University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences employs Questionmark for tests, surveys, evaluations, and accreditation self-study
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is part of the University of Arkansas System. UAMS has about 2200 students in six academic units: the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Health Related Professions, and Public Health and the Graduate School. UAMS also has more than 660 resident physicians completing their training at UAMS or at one of the seven Area Health Education Centers around the state.
According to Heather Smith, Head of the Library Learning Resource Center, and Jan Hart, Associate Library Director, UAMS began using Questionmark testing and assessment software in 1997. The intensive use of visual images – particularly for training in such subjects as pathology – was one source of the university’s early interest in using computers for testing. Pathology students formerly took paper-based tests by gathering in front of television screens to view questions and corresponding images that were timed to change every two minutes. After the test went through every question, the questions were displayed again for 45 seconds. Students were totally out of control of the timing. Added to the stress of moving in lock step with a group, students couldn’t rely on the color and resolution of the images. With computerized tests, students could move at their own pace and view well-calibrated, high-resolution images.
The importance of display full color images made testing via computers the norm for many of the courses at UAMS. Moving away from paper-based assessments also meant the university could process test results more quickly.
A lot has changed since UAMS ventured into computerized testing. The College of Nursing now creates randomized high-stakes tests on nursing drug math for proctored delivery either in the UAMS testing center or other campuses. Students answer 10 questions from a databank of 1200 questions for this test, which is administered several times during the junior and senior year – with each test being completely distinct from every other test. The school places such importance on competency in this subject that performance on the math test determines whether students will be allowed to continue in the nursing program.
In addition to course-related quizzes and tests, Questionmark is also used for surveys and evaluations. University staff members remark that online surveys and evaluations result in greater participation, quicker turnaround time and more robust reporting than is possible with paper-based surveys. Some surveys – including those used to collect data for graduate degree dissertations – are administered nationally. One such survey explored health professionals’ comfort levels for counseling people on genetic testing. Another examined the attitudes of staff nurses and nurse managers at various hospitals. Faculty and staff appreciate the graphing capabilities of Questionmark's Survey Report, which make it easy to clearly represent people’s survey responses.
Recently, UAMS has used Questionmark as the tool for two surveys for a North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) accreditation self-study. Nearly half of all students responded to a large survey even though the survey was done completely anonymously. There were over 900 respondents and over 600 comments were provided. The survey measured students’ perceptions of broad concepts such as the quality of the educational programs, the effectiveness of technology used, and items on the professionalism, grievance policies, and effectiveness of assessment modalities. Likerts were generally used for these types of questions, Students were also asked to rate the centralized services such as the library, campus security, parking, classrooms and labs, wireless connectivity, study areas, health services and quite a few similar topics. The matrix question was perfect for rating many items efficiently and in a user friendly format. Using several matrices helped make the survey a manageable size and made it easy for students to respond quickly. This saved precious time for the students to spend on expressing their personal issues (some complimentary and some not) in essay format.
The faculty was then surveyed on most of the same questions as well as on quite a few other questions of interest to educators. Exporting to Excel made comparing the two surveys relatively easy. These surveys that measure faculty and student’s perceptions of have an important role in the development of a full and broad picture of UAMS for its self-study.
The information will also be available to the individual colleges and support units. Different passwords were used for each college so that the data could be evaluated for all colleges together or for an individual college. As several of the comments of the students indicated, the students want their voices heard and were happy to share their thoughts anonymously.
A particularly interesting use has been the collection of journal entries during evaluation surveys from 13 graduate students in the Clinton School of Public Service, a new school with which UAMS shares students and resources. It has been a wonderful benefit to the students and the faculty as a way to share their thoughts and as a mechanism for continually improving the class.
Though there are many new surveying tools, people have grown to trust Questionmark as the tool to turn to for high stakes, large surveys. This is especially true when multiple question formats are needed.