Welcome everybody, we are proud to introduce the brand new web page and blog http://www.R-exams.org/. This provides a central access point for the open-source software “exams” implemented in the R system for statistical computing. R/exams is a one-for-all exams generator using (potentially) dynamic exercises written in R/Markdown or R/LaTeX and it can export a variety of formats from learning management systems to classical written exams. This post gives a brief overview of what has happened so far and what you can expect to find here in the next months.
The package was originally started more than a decade ago to facilitate classical written exams with randomized exercises for large-lecture courses. Like many other teachers of introductory statistics and mathematics courses, we were in need of infrastructure for conducting written exams with about 1,000-1,500 students. A team effort of colleagues at WU Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien lead to a large collection of dynamic exercises and the software was eventually released at https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=exams.
Over the years learning management systems (like Moodle, Blackboard, OLAT, etc.) became easily available at virtually every university, creating a desire to employ the same dynamic exercises also for online tests and quizzes. Hence, the R/exams infrastructure was completely reimplemented allowing to export the same exercises not only to written exams (with automatic scanning and evaluation) but also to learning management systems, the live voting system ARSnova, as well as customizable standalone files in PDF, HTML, Docx, and beyond.
Despite (or rather because of) the flexibility of the software, novice R/exams users often struggled with adopting it because the documentation provided in the package is either somewhat technical and/or targeted towards more experienced R users.
Hence, this web page and blog make it easy for new users to explore the possibilities of R/exams before reading about a lot of technical details. It also provides accessible guides to common tasks and examples for dynamic exercises with different complexity. For a first tour you can check out the one-for-all approach of the package based on (potentially) dynamic exercise templates for generating large numbers of personalized exams/quizzes/tests, either for e-learning or classical written exams (with automatic evaluation).
Some tutorials already explain the installation of R/exams (with dependencies like LaTeX or pandoc) and the first steps in writing dynamic exercises using either Markdown or LaTeX markup along with randomization in R. There is also a gallery of exercise templates, ranging from basic multiple-choice questions with simple shuffling to more advanced exercises with random data, graphics, etc.
For the next months we plan to write more tutorial blog posts that help to accomplish common tasks, e.g., hands-on guidance for exporting exercises from R to Moodle or tips how to write good randomized exercises. If you want to give us feedback or ask us to cover certain topics please feel free to contact us – be it via e-mail, discussion forum, or twitter. Also if you want to link R/exams-based materials or share share experiences of using R/exams in a guest post, please let us know.
Big shout to all contributors that helped R/exams to grow so much over the last years. A special thank you goes to Patrik Keller, Hanna Krimm, and Reto Stauffer who established the infrastructure for this web page (using R/Markdown and Jekyll) and designed graphics/icons/photos/etc. Thanks also to everyone sharing this post, especially on http://www.R-bloggers.com/ and https://RWeekly.org/.