Single sign-on: secure and easy access

Bart Hendrickx Small

Posted by Bart Hendrickx

It’s Tuesday morning. You have just started your computer. Now it’s time to open your day-to-day tools: email, chat/phone, tasks and so on. As you go through your tasks, you realize you need to take that data security test you’ve been postponing.

Every day, you interact with various applications. Some are installed on your personal computer, others on servers managed either by your organization by vendors.  Your applications might come from a multitude of service providers, in-house or on the Cloud.

For many of those applications, you need to authenticate—to tell the applications who you are—so that the app can present the information that pertains to you. Sometimes this happens automatically. When your email client connects to the mail server, you read your emails, not those of your co-workers. Your email client has authenticated you against your mail server because you entered a username or email address, a password and some other data, way back when.

You often need to use different sign-ins for different apps. When you log in tor you Questionmark OnDemand portal, for instance, you enter a different username and password than the one you used to unlock your computer earlier today, (Your organization’s data security policy does not allow you to  store your organizational password in other systems.)

Want to learn more? I’ll be discussing this topic and more at the Questionmark Conference 2016 in Miami, April 12-15. Register before March 3 to take advantage of our final early-bird discounts.

Problem: Unrecognized username or password

You’ve logged in for your exam, but you get an error message. Maybe you mistyped the password? Second try. Nope; same results. You must have forgotten your password. You start an instant message window with your internal IT help desk. “Sorry, we don’t manage Questionmark OnDemand. Can you use its password reset function?”

You go back to your Questionmark login page, get a secure on-time login and establish a new, permanent password that complies with the data security policy — “I better not forget my password this time,” you say to yourself as you finally start your data security test. “Isn’t there something more convenient?”

Solution: Single sign-on

We all find ourselves in similar situations, but with Single sign-on (SSO) we can avoid them.

Since, there are several definitions of SSO, here’s how I’ll define it in the context of this blog:

Single Sign-On (SSO) for software is the ability for one application, the identity provider, to tell another application, the service provider, who you are.

By identity provider, I mean a system that contains digital identity information—also known as people data—on users, For example, think of social network sites or Active Directory from Microsoft.

The service provider is the system that users work with to do something—say Questionmark OnDemand, in the case of your data security test.

With SSO, a user does not log on directly to the service provider. Instead, they log on to an identity provider, which then tells the service provider who the user is. The identity provider and service provider have been configured to trust each other. So when the identity provider says: “This is Jane Doe,” the service provider will trust and accept that.

It is important to note that SSO is therefore not about creating accounts with the same usernames and passwords—a prevalent mechanism for different service providers. SSO is about making those service providers accept what an identity provider says about a user.

Why SSO?

SSO comes with several advantages. Users can access all applications that are linked to their identity providers—using one username and password for multiple systems. Depending on the capabilities of the applications and how things have been set up, the authentication can be seamless. You might log on to your identity provider when you start your computer, and the other applications (service providers) you access during the day will automatically check with your identity provider without you having to enter your username and password again.

SSO makes password management easier for IT administrators. Having an employee leave an organization might mean having to decommission access to dozens of service providers. If the authentication to those service providers has been set up with SSO, then an IT administrator only needs to decommission the employee’s identity provider account. Without that account, the employee can no longer log on to any of the linked applications.

There is one disadvantage to SSO: If the account at the identity provider is hacked, all linked applications can be compromised. It is therefore imperative the account is properly secured. How can you set up SSO to ensure its security and effectiveness? Watch for more posts on this subject, which will include information about our newly added support for a popular technique called SAML.

If you would like to learn more, attend my session: Secure Authentication: Accessing Questionmark OnDemand with SSO at the Questionmark Conference 2016, April 12-15. Register before March 3 to take advantage of our final early-bird discounts.

New tools for building questions and assessments

Jim Farrell HeadshotPosted by Jim Farrell

If you are a Questionmark customer and aren’t using Questionmark Live, what are you waiting for?

More than 2000 of our customers have started using Questionmark Live this year, so I think now is a good time to call out some of the features that are making it a vital part of their assessment development processes.

Let’s start with building questions. One new tool our customers are using is the ability to add notes to a question. This allows reviewers to open questions and leave comments for content developers without changing the version of the question.

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Now over to the assessment-building side of things. Our new assessment interface allows users to add questions in many different ways including single questions, entire topics, and random pull from a topic. You can even prevent participants from seeing repeated of questions during retakes when pulling questions at random. Jump blocks allow you to shorten test time or redirect for extra questions to participants who obtain a certain score. You can also easily tag questions as demographic questions so they can be used as filters in our reporting and analytics tools.

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We have also added a more robust outcome capabilities to give your test administrators new tools for controlling how assessments are completed and reported. You can have multiple outcomes for different score bands, but you can also make it so participants have to get certain scores on particular topics before they can pass a test. For example, suppose you are giving a test on Microsoft Office and you set a pass score at 80%. You probably want to make sure that your participants understand all the products and don’t bomb one of them. You can set a prerequisite for each topic at 80% to make sure participants have knowledge of all areas before passing. If someone gets a 100% on Word questions and 60% on Excel questions, they would not pass. Powerful outcome controls help ensure you are truly measuring the goals of your learning organization.

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If you aren’t using Questionmark Live you are missing out, as we are releasing new functionality every month. Get access and start getting your subject matter experts to contribute to your item banks.

Mark it up: Highlight text and strike through distractors in your online assessments

Brian McNamara HeadshotPosted by Brian McNamara

Remember what it was like to take a test or exam on paper? One of the benefits was that participants typically had the option of making marks on a test paper or test booklet to help them focus on certain key passages or terms – or perhaps to cross out certain choices as they worked on finding a correct answer.highlight-and-strikethrough-for-blog

As a test author or administrator, you might want to – or indeed be required to – provide this kind of flexibility during an exam.

Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice this flexibility when delivering your assessments online. New functionality being introduced to Questionmark OnDemand users enables them to configure their assessments to allow participants to:

  1. Highlight terms or passages within a question stimulus
  2. Make strike-through marks to visually eliminate distractors.

Highlight and strike-through is a great way to empower participants to create visual cues within items to help them focus on key content and eliminate distractors as they work to answer a given question.

Want to see it in action? Check out the video below!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQKLuxCrggk?rel=0]

We have plenty of resources available to you. “How-to” videos and brief presentations about best practices, will give you valuable pointers about authoring, delivery and integration in our Learning Cafe. We also share presentations and videos on our SlideShare page.

New Questionmark OnDemand release enhances analytics and mobile delivery

Jim Farrell HeadshotPosted by Jim Farrell

With Questionmark having just released a major upgrade of our OnDemand platform. I want to highlight some of the great new features and functionality now available to our customers.

Let’s start with my favorite. Questionmark released a new API known as OData, which allows Questionmark customers to access data in their results warehouse database and create reports using third-party tools like PowerPivot for Excel and Tableau. Through a client, a user makes a request to the data service, and the data service processes that request and returns an appropriate response.

You can use just about any client to access the OData API as long as it can make HTTP requests and parse XML responses. Wow…that’s technical! But  the power of the new OData API is that it liberates your data from the results warehouse and lets you build custom reports, create dashboards, or feed results data into other business intelligence tools.

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The OData API is not the only update we have made to Analytics. The addition of the Assessment Content Report allows users to review participant comments for all questions within an assessment, topic, or specific question. Enhancements to the Item Analysis report include the ability to ignore question and assessment revisions. This report now also supports our dichotomously-scored Multiple Response, Matching, and Raking question types.

Another improvement I want to highlight is the way Questionmark now works with mobile assessments. An updated template design for assessments when taken from a mobile device embraces responsive design, enhancing our ability to author once and deploy anywhere. The new mobile offering supports Drag and Drop and Hotspot question types — and Flash questions can now run on all Flash-enabled mobile devices.

Click here for more details about this new release of Questionmark OnDemand.

How you can improve assessment accessibility

Posted by Noel Thethy

Over the next few weeks I’ll be releasing several “How To” blog posts that I hope will provide some insight in to the features and functionality available to Questionmark users.

In particular I’ll be looking at:

•    How to ensure your questions are as accessible as possible
•    How-to tweak Questionmark’s accessibility features to suit your specific needs.

This series will consist of several video demonstrations and some explanations of basics concepts.

I’ll be covering topics like:

•    Using media and images in a question in an accessible way
•    Ensuring question text is appropriately accessible
•    Customizing the font size changer
•    Customizing the contrast changer

Before we go on this journey I’d like to remind you of some other posts about accessibility that have already appeared on this blog. They include:

•    Assessment Accessibility: A View from the Inside
•    Assessment Accessibility in Questionmark Perception Version 5

I hope you will join me as I take a look at making assessments accessible.

Questionmark Users Conference: Here’s the Full Program

Joan Phaup

Posted by Joan Phaup

The program for the Questionmark Users Conference in Miami March 14 -17 offers something for every Questionmark Perception user, whether they are just starting out or have been using Perception for many years. Here’s the complete line-up of conference sessions.

The conference will also include opportunities to meet one-on-one with Questionmark product managers and technicians, and to attend networking events.

General Sessions

  • Opening General Session: Conference kick-off
  • Keynote: Dr. David Metcalf on “Assessments on the Move: Mobility, Mashups and More”
  • Closing General Session: The Road Ahead

Customer Case StudiesMiami

  • Integrating Questionmark Perception and SAP for Employment Testing
  • Streamlined Training and Assessment at NPPD: Integrating Perception with SAP Learning Solution
  • Using Flash and Captivate in Questionmark Perception
  • Questionmark Live: Distributing the Workload and Increasing Accessibility
  • Many from One: Creating Hundreds of Questions to QML Import Using Excel
  • Question Bank as a Knowledge Tree: Sowing the Seeds of Knowledge
  • Questionmark in Dental Education: Why, How and Lessons Learned
  • Establishing a Broad National Certification Network Based on Questionmark
  • Questionmark Perception as a Central Component of a Training Strategy
  • Perfecting the Test Through Question Analysis
  • The Cloud School: Learning and Assessment for Underserved People in Brazil

Tech Training

  • Introduction to Questionmark Perception for Beginners
  • Advanced Authoring Techniques Using Authoring Manager
  • Planning Your Migration from Perception v4 to v5
  • Configuring the User Experience and Understanding Templates in Perception v5
  • Analyzing and Sharing Results with Enterprise Reporter
  • Using Perception for Evaluations and Other Types of Surveys
  • Methods for Integrating Perception with Other SystemsDeco Drive, South Beach

Best Practices

  • Item and Test Analysis Analytics
  • Making Your Assessments Available and Accessible to All
  • Questionmark Live Item Writing Workshop: Bring Your Own Laptop!
  • Technical Standards and Questionmark’s Open Assessment Platform
  • Conducting Validity Studies within Your Organization
  • Effectively Measuring Knowledge, Skill and Ability with Well-crafted Assessments

Peer Discussions:

  • Strategies for High-Stakes Tests
  • Shaping the Future of ADL SCORM: What’s On Your Wish List?
  • Using Questionmark To Facilitate ROI strategies

Drop-in Demos

  • Options and More Options: Different Ways to Deliver Your Assessments
  • What’s New in Perception Version 5?
  • Tools/Features to Enhance Your Use of Perception

Register for the conference and join us in Miami!