A technical issue raised its ugly head after the students’ deadline, which has caused a problem.
During the project the students worked on our server, they could share their projects to work collaboratively and also share them with their tutors for feedback. However, a decision was taken before the start of the project that they should submit their learning objects on memory sticks. This was because we wanted to be able to archive their submission, to ensure that that no editing could take place after the deadline. So the students had to use the export function.
There are three ways of exporting projects:
- Export for deployment. Contains only the files required for importing into a vle without SCORM tracking, sharing via CD or USB etc or importing into another XOT install.
- Export for SCORM deployment: self contained, SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2004 enables tracking of Quiz scores e.g. into Moodle gradebook.
- Archive export. Complete backup including offline editing and round-tripping back to toolkits or sharing with other Xerte users.
We provided guidance on this process and told all students to use the first option.
This produces a zip file.
We anticipated that some students would not realise they had to unpack it (extract the files) before the learning object would work, as we know from experience that some people think it is unpacked if they can see all the files in Windows Explorer. So we told the students to unpack it on their memory sticks before submitting them.
To test their learning object all they had to do was open the index.html (and this is all the tutor had to do too). Easy.
Students being students, many left it until the morning of the deadline (12 noon) to export their learning objects. For some this went smoothly, for others not. There were two issues.
1. Only Project Creators can export projects.
Although we had forewarned students that this was the case, not all heard the message and we will have to be clearer next time. This meant that for those who left it until the last day, they had to find each other on campus and export it multiple times or else copy the USB stick multiple times. This was a problem for at least one group where the project creator did not realise that the other members needed to see her on the last day.
The reason why we told the students to share their projects rather than give their projects to each other was that giving results in multiple separate learning objects, whereas sharing allows all group members to collaborate on the same learning object. The downside is that there is still only one project creator and only he/she can export it.
2. Some browsers will not play active content from a disk.
For some students their learning objects did not run properly when they opened the index.html file. These students made a beeline to the e-learning office. In most cases we tested the file and it was all hunky dory so we reassured the students and they ran off to Exams & Assessments to hand in their memory sticks. What we now realise is that our PCs, which were running IE10 at the time, could play the LOs OK but the students’ browsers could not.
A while later we heard that one project did not run properly for the tutor who was doing the grading and that she considered this to be the student’s problem – they should have tested it before handing it in. This was indeed the advice given to students, however, it now appears that in all likelihood it did play for the students but not for the tutors (including the moderator and the external examiner).
Since then we have tested this project on various PCs on and off campus and concluded it is a browser security issue. We posted a question to the Xerte Community forum and received the following reply from Tom Reijnders:
This is a known problem, and we still haven’t really found a nice solution for it.
The issue is that, as the xot files have active content (they load xml files at runtime) the browser refuse to do this if the files are located on a disk. So far we know that IE 9 and IE 10 work (after accepting a warning).
Easiest would be, if the XOT installation is on a server, to set the properties of the LO’s to public (in properties), and use the link provided on the properties page to access the LO’s.
We still do not fully understand what is happening here. We do know that the exported project will not open in IE8 or IE11 nor in the versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari that we have (we have not systematically tested different versions). We have gone through the project deleting pages until there is nothing left and it never works, so we cannot identify what is causing the problem. All the other projects exported and ran OK.
Our advice to other institutions in the Digital Literacies in the Disciplines project is to assess the projects on the server as Tom suggests – setting the LO’s properties to ‘public’ and giving the assessor the url. And for us the best way of doing so would be via our VLE’s Assignment tool. This will allow us to provide a grade and feedback electronically.
To ensure that editing doesn’t take place after the deadline and that we have a copy for our archives, we would also recommend the students export their projects as well. For this project we asked them to do so onto a USB stick simply because we thought the export file would be too large for our VLE. However, because students linked out to media files rather than making their own and importing them into their projects, the files were not so large and submitting via the VLE would have been OK. So in future we might have the students upload their zip files when they submit their urls. (I’ll have a look at the files and post some numbers later.)
Another reason not to assess the USB sticks is that it is easy to end up with a heap of them on your desk, all mixed up and not know which one belongs to which student. Of course this only happens in other people’s institutions.