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

Although it can take some planning, 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.

 

So you want to run a high stakes exam on Moodle using the Quiz. You want to ensure that the learners taking the exam cannot access any other materials while doing so.

There are a number of options at this point, such as:

So if you want to provide your learners an iPad to take the Moodle Quiz on, then you have to look at Respondus.

This review looks at this product and how it works with Moodle.

Background

So what is the Respondus LockDown Browser and why would you want to use it with Moodle?

As their documentation states: Respondus LockDown Browser® is a customized browser that increases the security of online testing in Moodle. When students use LockDown Browser to access a quiz, they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. Students are locked into a quiz until it is submitted for grading.

This is implemented by installing a custom block into the Moodle site – so you need admin level access for installing this.

So once it is set up – once a user accesses the Quiz that is configured to be using the LockDown then they cannot do anything – browser or change app until it is completed and submitted.

Installation & Setup

To test this you need

  • an institution trial account account from Respondus
  • a Moodle site where you have access to install a plugin and add a lien to the config.php too
  • an iPad where you can install apps.

There are a few steps to this

  1. Setting up the Respondus Site with your Moodle site details
  2. Installing the block and configs.php into Moodle
  3. Configuring the Moodle quiz to work with the lockdown Browser
  4. Configuring and preparing the iPad
  5. The learner logging in and accessing the quiz

Setting up the Respondus site

With the Respondus account, logged in as account administrator into Respondus website you first configured the Moodle instance on the site. This was quite straight forward and followed the steps in their documentation.

From here you can download the admin pdf and the pre-configured block. This is a nifty way of doing things as the settings are pre-configured in the block assuming you configured it correctly.

Installing the block and configs.php into Moodle

Server preparation. This add-on requires mcrypt for the integration to work, so as it happened it was no on the test server I used so had to add it in.

Adding the block is like any other block. After adding the block, you had to make a change to the config.php file. Then you just install and configure the block global settings.

Respondus Block Global Settings

Respondus Block Global Settings

You need to add an account to the configuration that will be

Once installed, you can also then do a test which does a connection to the Respondus system and then tells you what is missing if you have forgotten a step)

Configuring the Moodle quiz to work with the lockdown Browser

So once the block is installed, I went to the course and added in the block to the course. This gave access to the dashboard to configure which quizzes were to be locked down. It initially shows all quizzes in the course as below.

Moodle Respondus Quiz Dashboard

Moodle Respondus Quiz Dashboard

Then you have to select one, which you want to lock down. There were a few different options as outlined below.

Moodle Respondus Quiz Configuration

Moodle Respondus Quiz Configuration

Configuring and preparing the iPad

I had downloaded the app from the app store and launched it.

First I had to select the right institution, and then I was given access to the Moodle site. However I had to first enable the Guided accessibility option on the iPad so that it would be able to take over the iPad controls.

Once down you can launch the LockDown browser and put it into guided mode. You need to set a pin to remove it out of the LockDown mode for after the test.

The learner logging in and accessing the quiz

If the learner tries to access the quiz that you configured as Locked Down on an iPad that is not locked down it will refuse access. To access the Moodle site configured in the App, the guided access needs to be enabled.

ipad_respondus_intro

ipad respondus intro

They will see the Moodle site and be prompted to log in.

ipad_respondus_login

ipad respondus login

They will be able to access the content on the site that they normally can initially.

They will be able to navigate to the course and to the specific quiz but once they start the locked down quiz, they are then locked into it until they click Submit all and finish.

ipad_respondus_quiz

ipad respondus quiz

They can navigate as normal to each of the quiz questions as per the configuration of the quiz, but are unable to browse back to the course, open new tabs or change to another application.

Once they submit and finish and exit the Quiz , the restriction is now gone.

After they are finished, the browser will only disable the locked down aspect of iPad when the instructor triple-presses the iPad home button to exit Guided Access and enters the PIN to unlock it.

Taking screenshots of a locked browser on iPad isn’t possible with the iPad itself, so had to use a phone photographing it. :(

Thoughts

The use of a locked down browser for high stakes online exams seems to be a more requested feature from clients that I have worked with within multiple sectors both academic and corporate. The use of a tablet like an iPad provides a less bulky and mobile option for delivering the exam compared to using desktops or even heavier laptops.

Having something like the Respondus LockDown browser which means that you can still use the Moodle site but have it secured within the iPad is a viable approach.

It is easy to use and set up from an administration, teacher and facilitator point of view and simple to use from the learner point of view too.

Useful URLs

Moodle Quiz Docs https://docs.moodle.org/en/Quiz_module

Respondus LockDown Browser website https://www.respondus.com/products/lockdown-browser/

LockDown Browser on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lockdown-browser/id659101775?mt=8

Following on from the previous post about Tables Bootstrap also lets you style links as buttons which can have a nice effect.

For example:

Example Button Styling

Example Button Styling

To do this, you need 3 things

  1. The text of the link
  2. The URL where you are linking to
  3. The style of button you want

Style

A button can be styled for:

  • Size
  • Colour

The HTML you would use looks like

<a href=”http://www.mymoodle.com/url/path/to/activity” class=”btn btn-primary btn-mini”>MY TEXT LINK <i class=”icon-white icon-play”></i></a>

It would look like this button on the page

Example Button text link

Example Button text link

Size

The buttons can be Mini, Small, Default or Large. This is indicated by using any of the following in the class definition

  • btn-large
  • btn-small
  • btn-min
  • or nothing for default

Colours

You can specific the colour of the button with the the following options

bootstrap colours

bootstrap colours

 

With so many installing or creating Bootstrap based themes – I have noticed more and more use the features in course content. You can style quite a bit, and make things look pretty!

Styling tables in Moodle with Bootstrap

There are a few nice style options for when you lay out table data.

Default Table layout

Default Table in Moodle with no styling

Default Table in Moodle with no styling

You can specify the following in the class to take advantage of nice styles.

  • table
  • table-striped
  • table-bordered
  • table-condensed

 

Same table using the class=”table”

Same table using the class="table"

Same table using the class=”table”

Same table using the class=”table table-striped” option

Same table using the class="table table-striped" option

Same table using the class=”table table-striped” option

Same table using the class=”table table-bordered” option

Same table using the class="table table-bordered" option

Same table using the class=”table table-bordered” option

Same table using the class=”table table-condensed” option

Same table using the class="table table-condensed" option

Same table using the class=”table table-condensed” option

Of course you can combine these too.

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.

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