instructor and to the individual student. Statistical tools and graphical displays facilitate assessment and course administration. LON-CAPA is an integrated system for online learning and assessment. It consists of a learning content authoring and management system, allowing new and existing content to be used flexibly; a course management system; an individualized homework and automatic grading system; a data collection and data mining system; and a content delivery system that will provide gateways to and from NSF's National STEM Digital Library. In particular: The LON-CAPA software provides instructors with a common, scalable platform to assist in all aspects of teaching a course, from lecture preparation to administration of homework assignments and exams. It allows instructors to create educational materials and to share such learning resources with colleagues across institutions in a simple and efficient manner. It provides a sophisticated assignment engine that can create unique homework assignments and examinations for each student in a class. Its formative and summative assessment tools grade a broad variety of objective problems and assist essay evaluation. It provides prompt feedback for students and instructors, and statistical information on performance and on effectiveness of materials. Discussion pages attached to every homework assignment encourage communication among students and faculty. The LON-CAPA software is available for free (GNU General Public License), and may be modified and adapted. LON-CAPA is being developed and implemented by an enthusiastic group of faculty and professionals who recognize that Information Technology can play an important role in improving students' learning and understanding. Current members of the project include faculty from universities, colleges, and K-12 schools in the US, Canada, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The core development group is located at Michigan State University. History: In the fall of 1992, CAPA (a Computer-Assisted Personalized Approach) was piloted in a small physics class of 92 students. CAPA provides students with personalized problem sets, quizzes, and exams. Students are given instant feedback and hints via the Internet and may correct errors without penalty until the assignment due date. The system records the students' participation and performance, and the records are available online to both the instructor and the individual student. CAPA is a teaching tool, not a curriculum, and as such does not dictate course design, content or goals. Instead, it enables faculty to augment their courses with individualized and relevant exercises. The LectureOnline project was started to serve physics course material over the web in the fall of 1997 with 770 students. With only the web-browser as interface, LectureOnline enables instructors to seamlessly put together a presentation of material gleaned from all over the internet, and to create different types of individualized online homework. Grading, communication, groupwork and enrollment are also handled by the system. In 1999, the CAPA and LectureOnline groups joined efforts in the creation of the LearningOnline Network with CAPA (LON-CAPA), which provides a superset of the CAPA and LectureOnline functionalities. LON-CAPA was first beta-tested with two courses at MSU in spring 2001

References, supporting documents: 

Kashy, E., Thoennessen, M., Albertelli II, and G., Tsai, Y. Implementing a Large On-Campus ALN: Faculty Perspective. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 4:3.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Ed Kashy, Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy
Email this contact: 
kashy@nscl.msu.edu