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Harry Keeling, Ph.D.

June 2013

Long before Blackboard or Pearson began incorporating outcomes assessment or adaptive learning in their course management systems, Computer Science professor Harry Keeling developed AssessTrack (http://hkeeling.net) .  This pioneering web-based system currently facilitates both course management and program accreditation in Howard's Department of Systems & Computer Science.  (Click here to watch a video overview.)  

Like Blackboard, AssessTrack is designed to help faculty and students manage course content and activities.  It allows faculty to post lecture notes, slides, or video recordings and students to submit assignments and take tests on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones.  It also allows faculty to enter student learning outcomes and “tag” each of the assessments to indicate which topic it addresses and which outcome it assesses.  As a result, it makes tracking student performance nearly effortless and automates the aggregation of self-study data needed for accreditation—something Blackboard only recently incorporated into its Blackboard Learn course management system.  Moreover, Assess Track enables faculty to quickly “map” their specific course outcomes to their department’s program outcomes.  In short, Keeling observes, Assess Track relieves faculty of “the tedium of collecting assessment data for program accreditation.”

However, AssessTrack does much more.  Leveraging the assessment “tags” that faculty create, AssessTrack tags questions for course topics, activating an “intelligent tutor.”  Dr. Keeling explains, “Each student’s scores on our assessments form a ‘model’ of the student’s competencies and their understanding of the course content.  The tutoring agent uses the topic tags to assess each student’s model.  Then it generates and presents an individualized study guide for each student.”  This sort of “adaptive learning” now drives systems such as Pearson’s MyLabs (powered by Knewton), McGraw-Hill’s LearnSmart, and University of California’s  ALEKS—which  can be integrated into Blackboard—but  AssessTrack was one of the first systems to offer students such personalized instruction.Keeling

















How did Dr. Keeling get started on this track? "I wanted to start taking steps towards running a paperless course," he recalls, "and to find an easier way to generate the reports about student performance required by ABET [Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology]." Armed with research grants and assisted by Graduate Student Robert Person, he succeeded in turning AssessTrack from an application for taking quizzes on lab computers into today's web-based .NET application with an SQL database that stores the assessments and students' scores.

Surveys suggest that Computer Science students appreciate AssessTrack. Most students agreed that AssessTrack was "easy to manage and understand." Above all, they confirmed that "having everything located online made things easier to access and catch up when absent" and that seeing their "grades displayed immediately on the website" helped them understand where they stood. Although Dr. Keeling is pleased with AssessTrack's impact on students in his department, he says he continues to experiment "with innovative ways of applying contemporary advancements in educational research, the semantic web, and artificial intelligence." As always, he strives to stay a step ahead of the pack.

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