Content Creation and Management System (CCMS)

Cambridge Assessment operates and manages Cambridge University’s three exam boards, developing and delivering examinations and tests around the world. They also carry out leading-edge academic and operational research on assessment in education.

Flatirons Solutions of Boulder, Colorado was contracted to develop a new suite of closely-knit applications to support the creation and management of paper- and computer-based examination and support materials. Inovdesigns was brought in as part of that team.

A Complex System Supporting Thousands of Worldwide External Authors

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The XML-based authoring system enables anyone who produces content for examinations to write, review and submit their structured material online. The system supports multiple user workflows, item banking, statistical analysis of various test element parameters and intelligent reuse and measurement of assessment material components.

One of the main challenges of the system was trying to give Authors the flexibility they have with other authoring tools (such as Microsoft Word) while still capturing the data in a structured, XML-schema-compliant manner and adhering to known technology constraints (a Xopus-based authoring front-end, wrapped in an HTML/SmartGWT framework).

Pencils-Before-Pixels

Using a pencils-before-pixels approach, we started by rapidly developing “back-of-napkin” sketches of various solutions to the Authoring Tool, based on a review of technology platform capabilities and current industry practices.

Although a form-based authoring system would have provided a quicker path to structured content, it was decided that more flexibility was needed.

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Wireframes

After deciding on a generalized approach to the Authoring Tool application, we moved on to more detailed wireframes of how the overall application design could be extended to the other data management applications that would live under the larger “CCMS” canopy. This required the need to allow for application and role-specific configuration of the widgets and components available.

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Interactive Prototype Development

Finally, to support ongoing development and evaluation efforts, we created a clickable prototype to allow for rapid, iterative development of features and functionality. The prototype (examples shown on this page) was additionally skinned to support internal promotional efforts; that skin was eventually adopted for the overall visual design for the application.

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