Finance professor uses the Canvas question algorithm as an academic integrity tool

head shot of

Tawatnuntachai Oranee

Note: This is the second in a series we are doing called Canvas Success Stories, which will take a look at some of the more interesting ways Penn State faculty are using Canvas to teach. 

An all-too-common issue faculty encounter with academic integrity is that of students sharing quiz questions and answers with classmates who take the quiz at a later date in another course section. Oranee Tawatnuntachai, associate professor of finance at Penn State Harrisburg, has found that Canvas offers a solution to this problem.

Tawatnuntachai uses the Canvas question algorithm to create a pool of similar questions for her quizzes. This allows her to create multiple similar quizzes that are randomly selected by the Canvas question algorithm, preventing students in a multi-section course from sharing the questions with other students.

Tawatnuntachai uses Canvas question algorithms for FIN 301 Corporate Finance, FIN 420 Investment and Portfolio Analysis, and FIN 461 Portfolio Management and Analysis. While the algorithm itself is innovative, the way it works is quite simple, she said.

Tawatnuntachai gave an example to demonstrate how the algorithms can be created, using a question about how to calculate profit. Profit is revenue minus cost, such as $500 in revenue minus $300 in costs equals $200 in profit. In the Canvas question algorithm, you would put in revenue as a variable, which in this case would be “x,” and cost would be the variable “y.”

Tawatnuntachai wanted to have numbers in hundreds; however, she wanted the final six numbers to be zeros, giving a simple round number since the question is less about complicated numerical mathematics and more about understanding the concept of profit. She then set the x variable between 5 and 10, and the y variable between 1 and 4 to force the answer to be certain numbers.

Beyond the academic integrity benefit, Tawatnuntachai said she also uses the question algorithm as a teaching tool. She noted that some students like to do practice quizzes, which the algorithm enables her to do, given the number of questions to pull from. “Giving practice quizzes allows me to offer the students some chance to learn the subject matter, and also some flexibility,” she said. “The students can take the quiz when they feel they are ready.”

The quizzes are done online outside of class, Tawatnuntachai said. “I have them take the quizzes online and not during class, so I can use that extra time for things like more discussion or other activities,” she said.

Tawatnuntachai said that faculty with any reservations or difficulty creating a question algorithm would be surprised at how easy it is to create them. “I think to people who have never used it before, it may sound a little scary,” she said. “But if they see an example, they will see that it’s not that difficult at all. There are a few tricks that you can do.”

Tawatnuntachai added that while she is not necessarily an expert Canvas user, she is still able to use the question algorithm. “I’m not a real advanced Canvas user, I’m probably at the intermediate level,” Tawatnuntachai said. “But I try to find tools like the question algorithm so I am taking full advantage of what Canvas has to offer.”

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