We’ll start to see a lot of online Moodle exams from Monday 29th April.

At this time of year a lot of time is dedicated to preparing for the formal exam weeks to begin. Academics and Online Course Developers are creating questions and testing exam quizzes. The TEL team are testing the Moodle infrastructure and exam reporting, and working with IS to ensure we have enough server resources at key times during the exam period. This year the formal examination weeks will run from Monday 13th May 2019 through to Friday 7th June 2019. It’s worth making a note in your diary about these dates but as I’ll highlight in this blog post, you’ll probably want to set these dates to start from Monday 29th April.

What constitutes an online Moodle exam?

We encourage staff to tag Moodle-based exams with the ‘exam-official’ tag and set appropriate dates. This information, along with data provided by Online Courses Developers, helps us build a picture of the when exams are happening. It means we can spot ‘pinch points’, times where we expect a lot of concurrent exam attempts, which could represent a need for more server resources to be made available. In short if you don’t tag your assessments we’ll find it difficult to guarantee a seamless exam experience for your students.

Tagging also means you can run your online exams in one of our supported secure exam browser environments (Safe Exam Browser, FAQs available here or Chromebooks in secure exam mode). This means students can’t easily access other websites during their exam and makes invigilation a lot easier.

How many online exam attempts were there last year?

During the official exam period last year (13.05.2018–07.06.2018) there were 5426 exams attempts that we all helped support. However, this figure isn’t the full picture. In the two week preceding the exam period 2737 official online exam attempts took place. That’s quite a staggering number of exam attempts happening outside of the time-frame that staff are focussed on supporting and something we should all be mindful of this year. Monday April 29th is the start date for your diaries.

Exams change freeze

IS and TEL enforce a number of Moodle change freezes throughout the academic year. These are periods when no updates can be made to Moodle. We have one in place during the exam period to ensure changes don’t inadvertently interrupt exams. The exam change freeze this year will run from Monday 29th April through to Friday 7th June (inclusive).

How do we monitor exams are going well?

The TEL team gather data from a number of sources to help monitor what’s happening through the exam period. We combine it into a real-time dashboard of where exams are happening and how Moodle is performing. You can see a picture below from last year.

Exam Analytics Dashboard

We rely on support from a number of sources to produce this dashboard. Lead Online Course Developers have their finger on the pulse of when exams will happen and any last minute amendments. In the very near future we’ll be asking again for your help to populate a spreadsheet with the exams you know about. We combine this information with data from student records, which is thorough but lacks local knowledge. We also use Google Analytics, Moodle database and server infrastructure reporting to keep an eye on how our systems our performing. This combined data is extremely useful at spotting pinch points and monitoring how things are running but it’s not as effective as people in faculties such as exam invigilators and online course developers ensuring all is running well and reporting to elearn@port.ac.uk any issues that are encountered.

A new exam theme for Moodle

It’s worth mentioning at this point that we’re close to final testing of an updated version of the Moodle exam theme. This is a stripped down version of our theme intended for use in exams. We’ll provide more information on this in the next few weeks. It will look very similar to the existing exam theme but will be a bit closer to our regular theme in terms of question layout and styles.

Thank You

We just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone involved in making sure the exam period goes well. It’s very much a big team effort and all the work we put in ensures students get as stress-free an experience as possible. I’m sure they appreciate it, I know that the team in TEL certainly do.

If you have any questions about online exams, please get in touch at elearn@port.ac.uk


Thank You Image

Image credits: Photo by Lip on Unsplash