Relative eons ago, which is to say late September, I wrote about how I learned a way to use Google Forms for giving quizzes. I used this technique for two different types of quizzes — one multiple choice and one Fill-in-the-Blank. In both instances I embedded the form into our class wiki temporarily, and then took it down after all students had finished the quiz. This enabled me to keep the quiz and its content digitally secure between the two different class periods.
The multiple choice option was not only the most straightforward to set up and administer (as it was self-paced), but it also harnessed Google’s ability to break down and analyze the responses to the questions. The feature made reviewing the quiz with the class a bit more interesting than simply going over the answers as the spreadsheet generated pie charts of the responses to each question.
This type of visual presentation of the responses also gave me a sense of whether the questions I perceived to be the most difficult were in fact that hard, and it pointed to areas where further review would be worthwhile. One important trick I learned is that rather than having the field for the students’ names as the first question on the quiz, the name field should be put last as that way it will appear next to their final score, making transferring scores into the gradebook a much faster and less horizontal scrolling-intensive process.
The other type of quiz I administered via Google Forms was a Fill-in-the-Blank geography quiz. I reserved one of the computer labs, and based on a list of geographical reference points from Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia, I selected thirty different locations for the quiz. As I pointed out each location with my mouse on the projected screen students then typed the name of that feature into the blank box on the Google Form. Pragmatically, this type of approach required that the class answer each question at the same time, and when students missed a question or didn’t know it immediately, it lead to a lot of repeated questions at the end. This approach ended up being far more time-intensive than I had initially realized. However, one successfully intended consequence was to put spelling at a premium — something that I had hoped to emphasize given that word banks are anathema to me.
The analysis of results is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not as visually interesting for this type of Form as it is for the multiple choice.
I also learned a few other quirky features about Google Forms in the process of administering and evaluating the second quiz. I had been worried about whether capitalization would affect a student’s grade. For instance, if I had entered “Caspian Sea” as the correct answer and a student typed “caspian sea,” would they be counted as being incorrect? Thankfully, the answer to this question is no — capitalization does not matter to Google Forms.
However, spaces do matter. As I was entering scores I noticed one student who had earned a 7% (or something comparably unfortunate), but who appeared to have answered all the questions correctly. When I clicked in the answer fields, I noticed that after the end of almost every response she had entered an extra space, effectively making the answer appear like “Caspian Sea .” After I went through and deleted those additional spaces her score steadily improved as the extra space no longer made the answer appear incorrect to Google Forms.
Although the current feature set is strong, there are a few areas for improvement (or perhaps areas for my own mental improvement — if anyone knows the tricks to solve the problems below, please pass them along!) that would make Google Forms even more enticing to use for quizzes. Firstly, while the quizzes can be graded almost instantaneously, one then has to return that information to the students who took the quizzes. The cold-hearted and callous amongst us might suggest simply projecting the results and scrolling through to show the students their scores; however, many of us also want to avoid bring grilled by parents or administrators like Robert Gibbs and the Washington press corps. Therefore, keeping that information private seems advisable. The time-intensive way I went about dealing with this was to send students their scores through Edmodo, which has a grading module. Another comparable alternative would be to use Engrade, which allows students to constantly check their grades on particular assignments and their overall average.
The other critique has to do with constructing the Forms in the first place. While making the form for a Fill-in-the-Blank quiz is fast and not cumbersome at all, the multiple choice quizzes require a fair amount of cutting and pasting mastery. What would be ideal is if Google Forms could take entire cut and pasted questions from Word files (or a test generating program) and then properly assign each option to its own field. I know Google Calendar has made major strides in usability by being able to recognize typed time spans and locations and then assigning them to their proper fields, so I’m sure the wizards at Google could also figure out a way to have five cut and pasted lines automatically format into a question and four options on Google Forms. Anyone know how to solve this problem (or know a Google employee/programmer who can make this happen)?
In spite of these shortcomings, which are primarily cumbersome in either the assembly of the quiz or the distribution of its results, Google Forms is a good option for administering quizzes (and perhaps tests) paperlessly.