There's a lot of educators out there who are pretty excited about the possibilities that Google "forms" hold for educational applications - not the least of which might be self-marking multiple choice quizzes. However, folks who are keen on using this Google utility may not be considering one key piece: mastery learning.
In March of 2013, the bloggers at Te@chThought published an article extolling the virtues of Google forms as an application that could provide teachers with easy-to-launch, self-marking quizzes. However, there are "self-marking" quizzes, and there are "SELF-MARKING" quizzes (if you know what I mean). A quiz that marks itself, but doesn't also post the mark to a grades manager isn't really doing the job that teachers need it to do. I asked the bloggers at Te@chThought how they might reconcile the time it would take to draw data from a Google spreadsheet (where the marks are collected from a Google form) and then transfer that data to a teacher's grades manager. I went on to explain that each quiz that is set up using the Google "forms" utility will generate its own spreadsheet. (That is to say, fifty quizzes will generate 50 separate spreadsheets.) Moreover, each time a student retakes the quiz, a new line of data will be dropped into the original spreadsheet in chronological order by submission date. Thus, a teacher offering such online self-marking quizzes as mastery learning opportunities would have to manually inspect each spreadsheet on some regular basis (ex. every day, every week, etc.), reformat the data so that it shows only the most recent results for each student, and then reconcile the most recent marks in the Google spreadsheet with the most recent marks posted to the teacher's grades manager. This would have to be done regularly... for every single quiz.
If a teacher taught 100 students across just three different courses, and if each of those courses had 50 quizzes in total, and if those quizzes were unlimited mastery quizzes (allowing students to take them as many times as they wish), and if the teacher wanted daily updates (which, really, is the only option that addresses the fundamental purpose of formative assessment), then, by my calculations (allowing eight minutes to locate and open each spreadsheet and then update the marks for each quiz), each teacher would need to hire a half-time assistant somewhere around the halfway point through a course just to keep the marks from these Google spreadsheets updated in the teacher's grades manager. By the time we get closer to the end of the school year (or semester), I believe a full-time assistant would be required for each teacher solely for the purpose of updating marks in the teacher's grades manager. That would amount to a whole lot of people working for technology: not the way it's supposed to be.
The problem for Google is that there are already plenty of Learning Management Systems (and some of them available for free) that will happily crunch away at quiz marks and update grade managers all day long. In other words, there are already applications available in this space that harness the power of the online learning environment in a manner that allows technology to work for people. While Google forms may present a possible solution for a few "one-off" quizzes that might be employed in a course from time to time, at this stage in the game, these forms just won't cut it when it comes to facilitating genuine mastery learning. If a teacher truly wishes to pursue full-curriculum, unlimited mastery learning using Google applications, then Google will have to step up with an integrated grades manager that talks to it's online quizzes before it can hang with the big boys in the LMS market.
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