Category: Projects

Vereinfachtes Reporting in der Unterrichtsbeurteilung der ETH Zürich

An vielen Hochschulen sind die Prozesse der Unterrichtsbeurteilung eindeutig geregelt. Dies aber meist nur bis zum Ende der Datenerhebung. In den letzten Jahren rückte der Schlussteil des Evaluationsprozesses, also die Analyse der Resultate und die Festlegung von Massnahmen aufgrund dieser Resultate, vermehrt in den Fokus. Bisher mussten die 16 Departemente pro Semester je einen Bericht an die Rektorin senden, in dem die kritisch evaluierten Veranstaltungen eruiert und Ursachen und Massnahmen zu deren Verbesserung beschrieben wurden. Die Rektorin hat dann wieder in Briefform eine Rückmeldung an jedes Departement zum Bericht geschrieben.

Mit einer Weiterentwicklung unserer Evaluationssoftware EvaSys können wir nun diesen Feedback-Prozess mit einer Online-Applikation unterstützen. In einem ersten Schritt werden die kritisch evaluierten Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen automatisch aufgrund von flexibel einstellbaren Kriterien erkannt und den Departementen in einer Liste präsentiert. Diskussionen, ob eine Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung nun kritisch evaluiert ist oder vergessen wurde, gehören so der Vergangenheit an. Kritisch bedeutet, dass das Departement bei der entsprechenden Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung genauer hinschauen und eine Rückmeldung an die Rektorin geben muss. Dieses «genaue Hinschauen» ist nun in einem eigenen Menü, dem Massnahmendialog, abgebildet, wie er in der Abbildung unten ersichtlich ist.

Bild des Massnahmendialogs
Abbildung: Massnahmendialog zu einer Lehrveranstaltung. Im oberen Bereich werden die Fragetexte und die kritischen Mittelwerte (<3.0 bei einer 5-er-Skala) eingeblendet. Im grün umrandeten Feld muss das Departement Ursachen und Massnahmen eingeben. Rechts davon muss aus einer Liste von vordefinierten stichwortartigen, häufig getroffenen Massnahmen mind. eine ausgewählt werden. Dies kann auch eine eigens hinzugefügte Massnahme sein. Später im Prozess gibt dann die Rektorin eine Rückmeldung zu den von den Departementen beschriebenen Massnahmen. Diese Rückmeldung wird dann im grau umrandeten Feld unten ersichtlich.

Somit erhält das Departement für jedes Semester eine Liste von kritisch evaluierten Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen. Der Massnahmendialog muss für jede kritische Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung aufgerufen und ausgefüllt werden. Die Suche nach kritisch bewerteten Veranstaltungen, die in den Departementen bisher manuell erfolgt ist, entfällt damit. In der Liste ist zudem ersichtlich, ob die entsprechende Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung schon in früheren Semestern kritisch evaluiert war. Somit lassen sich Trends wie die Verbesserung einer kritischen Veranstaltung besser nachvollziehen. Am Ende der Liste der kritischen Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen muss das Departement noch ein Fazit über die Unterrichtsbeurteilungen des aktuellen Semesters eingeben, zu welchem die Rektorin auch in einem Feld ein Feedback geben kann.

Die Weiterentwicklung unterstützt den Feedbackprozess zwischen Departementen und Rektorin. Auf umständliche Berichterstattung und Korrespondenz in brieflicher Form kann in Zukunft verzichtet werden. Das Erkennen von kritischen und von wiederholt kritischen Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen ist automatisiert, was den administrativen Aufwand wesentlich verringert und der inhaltlichen Arbeit an der Verbesserung der Qualität von Lerneinheiten und Prüfungen zugutekommt. Natürlich ist mit der Weiterentwicklung auch die Hoffnung verbunden, dass der Feedbackprozess in Zukunft etwas beschleunigt werden kann.

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Going paperless: The revised portal page in Online Examinations at ETH Zurich introduced in Spring Semester 2020

In online examinations at ETH Zurich, the portal page is the website students see first when they face the exam computer and is thus the entry point for every online examination with Moodle. A revised portal page was introduced in September 2020, focusing on improvements in several key areas: 1) going paperless, 2) exam administration, 3) visual redesign and 4) technical infrastructure.

Figure of the revised portal page used in online examination with Moodle at ETH Zurich.
Figure 1. Left side: Portal page with filled out form and confirmation dialogue. Right side: Manual with general information about online examinations and Moodle, opened by clicking on the blue i-icon on the bottom left.

Going paperless

Before the revision, students writing an online examination always found a piece of paper at their workspace. The piece of paper contained general information about online examinations and Moodle, served to track the specific computers used by students (students noted their name and computer number on it) and had to be signed (to confirm knowledge that technical problems are to be reported immediately and that screens are recorded).

The preparation and distribution of the paper sheets was time-consuming both on part of the LET staff and examiners. Therefore, the goal  was to provide all required information to students digitally, at the same time ensuring availability not only during, but also before and after an examination, as it is the case with paper. Fortunately, SafeExamBrowser, which is used at ETH Zurich to provide a safe and intuitive exam environment in online examinations with Moodle, includes functionality to easily give students access to specific additional resources. We thus designed a “manual” webpage containing all relevant information that can be viewed by students at all times simply by clicking on the respective icon in the taskbar (see Figure 1, right side).

Instead of noting their name and used computers on the paper, the revised portal page allows students to enter their personal information directly on the webpage using a simple form. The information, including the used computer, is automatically and cleanly stored in a database. In addition, as a replacement for the signature on paper, the portal page was extended by a dialogue presenting information that must be confirmed to be able to proceed to the actual examination (see Figure 1, left side).

Exam Administration

Due to the growing number of online examinations at ETH Zurich, it was getting increasingly difficult to maintain the previous portal page and store the papers in a way to provide quick access to the required information when needed (i.e., association of computers and students). The revised portal page therefore includes a separate space for LET to administer the examinations that are available for students and search used computers on an exam-by-exam basis.

Visual redesign

Finally, while Moodle has undergone a visual overhaul in recent years, the design of the old portal page was lagging behind. In addition to updating the design in general, the theme of the revised portal page is now based on the Moodle theme to also provide a more consistent and streamlined exam environment.

Technical Infrastructure

Similarly, it was also time to update the technical infrastructure of the portal page. It was a plain HTML site that could only be updated by one person at a time to prevent that no changes were accidentally overwritten. In contrast, the revised portal page is a state-of-the-art application with a separate administration space that can be used by multiple users at once. Two load-balanced frontend servers ensure that all requests from the examination clients are reliably processed and all data are stored in a central database on a separate server.

The revised portal page was developed alongside the regular operations of the online examinations service and was planned to be tested in Spring Semester 2020 in a few select examinations. However, when it became apparent that on-site examinations in 2020 were to be conducted under special circumstances due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we decided early on to introduce it more broadly to facilitate the implementation of the hygienic measures by going paperless. Extensive security measures were taken and an organizational as well as a technical fallback was in place at all times, which – as expected – was not needed in the end. After the positive and smooth experience of the first examination session, slight improvements were added for Autumn Semester 2020 and analogous functionalities were developed for setups not using Moodle such as Linux examinations. In the future, the plan is to implement a functionality that allows easy pre-assignment of students to computers by displaying the corresponding name directly on the screen.

If you want to know more about online examinations at ETH Zurich, please do not hesitate to contact online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch.  

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Accessible teaching at ETH

Blind person using computer with braille computer display and a computer keyboard.

Accessibility is an important topic for ETH, also in the institution’s teaching. ETH’s project in this area comprises 14 sub-projects. In the first interview below, project manager Romila Storjohann describes the central points of the project with regard to teaching. The physical givens (rooms, access possibilities, etc.) are of course crucial to accessibility, but adapting electronic information is also important. LET has invested much time and energy in this topic, and has since January been working with a project coordinator for accessible teaching and teaching materials, Anton Bolfing. He describes his initial focus in the second interview below. LET is currently drafting various measures and identifying “quick wins”; for example, Mathjax formulas can be read aloud. LET organised an Accessible Teaching Day on 3 February 2020.

Accessibility is also an Innovedum focal point theme. Projects in this area are very welcome. Taking accessibility into account in teaching platforms and documents can provide improved semantics, better-structured, more flexibly displayed content and thus better usability in general. This benefits all users and also improves searchability.

Interview with Romila Storjohann, project manager “Barrier-free at ETH Zurich”

What do you see as the long-term goals for accessibility in the area of teaching?

Seen in the long term, the goal is to offer barrier-free, inclusive teaching at ETH Zurich. This involves, on the one hand, the alteration of existing teaching materials and technologies, and on the other the readiness of teaching staff to make their teaching as accessible as possible so that all students may better take part.

What concrete links are there between ETH teaching and the three accessibility project categories “Construction”, “Technology” and “Organisation”?

The project “Barrier-free at ETH Zurich” comprises 14 sub-projects in total: nine under the category “Construction”, one under “Organisation” and four under “Technology”.

Sub-project 13, “Barrier-free teaching materials”, to commence in February 2021 at LET, is in the “Technology” category. Besides technical alterations (e.g. the subtitling of video recordings), non-technical measures will also be involved, such as as the drawing up of training concepts for teaching faculty.

Naturally measures in the “Construction” category will also contribute to barrier-free teaching by ensuring barrier-free access to seminar rooms, lecture halls and other ETH teaching locations.

Interview with Anton Bolfing, LET project coordinator for “Barrier-free teaching” since January 2021

My area of responsibility is the accessibility of electronic user interfaces. Here the main focus is on teaching and learning materials.

What do you see as the core themes for barrier-free teaching at ETH?

We envision an ETH where it goes without saying that accessibility is considered in all products and digital creations. Here information being digital is a prerequisite for its accessibility: print is not accessible!

What are your priorities?

In terms of existing accessibility issues, I see the most need for action in learning platforms and documents. Accessible teaching guarantees students access to all relevant information and systems irrespective of any physical, sensory or mental limitations. This involves not only the classical learning platforms, but also communication and information platforms and classical websites. Just as important are documents, including textbooks and lecture notes. Examinations must also become accessible.

It is clear to me that the road to our vision will be a long one. Therefore my first priorities are communication and the development of aids. All parties involved must be convinced of the need for accessible teaching.

Concretely, what will be altered on learning platforms and in documents?

Briefly summarised, there are two main points here:

  • Improved flexibility in the display of screen content (responsivity, various monitors, text enlargement, colour schemes etc.) and flexibility in the use of input devices (pointing devices such as mouse, joystick, eye-tracker etc. and serial input devices such as switches and keyboard)
  • Compatibility with assistive technologies (screenreader, language input)

How will the corona situation influence your efforts in 2021?

The corona situation is showing a broader public how important information and communication technologies are in the knowledge and service economy: think working from home. We are noticing how much we depend on these technologies. Many people with disabilities knew this even before the corona pandemic and will continue to know it afterwards. For them it is therefore even more important that these technologies are accessible.

For further information on accessibility see the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

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Virtual labs with Labster – Practical experience in food chemistry

Interview with Dr. Melanie Erzinger, responsible for the food chemistry practical course at D-HEST.

The food chemistry practical course at D-HEST uses the virtual laboratory simulations of Labster. Virtual labs allow students to complete laboratory experiments online and explore concepts and theories without stepping into a physical science lab. Especially now in times of Corona, this is a valuable alternative. There are many kinds of virtual lab simulations, from simple video animations to immersive 3D interactive learning environments. Other courses and departments might benefit from these options as well, mainly biology and chemistry.

Click to view demonstration video

What effects did Labster have on the practical course in food chemistry?

The use of virtual laboratories with Labster had positive effects on the practical course in food chemistry. They are now an integral part of the practical course and they were appreciated by the teachers and students. The fact that they are only available in English was accepted due to the clear added value. They have been in use there since 2017, in 2020 already in their fourth run. All 60 students received their own, fee-based semester licence.

The Labster activities enabled students to prepare for real laboratory experiments in a better and more exciting way than if they had only read an introductory document. Now they had to actively deal with a problem. This proved to be an excellent way of introducing them to methods.

What is the relationship between virtual and real world labs?

The virtual labs were never intended to replace the real labs, they are meant as an addition – to understand, practice and repeat more deeply. A three-stage setting was established which was successful because it formed a common thread: 1. preparations with Labster. 2. dealing with the topics in the Labster labs and doing the practical training in real life. 3. follow-up and repetitions with Labster. During the corona crisis, the practical middle part was replaced by virtual laboratories and so it was still possible to give the students good insights and knowledge.

What other advantages does Labster bring?

Another advantage is that Labster allows additional experiments to be carried out that would not be possible in real life. There are three reasons for this: It would take too long, the devices are very expensive and used by the researchers or the experiments would be too dangerous.

The technology has improved greatly over the years and today there are no longer any technical problems, as long as the students’ computers meet minimal and common technical standards and the technical support provided is used. With a detailed briefing at the beginning of the semester, the practical use of virtual labs works well and the Labster helpdesk is also working properly.

How could the use of Labster be expanded at ETH?

Other courses and departments would also benefit from virtual labs in certain areas (biology and chemistry, e.g. toxicology or molecular biology), and Labster has many topics and laboratories that would be a good addition. However, in courses with a low proportion of practical training, selective use of virtual labs would not really justify the expenditure of time and money, since – unlike in pure practical training – they would not be essential for the learning objectives.

More information about the use of labster at ETH can also be found here under “virtual labs”.

Labster-Website – to see the library of available simulations

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ETH Moodle App

We are proud to announce the brand new ETH Moodle App for Android and iOS available today! This app has been developed by the core developers of Moodle and is a specially branded version of the official Moodle App.

Please click on the link below to download the app:

iOS: https://apps.apple.com/app/id1521806822

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ch.ethz.ethmoodle

Easy access, work offline and much more

Students and lecturers can access all their courses directly from their smartphone or tablet. This access has several advantages:

  • You only have to login once for days and weeks at a time.
  • You can download courses and access them offline.
  • If you post an answer in a forum or solve a quiz while offline, the course will be synchronised when you are online again.
  • You can include audio, video and pictures from your phone easily into your forum answers, messages and even assignment responses.
  • The app uses GDPR-compliant push notifications for important dates (yes the Moodle calendar is placed directly on the start screen), messages and forum posts.

Similar but not equal

Although your course looks similar in the ETH Moodle App, there are some important differences (especially important for lecturers to know):

  • There is no edit possibility to the course via app. So, if you want to edit your course, please use the web browser.
  • The app doesn’t display any blocks (which you can add to your course individually).
  • Some activities are not Moodle App ready yet (or not meant to work with the app). In those cases students (and lecturers) are forwarded to a web browser. At the moment the following activities are not app ready:
    • Interactive Video Suite
    • Student Quiz
    • OU Blog
    • Fair Allocation
    • Scheduler
    • Collaborative Folder

If you have any feedback on the ETH Moodle App, please contact us at moodle@let.ethz.ch.

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Drawing by hand made easy in Moodle

Do you already use Moodle and have you ever wanted better options for capturing simple digital drawings as part of a quiz? An improved freehand drawing question type is now available for ETH lecturers.

This question type is called “Freehand Drawing (ETH)” and works on any computer device. Generally, touch-devices with hardware pens (styluses) work best although drawing with a mouse or a touchpad works as well.

Creating a quiz with a Freehand Drawing question

Start by creating a quiz in Moodle. Quizzes can include any number of any question types.

Insert your new question into the quiz, using “+ a new question.”

Choose the question type “Freehand drawing (ETH)”.

Insert a title and write a task or a question for the students to solve. This is the standard text editor used all over Moodle. In this example, we have asked a question about charging a capacitor where we want the students to sketch the electric current as a function of time.

Note that a lot of students do not own large-screen touch-devices, so we cannot expect detailed or precise drawings. Use of the question type thus should be limited to “sketching” or “drawing,” not precise activities like “graphing.”

By default, students get a white background to draw on. You can also create and upload a background image using any drawing tool. In the following example, a coordinate system was created using PowerPoint. These drawings can help your students literally by framing their answers and in the end help you grading them by standardising aspects of the image.

Upload your background image to your question. You can simply drag and drop your file into the provided field.

If it is a big image, make sure to reduce the size so it fits on the student’s screen without scrolling. While the tool allows for horizontal or vertical scrolling, this can be awkward. Also, keep in mind that Moodle itself will take up some space for its navigational elements – a width of 500 pixels is reasonable.

Save and preview your question, using the “preview” button:


Answering a Freehand Drawing question

Students can then answer the question as shown in the example below:

This answer drawing was made with a mouse. The precision of this drawing is at the limit of what should be expected, but one can clearly see what’s going on: exponential drop-off, starting at U/R. For the axis label, students could also have used the typing tool. Other tools include a simple line tool and an eraser.

Students would then submit their drawings as their answer. Answers need to be graded manually, just like essays answers.

Practice makes perfect

Although more and more students possess convertible or tablet devices with touch screens and pens, drawings are still more often made using paper and pencil. If you intend to use Freehand Drawing on exams, it is important to give your students time and opportunity to practice using it. If you already use Freehand Drawing questions in your lecture during the semester, the students have had time to practice at their individual pace and can get acquainted with the question type.

This question type will be piloted for use in future examinations. The devices used for mobile exams at ETH have touch screens and hardware pens, which work well with this question type. If you are interested in using the Freehand Drawing question type in an online exam, please contact online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch.

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Learning Autonomy with Self-Driving Cars: Duckietown goes MOOC.

Figure  1 Tani (left) and Censi (right) in the Duckietown Lab
(Picture: ETH, Alessandro della Bella)

Jacopo Tani and Andrea Censi are senior assistants in the research group headed by Emilio Frazzoli (D-MAVT), an internationally renowned specialist in autonomous systems. Together with Prof. Liam Paull of the University of Montreal, they lead the Duckietown project, which was conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2015. The goal was to build a platform that was small-scale and cute yet still preserved the real scientific challenges inherent in a full-scale real autonomous robot platform.  Duckietown is now a worldwide initiative to realize a new vision for AI/robotics education. It teaches participants to programme autonomous vehicles to navigate a structured environment using rubber ducks as the passengers of the vehicles, and has now been used by over 80 universities in 23 countries worldwide. Their next endeavor is to create a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) focused on the science and technology of autonomy through the lens of self-driving cars. In this multi-institution project, ETH will take leadership and develop the first course of the MOOC-series.

What will the MOOC be about and what do you seek to achieve for participants?

The Duckietown MOOC series will be about autonomy, or how to make machines take their own decisions to accomplish broadly defined tasks. This topic is both intellectually fascinating and very timely given the rapid progress of robotics and AI technologies in our daily lives. Autonomy will be studied through self-driving cars, an application with disruptive social potential.

Participants will engage in a sequence of software and hardware hands-on learning experiences whose particular focus is on overcoming the challenges of deploying robots in the real world. Our hope is that participants will gain useful skills and come to appreciate and understand the challenges of this technology, while at the same time having lots of fun!

What motivated you personally to make a MOOC?

The Duckietown project was developed to make the science and technology of autonomy accessible to the broadest possible audience, not only to those learners lucky enough to have access to premiere educational institutions where these topics are addressed. Building a Duckietown MOOC experience was a logical step towards achieving the mission of the project. We are grateful for ETH-Innovedum supporting our efforts and extremely excited to bring our vision for learning autonomy to the world.   

What are the unique didactic challenges?

Teaching autonomy requires a fundamentally different approach compared to many computer science and engineering disciplines. There is extensive and diverse preliminary knowledge needed to really comprehend autonomy from the “pure” mathematics and physics to “modern” machine learning based approaches. Moreover, robots are real world machines, and theory and practice do not always play well together. To see the theory work in the real world it is necessary to translate the knowledge in software architectures, and deploy them on hardware platforms. Finally, there is a proliferation of hardware platforms and software tools out there, each with its own peculiarities, strengths and shortcomings. It is not always clear what tools are worth investing time in mastering, and how this competence will translate to different platforms.   

 How will you overcome these challenges?

To address these barriers of entry to learning autonomy, the MOOC “Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown” will have several distinguishing features, namely:

  • Competency-based topic progression
    The sequence of topics in the courses is determined by asking the question: “what is the most we can make our robot do, with the least amount of prior knowledge?” instead of “what is the best order to explain things?”. As learners progress through behaviors of increasing complexity to reach the final objective, it becomes naturally necessary to introduce new concepts and tools to address limitations to previous behaviors. This approach allows students to jump right in “the middle of things” (getting Duckiebots to do things!) and gradually re-iterate concepts through the various technical frameworks and implementation solutions that are so very important to align the theory with the practice, leading to a stronger comprehension of the how and why things happen.
  • Hardware-based hands-on learning on a standardized platform (the Duckiebot) with open-source industry-widespread software tools
    This is a robotics and AI MOOC where every participant will have the opportunity to follow along by doing real world experiments with their own robot at home. The Duckietown framework was designed, from the software stack (i.e., Python, ROS, Docker) to the Duckiebot and Duckietown city, to make the course accessible for all learners, both pedagogically and economically.
  • Remote evaluations of hardware assignments
    The last, but not least, distinguishing factor of this MOOC is the use of remote facilities (the Duckietown Autolabs) where reproducible performance assessment of hardware assignments is conducted in controlled environments. This feature enables remote grading of hardware assignment, which, to the best of our knowledge, is a first ever for a robotics MOOC.

Like to know more about Autonomy with Self-Driving Cars? Course starts at March 22, 2021 and will be published on the edX-platform.

Inspired to start your own MOOC project? Please have a look at our website and contact Marinka Valkering to discuss possibilities!

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Safe Exam Browser 3.0 freigegeben

Prüfungen am Computer (Online-Prüfungen) bieten viele Vorteile gegenüber herkömmlichen schriftlichen Prüfungen. Sie können oftmals authentischer gestaltet werden, indem Studierende in der Prüfung mit Programmen und Ressourcen arbeiten können, die sie auch in den Übungen oder später im Arbeitsalltag verwenden (z.B. durch eine eingebettete Programmierumgebung). Je nach Aufbau der Prüfung ist auch eine (teil-)automatisierte Bewertung möglich, die bei grossen Kursen eine massive Arbeitserleichterung für die Examinatoren bringt, bzw. ein Assessment überhaupt erst möglich macht (z.B. bei MOOCs).

Voraussetzung für Online-Prüfungen ist eine abgesicherte Umgebung am Prüfungscomputer, die während der Prüfung nur den Zugriff auf erlaubte Ressourcen gestattet. Hier kommt die Open Source Software Safe Exam Browser ins Spiel, die seit über 10 Jahren existiert und inzwischen international von zahlreichen Bildungseinrichtungen eingesetzt wird. Der Safe Exam Browser ermöglicht nicht nur die kontrollierte Absicherung des Prüfungscomputers, sondern erlaubt auch das Verwenden ausgewählter lokaler Programme oder die Freigabe von bestimmten Webressourcen.

Für die Version 3 wurde der Safe Exam Browser (im Folgenden SEB abgekürzt) einem umfassenden Refactoring unterzogen. Der SEB wurde von Grund auf gemäss aktueller Standards neu programmiert. Die prinzipielle Funktionsweise wurde dabei beibehalten. Wesentliche Änderungen wurden «unter der Haube» vorgenommen und sind vor allem technischer Art.

So wird nun beispielsweise als Browser-Komponente anstelle der Mozilla Gecko Engine die Chromium Engine verwendet. Die Erkennung von virtuellen Maschinen als Laufzeitumgebung wurde verbessert. Es gibt erweiterte Funktionen zur Kontrolle der Browser-Session durch das Prüfungssystem (für die SEB-Moodle Deeper Integration). Und die Zusammenarbeit mit Antivirenprogrammen wurde weiter verbessert.

Aber auch die Benutzeroberfläche wurde modernisiert. Neu verfügt SEB über ein «Action Center», ähnlich dem aus Windows 10 bekannten Seitenmenü. Man kann nun beim Umschalten zwischen geöffneten Applikationsfenstern mit ALT-TAB  wie unter Windows üblich kleine Vorschaufenster der geöffneten Applikationen sehen. Ausserdem wird die Arbeit mit Tablet-PCs besser unterstützt.

Benutzeroberfläche von SEB 3 mit links eingeblendetem Action Center

SEB wird weiterhin in Versionen für Windows, MacOS und iOS angeboten. Und mittlerweile wird für Windows neben der 32-bit auch eine native 64-bit Variante bereit gestellt.

Der volle Funktionsumfang aus SEB 2.4.x wird mit der Version 3.2 zur Verfügung stehen. Dies betrifft etwa den Zugriff auf die Webcam durch Webapplikationen (mehr Details dazu in den Release Notes).

Zudem sieht die Roadmap für die Weiterentwicklung von SEB vor, das mitgelieferte Konfigurationstool in Übereinstimmung mit dem Konfigurationstool des SEB Server zu überarbeiten, sowie die Integration mit weiteren Learning Management Systemen zu verbessern.

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Engaging students through technology enhanced Feedback

Teachers’ written commentary on student assignments is a fundamental element of instruction in almost any discipline. However, it is unclear what impact the feedback has on students. Consequently, teachers face fundamental questions for which no ready answers are available: Which components of commentary are most helpful, and how are they most effectively delivered? How can students’ uptake of commentary be optimised, and how can teachers be most efficient when providing commentary?

Giving and receiving feedback with Edword

Edword is an assignment feedback tool that provides answers to these questions; it quantifiably improves the quality and efficiency of commentary and its uptake and measures previously unobserved aspects of learning. Edword is an online platform to which students can upload written assignments of any kind set by teachers.

Teachers´view of sample comments for a microbiology lab.

Teachers can then add commentary to the text. These comments can be written individually as done in many traditional teaching settings, but Edword also enables the rapid application of prewritten comments from comment sets. These comment sets can address any aspects of written work in any discipline. They can be prepared by teachers working individually or shared between colleagues in teams.

Students´view of feedback through a comment with additional video material.
Sample comment for a common mistake in lab reports.

Because they can be adjusted and augmented, a comment set can evolve as individual comments are added and improved. The quality and level of detail that can be delivered within the time available for commenting on assignments is thus substantially increased.

When the student opens the commentary, the most important comments, selected by the teacher, are presented first and repeated comments bundled so that the student sees every instance of the same comment in the assignment. This allows the teacher to optimise individual students’ uptake of their commentary. Edword enables further optimisation by measuring two aspects of students’ engagement with the comments: the time the student spends with each individual comment is automatically recorded, and the student gives one of three responses—helpful, neutral, or unhelpful—to each comment. These data points are automatically collated by comment and assignment to provide a fine-grained evidence base for further adaptation of comment sets and commenting practice to the specific requirements of programs and disciplines.

Successful pilot project

Edword’s suitability for use with UZH and ETH students was tested in a pilot project between February and May 2020. Writing instructors from the English unit of the Language Center of UZH and ETH Zurich (LC) attended a LET Refresh Teaching event at ETH on 4 September 2019 where selected EdTech startups from the Kickstart Accelerator program presented their tools; here, they were introduced to the Edword online writing assessment tool. Seeing its potential, four writing instructors collaborated with LET and ran a pilot project to test Edword in their courses comprising 167 students in all. The instructors created and shared comment sets containing a total of over 350 specialized comments. The participating students were surveyed online about their experience with Edword at the end of their courses (response rate 32%). Some 87% said they preferred commentary via Edword over traditionally delivered comments.

Potential for broader application at ETH

The feedback processes in Edword can be used to provide highly nuanced and sophisticated commentary for any kind of written assignment, and comment sets can be adapted to the demands of any discipline. The comment sets can be written centrally or developed collaboratively or individually, and the uptake of commentary is monitored in detail. Further test groups can demonstrate the range of academic contexts in which Edword is applicable. Please contact Melanie Walter if you are interested in trying out Edword in your ETH course.

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Online-Prüfungen reloaded

SEB Server Version 1.0 veröffentlicht

Die Nachfrage für die Durchführung von Prüfungen am Computer steigt beständig. Damit verbunden wachsen auch die Anforderungen an die technische Infrastruktur. Langjährig bewährt hat sich bereits der Safe Exam Browser, der eine abgesicherte Prüfungsumgebung auf zahlreichen Endgeräten ermöglicht. Ergänzend dazu wird aktuell an der ETH Zürich in der Abteilung LET (LINK) im Rahmen des Swiss MOOC Service Projekts der swissuniversities die Server-Applikation «SEB Server» entwickelt, um die technische Vorbereitung und Durchführung von Online-Prüfungen zu vereinfachen. Schlüsselfunktionen des SEB Servers sind die zentrale Konfiguration der SEB Clients für einzelne Prüfungen, sowie die einfache Prüfungsadministration durch eine direkte Anbindung an betreffende Learning Management System (aktuell für Open edX innerhalb des Swiss MOOC Services). Ausserdem ermöglicht SEB Server eine zentrale Steuerung und Überwachung der SEB Clients während der Durchführung der Online-Prüfung.

Ein Einsatz des SEB Servers ist grundsätzlich in allen Online-Prüfungsszenarien sinnvoll. Vorteile bringt er insbesondere bei Remote-Prüfungen (z. B. bei MOOC-Kursen), aber auch bei Prüfungen in Räumen der Lehrinstitution auf privaten Endgeräten der Studierenden («bring your own device», BYOD). Hier bietet der SEB Server Funktionalitäten, die ansonsten nur schwierig oder gar nicht zu erreichen wären, beispielsweise  die automatische Verteilung der SEB Client Konfiguration oder das Monitoring der verbundenen SEB Clients während der Prüfungsdurchführung

Überwachung der Funktionsfähigkeit der SEB Clients druch den SEB Server in einer laufenden Prüfung
Überwachung der Erreichbarkeit der SEB Clients durch den SEB Server in einer laufenden Prüfung

Der SEB Server ist ein Open-Source-Projekt und basiert auf aktueller Java Enterprise- und Docker-Technologie. Er verfügt über Mandantenfähigkeit, d. h. es können mehrere Institutionen innerhalb derselben Server-Instanz verwaltet werden. Weitere nützliche Features sind eine Template-Verwaltung für SEB-Konfigurationen, sowie eine mehrstufige Benutzer- und Berechtigungsverwaltung. Details finden sich auf der GitHub-Projektseite und in der Online-Dokumentation.

Im Juni 2020 wurde die Version 1.0 des SEB Servers veröffentlicht. SEB Server wird künftig noch um Schnittstellen zu weiteren Learning Management Systemen erweitert. Insbesondere eine Moodle-Integration steht hier im Fokus, daneben sind Integrationen in weitere System wie ILIAS oder OpenOLAT möglich.

Zu den neuen Entwicklungen im Bereich des  Safe Exam Browsers informieren wir demnächst in einem weiteren Beitrag im LET-Blog

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