Plugin Review: Respondus web services for Moodle 2

Some time ago I used Respondus to help transfer questions from one format to a format that could be imported into Moodle. It worked well getting QuestionMark Perception exported files into the Moodle ready format. When transferring questions from Blackboard Vista to Moodle 2 I turned to Respondus again. I was pleasantly surprised with the result, hence why I wrote this review.

Background

Respondus is a tool used to create and manage exams that can be either used in Moodle and other LMS, or printed. There was a Respondus QTI importer plugin for Moodle 1.9 which worked with Respondus 3. However as I discovered, with Respondus 4 things were different, pleasantly different.

The integration for Respondus and Moodle 2 is a web service plugin which enables the tool talk directly to Moodle 2.

What does it do?

Using the Respondus tool, I was able to connect directly to the Blackboard Vista server, and extract the questions from the course assessment. This was a straight forward process:

  1. Enable the Blackboard profile
  2. Then using the Retrieve wizard
  3. Connect to the Blackboard Vista server
  4. Select the course, and question set and retrieve the questions locally

Once saved locally, it was possible to have a look at the questions and make any corrections needed. Then before publishing, I saved the questions locally.

Publishing to the Moodle 2 server was a very similar process to retrieving from Blackboard.

  1. Enabling the Moodle profile in respondus
  2. Select the Publish Wizard
  3. Enter the Moodle details that I wanted to publish the questions to
  4. Selected the course, and topic to insert the questions and quiz into
  5. The tool published the questions into the Moodle 2 site.
Moodle Site Configuration

Moodle Site Configuration

The questions imported correctly, and worked as expected.

Is it simple to install?

The code for the web services is not in GitHub or the Moodle plugin database. It is found on their site for download under the Moodle page options with downloads for Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2.x available

I downloaded the zip and unzipped it into my local Moodle 2  mod directory. Logging into the Moodle 2 site as admin, I upgraded the plugin installs and then checked that it was installed correctly.

Once I installed it, the process of adding a Moodle 2 site profile to the Respondus tool was part of the publish wizard. Once this was done it was able to talk to the Moodle server without problems, albeit slowly as my laptop needs more hamsters! (cpu)

Is there documentation for it?

The documentation which is a downloadable word document, is comprehensive on all use aspects for the tool to retrieve, manage locally and publish to Moodle. The application help was also very handy and helpful.

However, there was no Moodle docs page and there is no readme.txt with the zip. The instruction document just mentions 1.9+ and 1.9.4. That said it was a normal install process so required little guidance.

The plugin gets added to the activities plugins list and for some reason adds itself to the main menu block on the front page if you “show” it. Never seen that before. But as it works when the “eye is closed”, which is also odd. But there again, you would not need this enabled all the time necessarily.

Is it easy for the teacher/admin to use?

Yes it is very easy to use. It is a desktop application and seems to work with the permissions of the user who connects. The retrieve and publish processes are well guided using wizards so you can’t really go wrong.

The list of courses you can choose from are related to your login, so when I was a test user as a teacher on one course, it is all I could see through the tool.

Publish to course options

Publish to course options

Is it easy for the learner/student to use?

This is not something for students.

Does it do what it promises?

Oh yes. This was simply an unexpected ease of use in tackling this task. For this review I was using the 30 day trial option of Respondus 4. The whole process was painless, and a huge time saver. If you need to migrate questions from Blackboard to Moodle, check it out.

If you are reading Respondus, it would be nice to see a page in Moodle Docs for the documentation and the plugin submitted to the new plugins database on Moodle.org 🙂

Stars: 3 out of 5 stars for the web services.

 

**Standard Reminder**

These reviews check out the plugin for usability not for security. If you are considering installing any module on your site you should also check that is secure and does not impact the server performance.

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