How to replace the Learning Management System with SharePoint


One of the main reasons I chose to dedicate so much of my professional time on SharePoint is because it gave me the possibility to own the very site where I post and work. As a knowledge manager and trainer I have the constant need to keep materials updated. I also need to keep my end user engaged. Working within the constraints of enterprise learning and publishing structures means you have to send materials out to teams that then in turn publish the materials out, not always swiftly.

Many times my materials are updated multiple times throughout a week. The teams that support do not understand the dynamic nature of market fluctuations and extensions from the FED that get updated through out the day. To them you post a course, then after a year or so you update. My SharePoint sites understand this and are indeed built to handle it.

In my Case Study post I described how I set up my site to give me the proprietorship that I needed but I still needed a key component, the quiz.

Now, I am not pretending to fully replace and substitute the advantages of reporting, scheduling and class creation that Learning Management Systems provide. My case was to gain more ownership to allow my goals to drive the site not the over all corporate standards. In my case, there is not such a great need to couple quick assessments with corporate compliance training.

Enough of the disclaimer, back to the quiz…

Harping again on ownership, without SharePoint Designer this quizzing would not be possible. So let’s set a simple quiz up to illustrate.

You’ll need to:
• Have SharePoint Designer
• Be able to set up a data view web part, watch Laura Roger’s Article Series

First, set up the list columns.

I created a list that has a Student Name, single line of text. Then I set up a column for each of the questions (I named mine Q1, Q2, etc). I chose multiple choices and left the default blank. I then created a number column for each question to contain its score, (A1, A2, etc.). For both of these you can continue on till you reach the number of questions you want. I only need short quizzes, so I have no designs to make them with over 10 questions.

Next I create a Calculated Colum to collect the scores and calculate the average for the final score. Simply put for a 2 question quiz I used this formula. =[A1]+[A2]/2. And finally a Ready to Send Column at Yes/No.

So for a 2 question quiz I have a total of 7 columns (1 for the student’s name, 1 each for Q 1 & Q 2, 1 each for A1 & A2, and one for the total score as well as Ready to Send.)

Once more into the SPD trenches, for this simple 2 question quiz I have 4 Steps.

Step 1 is for the first question and I programmed like this, one for the correct answer and one for the wrong answer.

CONDITION: If Q1 equals the (correct answer)
ACTION: Set A1 to (numeric points you want to give for each question)

CONDITION: Else if If Q1 not equals the (correct answer)
ACTION: Set A1 to 0 (numeric points you want to give for each question)

Step 2 replicates Step 1 except for replacing the Q.

Step 3 is my stop. The Ready to Send column is my bouncer. It only lets the quizzes that finished out the door.

CONDITION: If Total Score is not empty
ACTION: Set Ready to Send to Yes

Step 4 Gathers the total score and sends out an email.

CONDITION: If Ready to Send not equals No
ACTION: Pause for 0 days, 0 hours, 1 minutes
Email Quiz results.

I put a pause in because the calculation was taking too long, so the email went out with 0’s. The pause lets the total score calculate and populate the email with the proper score.

NOTE: The more questions you have the more Steps like Step 1 you’ll have. Also remember to make sure the calculation in the Total score column reflects this.

Make sure to test your work flow in the list to make sure it all works. Once you are certain it is down, you can move on to make the interface a bit better.

I have noticed that End Users really get confused when populating lists and even more so when there are extras items that they need not worry about. In our example they are going to get Scores and Ready to send as extra inputs. So to get rid of these and make the interface more familiar we are going to publish the quiz as a data view web part.

Build a Quiz Page

In SharePoint Create a New Web Parts Page and put it in a library of your choice. Then open it in SharePoint Designer. Click into one of the web parts and then click Data View/Insert Data View.

Click on the list you created for your quiz and click the down arrow to Show Data. Hold the CTRL button down and select only Student Name field and the Questions. Click on the Insert Selected Fields button and select Single Item Form.

This will populate the Web Part with only the Student’s name input and all the questions on your quiz without showing the previous quizzes taken or the extra list columns. Save the page in SPD and launch your web part page to test it.

Again this is not a perfect replacement of LMSs or other online quizzing applications, but it is a quick and easy tool to keep your content in your control.

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About mhinckley

Michael Hinckley MCSA, MCITP, MCTS, has over 10+ years specializing in solution architecture for organizations that span from small businesses and global corporations. He is currently the Sr. Program Manager at Tangram. Michael is a recognized speaker and evangelist for Microsoft SharePoint and Business Intelligence stacks. He organizes tech community events (SharePoint Saturdays) throughout Florida and runs the Tampa SharePoint/Office User Group. He is a contributing author for the book Microsoft SharePoint for Business Executives: Q&A Handbook.
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