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History and Evolution of Question Tools

Background

As a company we completed a number of projects in the late 1990s where we created toolkits. These toolkits enabled content to be created quickly and reliably. One of these, for BT, was shortlisted for the World Online Learning Awards. We noticed that other companies found this a difficult area.

When we started...

We surveyed the marketplace and found that a lot of companies advertised software, but would not let you download and try it. Other software was available, but had the look of small projects that had run into the sands as the extent and complexity of the task had become apparent. Many products were trivial, ugly and hard to use. Some appeared cheap, until you noticed that you had to licence a player on a per user basis. Very few offered end-to-end solutions, where questions could be easily created, compiled into tests or exercises, delivered, results collected and automatically analysed.

Quite a few products were (and still are) built on top of other companies' authoring tools, such as Adobe Director or Flash. This 'tower-of-bricks' approach to developing serious tools is badly flawed both technically and practically. It can increase instability, places the tool's and its users' futures at the mercy of the creators of the original authoring software, and in some cases can lead to licensing complications. One further problem, is that it often means that content can only be delivered in a web browser if the user has installed a plug-in. Many company networks do not allow this, and so content created using these tools simply cannot reach a lot of users. Click here for more on the complications created by plug-ins.

History

In July 2002 we released the first versions of Question Tools SimpleSet, Editor and Exam. Within four months we had registered users in 61 countries.

During the summer of 2003 we released version 2 of Editor, adding amongst other features, visual styles, spell-checking, and the ability to save results from normal web sites. Also, at about this time, we started to acquire distributors in various parts of the world.

This was followed in February 2004 by the release of the NetSeries products, after its rather successful public beta trial. These combined webserver/databases provide an immediate, interactive web site that can save and analyse results. They proved a big hit.

By February 2004 we had registered users in 88 countries and things were looking good. Finally, the Question Tools suite was complete. We now have registered users in 148 countries.

Feedback

We would like to thank those of our users who have generously given their time and provided feedback and valuable suggestions. Suggestions from users are constantly driving our development of the products.


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