Badging and Assessment: If they know it, let them show it!

Posted by Brian McNamara

We are delighted to announce the availability of Questionmark Badging!

With Questionmark Badging and Questionmark OnDemand, you can grant “badges” to participants based on the outcomes achieved on assessments such as certification exams, post-course tests or advancement exams.Badges associated with Questionmark assessments provide participants with portable, verifiable digital credentials.

Badges aligned with Questionmark assessments can be tied in with competencies and achievements, helping organizations provide recognition and motivation for increasing knowledge and skills. For credentialing and awarding bodies, they can increase the visibility and value of certification programs.

The new app couples Questionmark’s capabilities in delivering valid, reliable and trustworthy assessments with the industry-leading digital credentialing platform from Credly. More than just a visual representation of accomplishment, digital badges provide participants with verifiable, portable credentials that can be shared and displayed across the web, including social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Find more info about Questionmark Badging right here!

GDPR is coming. Are you ready?

Posted by Julie Delazyn

Don’t get left behind as the most important change in data privacy takes effect May 2018. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) intends to strengthen and unify privacy and data protection and any organization that stores or manages data about Europeans will need to comply.

With eye-watering regulatory fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual turnover (whichever is greater), a credible compliance strategy is essential.

Join us for a FREE 45 minute Webinar July 26, 2017, to understand how online assessments can help you meet your GDPR challenges.

The webinar will cover:

  • What the GDPR is and who it impacts
  • Why you should care about GDPR compliance
  • How to overcome the challenges presented by GDPR — including the learning curve for your employees
  • How assessment can help mitigate GDPR risks and aid your compliance strategy
  • Considerations for implementing assessment management software to aid in compliance

We look forward to speaking to you at the webinar!

Top 5 benefits of permissions

Bart Hendrickx SmallPosted by Bart Hendrickx

We went over role-based access control and its advantages in some of my earlier blog posts:

As I mentioned previously, roles are made up of permissions. Today, I wanted to share 5 of the top benefits permissions have, in particular, Questionmark OnDemand permissions.

1. Keep your authoring content organized

You can use permissions to define where authors are allowed to create content, such as items (questions) and assessments. That enables you to set up a structure for topic folders and assessment folders, and make sure that authors won’t go outside the folders you gave them access to. That in turn helps you to keep your content organized, which benefits your assessment program’s efficiency.

2. Improve your authors’ user experience

Let’s say that all you want your authors to create are multiple choice questions. You can use a permission to that effect. As a consequence, authors will not be able to see other question types, which makes it less confusing to them. Think: I can only see what I can use. That improves their user experience.

3. Improve your reporters’ user experience

Similarly, for several reports, you can define which reports your reporters can run. By doing that, you guide your reporters to the appropriate reports and avoid confusing them with reports they should not be running.

4. Reduce error and fraud

By using permissions judiciously, you can separate duties in your organization. For example, there are permissions to create users, permissions to create assessments and permissions to schedule assessments. You can use those permissions to define that a user who can create other users cannot create assessments and vice versa. Likewise, the user who can schedule assessments cannot create users. That way, you ensure that each user is responsible for a specific part of the process. When the focus is defined, error is reduced. And if multiple users manage the process together, no-one has full power over everything, which makes fraud less likely.

5. Free up time

Finally, you can use permissions to delegate some of your role responsibilities to others. If you are the main admin user of your Questionmark OnDemand environment, you may want to give a colleague the permission to assign the reporter role to users, so that you do not have to do it repeatedly. However, you may not want to give your colleague the permission to edit the exact permissions that reporters have. By delegating the role assignment to your colleague, you remain in control over what a role can do and you get help with managing who can report. That frees up your time.

 

These are my top 5 reasons. If you can think of other benefits, contribute to this list by leaving a comment below, we’d love to see what benefits you’re experiencing.

The Power of Open: Questionmark’s open assessment platform

Posted by Steve Lay

In the beginning there was CVS, then there was SVN and now there’s Git.  What am I talking about?  These are all source code control systems, systems that are used to store computer source code in a way that preserves the complete version history and provides a full audit trail covering the who, what, when and why changes were made.

When we think of open source software we tend to think of the end product: a freely downloadable program that you can run on your computer or even a complete computer operating system in the case of Linux.  But to open source developers, open source is about more than this ‘free beer’ model of sharing software.  Open source software is shared at the source code level allowing people to examine the way it works, suggest changes to fix bugs, enhance it or even to modify it for their own purposes.  Getting the most from sharing source code requires more than just sharing an executable or a zip file of the finished product, open source developers need to open up their source code control systems too.

For years there have been services that provide a cloud-based alternative to  hosting your own source code.  The SourceForge system enjoyed many years of dominance but more recently it’s advertising sponsored model has seen it fall out of favour.

Most new projects are now created on a service called GitHub, which promises  free hosting of open source projects on a service funded by paying customers who are developing projects privately on the same platform.  The success of GitHub has been phenomenal – Google closed down its own rival service (Google Code) largely because of GitHub’s success.  In fact, GitHub is rapidly becoming a ‘unicorn’ with all the associated growing pains.  GitHub makes it easy to collaborate on projects too with its issue tracking system and user friendly tools for proposing changes (known as ‘pull requests’).

With GitHub as the de facto place to publish and share source code, it makes sense for Questionmark to use it to complement our Open Assessment Platform.  We have published source code illustrating how to use our APIs for many years and even publish the complete source to some of our connectors.  Putting new projects on GitHub means providing sample code in the most transparent and developer-friendly way possible.

Questionmark’s GitHub page lists all the projects we own.  For example, when we first brought out our OData APIs we published the sample reportlet code in the OData Reportlet Samples project.  You can experiment with these same examples running live in our website’s developer pages.

Recently we’ve gone a step further in opening up our assessment platform.  We’ve started publishing our API documentation via GitHub too!  Using a new feature of the GitHub platform we’re able to publish the documentation directly from the source control system itself.  That means you always get access to the latest documentation.

Opening up our API documentation in this way makes it easier for developers to engage with our platform.  Why not check out the documentation project.  If you’re already a GitHub user you could ‘watch’ it to get notified when we make changes.  You can even submit issues or send us ‘pull requests’ if you have suggestions for improvement.

With GitHub as the de facto place to publish and share source code, it makes sense for Questionmark to use it to complement our Open Assessment Platform.  We have published source code illustrating how to use our APIs for many years and even publish the complete source to some of our connectors.  Publishing this source code helps our customers and partners by providing working examples of how to integrate with our platform as well as providing complete transparency for our connectors allowing customers to audit the code before they run it on their own systems.  Putting new projects on GitHub means providing sample code in the most transparent and developer-friendly way possible.

International University gains scalability, advanced authoring, single sign-on and more!

ChloePosted by Chloe Mendonca

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of speaking with The International University of Languages and Media (IULM) based out of Milan, Italy. IULM has been using Questionmark’s Assessment Management System for almost 10 years, so I was also keen to see what prompted their recent move from managing their assessment program on-premise to Questionmark OnDemand (Questionmark’s SaaS cloud-based solution).iulm

IULM serves approximately 5,000 students enrolled across a range of postgraduate and undergraduate courses including interpretation, translation and cultural studies; communication, public relations and advertising, and arts and tourism.

Patrizia Lettieri, the digital platform administrator in the university’s IT department explains why after 10 years, the IULM decided to make the move:  “Our teachers liked using Questionmark; we didn’t want to change that, but there was definitely a need for a more scalable and innovative solution that would match the direction the university was headed in terms of growth. Security and reporting were also very important to us and there is nothing on par with Questionmark OnDemand in regards to security and reporting.”

Here are some highlights from our conversation. You can read the entire case study here.

Advanced authoring
A big draw for IULM in using Questionmark was the ease of use when it came to assessment authoring and improving the way items are written and also the efficiency with which they can manage their item bank. Patrizia elaborates: “The variety of item types and ability to embed images, videos and links into our questions and feedback enable us to further develop the way we are helping our students to learn. Meta tagging of items is also very simple. Before using OnDemand we had to separate these into different folders and our teachers used to delete items that were invalid. Now we can easily assign the appropriate meta tags and modify the status of questions to retired if they are invalid.”

Scalability and save-as-you-go
iulm_campusBefore using Questionmark OnDemand IULM had a few challenges when it came to assessing large numbers of students.  With OnDemand, IULM can reliably deliver their assessments to multiple classes of students. And in the event that something does go wrong — such as a power cut or other technical failure — Questionmark’s save-as-you-go is there to ensure student answers are automatically saved at regular intervals. “My priority is the students; they are our customers and I want them to be comfortable,” adds Patrizia. “With OnDemand everything runs smoothly and our students are more comfortable and confident when taking their assessments.”

Single Sign-On
It used to be that every day, staff and students at the university were having to interact with a variety of applications requiring individuals to remember different credentials for the various applications.  “With Questionmark OnDemand, we were able to take advantage of single sign-on (SSO). For a forward-thinking technological university, improving access for both students and staff just made sense for us.” SSO also saves IULM time on the administrative side. Once students have completed their studies and leave the university, staff no longer have to remove their access to each application but only need to remove each student’s identity provider account. Without that account, the student can no longer log on to any of the linked applications.

Multilingual delivery
Being an international university, having students who speak different languages is a common scenario. Questionmark’s multilingual delivery helps IULM accommodate students whose first language is not Italian or English by enabling them to change the delivery interface to their preferred language. Having the navigation controls in a participant’s own language can often make students feel more at ease during the test taking experience.

If you’re interested in trying out Questionmark OnDemand, request a demo today and one of our team will show you how simple assessment management can be.

SAML 101: How it works

Bart Hendrickx SmallPosted by Bart Hendrickx

In my last post, I wrote about what SAML is. In this one, I’ll offer a use case to put it into context. There are a number of scenarios where SAML can be used, but I will stick toSSO3 login (authentication) that is initiated by the service provider. I’ll use Questionmark OnDemand as an example of a SP that can work with SAML. Our fictitious customer has an identity provider that is internally hosted behind a firewall, inaccessible from the outside world. Users at the customer’s company can go on the Internet; therefore, they can also take Questionmark OnDemand assessments.

User Jane Doe wants to connect to Questionmark OnDemand, to take an assessment that was scheduled to her. She browses to her company’s OnDemand area, which had been set up to authenticate via SAML. Through the federation metadata, Questionmark OnDemand knows which identity provider to ask for those authentication details. But it cannot talk to the IdP directly. Instead, it creates a SAML request which the web browser passes on to the IdP. Jane Doe’s computer is on the internal network and can access the IdP. The request is forwarded to the IdP, which accepts it because it knows about the service provider (SP), i.e. the customer’s OnDemand area—also possible thanks to the federation metadata.

Jane Doe is already logged on to the IdP: she opened her company’s intranet page this morning, which required her to authenticate, and that session is still active in her browser. So when the IdP gets a request: “Who is this user?”, it already knows the answer: “This is Jane Doe.” The IdP prepares a SAML response and includes a number of attributes, such as Jane Doe’s email address and hire date. All those data form an assertion, which is part of the response.

Again, Jane Doe’s browser plays a key role. It receives the SAML response with the assertion from the IdP and passes it on to the customer’s OnDemand area, which then reads the response. The OnDemand area confirms that this information comes from its trusted IdP and sees that this is Jane Doe. and that an assessment has been scheduled to her. Jane Doe now has access to the OnDemand area and can take the assessment.

For Jane Doe, this all happens seamlessly. She may see her browser redirect to other URLs a few times, when it is relaying information from the SP to the IdP and vice versa, but the entire process usually only takes a couple of seconds.

In a future post, I will explain what SAML requests and responses do and do not contain. Stay tuned!

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