A Brief Primer on Question and Test Interoperability® (QTI®) and Accessible Portable Item Protocol® (APIP®) Conformance for End-User Institutions, Faculty, and Buyers of Digital Assessment Content and Systems

A Brief Primer on Question and Test Interoperability® (QTI®) and Accessible Portable Item Protocol® (APIP®) Conformance for End-User Institutions, Faculty, and Buyers of Digital Assessment Content and Systems

The IMS QTI and APIP interoperability standards provide a set of specifications that enable a rich collection of digital assessment content to be accessed from a wide variety of learning platforms, including learning management systems, authoring platforms, item/test repositories, assessment delivery engines, and web applications. Downloadable or web accessible content developed to conform to the specifications will "run" in a wide variety of conformant assessment platforms.

1         Basics: Content, Platforms, Specification Versions and Profiles

At a basic level, assessment content refers to the questions or types of interactions (such as true/false, multiple choice, fill-in the blank, essay, etc.) that comprise a given assessment. The QTI and APIP standards provide a data model and structure for the interchange of assessment content that contains information and resources required to make that content display to students, and in the case of APIP, includes information to accommodate a variety of specific needs and preferences (such as magnification, color overlay, Braille, sign language, etc.).

There are different specification version numbers to be aware of: APIP v1.0 is based on QTI v2.2. QTI v2.2 is backwards compatible with QTI v2.1 and contains new supports such as MathML v3, W3C ARIA tags, some HTML5 elements, etc. Version numbers to which content and systems conform is very important as they prescribe that learning platforms must support those specific features.

The reason there are multiple versions of the standards is that the specifications are evolving over time to support more functionality, much in the way that other digital formats evolve over time (.pdf, .doc, etc.). Higher version numbers indicate support for additional features beyond lower numbered versions.

To determine if QTI or APIP content will run in a certain system, it is simply a matter of matching the version number declared inside the content to the version supported by the conformant platform.  So, for example, if digital content is designated as conformant to version APIP v1.0, it must be run in a platform that also conforms to version 1.0. It is possible for platforms to support more than one version or all of the versions of QTI/APIP. IMS provides a list of the products that have achieved conformance and the version of the specification supported:

2         Support for QTI/APIP Features by Profile

IMS provides a table or matrix that indicates and compares the features supported by the different conformance certification profiles available for the QTI and APIP standards. Other profiles are currently under development for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, PARCC, the Dutch Ministry of Education, and the Australian government. The features supported by these profiles will be added to the matrix as they are completed.

In viewing the features supported, it is important to note what is required, elective, excluded, or not applicable as designated by a specific profile. For example, even though a Hot-spot Interaction is required by some QTI and APIP conformance profiles, it is elective in others. Use of any of the individual features by test publishers is up to their discretion based on which features they wish to provide. Therefore, if you would like content that exploits certain features, it is important when acquiring products that you ask the provider which features they make use of in their content or systems. Designating accessibility accommodation supports in APIP is an important part of the evaluation process.

3         Metadata & Packages

Test publishers may use metadata to describe and categorize the content within a QTI or APIP package. While metadata is only required at the schema version notation inside a package, it may be placed on any resource.  Developers must use a subset of LOM (Learning Object Metadata) to describe their resources. Curriculum standards metadata at the package, resource, and question item level is also available. Ask publishers to supply the metadata you need. 

4         Requiring QTI or APIP Support in Requests for Proposals (RFPs)

When issuing an RFP for open standards based assessment content or systems, you designate the name of the conformance profile containing the feature supports you desire. You do need to consider both content and system acquisition requirements as these need to match and support the QTI or APIP features you desire.

Procuring assessment content:

  1. If you already have a conformant assessment system (authoring, delivery, item/test bank or other platform), determine what conformance profile your conformant system supports by looking it up in the IMS conformance table or by verifying its conformance registration number.
  2. Click on the product name in the listing to see if your conformant assessment system to see the specific features it supports, including accessibility accommodation supports for APIP content.
  3. Ask your content provider or test publisher to provide QTI/APIP conformant content in the profile that your platform supports. Only packages with verifiable conformance registration numbers are IMS conformant.

Procuring assessment systems:

  1. Include in the RFP a requirement for the assessment systems you’re looking to acquire (authoring platform, delivery, item/test bank, or other platform).
  2. Look at the features supported by the various conformance profiles in the QTI/APIP Conformance Matrix to determine the functionality you would like the platform to support. Indicate in your RFP requirement which version of the specification or profile you would like supported.
  3. Specify that a Conformance Registration Number must be provided in the proposal (Check the registration numbers online when you receive the proposals).

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