Guest blogger John Kleeman, Chairman of Questionmark, describes how quizzes can be embedded in SharePoint and how SharePoint is coming of age as a learning platform.

I’m hearing a lot of interest in SharePoint as a learning platform in Higher Education. You may have seen the University of Northumberland survey suggesting that 75% of UK Higher Education uses SharePoint (though often not for learning). With SharePoint 2010 providing an attractive user interface, and with various concerns around more closed learning platforms like Blackboard and Moodle, I’ve spoken to several universities and colleges that are seriously looking at SharePoint as a student-facing learning platform.

One of SharePoint’s strengths is that it’s easy to embed other software in it. You can either integrate programs with SharePoint APIs or else present other programs in a mash-up (using iframe technology). This makes it very easy to include formative assessments within SharePoint as a web part – for instance one university makes learning pages in SharePoint with a video at the top of the page and a quiz at the bottom.

Why bother with a quiz? Psychology research shows that if you study something and then answer questions on it, you are much more likely to retain it for the future than if you simply study the material. The act of answering questions gives you retrieval practice that reinforces the memory in your brain and makes it more likely that you can retrieve the information in future.

The diagram below is redrawn from a cognitive psychology research paper, The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention, by Roediger & Butler, published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences in 2011 (see here for an online copy).

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As you can see, students in this experiment who only studied the material scored an average of 11% when tested a week later, but students who studied and took a quiz got an average of 33% to 54% in the test, with higher scores for those who saw feedback on the quiz. Cognitive psychology research gives strong evidence that quizzes and retrieval practice aid retention of learning.

You can embed quizzes in all learning platforms, but SharePoint makes it particularly easy to include them within a page. This capability adds to SharePoint’s many other strengths, making it very interesting as a learning platform in higher education.

Additional information and advice on SharePoint and assessments can be found at John’s blog at http://blog.sharepointlearn.com.