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Examples of use of item banks and randomization

On this page, we present some different examples of how you can use item banks and random selection in your course or examination. The goal is to give you as a teacher inspiration to get started with this powerful tool more easily.

Randomizing from questions from an item bank can be useful on several different occasions. A major advantage of the feature is that when students do not receive exactly the same question wording, the risk of cheating is reduced. However, there are more situations where you can advantageously use item banks and random selection of questions. Here we show some inspiring examples and explain why they are useful. On the page Randomize assignments during examinations  there is a guide on how to randomize assignment details on an examination.

Example 1: Randomize a number of questions from a large item bank

In this example, a quiz is created where the questions are randomized from an existing large item bank. This is useful if you want to let students practice before an examination or as study questions on the subject. Students can complete the quiz several times and each time are given new random questions to practice.

The benefit for you as a teacher is that your work effort will be less than if you were to create a large number of practice quizzes manually, especially if you have the same course several rounds. The work effort consists mainly of creating and maintaining the item bank. The students get the greatest benefit and the greatest opportunity for learning if the questions are automatically assessed and they are notified of the results immediately after completing the quiz. In this way, the students get quick feedback on what they know and what they need to practice more on. Develop the example further by adding feedback in case of wrong answers (e.g. reading instructions for relevant section of the course literature).

Disadvantages are that the method may provide a poorer overview of the students' learning because they do not answer exactly the same questions. It may also be more difficult to identify general knowledge gaps that should be sorted out with the whole group.

Example 2: Connect an item bank with a learning outcome

In Canvas, you can connect a quiz, a specific question or an entire item bank to an "Outcome". With the Outcome function, you can then follow your students' development in the course, and the students can also see for themselves how they are doing based on the course's objectives. If you are not familiar with the Outcomes function, we recommend that you start reading about it on our guide pages for the Outcomes function .

Why is this useful?

By linking an item bank to an outcome and then randomizing questions from the item bank when you create a quiz, it becomes easier to follow the students' goal fulfillment while you can take advantage of the random function. If you connect an item bank to each learning outcome in the course and then create a quiz where you randomize a number of questions from each item bank, you get a quiz that covers all the learning outcomes of the course. An assessed quiz will thus not be as easy to cheat on. A practice quiz provides the same benefits as in previous examples while creating visible learning for both you as a teacher and the students themselves.

Read more about how to connect an outcome with an item bank in Canvas on Canvas Instructure ("How do I align an outcome with a item bank")

Read more about how to connect an outcome with a question in Canvas on Canvas Instructure ("How do I align an outcome to a quiz question in New Quizzes")

Example 3: Item bank with different variants of the same question

You can have an item bank contain several different variants of the same question and randomize one of them. This is suitable if you want the quiz to randomly produce questions that have the same purpose, but are formulated in different ways. The method can be used on both exam quizzes and practice quizzes.

If you want the students to practice on a subject, for example before an examination, you can create a unique item bank with questions that do not correspond verbatim to the questions that will be used in the examination, but which nevertheless, through correct answering, confirm that the students have understood and can solve a certain type of problem or task. For example, it may be a matter of applying a formula or method to calculate a typical problem.

Randomize numeric values in calculation tasks

The "Formula" question type allows you to generate random variables in the question text, and the answers are then calculated according to a formula you specify. However, the variables must be specified in a range, which is a limitation. Varying the question or numerical values further is easiest done with an item bank where you create many questions with different variations.

Quiz as a retrieval practice

The learning activity "retrieval practice" is particularly well carried out with the help of quizzes with item banks containing different variants of the same question. It is relatively easy to create many questions that are variants of each other, which gives the students a way to practice recalling what they remember of different learned knowledge. Through a large selection of questions, the students will hopefully get a greater memory of the topics covered towards the end of the course.

Read more about Quiz as Retreival Practice