MARKS an innovative assessment tool has an impact on student’s behaviour and change their learning strategy

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Use of computers and IT in examinations offers many advantages
MARKS an innovative assessment tool
has an impact on student’s behaviour
and change their learning strategy
Multimedia based MCQ Test System is being
gradually implemented at Army Medical College

By Shaukat Ali Jawaid

RAWALPINDI: Multimedia Assessment of Realistic Knowledge and Skills (MARKS) is an innovative assessment system which combines the use of computers and Information Technology that offers many advantages. It has an impact on students behaviour and has also changed their learning strategy says Major Gen. Nusrat Raza, Principal of Army Medical College, Rawalpindi where this system is being gradually implemented. MARKS is the brainchild of Gen. Nusrat Raza and his colleagues who presented this idea to National University of Medical Sciences (NUMS) which appreciated it and provided all help and assistance to realized this dream in a record time of four months.

During a recent visit to Army Medical College, it was a fascinating experience to know the details of this unique innovation in medical education and examinations. Giving details of MARKS Gen. Nusrat Raza pointed out that Computer Based Testing is an emerging technology which is slowly replacing the traditional system of assessment. Students feel more comfortable while using the computers for educational purposes. It also offers a unique opportunity to link observation and interpretation using multimedia based questions which require complex analytical reasoning as well as critical thinking skills. The details of this innovation has already been published by Gen. Nusrat Raza and his colleagues in an Editorial published in Pakistan Armed Forces Medical Journals (PAFMJ) in 2020.1

Army Medical College, Gen. Nusrat Raza opined envisioned this specialized computer based testing system. Inclusion of multimedia based questions including images, audio and video has moved the MCQ testing upward enhancing its utility much beyond the simple text-based MCQs, The Information Technology department of Army Medical College has accomplished this project with its own resources which also proved highly economical as compared to outsourcing it. Use of multimedia based questions including video audio, graphics was one of its unique features which is a revolutionary step in medical examinations. This enables the institution to assess higher order of cognitive skills which also involves some parts of the practical component of examinations. Student’s knowledge is assessed by adding multimedia questions for short cases in clinical sciences while interpretation of experimental results in basic medical sciences.

Some of the advantages this offers include paper free environment, it is cost effective besides being students friendly. Giving further details of how this system works, Gen. Nusrat Raza explained that the students can access the question paper by logging into their accounts using Tablets which they are provided by the AMC. The Graphical User Interface is very simple and easy to understand wherein all questions in paper keep on displaying in red colour all the time. Whenever the student attempts a question, it becomes green in colour while the colour of not attempted questions remains red. Students can skip any question and move to the next question. The students also have the option to come back to the skipped questions whenever they wish by clicking its number which so far is shown in red colour. Students also enjoy the option of coming back to the questions which they have already attempted to review it and change their answers if they wish. Time is constantly displayed on top of the screen which also shows how much time is left. Once the time is over, the paper is automatically submitted even if the student has not clicked on submit button. Once this system is implemented the invigilating staff will work as facilitators to help students who face any problem including technical issues. Since the questions and options are both shuffled for each student by the computer automatically, there is hardly any possibility of cheating.

Yet another advantage of this examination system Gen. Nusrat Raza highlighted was that it requires less staff for invigilation, processing of result is automatic and quick. Not only that even post exam item analysis is performed by MARKS immediately after the students submit their paper. Giving details about the requirements to set up this system, Gen. Nusrat Raza said it requires hardware, software and examination hall. NUMS has provided us hardware which has been extensively customized keeping in view the requirements of Army Medical College. Later Gen.Nusrat Raza also took me to the examination hall where this system in installed which was extremely help to understand how this system works. Hardware used for MARKS requires a Server, Switch, Access points and Tablets computers. The dedicated Server located within the examination hall in a separate server room is used to conduct the examination. An additional moderation and secrecy room has also been provided within the examination hall where question papers are added into the system.

Replying to a question, Gen.Nusrat Raza said that they acquired good quality branded Tablets which cost them about one crore twenty five lac rupees. The number of Tablets required has to match with the number of students. As with all new systems, there may be some teething troubles and difficulties which will be sorted out with the passage of time. As we come across some issue, we will try to find a solution. Initially some faculty members thought it was very cumbersome but now some of them have started enjoying it to such an extent that they keep on adding questions, images, videos and audios on regular basis. MARKS Gen. Nusrat Raza stated has added a new dimension to MCQ testing which has also enhanced its use. We are confident it will have a long lasting impact on the students learning behaviour which will eventually lead to a much better outcome. MARKS Gen.Nusrat Raza concluded was a wonderful blend of medical education and advances in technology in education. Its utility has further increased during Covid pandemic.

Ref: Raza SN, Sardar T, Hussain S, Alamgir Khan M, Rehman HU. Multimedia Assessment of Realistic Knowledge and Skills. (Editorial) Pak Armed Forces Med J 2020; 70(5):1224-27.

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