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Open Source CanvasHTML 5 CanvasDiagnostic Assessments

Eliciting Math Misconceptions


Eliciting Math Misconceptions (EM2) is a platform to support the research of developing a set of valid and reliable assessments to diagnose student misconceptions about rational numbers. Atomic Jolt created EM2 online administration and reporting system for the Educational Development Center (EDC) based on the open source version of Instructure Canvas.


The EDC is a large educational research company that does a lot of grant-funded work in public schools. EDC approached Atomic Jolt after receiving a grant from the US Department of Education to develop diagnostic assessments for rational numbers. They asked us to develop a platform that could deliver the assessments and automatically apply research-based rubrics to identify student misconceptions and report them to teachers.

In addition to delivering the assessment, the EDC wanted functionality that would facilitate administering the assessments to large number of students and giving access to the data that researchers needed to evaluate the grant project. Another important aspect of the project was that while the assessments asked students to respond to multiple choice questions, they wanted students to also be able to explain their responses by drawing pictures and by writing.


We researched existing platforms and explored the possibility of creating EM2 as a new platform. Eventually we decided to build on and adapt the open source version of Instructure Canvas because it’s a learning management system that already has the ability to manage courses, students, and assessments. From day one, we brought up a functioning system that the EDC could use to start prototyping and trying out assessments.

We augmented Canvas by adding functionality for automatically diagnosing and reporting student misconceptions based on response patterns specified by researchers. We further refined Canvas to make it efficient for researchers to manage a large number of trials and to anonymize student data. In addition, we added custom item types to the Canvas assessment system that let students write descriptions and draw pictures as they responded to multiple choice questions. Once the research portion of the project was complete, Atomic Jolt worked with EDC to customize the platform for use in the school as part of normal teaching activities.

BOTTOM LINE: The EM2 custom version of Canvas (along with its associated assessments) continues to be hosted by Atomic Jolt and is available as open source.