Ron Marx

Batch Uploading Quiz Questions and Question Banks, Part 2

Blog Post created by Ron Marx on Apr 3, 2017

Priority: Quizzes.Next The specified item was not found.

I want to chime in (again) about the issue of question/quiz interoperability particularly as it relates to bulk import into Canvas.


The original blog, Batch Uploading Quiz Questions with Respondus, and its comments are mostly fro 2015. In the meantime, Canvas has expanded its question types. It will continue doing this in its quizzes.next_new quizzes.next_phase1 quizzes.next_phase2 version, soon to enter beta. The information in the blog about Respondus 4 is somewhat outdated. Because it's the only game in town as a standalone QTI generator, the laudatory remarks about it are, IMO, misleading.


I've used Respondus 4 quite extensively to duplicate the built-in bulk import features of Blackboard LMS. It's clear that the folks at Respondus haven't updated and refreshed its design or function in many years. Editing windows and windoids are not resizable, making for a cumbersome, finger-clicker tiring, eye-straining experience.


Functionally, there shouldn't be too much of a difference between publishing quizzes and question banks, but there is. Canvas's current inability to shuffle questions (as opposed to question distractors) forces developers who are planning backwards from the quiz level to create Question Groups from which quizzes will draw questions randomly. (Rumor has it this feature will be included in Quizzes.Next.) Respondus 4 could save time with the choice between quiz- and bank-publication. Unfortunately, bank questions lose their image reference links, unlike the quiz publish function which preserves them.


Attempting to pre-format question stems using HTML tags and inline CSS is a punishing exercise. The simplest example to illustrate this is including <p> tags to put images on their own line separate from the text that precedes and follows it. This very simple exercise requires opening the HTML windoid, pasting the code, saving to close the windoid, then saving the question edits before proceeding to the next question. Through trial and error, I discovered that the tag-enclosed text of the stem must also be pasted in the HTML windoid otherwise it won't export properly.


Question Editing in Respondus 4


As a result, Respondus 4 is the type of indispensable application one loves to hate. I don't even want to surmise why the company has chosen to ignore these flaws, or redefine them as features. I wish Instructure would flesh out the import API it uses in Canvas to create an reliable, robust, and easy-to-use import function, leap-frogging over what Blackboard implemented from many versions ago. With a more robust API, teacher/designers/developers would only need to format a TEXT or CSV file conforming to a data map Canvas defines. The map would permit the following fields: question type, question stem, distractors, correct answer, answer feedback, and frequently used question feature toggles (e.g., distractor shuffle). The map should also accommodate image embedding, similar to what Respondus requires (images need to be in same folder as the bulk question text file).


This commonly used routine would be a great feature family update, and what I referred to in the idea currently up for vote: Strengthen Canvas Import Ability with QTI Files.


Thanks to Chris Hofer's Blog for the progenitor to this post.