Three years ago when writing some articles, I used a number of plagiarism prevention tools to help check my writing for any citations or references that I had missed. Since then I reviewed one of them (Urkund) in the Moodleaddons.com book, and here is a review of another such integration with Moodle.

This review is about the Ephorus https://www.ephorus.com/ integration with Moodle 2 – specifically tested with Moodle 2.6+ which most will be updating to this summer.

Background to plagiarism support in Moodle

Moodle has a built-in plagiarism plugin support. This enables the different activities in Moodle to send user submitted content to Plagiarism Prevention systems. This is currently supported by the Assignment tool but there has been some work regarding other areas which is tracked on the Moodle tracker – > https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-32225

How the plagiarism integration generally works:

  • When Plagiarism tools are enabled, the admin then has to install a plagiarism plugin and configure it.
  • Once it is available, teachers can then enable it in the assignment.
  • When a student enters some content/submits a file inside the assignment the system then sends this to the Plagiarism platform.
  • Eventually the system responds and provides a report and information to the assignment through the plugin.

So this review takes on the Ephorus plugin and answers the usual questions I ask in reviews:

  • Background of Ephorus
  • What does it do?
  • Is it simple to install?
  • Is there documentation for it?
  • Is it easy for the teacher/admin to use?
  • Is it easy for the learner/student to use?
  • Does it do what it promises?

Background

Ephorus is a tool for helping to tackle plagiarism. Founded by a teacher 10 years ago, the company now produces the software used by over 5000 institutions globally.

What does it do?

It compares a student submission that is uploaded it to a range of sources. It states that it accurately compares:

  • billions of internet sources;
  • work previously submitted at the school or university;
  • work submitted at the 5,000 other schools and universities that use Ephorus*;
  • other relevant documents: journals, reference material, etc.

Once a submission is compared, in Moodle at least (which is all I checked) it produces a report like the below with lists of sources that have similar content and a detailed view showing the lines the same. This enables the teacher to have a discussion with the student about the issues it brings up.

ephorus_assignment_report-working-all

ephorus_assignment_report-detailed

Is it simple to install?

The plugin is available to download from https://www.ephorus.com/about-integrations/existing-integrations/moodle/ – be sure to get the correct version for you Moodle version.

It is also now available on Moodle Plugin Directory for Moodle 2.6 and 2.7.  This means that you can either download the zip from there, or you can use the Moodle interface to install directly into your Moodle site – if your server allows you. You will also get notifications as an admin from your Moodle site when there is an updated version.

It is now also publicly available on Git repository so those wanting to manage their code this way can pull the code from https://github.com/gerkekok/moodle-plagiarism_ephorus/

Depending on your preference of re-zipping that folder and uploading through your interface, or copying the code into the Moodle code into the plagiarism folder, once you complete this step the plugin installed nicely for me.

ephorus-install-notification

Once completed I needed to set up my connection to the Ephorus platform.

ephorus-install-settings

Configuring it after the install is important to provide the details the Ephorus account manager has provided namely:

  • Hand-in code
  • Hand-in address
  • Index address

After adding these settings, I next added a simple one liner to the Student Disclosure text which is shown to students before they submit when Ephorus is enabled. After saving, it did a check to see if it was talking home okay (checking the connection to Ephorus system) – which went fine.

ephorus-install-settings-success

The processtype aspect is quite interesting.

There are three options to choose from when sending submission to Ephorus:

  • Default: The documents you send in will be checked for plagiarism and will be used as reference material in the future.
  • Reference: The document won’t be checked for plagiarism but will be used as reference material.
  • Private: Your document will be checked for plagiarism but won’t be used as reference material.

So teachers could configure an assignment which is a soft-submission, with a private setting so the submitted item will not show up in the future. I like this feature.

Is there documentation for it?

There is an installation manual and a user manual available in the download zip. The User Manual is the same manual as for 2.4 and has not been updated. The Installation Manual also has not been updated in a year, so does not mention the option for uploading via the UI of Moodle for an addon which is available now where hosts allow.

Also the installation documentation states in the introduction that it requires XSL to be installed,  I missed this until after the install – Oops _ I should really read all the documentation !. If it is not installed on your server you will need to get your sysadmin or hosting company to sort it out.

The PDF documentation overall is very clear and provides step by step guidelines for usage.

There is no Moodle docs page for the integration, nor how-to-videos which some prefer as maybe that will come in time.

Is it easy for the teacher/admin to use?

For the teacher this is really a very simple and easy to use service. To enable the Ephorus system for an assignment it requires just ticking a box in the assignment settings as below and choosing which way it is processed:

ephorus_assignment_settingsOnce a student has submitted the assignment, it is then handled by the scheduled cron and sent to Ephorus for checking and then the report information is sent back.

ephorus_assignment_view_list_waiting

Clicking on the 100% in this example will load the report. There are two possible reports – a summary and detailed one.

The summary report shows the

  • link to the document,
  • lists possible sources
  • and summarises the similarities

ephorus_assignment_report-working-all

The detailed report enables you to choose one of the sources and see the specific similarities with the document and that source.

ephorus_assignment_report-detailed

I used a text copied from a page from Wikipedia as my test assignment. I will be repeating the test with some assignments in coming days.

 

Is it easy for the learner/student to use?

The student is really un-aware of the software with the exception of the message that the admin configures to let people know the Ephorus system is being used. It would be nice to have a default example text here as people may not be sure what is best to place in this box as below:

ephorus_assignment_user_upload2

Does it do what it promises?

All in all this plugin provides a nice integration with the Ephorus plagiarism system using the existing Moodle Plagiarism API. This is important as it means that users can avail themselves of all the great features of the Moodle Assignment tool (offline grading, Rubrics and so on…) whilst still using plagiarism or similarity detection systems.

I would like to see the students getting visibility on the report, however I understand from a teaching point of view as to why this was not done.

I hope that they submit the documentation to Moodle docs as I am sure more would be interested in this slick simple integration.

(Updated 22/7/14 when plugin was available on github/moodle plugin directory)

For those who follow the bi-monthly updates of Moodle the new updates were today. These updates cover three major versions – 2.7, 2.6, 2.5 and 2.4.

Which to upgrade to?

Most organisation I know are moving to Moodle 2.6 this summer as the upgrade project was started months ago, long before 2.7 was released. However, some have moved to 2.7 – and I imagine will be upgrading directly to 2.7.1 (205 fixes implemented in the minor release).

Whichever route you are taking this summer, it is important to consider upgrading at least to the minor releases to be sure you have the latest bug fixes and security fixes applied.

With most in northern hemisphere doing upgrades this summer, I recently did a presentation of Moodle 2.7.

Here are the slides:

Among a number of changes, Moodle 2.7 is the first LTS release (Long Term Support) of Moodle where it will be supported by HQ through patches and security releases for 3 years. This LTS release is a great long term option for those who just need a stable unchanging platform and don’t need to access the new features and options that come every 6 months.

Other Popular Presentations:

Testing your site

June 26, 2014

It is that time of year where people upgrade from one version to the latest or nearly latest version of Moodle. I have heard many ask ” Is the a list of user tests for Moodle” and recently answered one on LinkedIn that was similar, looking to get a freely downloadable list of user tests.

So I thought I would take my reply and add it here with some more context.

Each test plan that we do following upgrades or customisations / installations is different and unique to that organisation. It depends on how they use Moodle, what they have in it, what integrations they have, what they want to use it for, who they want to use it and much more.

Generic QA Tests

So it is not really possible to provide a comprehensive 1 does all test plan, except for perhaps a vanilla brand new Moodle. Each release Moodle runs a set of QA tests -> ( See  http://docs.moodle.org/dev/QA_testing for details on QA Testing) There are over 450 tests. (see https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDLQA-1 ) These include tests like “A teacher can add questions to a quiz” or “A teacher can change the order in which assignment submissions are listed”.  This is great list and is a good starting point to make sure that anything you have added into Moodle site (themes, plugins, customisations/integrations has not broken some core aspect of Moodle).

However, if you are like many people using Moodle, you are not using a default Moodle install, and probably are not using all the features either. So do you need to do all the tests and what about other tests?

Your Moodle

Developing a complete profile the use of Moodle to prioritise where you should focus your testing, start there and work out to lesser used features and if some areas are never used – decide if you want to test them or not.

  • However, you need to put together a list of test scripts to test each of the code customisations that you have done that it is doing as you expect.
  • And how about those add-ons, you will should put together a list of test scripts to test each of features of the add-on that you are using to ensure it is working as expected.
  • What about your theme? You should also have a suite of tests to ensure that it is working as expected and that any custom features in it work as they should.
  • Now consider, browser variety, screensize/device variety, accessibility, again based on usage patterns you need to decide which you will use. Are your users all using IE8 or IE9? Is 20% of your access coming from iPads?
  • So developing a comprehensive test plan for after an upgrade can take a lot of time.
  • Don’t forget, make sure that you group tests per user type on system, and have those do the tests related to their tasks – having the end users involved in testing can be great to check their expectations.

In short, only you can put together a list of suitable tests for your Moodle – but do make use of what is currently available to give yourself a head start.

Automation

But there are some ways to automate testing, using stff like Jmeter, Selenium, Behat. See http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Acceptance_testing

For more information on all this topic, check out the excellent and informative section on Moodle Docs on Quality Assurance -> http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Category:Quality_Assurance

Questions for you..

Do you run sets of user tests after you upgrade?

Are they manual? automated?

Do you add tests for your plugins?

There have been some very interesting discussions about potential changes ongoing on the Moodle.org forums by some Moodle HQ staff Here are some you may want to go look at and take part in!

Gradebook Survey
As you may be aware, Martin Dougiamas is running a Moodle Gradebook Enhancement Survey to get feedback from teachers about how they use Gradebook. This is the more detailed survey based on results of a short one they ran a few weeks back. If you have not yet taken the survey, I strongly recommend you to do so. Take the survey

Element Library
Damyon Wiese has posted a very interesting discussion around a specification for moving to an element library for Moodle. It has some great thoughts on templates the pros and cons and is definately worth a look if you are a designer or developer. See discussion on element library

Reporting
Adrian Greeve posted that they are planning to implement a more flexible reporting system into Moodle.  This has spawned a great discussion – so if you have thoughts on reporting requirements you have for Moodle – chip in: See discussion on reporting

Navigation improvements
Frédéric Massart posted about the discussions about improving the interface and navigation options within Moodle to make things more user-friendly. They have a current draft specification which needs more feedback. Not all of the ideas are yet fleshed out fully, but some are and are looking very interesting indeed. Take part in the discussion

Two years ago we built and released a Google Analytics feature for Moodle which offered some robust reporting for Moodle – beyond the standard url logging it logged the breadcrumb from Moodle – see here for details. This was released as a plugin on the Moodle plugin directory.

David Bezemer of UP Learning took this concept/plugin and then expanded it to included Piwik an open source analytics system. The plugin is also available in the plugin directory.

Using this plugin requires you to install your own copy of Piwik separately, which you can use for all your websites. So I used it for the Moodlemoot Edinburgh this year, and below include some of the reports that were possible to generate from it.

Installing the plugin

The installation was very simple.  I went to the Moodle plugin directory and was able to download the correct version for the Moodlemoot Moodle site.

After the install, there was a selection of new settings required which come from the Piwik install of the analytics site itself.

local analytics settings

local analytics settings

So I configured it for the Piwik install I had access to, and that was that.

Using the plugin

The plugin itself didn’t have any features inside of it. It just worked adding tracking into the page so that the Piwik platform held the information. Unlike Google Analytics, this is then totally your own on your own servers rather than using a 3rd party system. So it really comes down to the features and what it can track/report on which I deal with now.

The reports

In many ways, Piwik is a lot like Google Analytics in features with a good dashboard and dril down information available. Below are some of the reports but I will start with the first one which uses the page title as the dril down like we did on the G:A plugin, so that you can see categories of courses and course data collated together. All these reports are from different time-spans during the Moot.

Page Area Expanding

Each image takes a progressive expansion.

Category List

Category List

 

Course List in a Category

Course List in a Category

 

Activity type in a course

Activity type in a course

 

Specific Activities of a type in a course

Specific Activities of a type in a course

 

 

So you can see that it is possible to view the data for a Moodle Course Category, then the course, then types of activities and then specific activities.

You can also see how the usage changed over time for any row – which it calls evolution and compare them with another section too.  So two courses as in the below example\

Two courses evolution compared

Two courses evolution compared

This can be useful for so many ways.

  • Comparing courses over time in a category
  • Comparing categories over time against each other
  • comparing different resources in a course to see how their usage changes over time and so on.

I cant list all the valuable information this can provide for an organisation except, it is mind boggling.

So what about other reports?

Here is a collection of some of the other reports all equally useful for different reasons:

Visits over time is useful to see when the site is quietest for maintenance windows.

 

visits- per local time

visits- per local time

 

 

Visit duration is nice to see how long people stay on the site, course etc.

visit duration

visit duration

 

Of course not all data is just graphs, you can get tables of data in a list, graphs or word clouds. Below is the same data in Piechart and cloud.

pages per visit

pages per visit

 

pages per visit cloud

pages per visit cloud

 

You can get breakdown for countries and continents:

countries

countries

 

continents

continents

 

Browser and Device information is super interesting too and helps understand your users. Such as which browsers you need to focus testing on, which devices – how many are using on mobile and so on.

 

browsers full data

browsers full data

 

 

mobile vs desktop

mobile vs desktop

 

operating_systems

operating systems

 

plugins

plugins

 

Visitor Log

Another interesting aspect, is the visitor log itself. You can view the log for visitors and also for repeat users (you dont get a name / userid – just their IP and a uniquely assigned Piwik id). I have removed the IP and some IDs from the images for privacy purposes.

In the full profile, you can see the user had 5 visits totalling 3 hours 41 minutes on the site.

 

Example Visitor Log Entry

Example Visitor Log Entry

 

Example Visitor Profile

Example Visitor Profile

In Summary

There are more reports, but just wanted to include these to give you a flavour of what is possible. I use Google Analytics on pretty much every site I run and advise others to do so as well because of the value of the data.

However, for most of those Piwik is probably more than sufficient to use and preferable to quite a lot who tend to balk at using cloud solutions like Google, Microsoft etc.

So I see this being adopted in this summer by many of the organisations I have talked to who want to keep this data inhouse and still get quality reporting.

Great job Piwik – and thanks David for taking the work Bas Brands did and adopting to Piwik.

 

 

 

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