Timed questions help students get in ‘flow’

It all started one warm Friday afternoon about 12 years ago. I was observing a Y10 class in a fairly typical mainstream secondary school. They were taking a test using Paperless School, a now-defunct system that I had designed.

One pair of boys particularly caught my attention. They were lolling back in their chairs, chatting about snooker and doing their absolute adolescent damnedest to project a “too cool for school” attitude. Once in a while they would click on an answer on the screen so they could lay some vague claim to still being working.

Engaged with the task they were not.

Realisation slowly dawned that, as system designer, this was my fault. I had to take responsibility for Continue reading

CAT: Computer Adaptive Testing


Computer-adaptive Testing (CAT) has actually been around since the 1970s but it is still little-known and less understood.

How CAT works

Any given CAT assessment is based on a large bank of questions of varying, but known, difficulty on a given topic. The first question is served at Continue reading

Authoring Maths questions

New author Bob Mathews has been experimenting with different ways to create Maths questions. He is using MathType to create some very sophisticated notation, but the problem is how to present this in quizzes.

Bob explains

I had to save the equation as a GIF, upload the GIF, then drag it over to the quiz. What seemed to work best (I’m using MathType) was Continue reading

Progress with mobile access

This screenshot is me logging into Yacapaca on my phone.

Don’t be fooled by the large image here: it’s just an ordinary smartphone (actually an LG Nexus 4); not even an iPhone.



We redesigned the login fields so they actually grow larger as the screen grows smaller. You can see that here it almost fills the screen to make entering your password easier.

and this is the Gradebook, also on the phone


I didn’t expect the Gradebook to be practical on a little phone screen, even though it’s technically possible, but actually it works quite well. The inner table scrolls intelligently (two-finger scroll) to keep the names and column titles visible. I was able to track students and update their targets without difficulty. This works even better on an iPad.

What’s next?

The main work on making quizzes work on iPhones and other mobile devices proceeds apace. We have got the ‘quiz runner’ working in wireframe (i.e. without design) now, and we are in the process of debugging it. I’m not prepared to commit to a launch date for it yet, but if you would like your school to be a beta test site, now’s the time to get in touch.