Integrating with other systems: video tutorials

Julie Delazyn HeadshotPosted by Julie Delazyn

Although you can use Questionmark as a stand-alone Assessment Management System (AMS), it also integrates seamlessly with other key systems – everything from learning management systems and content management systems to portals and scanning technologies.

Questionmark Connectors make these integrations possible.

Some of these, such as the Blackboard Connector, the SAP Connector and the SharePoint Connector, are designed for use with specific systems.

We also support integrations with LTI-, AICC– and SCORM-compliant systems.

You can find video tutorials about many of these connectors in the Questionmark web site. There you’ll find videos on integrating with Moodle, SuccessFactors and Cornerstone OnDemand, as well as other systems such as SharePoint, Canvas, and Ning.

Here is a sneak peak – click to view each video:

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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.

LTI certification and news from the IMS quarterly meeting

Steve Lay HeadshotPosted by Steve Lay

Earlier this month I travelled to Michigan for the IMS Global Learning Consortium’s quarterly meeting. The meeting was hosted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the home of “Dr Chuck”, the father of the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) protocol.

I’m pleased to say that, while there, I put our own LTI Connector through the new conformance test suite and we have now been certified against the LTI 1.0 and 1.1 protocol versions.IMS

The new conformance tests re-enforce a subtle change in direction at IMS. For many years the specifications have focused on packaged content that can be moved from system to system. The certification process involved testing this content in its transportable form, matching the data against the format defined by the IMS data specifications. This model works well for checking that content *publishers* are playing by the rules, but it isn’t possible to check if a content player is working properly.

In contrast, the LTI protocol is not moving the content around but integrating and aggregating tools and content that run over the web. This shifts conformance from checking the format of transport packages to checking that online tools, content and the containers used to aggregate them (typically an LMS) are all adhering to the protocol. With a protocol it is much easier to check that both sides are playing by the rules  — so overall interoperability should improve.

In Michigan, the LTI team discussed the next steps with the protocol. Version 2 promises to be backwards-compatible but will also make it much easier to set up the trusted link between the tool consumer (e.g., your LMS) and the tool provider (e.g., Questionmark OnDemand).  IMS are also looking to expand the protocol to enable a deeper integration between the consumer and the provider. For example, the next revision of the protocol will make it easier for an LMS to make a copy of a course while retaining the details of any LTI-based integrations. They are also looking at improving the reporting of outcomes using a little-known part of the Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) specification called QTI Results Reporting.

After many years of being ‘on the shelf’ there is a renewed interest in the QTI specification in general. QTI has been incorporated into the Accessible Portable Item Protocol (APIP) specification that has been used by content publishers involved in the recent US Race to the Top Assessment Program. What does the future of QTI look like?  It is hard to tell at this early stage, but the buzzword in Michigan was definitely EPUB3.

Integrating your LMS with Questionmark OnDemand just got easier!

Steve Lay Headshot

Posted by Steve Lay
 

Last year I wrote about the impact that the IMS LTI standard could have on the way people integrate their LMS with external tools.

I’m pleased to say that we have just released our own LTI Connector for Questionmark OnDemand. The connector makes it easy to integrate your LMS with your Questionmark repository. Just enter some security credentials to set up the trusted relationships and your instructors are ready to start embedding assessments directly into the learning experience.

Moodle TestBy using a standard, the LTI connector enables a wide range of LMSs to be integrated in the same way. Many of them have LTI support built in directly too, so you won’t have to install additional software or request optional plugins from your LMS hosting provider.

You can read more about how to use the LTI connector with Questionmark OnDemand on our website: Questionmark Connectors.

You can also find out which tools are currently supporting the LTI standard from the IMS Conformance Certification page (which we hope to be joining shortly).

From Content to Tool Provider

The LTI standard, in many ways, does a similar job to the older SCORM and AICC standards. It provides a mechanism for an LMS to launch a student into an activity and for that activity to pass performance information (outcomes) back to the LMS to be recorded in their learning record.

Both the SCORM and AICC standards were designed with content portability in mind, before the Web became established. As a result, they defined the concept of a package of content that has to be published and ‘physically’ moved to the LMS to be run. The LMS became a player of the content.

Contrast this approach with that of IMS LTI. In LTI, the activity is provided by an external Tool Provider. The Tool Provider is hosted on the web and is identified by a simple URL; there is no publishing required! When the Tool’s URL is placed into the LMS, along with appropriate security credentials, the link is made. Now the student just follows an embedded link to the Tool Provider’s website where they interact with the activity directly. The two websites communicate via web services (much like AICC) to pass back information about outcomes.

The result is simpler and more secure! It is no wonder that the LTI specification has been adopted so quickly by the community.

LTI and the future of learning management systems

Jeff Place at the Questionmark booth at The Blackboard Developer Conference

Posted by Steve Lay

Following along with the twitter feed at #devcon12 (The Blackboard Developer Conference) this week, I noticed an interesting theme developing. Here’s one example, from @certtechpro

More LMS’s in the future, but using the same tools? Will LMS of the future be specialized? #devcon12 #bbw12

And another, from @rossmackenzie

Interest theme developing about specialised ( e.g. Subject specific) Learning management systems. #devcon12 #bbw12

These tweets happened during a keynote panel session that grappled with the role of the LMS and the effect that adoption of the IMS LTI standard will have.

I had a follow-up conversation with two members of the panel afterwards to help get some clarification on their vision. In particular, I wanted to reconcile this multiplicity of LMSs with another theme discussed during the session: the importance of ensuring that the LMS does not just aggregate new features but “hardens” around core functions, with additional features being incorporated by linking to other tools using IMS LTI.

Using the LTI standard, the LMS can aggregate best-of-breed tools rather than having to develop them specifically as features of the LMS itself.

There seem to be two possible outcomes here:

(1) By being smaller, the LMS could be customised to target specific education or training sectors; it could even be optimised for subject-specific learning methods. The number of LMSs in the market would increase.

(2) Alternatively, by being smaller the LMS could fade into the background, with student interaction being concentrated in the tools that the LMS aggregates. The community is likely to organise itself around a smaller number of more robust systems.

In either case, integration using the LTI standard will make it easier for instructors and programme managers to adopt best-of-breed tools like our own Assessment Management System without having to deploy an LMS-specific connector!