Automatic scoring of student work in Microsoft Excel and Access:
the Prometheus Approach
Gove N. Allen Brigham Young University
Nicolas Ball Utah Valley University
Objectives Perhaps the two most commonly-taught tools in Information Systems Courses are the electronic spreadsheet package, Microsoft Excel, and the database management package, Microsoft Access. Helping students learn to the concepts and skills to take full advantage of these powerful tools is an important task often assigned to IS educators. Performing well in this assignment gives students skills that can set them apart from other job applicants. Moreover, because these skills are often taught as a service course upon which other business-school courses build, the level of proficiency students attain in these skills is one of the key factors influencing the manner in which other departments view the Information Systems department within the school.
Some topics that are taught broadly in the business school curriculum lend themselves to the “textbook, lecture, quiz, and exam” model that makes teaching large sections possible. However, Excel and Access, because of their hands-on nature, do not. Schools have typically taken two approaches to delivering this content. The traditional avenue to teach this material involves small sections with assignments requiring students to become familiar with the software through direct use. Teaching small sections with tenure-track faculty is expensive and using adjunct and teaching assistants leads to variations in quality that are undesirable in what may be the student’s first exposure to a particular department. Perhaps more importantly, the hand-grading of student work leads to long feedback cycles and imprecise application of rubrics. In recent years, another option has become popular. The advent of simulation software from text publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Cengage allows students to get rapid feedback on performance but they require that students work not in the real application they are learning, but in a facsimile that reproduces only a portion of the main product’s functionality. Our experience indicates that students find both of these approaches dissatisfying.
We wanted an approach that:
1.Provides rich, meaningful assignments for students to solve by working directly in Excel and Access
2.Gives detailed feedback instantly
3.Allows students learn from the feedback to improve their skills and submit again
4.Alerts us when students are working together on assignments
5.Presents detailed analytics on student engagement and performance
6.Delivers content in both textual and video presentations
7.Allows students multi-year access to the instructional content
8.Let’s us explore how students solve problems, not just see their final solution
9.Did not cost students an arm and a leg
10.Supports Mac users as well as PC users (at least for Excel)
We realized that the only way we could get this system is if we built it ourselves—so we did. We call it Prometheus.
The Prometheus Approach leverages our understanding of feedback cycles to increase the effectiveness of student learning. It accomplishes this by providing step-by-step demonstration (in both video and text); hands-on, meaningful practice; rapid, detailed feedback on performance; and a two-stage assessment strategy where students make an initial attempt at the assessment task, receive immediate, precise feedback and are allowed to make a second attempt while the experience of the first is still fresh in their minds. The overall assessment score is calculated from scores on both attempts, which ensures that students are cognitively engaged throughout the process.
The Prometheus Approach is powered by the ATLAS Feedback Engine, a patent-pending technology that delivers very detailed feedback to students in a matter of a few seconds. ATLAS (Automated Technology Learning Assessment System) requires no installation and works on both Microsoft and Apple operating systems. Because of its distributed architecture, we are able to handle vast numbers of simultaneous submissions (some classes have more than 2,500 students) without experiencing server-load bottlenecks.
Working with an electronic publisher, we are able to provide multi-year access to students at a fraction of the cost of the product simulations.
This presentation will show instructional content and demonstrate the grading engine for some of the many assignments configured and ready for use Excel. Additionally, it will show the detailed activity logging and collaboration detection features built into the system. Participants who bring a connected computer with either Excel or Access will have hands-on experience working with the system
Targeted Attendees Professors who teach MS Excel or MS Access
Recommended Citation: Allen, G. N., Ball, N., (2016). Automatic scoring of student work in Microsoft Excel and Access:
the Prometheus Approach
. Proceedings of the EDSIG Conference, (2016) n.4176, Las Vegas, Nevada