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Database Design

The FIRST data system consists of several linked software systems that together provide an intuitive and efficient means of managing educational assessment data from faculty across the nation. Features of the FIRST system satisfy a series of use cases developed by educators and researchers to inform the system design. The components of the system include:

  • FIRST Assessment Data System
    • The FIRST database
      • A data system that stores assessment data and relevant metadata about the context in which the assessment occurred: courses, institutions, assessment questions, and responses. This system utilizes existing software (Metacat) for metadata and data storage systems, extending the system for educational asssessment purposes.
    • FirstAssess (an adapted version of Morpho)
      • Desktop software to collect and document assessment data for faculty. The FirstAssess system includes wizards for collecting course information, and an efficient Assessment import tool that will read test documents in PDF format and extract the relevant questions from the text for direct insertion into the data system, without retyping the questions or laborious cut and paste operations. The import tool will also read student response data from common data sources like spreadsheets and common course management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, and WebCT.
    • The FIRST Web Portal
      • A searchable, web-based application for locating assessment data and seeing useful data summaries from the system
    • EdML
      • An exchange schema for assesment data and metadata for passing information among components of the FIRST system and to external applications. EdML builds on the LOM standards and supplements it with metadata from Ecological Metadata Language and other standards.


The components of the FIRST Data System are shown in Figure 1, which shows the use of the FirstAssess tool by a faculty member to import assessment data into the FIRST database. Once a collection of assessment data are available, faculty can look at their assessment data to evaluate historical trends, analyze the effectiveness of pedagogical techniques and strategies, or compare the performance of different teaching and assessment techniques. These analyses are enabled through a web-based portal that allows researchers to discover and download assessment data from their own courses as well as from those of other courses in their own university and across institutions.

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This page last changed on 26-Jun-2008 11:24:40 PDT by uid=momsenj,o=MSU.