The Learning Management System Canvas (Instructure) Lacks Key Feature in Quizzes


In Spring 2014, the university I teach at, University of South Florida is migrating from the current learning management system of Blackboard to Canvas.  It has been a welcome change but Canvas lacks a key feature in its quiz option which many STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) instructors have requested.  In fact, I consider the lack of this feature as a bug.

To give you an example, one of the options in making a quiz is called the formula question.  This option is attractive to STEM instructors as one can develop a question whose correct answer is numeric but based on a formula.

For example, one may ask the question what is x/3 and the instructor can choose a range of input values of x (say 1 to 100,000).  The quiz option allows the instructor to generate up to 200 combinations with x being chosen randomly in the selected range.   The quiz option asks for an error margin for the combinations.  But here is the problem: The error margins are based on true error and not on RELATIVE true error.  An error margin of +-1 may be acceptable for a question that asks – “What is 10000/3?” but not for “What is 1/3?”.  This issue could be easily resolved by making the error margin to be a RELATIVE error margin.

The above example is simple to rectify as one may argue that one could use an error margin of +-0.001 and it would work reasonably well for all possible value of x, but for problems with many intermediate steps, where students could be carrying varying number of significant digits, the prescribed error margins can create issues with a correct answer being deemed incorrect.

I have tweeted to Instructure founders, submitted tickets to Canvas help, asked our LMS division in our university to communicate this issue, but I need your help in making this feature request popular.  If you have your own CANVAS account (it is free to make one) or are using CANVAS as a student or a faculty member at your university, go to http://help.instructure.com/home, login and click on ME TOO button on this link: http://help.instructure.com/entries/21499124-Express-the-Error-Margin-in-Formula-Question-as-a-of-the-Result

Thank you.

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Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw (http://autarkaw.com) is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare (nm.MathForCollege.com) annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

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