New software module saves instructors time, screens apprentice ability

TotalTest allows instructors to create tests, use questions from national database

FAIRFAX, Va. – Any part of an educational experience is the test at the end of the chapter, and instructors at unionized sheet metal training centers across the country previously created their tests the old fashioned way ­– by hand and question by question.

In September, the TotalTest module was introduced to centers using TotalTrack, a comprehensive database system that puts all apprentice and journeymen information in one place. The module allows instructors to administer tests to students electronically or in class and choose approved questions from a national database based on subject matter and level of difficulty. They also can create new test questions for local use and submit them for evaluation for national use as well. Additionally, the program, which allows instructors to retrieve statistical feedback and enter finished tests into the grade book, has an auto-grading capability.

Although not all training centers have converted to TotalTrack, all 160 sheet metal training centers in the United States will be using the program in 2013.

TotalTest was automatically uploaded with the TotalTrack update on Sept. 15. The module fit seamlessly into the system, said Brad Foster, product integration manager for Data Research Group, TotalTrack and TotalTest developer out of Culpeper, Va.

“Building the test is very similar to the other features in the TotalTrack system,” Foster added. “As far as functionality and building things, it’s pretty similar to what they’ve seen.”

Once a test is completed by students, instructors can see which questions were most frequently missed. The database also allows instructors to look at the phrasing of questions, and they can submit already operational questions for review.

“This is another way to make the local training centers more efficient in what they do,” said James Shoulders, executive administrator of the ITI. “TotalTest is about sharing media, too, among all the instructors.”

Typically, a 10-question exam with good questions can take an instructor two hours to create. Many instructors also work full-time jobs outside the training center, so using TotalTest gives them more time to teach. Apprentices are ultimately reaping the rewards because they receive a better education and the input from hundreds of instructors from across the country.

“It gives instructors a way to analyze questions. You create a better test,” said Mike Harris, program administrator for the ITI. “Eventually, as we do this, all the questions in our database will be verified.”

More than 15,000 apprentices are registered at training facilities in the United States and Canada. The ITI is jointly sponsored by Sheet Metal Worker’s International Association (SMWIA) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA). ITI supports apprenticeship and advanced career training for union workers in the sheet metal industry throughout the United States and Canada. Located in Fairfax, Va., ITI produces a standardized sheet metal curriculum supported by a wide variety of training materials free of charge to sheet metal apprentices and journeymen.

For more information about ITI, visit www.sheetmetal-iti.org or call 703-739-7200.

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