This is the second of a series of blog posts on assessment standards. Today I’d like to focus on the IMS QTI (Question and Test Interoperability) Specification.
It’s worth mentioning the difference between Specifications and Standards: Specifications are documents that industry bodies have agreed on (like IMS QTI XML), while Standards have been published and committed to by a formal legal body (like AICC or HTML). A Specification is less formal than a Standard but still can be very useful for interoperability.
Questionmark was one of the originators of QTI. When we migrated our assessment platform from Windows to the Web in the 1990s, our customers had to migrate their questions from one platform to the other. As you will know, it takes a lot of time to write high quality questions, and so it’s important to be able to carry them forward independently of technology. We knew that we’d be improving our software over the years and we wanted to ensure the easy transfer of questions from one version to the next. So we came up with QML (Question Markup Language), an open and platform-independent method of maintaining questions that makes it easy for customers to move forward in the future.
Although QML did solve the problem of moving questions between Questionmark versions, we met many customers who had difficulty bringing content created in another vendor’s proprietary format into Questionmark. We wanted to help them, and we also wanted to embrace openness and allow Questionmark customers to export out their questions in a standard format if they ever wanted to leave us. So we worked with other vendors within the umbrella of the IMS Global Learning Consortium to come up with QTI XML, a language that describes questions in a technology-neutral way. I was involved in the work defining IMS QTI as were several of my colleagues: Paul Roberts did a lot of technical design, Eric Shepherd led the IMS working group that made QTI version 1, and Steve Lay (before joining Questionmark) led the version 2 project.
Here is a fragment of QTI XML and you can see that it is a just-about-human-readable way of describing a question.
<!DOCTYPE questestinterop SYSTEM "ims_qtiasiv1p2.dtd">
<mattext texttype="text/html"><![CDATA[<P>Washington DC is the capital of the USA</P>]]></mattext>
<material> <mattext texttype="text/html"><![CDATA[True]]></mattext> </material>
<material> <mattext texttype="text/html"><![CDATA[False]]></mattext> </material>
<outcomes> <decvar/> </outcomes>
<respcondition title="0 True" >
<conditionvar> <varequal respident="1">A</varequal> </conditionvar>
<setvar action="Set">1</setvar> <displayfeedback linkrefid="0 True"/>
<respcondition title="1 False" >
<conditionvar> <varequal respident="1">B</varequal> </conditionvar>
<setvar action="Set">0</setvar> <displayfeedback linkrefid="1 False"/>
<itemfeedback ident="0 True" view="Candidate">
<itemfeedback ident="1 False" view="Candidate">