Coosa Valley Technical College Tests Online For Ultrasound


Coosa Valley Technical College in Rome, Ga. is the home of many of the health education programs offered by the Georgia Department of Technical and Adult Education technical college system, including the Ultrasound programs (Diagnostic Ultrasound, Echocardiography and Vascular Sonography). The program teaches students how to perform ultrasound scans and recognize pathologies in those scans.


After they graduate from the ultrasound program, students who have finished the 18-month curriculum have to do one more thing: pass their national certification exam. Leif Penrose, program director for ultrasound, says that the college started using computerized testing in 1993. Instructors wanted to make sure that students were comfortable with the online testing format, because that’s how the national certification exam is conducted. They also wanted to preserve precious class time for learning.

“When I taught a 50-hour class, I was spending 10 hours of that on testing, and another 5 to 6 hours explaining why the answers were what they were,” says Penrose.

Tests had to include images, since students had to be able to identify what was shown in an ultrasound. But with paper-and-pencil tests, it was difficult to add images to questions—and expensive.


In 1999, the department started using Questionmark. They chose Questionmark because its templates allowed Penrose to customize tests so they closely resembled the national certification exams.

Questionmark had a lot more functionality than the three programs Penrose had tried before. Those programs couldn’t create many different types of questions, generate reports on test results, categorize question banks or allow the easy integration of images into questions, but Questionmark could.

Questionmark allows Penrose to import ultrasound or other images into questions, so that he can create hot spot questions. Students must position their cursor over an identified vein or valve in an image, or identify what blood vessel an arrow is pointing at. But most of the questions are multiple-choice because that’s what the certification exam is like. “We want to get students used to this, so that it isn’t stressful when they take their exam,” says Penrose.

Penrose uses Questionmark Enterprise Manager to schedule all tests. It allows him to control who sees what test, so that students get the correct test on their desktops when they walk into class but don’t see other tests that they shouldn’t see.

Questionmark Secure

Before the college began using Questionmark Secure, Penrose says, faculty had to keep a close eye on students to make sure they weren’t instant-messaging questions to each other or printing out the whole test. But with Questionmark Secure, all of the other programs of a computer (especially the print function and Instant Messenger) are disabled. Questionmark also integrates nicely with NetSupport, a software program that allows faculty to monitor what students are doing when they’re in a different room. But Penrose says they don’t need NetSupport as much now that they have Questionmark Secure.


Today, Penrose says he has an item bank of more than 5,000 questions that the department uses for quizzes, unit tests, and comprehensive exams, as well as multiple mock registry exams with 180 items that prepares students for the real thing.

Penrose and the other faculty are adding feedback to each question with Questionmark's feedback tool. Now, when students take a test, the feedback tells them which items they got wrong and right, and why. “That way, taking the test becomes part of the learning—it reinforces what they know and it corrects what they get wrong,” Penrose comments. Penrose also uses the coaching report so that he can identify what areas the student needs to improve in.

Penrose is using Questionmark , and it’s hosted on a server that sits right in his office. Penrose maintains the server himself with a lot of help from Questionmark’s technical support team.

“We enjoy the flexibility and the power that Questionmark has,” comments Penrose. “It is common among software programs that the simple programs are easy to learn and maintain. However, the value gained from a quick learning curve does not balance with the restrictiveness of the simple programs. The powerful programs take a bit more effort to learn and manage. We believe that the power that Questionmark brings is worth the extra effort.”