Taking student attendance and grades with MyAT

There are many simple ways of tracking student attendance or marking down grades. Why should you trouble yourself with learning a new tool?

There are several advantages of an online service over traditional methods. First, there is no longer a need to manage files and spreadsheets. An online service is also assured to persist and backup your information so there is no longer any fear of losing it.  Sophisticated services can also offer additional tools, such as graphs, periodical reports and alerts.

After failing to remember to write down attendance for several consecutive classes, I have decided to search for a tool which makes it easier. After a quick search in Google, I arrived to  MyAT.

MyAT is a simple tool for taking attendance and for grading. After registering for the service, new classes can be created. For creating a class, one can mark the days of the week the class is taking place as well as the names of the participating students.

myat_class

When opening the service after a class, one can access the classes dashboard.

myat_att

Using this menu, absence or tardiness can be tracked. More options are available in the Settings menu.

This tool can also help tracking the grades of quizzes and examinations.

myat_grade

NyAT also provides several different ways to access the gathered data. Beyond checking the directly, different reports can be generated.

myat_reports

myat_att_report

The welcome screen also contain a graph of the monthly absences.

myat_month_graph

It can also be used in order to generate blank attendance sheets to be used in class.

The tool is based on the “Pay What You Think Is Fair” Pricing model.

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Accelerated Learning using Gradiance

Two important elements of the learning experience are assignments and quizzes. They allow the instructor to control the progress of individual students as well as allowing the students to asses  their level of understanding.

Still, traditional assignments and quizzes suffer from several drawbacks:

  1. they might introduce unnecessary stress for students
  2. they require instructor’s time and effort for evaluating the results
  3. they are hard to protect against plagiarism
  4. multiple submissions with detailed feedback are hard to support

At the same time, once done and evaluated, they offer little help for the students to improve their knowledge.

The Gradiance accelerated learning tool was developed in Stanford in order to solve the problems raised above:

  1. it uses innovative technology to automatically test answers to long and complex questions
  2. it gives automatic and informative feedback to students the moment they have finished an assignment or lab
  3. it provides, in addition to assignments, also lab environments which allow students to test skills like programming
  4. they support multiple submissions by changing the answer sets for the same questions
  5. they prevent plagiarism by creating individual answer sets for each student
  6. they support various text books in computer science and mathematics with predefined questions and lab assignments.
  7. new courses can be defined by uploading questions in a certain format
  8. feedback includes references to the course textbook

The normal workflow with Gradiance is for the students to complete an assignment on material seen in class. On submission, the students receive immediate feedback which includes hints of how to correct their answers and references to sections in the textbook (or slides) which elaborate the material encountered. At this point the student improve his understanding of the errors and is allowed to retake the assignment. This time, the assignment will contain different selections of multiple choice answers and the students must, in order to improve their grade, fully understand the problems at end. The goal for each student is to achieve maximal score.

Similarly, Gradiance also contains lab settings for evaluating students practical work like programming and SQL code. The same procedure of immediate feedback and instant evaluation is present here as well.

Information about the ideas behind Gradiance can be found on their website.

Please follow this tour in order to see a demo of the functionality described above.

I have used this tool as an aid for teaching a Database course and the feedback from some students was good. Students have taken the exercises multiple times and some achieved maximal score after several iterations. In addition, the system freed me from the need to constantly check, grade and give feedback to multiple submissions for many students. It also allowed the students to solve the exercises in their own time and decreased any stress which might have accompanied some exercises. Lastly, the system gave the students an opportunity to practice with writing SQL queries and to get an immediate feedback for their work. A thing which is hard to achieve under normal circumstances.

I would like to conclude this post with a class token for a  programming with Java course which I have created as a demo to accompany this post. You will have to register here and after logging in, enter the token C3B505BB .

This demo includes one assignment and one lab about loops and iterations. The class follows the textbook Introduction to Java Programming by Y. Daniel Liang. Below are screenshots of the various assignments, labs and handouts available for this book in Gradiance. Supported textbooks are:

  • Databases (ElMasri-Navathe or Garcia-Widom-Ullman)
  • Compilers
  • Automata
  • Discrete Math
  • Java Programming
  • Data structures
  • Data mining (Tan-Kumar-Steinbach or Leskovec-Rajaraman-Ullman)

Additional textbooks can be supported by uploading new questions to the system.

handoutsassign.pnglab

Welcome to the CS Department Technology for Education Blog

Dear colleague,

Welcome to our new blog which is dedicated to advances in tools and technologies used in education.

This blog was inspired by Rebekah Rast’s TLC weekly, and is a collaboration between the Computer Science department and the Office of Assessment, Learning and Institutional Research.

Being the closest members of faculty to the latest advances in computer science, we thought of contributing to the effort of discussing and reviewing tools which can facilitate and improve teaching and learning by what we know best.

Many of us are already familiar with tools such as Doodle, Polleverywhere, Wordle and Dipity. Such tools target normally a wider audience than university instructors but being simple to use, can immediately help enhancing class experience.

Other tools and technologies for teaching and learning are sometimes developed by computer science instructors who sought to improve their class experience by combing their teaching experience as well as their software skills. Naturally, these instructors design their tools to accommodate computer science courses.

Many other tools require basic technical skills in order to get started with. These last two and other reasons may make many tools less accessible to instructors outside the computer science community.

In this blog we would like to try and share our experiences in various tools and technologies which we have found to improve our class experience. Tools will range from the very basic and general, such as Doodle, to sophisticated teaching environments, such as Gradiance.

Future posts will include class stories, tutorials, students feedback, instructors reviews, screen shots, demos and any other material which can make the tools we use more accessible to the whole teaching community in the American University of Paris.

This blog is open to all instructors and students in the university and will be moderated by the CS department. Please contact the administrator in order to be added as an author to this blog.