Randy Watkins

Regular Expessions in Quizzes

Discussion created by Randy Watkins on May 11, 2016
Latest reply on Jun 2, 2016 by Gregory Beyrer


CANVAS quizzes do not support regular expressions for fill-in-the-blanks or short answers like D2L, so a feature addition is open in the CANVAS Community to add it: https://community.canvaslms.com/ideas/4888#comment-47973

Describe your idea


More than "contain" is regular expressions, which have been in every major programming language since the 1950's and every LMS until Canvas. Regular expressions are also known as regex, pattern matching, and wildcards.

Here is a good example:

     Who was the major African-American civil rights leader of the 1960's assassinated in 1968?

The official answer is "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.", but what if they forget to put "Dr.", abbreviate Luther as "L.", or forget "Jr.". Is it wrong? How many permutations of the right answer could there be? Is punctuation included? Using regex, the answer would be /.*Martin.*L.*King.*/i, meaning anything before Martin, must contain an L between Martin and King, can contain
anything after King, and "i" means case insensitive. If you use "g" with the "i", you can apply multiple phrases across an
entire document so you can check papers for content automatically.

How will this idea benefit CCC users?

I do not give my students True/False or Multiple Choice questions as I want them to know, not guess. I give them either fill-in-the-blank (if I want to give them a clue) or short answer so they have create the answer, and it makes it easy to find cheaters. RegEx allows me to create a list or pattern of keywords that their answer must have and can even give partial credit for each sequence. It also allows flexibility in spelling (gray or grey) and capitalization independence. This allows faculty more flexibility in online questions without penalizing students for typing or spelling errors. My students tell me it is harder but they like learning the concepts rather than memorizing phrases.