The BSEF on Internet

S. James Booth, Ph.D.

Dept of Pathology & Microbiology

University of Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68195

(+) 1-402-556-5679
(+) 1-402-559-4077

As membership in the BSEF expands, we all seek to communicate more efficiently with each other. The Biennial Conferences have become one means, but even the important contacts we make at these meetings need to be maintained across distance and time, and the most technologically advanced solution to this problem is the Internet branch of the Information Superhighway.

Since this past summer the BSEF has been on-line over the Internet with its own listserv by the name MICRONET. MICRONET actually began from the desire of participants at the 1990 Microbiology and Immunology Teaching Strategies Workshop in Myrtle Beach, SC to better communicate with each other about educational innovations in microbiology and immunology. Jim Swierkosz at St. Louis University School of Medicine, had taken the initiative to establish the system, but the technology functioned for only a very small group of participants. In 1994 the MICRONET listserv was revitalized and expanded to become the official Internet link of the Basic Science Education Forum. Subscribers now represent those with interests in teaching from all the basic medical sciences.

What is a listserv and how does it work?

Listserv has become a colloquial term for a system of communication between a large group of individuals.
A message is typed and with one keystroke will be
sent as an electronic mail (e-mail) message to all those on the “List”. Any individual may respond, either to the group as a whole, or privately to the message originator. Listserv participants can post questions, ask for advice, exchange ideas, and receive important announcements on upcoming conferences, workshops, events, etc. To demonstrate its use, the following is an edited version of recent messages on MICRONET discussing MCQ examination policy. Note how many responses begin immediately on September 30, the date the question was posted.

Fri, 30 Sep 94 09:27:34 CST
From:?James Booth”

I have a policy after an examination.. .students have up to 5 days to challenge questions.. .if I write a question which is not ambiguous, but a student can convince me that an alternate choice can be correct.. .1 will give credit to that student only. If another student chose the same answer, but it was by guess only and cannot defend their answer, I will not give credit to that student. Is my policy rational? Should I give credit to all students who chose the alternate answer if only one student successfully defends it?

Fri, 30 Sep 94 10:07:05 CST
From:drw@umassmed.ummed.edu (Doug Waud)

.similar policy in our Pharmacology courseand it works very well…The “challenge” mechanism deals with any problems which might otherwise have been dealt with by the proctor…It is certainly rational.We deal with these on a case-by-case basis…we tend to make a judgment call as to how likely it would be that somestudent might have shared the alternative reasoning and then give the credit locally or generally accordinglygiving credit for reasoning that is consistent with thought processes you are trying to encourage makes sense…not giving credit for guessing does too…we should reinforce some behaviors (like thinking…) and not others (like guessing)…

Fri, 30 Sep 94 11:05:32 CST From: “W~ Ray Gibbons?

our medical physiology course. I feel strongly that every student should get credit for an answer if any student gets credit for itreasons for this belief.
1)We give credit to students who choose the
answer we wanted; we do not ask them to defend their choice. They may have guessed…
2)Students under your system have 5 days to concoct a rationale to explain why you should give them credit for an incorrect answer. …Your system potentially rewards students for being argumentative, and penalizes others who may have equally good reasons for their answers, but remain silent.
3)If you accept another answer because it is correct, then all students who made that choice should get credit for it…If you accept an answer that is incorrect…(it is) intellectually dishonest.
4)It is extremely important for students to know that the same rules apply to everyone…
5)multiple choice questions…offer black or white choices, with few shades of grey. The system you describe robs multiple choice exams of one of their few virtues.
6)At some point, you may have to defend the grades you give individual students. I would not like to be in the position of explaining why I gave one student credit…and another student no credit for the same answer.

In courses I direct, if one student gets credit for an answer, they all do.

Fri, 30 Sep 94 11:15:14 CST
From:?Philip C. Specht, PhD?

I have been using a similar policy in…Pharmacology course…have a form that the students can use to “Request a Change in the Key”. There is a place on the form to request a different answer, or to give
credit for 2 answers…there is a space for the reasons why the alternate key is justified. If the change is accepted…it applies to all students…assume that other students may have been thinking in the same way…

Fri, 30Sep94 11:42:53 CST From: “Donna Duckworth?

Immunology coursepolicy…students could write down their “objections” to questions if they thought they were confusing or, if they didn’t understand the question, explain the reasoning behind their answer. They would submit this with the exam. Then if they got a question wrong and had misunderstood it they were given credit (if…explained it properly). Students who may have misunderstood the question, but didn’t submit their reasoning AT THE TIME OF THE EXAM were not given credit.

Fri, 30 Sep 94 18:33:22 CST
From:?Roger McLean” RMl2@academia.swt.edu

Your policy sounds like a good idea. I like the idea of students being able to think for themselves.

Mon, 03 Oct 94 10:20:07 CST
From:Noel Nussbaum

We allow students 3 days to “challenge” our “correct” answer…in writing with justification. The faculty member responsible for the question also responds in writing. All students with an answer accepted by the faculty get credit…

Mon, 17 Oct 94 23:42:03 CST
From:?Roger Koment” I’ll listen to student requests, but no decisions are made on such questions until 48 hours after the exam. I don’t make decisions in the heat of their arguments…

This e-mail discussion was personally quite useful in formulating, modifying, and justifying my own policy on test question challenges. The discussants did not arrive at a group consensus, but I believe each of us came away with useful information. The three major advantages I see for MICRONET are (1) no connect time cost, (2) real time discussions (there were six responses to my original post on the first day), and (3) access to advice from dedicated and experienced experts.

Additional subscribers will offer the advantage of access to even more colleagues with their varied experiences and opinions. To sign up for MICRONET, send your e-mail request to Jim Swierkosz at swierkoszje@sluvca.slu.edu and in the message block type SUBSCRIBE MICRONET.