Creating the Off2Class Progress Tests on the Road

This is a post from James, Off2Class Head of Content. It is his account of collaborating on the Off2Class Progress Tests with Daria, a teammate located on the other side of the world from him.

Long-distance collaboration to create the Off2Class Progress Tests

It’s always rewarding to collaborate, and the Progress Tests have been a wonderful opportunity to work closely with Daria, the Education Content Specialist at Off2Class.

Like all people in 2020, I’ve had to adapt to life during a global pandemic. I usually live in Canada but was visiting relatives in Australia when the government first took action on the COVID situation. Plans to return to Toronto were scrapped, and I had to quickly adapt to working with the rest of the Off2Class team between time zones, which has kept me bleary-eyed and loaded with caffeine the past nine months.

However, I quickly realized that the 15 hours that separated Daria and me could actually be an advantage for working on the Progress Tests. They could be worked on almost constantly! Communication was key. When I signed off in eastern Australia, the sun was rising on the eastern seaboard of North America. Where I left off, Daria would pick up. We got off to a flying start writing questions and answer options…

…and then the Australian state governments decided to start closing their borders to interstate travelers. I was in Sydney and needed to get to my hometown, so I drove 2,300 km (1,500 mi) through some insanely deserted regions of Australia. I managed to get back home just a day before the border closed, but I still had to quarantine for 14 days.

Off2Class Progress Tests

Writing questions during quarantine

Quarantine was the most intensive and concentrated two weeks of work that I’ve done in years. However, for those of you with experience writing test questions, it can be mind-numbing at times. Writing the question is easy enough. Writing four answer options to each question is not too challenging either. But doing the same task day in, day out, with no option to leave my apartment, was difficult. The only truly fun moments in quarantine were the three visits from the police, whose job was to check that people in quarantine stayed in quarantine. On the third visit, the officer bought me a large black coffee because I had jokingly complained so much the week before about him arriving empty-handed. That was a win for sure!

Back in the US, Daria was starting to proofread the questions and answer choices. If you think writing questions can be mind-numbing, proofreading is possibly among the most monotonous tasks and undervalued skills. It’s difficult to be 100% correct. Daria is meticulous, exacting and systematic. It was all coming together well.

A surprise road trip

Off2Class Progress Tests

After a few more weeks, a neighboring state opened its borders. I was itching to travel again, so when a couple of relatives invited me to join them on a 3,300km, south-to-north road trip across the country, I eagerly agreed. It also seemed like a fun way to test the internet coverage in the most remote parts of Australia. And so I progressed to the final ten units of Progress Tests, while dealing with copious amounts of red dust, searing heat, and endless swarms of flies. It is possible that some test questions reflect my whereabouts!

Off2Class Progress Tests

Along the entire route, the internet surprisingly never failed me. I kept writing and writing between visiting some of the most astounding spring landscapes. Daria, for her part, was now entering the data into the website in the backdrop of autumn in New Jersey. And our Development Team was working overtime in Toronto to respond to my incessant requests for coding changes. A remote workplace, indeed.

Meet Daria in this live interview discussing the importance of Progress Tests

Finishing and releasing the Progress Tests

The day after I finished the final question for the final section for the final Progress Test, I took a full day off. I spent seven hours walking on the escarpment that towers over Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge in the Northern Territory. I was unbelievably pleased with myself, right up until I got lost. It took two hours in the intense Australian heat until I found my way back onto the path.

Off2Class Progress Tests

Through all my adventures, the entire Progress Test feature had reached its final form. Now it was time to release the feature to a group of beta testers and act on their feedback.

A month later, I’m sunburned and back in my hometown. We’ve released the Progress Tests, and now it’s over to you. No matter your time zone or season, we’re looking forward to your feedback and collaborating with you as we continue to make Off2Class the best ESL product possible.

In a year of challenges, we hope that the Off2Class Progress Tests make your life as a teacher a little easier. Please try them out and let us know what you think!

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