Mobile Assessments at Eastern Washington University


Eastern Washington University offers students a refreshing change in the classroom by using wireless Pocket PCs to deliver mobile Questionmark assessments. The Pocket PCs are being used to manage in-class testing, polling, streaming audio and video, as well as larger-scale informal surveys—all without the need to schedule time in a computer lab or distribute laptop computers to each student.

The Mobile Classroom

Since 2003, EWU has been using the Mobile Wireless Classroom, a pilot project consisting of a self-contained portable set of 30 Pocket PCs for electronic assessments. Pocket PCs were selected as an alternative to laptop computers as they maintain much of the same capability but at a fraction of the cost and are much less invasive in general classroom use. Students ranging from first-quarter freshmen in English Composition to last-quarter seniors in Developmental Psychology use the Pocket PCs to respond to lectures, watch videos of laboratory procedures, and to submit writing samples for peer review. Professors using the mobile assessments can quickly gather feedback from students and pinpoint areas where further review is needed.

Using Pocket PCs with Questionmark

Questionmark is used to create, administer and report on the surveys and quizzes being used in the Mobile Wireless Classroom. Using a browser on a handheld device along with a connection to the Internet, a participant can browse to a Questionmark Server installation in the same way as they would were they using a web browser on a desktop or laptop computer. Questionmark provides question authoring wizards in a variety of formats that make it easy for professors to create their own questions.

Multiple Assessment Subjects

Courses at Eastern Washington that utilize Questionmark assessments as part of the Mobile Wireless Classroom include the Directing and Producing course in the University’s Filmic Arts Department, where students give instant, anonymous feedback after viewing one another’s films. The electronic system replaced a paper-based system where feedback was not reviewed until days after the class. Other courses using the mobile assessments include Electrocardiography Interpretation, where students review electrocardiograms in class, interpret the content and respond via electronic polls and quizzes.

What Works on a Small Screen?

Christopher Dechter, an Instructional Consultant at the Teaching & Learning Center at EWU, said it required some trial and error to figure out what worked on a small screen.

“We use multiple choice, true false, fill in the blank, even short essay,” explained Dechter. “I like short essay questions because it simply allows any sort of text input you like. We have used the assessments in different types of classes, and they have been very successful. Professors come back and say, ‘I want to do it again!’” 

The Questionmark login and delivery templates minimize HTML formatting to accommodate the low bandwidth of handheld devices. To date, the PDA assessment system has been tested using Palm and Pocket PC devices. Blazer, AvantGo and Eudora browser have been tested running on Palm OS and Pocket Internet Explorer, Thunderhawk, and NetFront browsers on the Pocket PC. 

A sample mobile assessment can be taken on a PDA or WAP-enabled phone -- enter the following URL into your device: