Integrating and Connectors – Blackboard

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

So far in this series we have discussed integrating using common standards – launch-and-track with AICC or SCORM, or a tighter integration with the Questionmark LTI Connector. In this installment we take a look at a deeper, custom integration – the Questionmark Blackboard Connector.

The latest version of Blackboard does have LTI capabilities, but we recommend using our Blackboard Connector instead of the LTI Connector as the Blackboard Connector has more functionality. As you’ll see in the following video, the Blackboard Connector handles a number of things behind the scenes – automatically creating groups that represent courses, adding participants and instructors to the appropriate groups, scheduling, etc. You also have a great amount of control – the Blackboard Connector has settings that allow you to control which courses and/or participants can interact with Questionmark from the Questionmark side, instead of automatically synchronizing everything.

Enjoy this video about integrating Questionmark with Blackboard using the Questionmark Blackboard Connector, and let me know if you have any questions!

Integrating Blackboard

Integrating and Connectors – Moodle

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

This installment of the Integrating and Connectors series focuses on Moodle. Technically, it’s really about the Questionmark LTI Connector and how it can be used to integrate with Moodle. (We’ll take a look at integrating with Canvas using the LTI Connector in a future installment.)

LTI stands for Learning Tools Interoperability. LTI is a specification published by the IMS Global Learning Consortium with the goal of providing a way for different learning tools to talk to each other and work together. Moodle (a Learning Management System, or LMS) and Questionmark (an Assessment Management System, or AMS) integrating their functionality is a perfect example of the concept.

So far in this series, we’ve looked at using SCORM or AICC to do a simple launch-and-track, and in the case of SuccessFactors, a simple Single Sign On (SSO) from the Learning LMS into the Questionmark Enterprise Manager. This is a very high-level integration. The assessment is simply launched and reports back to the source of the launch. The SuccessFactors SSO requires some manual intervention to set up an admin ID within Questionmark – the connection doesn’t just happen “automagically”. The LTI Connector allows for a much deeper integration.

As you’ll see in this video, once the LTI Connector is configured in the Moodle environment, a Moodle instructor can log into Moodle and add a Questionmark assessment to a course – from within Moodle, without having to have an ID and password and log into Questionmark at all.

Similarly, a student can log into Moodle and launch a Questionmark assessment – again, from within Moodle, without a second set of credentials. Furthermore, an instructor can also use Questionmark’s authoring and reporting functionality – you guessed it – all from within Moodle.

The LTI Connector allows for a deep integration with Moodle, giving the instructor and student a seamless experience in what behaves to them like a single environment, even though they are actually moving back and forth between Moodle and Questionmark.

qm and moodle vid

What’s new in the Blackboard Connector?

Steve Lay HeadshotPosted by Steve Lay

We recently published an updated version of our Blackboard Connector for Blackboard Learn 9.1. This version contains some compatibility improvements but is mainly to introduce support for more roles in the synchronization process.

Blackboard Learn supports the IMS LTI protocol so, in theory, you could integrate directly to Questionmark OnDemand without the custom building block.

Our development focus is definitely towards replacing the block, eventually, with an LTI-based solution, however, at the moment the building block provides more functionality than the LTI protocol allows so we’re recommending that Blackboard customers stick with the connector. That doesn’t mean development of the Connector has stopped though, as this latest version demonstrates.

Synchronizing Users

The Blackboard Connector contains synchronization logic which ensures that users of courses are synchronized with users and groups in the Questionmark repository. This synchronization is automatic and controllable using options in the Connector. It is possible to achieve some interesting use cases such as restricting access to the block on a course-by-course basis by controlling groups in your Questionmark repository. This level of control is not available in the LMS itself.

Until recently, we only supported three roles: Students, Instructors and Teaching Assistants. Students automatically become Questionmark participants and the other two roles are mapped to administrator profiles created in the repository. If either of the administrator profiles were missing, all users would be denied access to the Connector.

In the latest version, the situation is more controllable. Not only can you synchronize Course Builders and Graders too, but you can turn synchronization on or off for any of the default LMS roles simply by creating or deleting the corresponding profile in Questionmark Enterprise Manager.

Integrating and Connectors – playing nicely with other systems

Doug Peterson HeadshotPosted By Doug Peterson

You’ve just finished putting together the world’s greatest assessment in Questionmark. You also have the world’s greatest Learning Management System (LMS) installed on your company’s network. How do you get the two systems to play nicely together so that your learners can launch the world’s greatest assessment from the world’s greatest LMS?

At first glance, Questionmark appears to be a stand-alone Assessment Management System (AMS), and while it can certainly be used in that fashion, the truth is that Questionmark integrates very nicely with other systems such as SharePoint, an LMS, and even social networking and blogging sites such as Facebook and Ning.

One way that Questionmark integrates with other systems is through the use of connectors. Questionmark has a connector for Blackboard as well as an LTI Connector that can be used with systems like Moodle. We also have a SharePoint Connector – a web part that you can install in your SharePoint system that allows a learner to log into SharePoint and see and launch Questionmark assessments for which they have been scheduled. I encourage you to visit the Questionmark web site, roll your mouse over Learning in the navigation bar and select Learning Café. Under the Featured Videos, click on see all videos and scroll down to the Integration section. There you’ll find videos on integrating with Moodle, SuccessFactors and Cornerstone OnDemand, with more videos on integrating with other systems such as SharePoint, Ning, and Wikispaces coming very soon.

The great thing about integrating with Questionmark is that you don’t need to have a system for which we have provided a specialized connector. Questionmark allows you to publish your assessment into an AICC or SCORM content package, which you can then import into an LMS that uses the SCORM or AICC protocol (which is just about every LMS out there). The assessment is then a content object in the LMS that can be added to a course and launched by student – from the LMS! Be sure to check out these resources for more information on AICC and SCORM:

Integration Highlights in Barcelona

Steve Lay HeadshotPosted by Steve Lay

The programme for Questionmark’s European Users Conference in Barcelona November 10 – 12 is just being finalized. As usual, there is plenty to interest customers who are integrating with our Open Assessment Platform.

This year’s conference includes a case study from Wageningen University on using QMWISe, our SOAP-based API, to create a dashboard designed to help you manage your eu confassessment process. Also, our Director of Solution Services, Howard Eisenberg, will be leading a session oncustomising the participant interface so you can learn how to integrate your own CSS into your Questionmark assessments.

I’ll be running a session introducing you to the main integration points and connectors with the assistance of two colleagues this year: Doug Peterson will be there to help translate some of the technical jargon into plain English and Bart Hendrickx will bring some valuable experience from real-world applications to the session. As always, we’ll be available throughout the conference to answer questions if you can’t make the session itself.

Finally, participants will also get the chance to meet Austin Fossey, our Analytics Product Owner, who will be talking, amongst other things, about our OData API for Analytics. This API allows you to create bespoke reports from data ‘feeds’ published from the results warehouse.

See the complete conference schedule here, and sign up soon if you have not done so already.

See you in Barcelona!

Open Standards: Spotlight on CSS

Steve Lay HeadshotPosted by Steve Lay

In my role as Integrations Product Owner and champion of Questionmark’s Open Assessment Platform strategy I often write on the topic of open standards.

When we browse the internet on our mobiles, tablets or even on the humble PC, our experience is based on a vast stack of open standards covering everything from the way the information is wrapped up in ‘packets’ for sending over the network to the way text and graphics appear on our screens.

You’ve probably all heard of HTML, the main markup language used for creating web pages. HTML, or HyperText Markup Language to give it its full name, allows web servers to specify how text is broken up into paragraphs, lists or tables, when it should be emphasised and how it relates to media files like images and videos that are also rendered on the page. But HTML has a lesser-known yet powerful helper: Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

CSS is a standard which allows a designer to apply ‘style’ to a web page. By style, we are talking about formatting information: things that affect the appearance of the page without affecting the meaning. Essentially, information on the web is split into these two halves: content (in HTML) and style (in CSS). Initial versions of the CSS standard were rudimentary, and support across different browsers was often inconsistent. But the standard is now on version 3, often abbreviated to CSS3, and renderings are much more predictable. Also, adoption of more advanced features is rapidly becoming the norm rather than the exception.

By adopting HTML and CSS at Questionmark, the content/style division translates into different responsibilities for the question author (responsible for content) and the graphic designer (responsible for style). By being mindful of this division — and the fact that the same question may have different styles applied on different devices or in different contexts — authors can avoid question wording that is dependent on the style or type of rendering.

For example, a phrase such as “which category applies to the text in red?” makes specific reference to an element of style appearing elsewhere in the content. If colour is not essential to the meaning it would be better to use a more neutral term such as the emphasised text. Being aware of different styles has the knock-on benefit of making assessment content more accessible while ensuring they look good!

Questionmark has embraced CSS as the best technology for customising the appearance of tests. It is easy to copy the default CSS files and change the colours and fonts, say, to match your company portal.

In this screenshot shot, I’ve created a yellow background simply by changing one line in the default style sheet:

css

With CSS, web designers can help you make your assessments look even more professional!