This research investigates the feasibility and usefulness of designing an authoring environment for diagram-based Computer Based Assessment (CBA). CBA systems present students with an environment that permits them to solve exercises. Upon completion, solutions to the exercises are marked automatically, and the results, along with instructional feedback, are returned to the students. CBA exercises are authored by educators who gain practical and pedagogic benefits from automating the assessment of their students. Until now, facilities to develop CBA have only been implemented for exercises where the answers are text-based. The deliverables described in this dissertation implement novel solutions to problems in three areas. The first area concerns the customisation of graphic editors to the learning material. The proposed solution is an object-oriented framework for visually specifying and authoring diagram editors. The second area presents techniques for describing the marking criteria of exercises. The proposed solution is a generic marking system designed to support the development of pluggable marking tools for the numerous and inherently different types of diagram domains. The third area is concerned with the integration of the two previous designs with the functions of a CBA system. For this reason provisions were made in the design and implementation of the CourseMaster CBA system. CourseMaster was implemented to improve and replace the Ceilidh CBA system. Ceilidh has been successfully used throughout academia for the assessment of coursework in computer programming. Evaluation results on diagram-based domains, such as circuit design and software design, indicate that the automation of the assessment of diagrams can be as effective and useful as that of programs. CourseMaster has been available within academia since 1999, providing support for the marking of programming coursework. The diagram authoring extension, entitled DATsys, was integrated into CourseMaster in May 2000. Together they provide a novel and realistic foundation towards authoring, running, and administering diagram-based CBA. i
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