The Big Bad Bubblesheet

Take a look at the history of bubblesheets.

Many decades ago a bubblesheet solution was developed. The perceived problem was that teachers were spending too much time grading tests. The solution of the day was bubblesheets. While bubblesheets saved teachers time, it created new problems, confusion for students and increased cheating capabilities.

A modern solution would be one that solves all those problems.

At the time, it was thought that the regained time, far outweighed the confusion for students and they ignored the cheating aspects. It was fresh and exciting. It was a marvel that a machine could grade tests automatically. However, in the years since, the problem for students has reached a crisis and can no longer be overlooked. We can no longer favor one group (teachers) over the other (students). We need a solution that meets the needs of both.

Why do all the paper based grading systems in the world use bubblesheets? It's because EdTech companies believe that technology dictates it. But should bad thinking dictate how we create solutions? We believe technology should not be lazy nor dictate poor solutions, but should be used to create elegant solutions that look at the problem, retain beautiful traditions and solve it in a new way.

Steve Jobs believed that traditions of typography and printing were elegant and should be preserved as a heritage for society. So he set about developing a computer system that embraced those traditions. He did not let current day technology set the limitations, but pushed beyond what the engineers of the day thought was possible. The concept of typeface and point size in our computers today would have been significantly delayed had he not insisted on pushing technology forward. We might still be looking at a font called, "System".

Bubblesheet testing is no different than the System font. It is ugly and problematic for many students and it is a relic of a technology that was limited to simple bubble recognition. EdTech companies today that develop these grading systems see the problem as a bubblesheet problem, it's as though this has become the new tradition. Auto-grading paper-based tests is now seen through a bubblesheet filter. But is it right?

We suggest that the bubblesheet should be discarded in favor of inline paper-based testing which is exactly like traditional tests where students were asked a question and they responded inline.

At Ribozum we sat down to figure out how to get back to the real testing model where you do not run into the following problems that are inherent in bubblesheets.

Solve the following problems:

1. Hurdle and stress of questions on one page and responses on a separate form 2. Students marking bubbles in the wrong rows on forms 3. Students cheating by memorizing the answer key found on forms 4. Students cheating by peeking at other student answers in the same sequence 5. Teachers having to manually create many different tests and answer keys 6. Teachers having to manage answer keys

Our competitors see this as a bubblesheet problem and not a testing and grading problem, thus the same old boring solutions.

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