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Option to require units (eg, meters) in numerical quiz answers

Option to require units (eg, meters) in numerical quiz answers

(5)

In problems in physics and engineering, answers require units to be meaningful. In designing a quiz question, there should be an option to require that a unit be provided ("3 kg" instead of "3".)  If no unit is provided, or if the unit is incorrect, only partial credit should be given. As a physics professor, I have found that student performance on exams increased dramatically in the area of correctly working with units after I started requiring their homework problems to include units (we were using Moodle, which implements this feature). 

21 Comments
p_wills
Community Member

This would be an even better idea were the British/French spelling "metre" acknowledged!

alexking
Community Participant

Ideally you should be able to simply type the desired unit into a text box (the same way you do for entering formulas in a formula question). This way you could define multiple acceptable units, eg: meter, metre, m

alexking
Community Participant

I had an idea up that was closed as it was a duplicate of this thread. Just moving my comment over here

Have a user-defined list of units of measurement as part of the answer. It's important that a student understands the correct terminology, and not just how to plug numbers into a formula. eg in a physics question I should be able to specify the answer as "1.44 MeV", and if a student submits "1.44" or "1.44 KeV" it should be marked incorrect.

kdougherty1
Instructure
Instructure

Hi  @doneil ‌,

This is something that could be done in a Fill In The Blank question, which is similar to the Numeric question type. I think it is possible this may provide you with some more immediate options.

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Kevin Dougherty

Assoc. Product Manager, Assessments

Instructure

eklausner
Community Member

Hi Kevin,

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to the comment of Deva O'Neil.

It has to be clarified to you and to your colleagues who decide about addition of features to Canvas that in contrast to your suggestion, the use of units in numerical quiz questions cannot be done in a Fill in the Blank question, because this type of question is dissimilar to the numeric type question.

The numerical type question identifies numbers as numbers. If I have a class of 100 students and the correct answer is 4.1 mL, in a numerical type question but not in a fill in the blank question I can make the system accept answers with a margin of error (for example, 5%). For a class of 100 students there may be dozens of answers that I want to accept within this margin of error. This is why the only way for me to use Canvas for such practice problems is to use numerical type questions and not fill in the blank type questions.

When using fill in the blank type questions Canvas will recognize the numbers as letters and I don't have a choice of a margin of error.

Therefore from my perspective, if I want Canvas to grade my assignments rather than me spending time to do that I have only one choice for questions that have numbers as their answer, and this is the numerical type questions. Using fill in the blank type questions for questions that have numbers in their answer from my perspective is not and immediate option, and will never be an option.

The option to require units in numerical quiz answers existed in a competing product (Moodle) at least 8 years ago. My assumption is that this option exists in all (100%) of competing LMS systems because it is so basic and simple.

I assume that Canvas will want to add this basic feature in the future to make your system more complete. As the Canvas product becomes more popular, so will the number of instructors who want to use the feature of units in numerical quiz questions but cannot do it. Since the chances of adding this feature in the future is high, it is better to do it earlier rather than later.

Sincerely,

Eytan

kdougherty1
Instructure
Instructure

Hi  @eklausner ‌,

Thank you for your feedback. My goal in pointing out the option of using Fill In The Blank questions this way was to provide a suggestion for those users who do not need functionality such as margin of error.

While others share your use case, I am not aware of there being universal demand for it. And though voting is not the only mechanism by which features are brought to our attention, you may be interested to note that there are features requested (via votes) at a 30x level compared to this one.

I think you are correct that Canvas will have to consider addressing this functionality need. Whenever this happens we will also consider whatever we would not be able to do with those same resources for that time.

Our team wants to build everything we learn about that would empower instructors to deliver great assessments in minimal time. This motivates us every day. We just can't build it all at once and are forced to prioritize features. So thank you again for sharing how this feature would be valuable to you and others. Your commentary does help us consider the weight of this functionality more accurately.

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Kevin Dougherty

Assoc. Product Manager, Assessments

Instructure

thompsli
Community Champion

This issue with fill in the blank questions (which is what I often end of up using because of Instructure's choices about forcing a standard number of decimal places for a given numerical answer question) is that I cannot anticipate all of the different things a student will decide to type in the box. Using a richer numerical type would give structured limits to their choices that wouldn't affect what I was trying to assess while limiting what kinds of things students would type in.

Let's say I have a question about a ramp, and the correct answer is that the ramp is sqrt(8) meters long. If I told students to round to the hundredths place and include units, and gave them an unrestricted fill in the blank space to type their answers, I'd want full credit for all of the following answers:

  • 2.83 meters long
  • 2.83 metres long
  • 2.83 meters 
  • 2.83 metres 
  • 2.83 m
  • The ramp is 2.83 meters long.
  • The ramp is 2.83 metres long.
  • The ramp is 2.83 meters. 
  • The ramp is 2.83 metres. 
  • The ramp is 2.83 m.
  • After rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 meters long.
  • After rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 metres long.
  • After rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 meters.
  • After rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 metres. 
  • After rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 m.
  • The ramp is sqrt(8) long or, after rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 meters long.
  • The ramp is sqrt(8) long or, after rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 metres long.
  • The ramp is sqrt(8) long or, after rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 meters. 
  • The ramp is sqrt(8) long or, after rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 metres. 
  • The ramp is sqrt(8) long or, after rounding to the nearest hundredth, the ramp is 2.83 m.

and so on.

I'd then have to go in and do partial credit versions of all of those for students who answered 2.8, 2.82, 2.828, etc, and decide if I needed partial credit versions for students who misspelled hundredth as hundreth even though I wasn't actually asking for that information in this problem, and so on through all of those cases.

If I had an answer type where I could specific a numerical value for full credit, an error range for partial credit, and another field that accepted nothing but possible units, I could spent much less time constructing such problems (in theory) or going through and manually double-checking the scoring of such problems for additional right answers beyond the few I thought to put in (in reality).

amoody1
Community Participant

I up voted and also would love to see this feature added.

For the time being this is how I have managed a work around. I question banked all the different units and can drag and drop as I need. I start with a Stimulus question and add questions to it including the units multiple choice from my question bank.

320906_Capture.JPG

erik_reyes
Community Member

So, we've recently switched to Canvas and I find out there is no option for me to request for units in numerical quiz answers / formula question. As I've read in forums this problems seems to be a long standing one the oldest post seems to be 2016 (Is there a way to add units to numerical answer questions? ) and is now 2020. That post was closed and was marked as "answered" . I see ther is a vote going on but my vote was #40 (https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/10826-option-to-require-units-eg-meters-in-numerical-quiz-answ... ) How many votes do we need to get the option of an extra box to require the students use units? Remember, in science, numbers without units are meaningless and I find the students better grab the concept when they must pay attention to the units. How many votes do you need to include the option? Or How long does it take to program? I've seen this option in several older plataforms that I've used in the last 10 years. Hope #40 is a charm and we can see that option soon...

eklausner
Community Member

I wrote about this issue in October 2018. I don't know why the Canvas administrators give this issue a low priority. Units is a very basic feature that appears in many competing LMSs. My guess is that Canvas engineers can fix it quite easily if they are instructed to do so.

erik_reyes
Community Member

I know! we just started with Canvas at the University (we currently used Blackboard and before that WebCt) and was wondering if there was anything that I'd forgotten to consider as I did not see the option. Started doing the research and I'm seeing request for this from 2016. The workaround I'm thinking about is reques the results in a specific unit (Amount of Power in Watts or Amount of Power in Horsepower) so they'll have to write a specific number.But I don't thing that is an ideal solution. And I think you are right I don´t thing it would be extremely problematic to add an extra option in numeric / formula problems   where the students could write the unit. We'll see if this gets solved soon...

erik_reyes
Community Member

Forgive my spelling mistakes, I'm seeing a lot of thing/think that are driving me nuts as I can not edit original post. Smiley Happy

oliver_gough
Community Member

I have just started using quizzes with canvas this past semester, as before I tended to use paper quizzes. Not being able to attach (engineering) units to numeric type answers is beginning to drive me nuts. As it stands I specify the unit in the question text but now spend a lot of time moderating questions that have simple order of magnitude errors.

A drop down box to select from a range of units would certainly fix a lot of issues for me.

jmblank
Community Member

Moodle does a good job with this. My institution is in the midst of a switch from Moodle to Canvas and I am just starting to figure out how to work with Canvas. The ability to require units in homework/practice questions is one of the first things I have looked for, and I am very disappointed that it is missing. THIS IS A BASIC NEED. In Moodle, I usually provide the units in a drop-down box so that students can choose from several options with the appropriate conversion factors that I enter.

esti_dorfling
Community Member

Pretty please do this, Canvas. This has been a missing feature that has prevented me from doing online physics quizzes over a couple of years now, but now with school closures I don't have many other choices. This would help me (and many others) now with COVID-19 but also in the future when in-person classes resume. 

thompsli
Community Champion

That's probably the single thing I miss the most about Moodle. It had much richer question types for computer-graded STEM quizzes.

CarolineF
Community Member

I can’t agree with these posts more. I am a Faculty Development Officer at a university and a physics instructor, and this is a feature myself and others at my institution from STEM fields are missing since we transitioned from Blackboard. My tests and quizzes have lowered in quality now that we are using Canvas as my formula questions now have to indicate “please answer the question in m/s but do not include the units”. It’s absolutely ridiculous and quite embarrassing each time I have to explain this lack of a feature in our new LMS to a faculty member who comes in expecting it would just allow students to input units, as blackboard did. 

snarayanan
Community Member

+1 - imho, this feature is extremely important to the teaching of rigorous math and physics courses.

mdarnold
Community Member

+1.  In my view this is an essential feature for physics and engineering, and it's disappointing that canvas has not yet caught up to blackboard (which is quite a low bar in this regard).

fgarces
Community Member

I agree with all the STEM professionals here. It was difficult enough trying to navigate significant figures and scientific notation when I first started using CANVAS, luckily that has been resolved somewhat. It has been three years now, and I am still waiting for the coders of INSTRUCTURE to add this feature to CANVAS. I don't understand why it is taking this long to add this feature when BLACKBOARD/WEBCT had this feature well over ten years ago. INSTRUCTURE, I think you owe to your clients add this feature of including units in formula type questions. Please don't ask us to use fill in the blank options. The reason we use formula type questions is so we can randomize the answers.

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