Software Teaching of Modular Physics

A new SToMP assessment system has been developed,
is available to UK HE and is introduced below

The project - history

SToMP was developed as a computer-based resource for teaching introductory-level undergraduate Physics. The development was funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils of England, Scotland and Wales, and the Department for Education in Northern Ireland. The project materials were first made available in 1995 and since then they have been used in over 300 institutions in about 35 countries. They have also been used for 'A' level teaching in many schools and colleges in the UK.

Support for these materials has now been withdrawn and they are no longer distributed. They are available within the University of Surrey and a few other institutions, but support is minimal. The main reason for this is the increasing diversity of operating systems being used in institutions, the difficulties of ensuring the integrity of this PC/internet based system with the increasing concerns about security, and the different security strategies being adopted by different institutions.

The new assessment system

Assessment has always formed part of the SToMP materials, and for this purpose it had a built-in assessment system that has been revised from time to time. A stand alone version of this assessment system has been produced, however, and remains in use with students. This system runs over the web and supports all the features of the previous versions, such as randomisaton of values and the ability to check numeric responses for precision as well as accuracy. It is a direct implementation of the QTI v2.1 specification and this introduces a number of additional benefits as well as providing a structured platform for the development of other new features. The use of QTI v2.1 will, it is hoped, encourage the development of new learning-directed assessments that take advantage of the new QTI features, such as adaptive questions.

A demonstration of the SToMPII assessment system is available and can be found here.

For more information about this system, please contact Dick Bacon.

The new system is "lightweight" in the sense that it does not offer sufficient security or reliability for high stakes assessments, but it is eminently suitable for marked coursework, particularly where it is desired to assist the students with directed feedback, hints, multiple tries and other mechanisms being developed to help the learner. It has been used in the Physics Department at Surrey for two sets of coursework assessment (11 tests in all) since 2009.

SToMP was involved with a project to help with the "Implementation Provisioning and Support" of the QTI v2.1 specification (QTI - IPS). Their web site provides information about the project, the specification, implementations and support, as well as some useful links for those interested in this work.

The system is available to University of Surrey students for coursework assignments and can be found here.

Physical Sciences Question Bank

The UK Physical Sciences Centre will not be operating after July 2011 due to lack of funding. Most of the resources will be available from the HEA website and there might be a legacy version of the Question Bank available there. The full version is being maintained, however, and remains available here.

Dick Bacon
Department of Physics
University of Surrey
17 November 2017