plexer (30th September 2010)
Having used Moodle for about four years and I am now having to use Fronter and am feeling a little bereft. I am told that Fronter is meant to be easier for novice users but when you have to tick a box on the left, wait, and then select from a pull-down menu on the right just to edit a simple page I am not convinced. It seems to me that a relatively simple design change could have improved this. When you look at the source code of a fronter page it is just a table. Using mouseover you could detect which cell you were in and then a right click could take you straight to the editing of that container — but maybe its not that simple.
Anyway, some of the things I've lost and I want back.
- Groups. I used to run a wiki project with 100 students divided into twenty groups and in moodle just issued different pass phrases so they were automatically assigned. I now seem to have to create twenty different projects and assign each student individually to twenty different shared folders. Is there a better way?
- Wikis. None in Fronter has anyone any suggestions of the best to use without having the students having to remember more passwords and with me not having to create them individually so that I have access and can monitor what is happening. Fronter documents do not do what I need and don't have the necessary roll-back.
- Tracking pupil activity. In Moodle I was able to click on a student's name and see what they had been accessing. In Fronter I seem to have to check activity for each page or test which will be an impossibly time consuming activity. For some pages it will tell me when a student first accessed the page but I more often want to know when they last accessed the page. Can this information be accessed in any way at all.
- Exporting detailed stats from tests. I want to know what each student has answered for each question and look at all the results for each question. I am used to ending up with an excel sheet names down the way and questions across. Has anyone managed this? Perhaps there is an option somewhere that I have missed.
This one had me fooled for hours.
I created a test and then tried it out and must have selected save and postpone submission. I found some problems with a couple of questions but when I went to edit the test there was now a message saying the test had 'replies' — an odd use of the word 'replies' shouldn't it be 'submissions'? — but under statistics there were no results to display! I eventually found out that it was necessary to select the box 'in started tests', then hit search leaving the search box empty so that a list of those who had started the test showed up. Since under Statistics/General it displays both results and those students who have 'not delivered' — shouldn't that be 'not submitted'? — I cannot fathom the reason why it doesn't also list those who have 'started' but not finished.
Moral: You need to look for started tests as well as for tests with results.
But then it got worse. I was experimenting in a room to which no students had been allocated. Created a test, took the test and then later went to delete the replies so I could alter it. No joy. In fact, the first time you go to Statistics/General you can delete your 'reply' but if you don't do it then you don't get another opportunity. After that when you go to Statistics/General it briefly shows the list with your name and then switches to the more detailed result. You cannot get to the box you need to select! I spent ages hunting through the various tabs. You need to come right out of the test and then go back in to the statistics.
Workaround: If you allocate at least one student (I used a dummy student) to the room this problem doesn't occur. Oddly, it doesn't resolve the problem if you have two owners allocated to the room and the other owner doesn't even show up in the list as 'not delivered'. Of course, you could just stop experimenting in a room without students!
The students are busy taking a multiple choice test and then decide for whatever reason to hit the delete button. Or maybe they are entering text into a text box and accidentally click outside the text box before hitting delete. Oops. The delete button operates like the back button on the browser. The student goes to their previous page and all their answers are lost!
Workaround: put each question on a separate page and then the student will only lose their answer to the last question they were working on. There is a down side. Working with pages in a test can be a right pain. It would be nice to have a simple option 'display questions as separate pages' but that's not there. Also, moving a question between pages is done differently to moving a question on a page. To do the latter you select the question go to Advanced and then select your positioning. To move a question to a different page you select the page it is on, select 'list' and then 'move to page'. The big advantage is that 'next page' and 'previous page' seem to automatically save the answer so even if the student bails out to a completely different web page all their previous answers will still be there when they return.
Well, that was a waste of an evening! Last week I experimented importing questions into Fronter that had been exported from Moodle. It sort of worked. Questions that had been multi-choice tick boxes imported as single-choice radio buttons but at least they were in. But last night—no joy. I tried this, I tried that. I tried editing the files. This is daft. It worked last week why not now? Then I discovered what I was doing differently. Last week I was importing into a test but last night I was attempting to import into a question database. Why the former should work but the latter should fail I have no idea but that’s the way it was.
Moral: If you want the questions into a database and you are importing from Moodle then import into a test and only then transfer to the database.
On the plus side I discovered that although Moodle exports each question as a separate xml file these can be stitched together (I used Textwrangler and its import file contents feature) and then all the questions can be imported in one go. Since I had nearly fifty to import this time and many more to go this was a good find.
I then discover that although all of the questions now have the answer options not all of them have the correct answer selected and so have to go through them one by one to fix that.
And worst of all, just as I think I am nearing the end of the process, I discover the questions are not in the correct order and, guess what, there is no obvious way to reorder the questions. Odd that because I thought there was but if there was before then it isn’t there. I wonder if this is a frames problem that I have encountered before, I try different browsers but no there is no reordering tool showing up. Perhaps there isn’t one. So when you have fifty questions in a test in the wrong order HOW DO YOU REORDER THEM? This is insane. I created a new page and copied them one by one into the correct order.
Having spent hours on this I did then discover a better way or reordering questions…
Workaround: export all the questions, open up the file in a text editor (not Word), edit the order of the questions (it is relatively easy to find them as they are surrounded by <item> </item> tags), and re-import.
Nice to know we got this system because it is easier for the novice.
If you are editing a test and click on the name of the test and select 'list' then you get the list of questions. If your test has pages—as mine did to avoid the problem with answers being lost when delete or backspace is pressed—then you get a list of pages. This is where you can re-order the pages and where you can transfer a question from one page to another but it is NOT where you reorder the questions.
If you click on the name of the page (or on the test if you don't have pages) then select list you will get a list of questions and clicking on an item in that list enables you to edit the question but it is NOT where you reorder the questions.
If you click on a question in the left hand list and then select ADVANCED. Bingo.
A consistent interface would be helpful.
Fronter has a dreadful method of producing web pages. One of my colleagues referred to it as the teletext approach to web design. Maybe not quite but I know what she means. It got me thinking about how I could do things better and one thing led to another…
Any website can be wrapped up as a Scorm package. This is easier than you might think and anyone who can write a website will be able to wrap it using the Simple Content API free from Rustici Software. I used Scorm 1.2 and all I had to do was add one line to one file, a list of files to a second file, put them in with the website files and then zip everything together. Since I had a lot of files I threw together an excel file to top and tail each of the filenames which saved a bit of time.
You upload the zipped file as a Scorm package and it should work fine. The Scorm player is a bit of a pain and takes a while to initialize and it seems to do this every time you use the Scorm player’s slide out navigation controls, irritating. But now for the nice bit. Since Fronter is set up as frames you can right click in the Scorm player and open the frame in a new tab. And now you have the url of your first page. Link straight to that url and you don’t seem to need the Scorm player.
This is a workaround with the emphasis on the word work!
One of the frustrating things about Fronter is how it expects the user to do two similar things but do them in radically different ways. The reporting of detailed test results is a good example of this.
If a student completes a quiz/test you can arrange for their score to appear in the portfolio. If, however, you want to see the details of each answer and any comments made by the student you have to go to the statistics for that particular test and click on the student's name. The easiest way is to go via the results matrix.
On the other hand if a student has completed a SCORM course the details of their answers are accessed directly from the portfolio under the 'More Info' heading.
From an instructor's point of view it is also frustrating. The more detailed results from any given quiz can be exported from the statistics page. The output isn't great but it can be manipulated into useable form elsewhere. However, unless I've missed it, there is no clear way to export detailed results from a SCORM test. I hope there is an easier way because what follows is my current workaround.
I'm using Firefox on a Mac and have the Scrapbook Add-on installed.
- Go to the portfolio and right click on the main pane to open that frame in its own tab.
- Use the filters to get just the results you are interested in.
- Using the Scrapbook add-on save not only the page but also one level deep.
- Locate the files saved by Scrapbook and concatenate the relevant html pages. I used TextWrangler's import file contents feature to do this quickly and easily.
- Save the file with a new name and html suffix and then open in a browser. On my set up it didn't matter that each of the files had their own head and html tags. I was surprised but it worked fine.
- Copy everything from the browser back into TextWrangler and there you have a clean page of text listing all the results ready to be manipulated into whatever form you desire.
No doubt someone will tell be there is a simple button to do all this on one of Fronter's pages. However silly it may make me look I will be pleased to hear of it!
Even more problems. A test worked well for fifty pupils but then on one of the questions the options disappeared. Brilliant. It's a mandatory question so now nobody can complete the test, no results of any kind can be seen by students or by me until their test is completed and since there are replies I can't get in to edit the question so that it is no longer mandatory. Stuffed. Whether this is a result of an import (but why then would it work fine for the first fifty students) or some other problem I can't say.
Given the problems importing from a Moodle export I thought there may be benefit in having a way to edit large numbers of questions and then import them in a Fronter friendly way. I was able to get the moodle quizzes to text by using the moodle2word site although a GIFT export was also fine for this kind of cut'n'paste exercise.
I could then paste the questions into the attached excel file (if I can successfully attach it) and generate suitable xml code for import into Fronter.
It worked fine for me; if it helps someone else then great; if it doesn't work or causes problems—sorry, you're on your own.
One of my colleagues spent an hour trying to work out why a link wouldn’t stay the right colour. The problem stems from Fronter’s style sheet insisting that web links are black and therefore the same as ordinary text. They are underlined but this does not always suggest to a user that the link is, well, a link. It does go blue when the mouse hovers over it but otherwise they may just look like underlined word or an underlined heading.
However, by default the FCKeditor displays a link as blue. This means that you create a link in the editor and it is blue but when you save and return to the page the link is black. As my colleague discovered this can be very confusing if you want your links to be blue!
So my colleague had created a series of links — Link1 Link2 Link3 — all of which were blue in the editor but turned black when she saved them and so she went back and coloured them all blue. Next she decided to add another link. Went to the FCKeditor made a link and it appeared blue. Saved the page and it once again appeared black.
In fact there seem to be a number of factors in play here for when you start a new line in the editor the new paragraph inherits the font colour from the previous paragraph so you would expect the new link to inherit the blue colour she had added previously. I am guessing it did. As she typed it was probably blue but if when she selected the text to turn it into a link she left some spaces or perhaps some punctuation unselected in which case the new link would not inherit the colour.
If the text you colour and the text you turn into a link are the same then there should be no problem but if the colouring is more extensive than the link then the FCKeditor behaves differently depending on whether the link is made before or after the text is coloured.
Really, it would have been better if Fronter had gone for the same default colour for their links as the FCKeditor that they are using but better still if each user could also create their own default style sheet or if a style sheet could be created for each page.
Moral: If in doubt ignore the colour being displayed in the editor and just go by the colour on the page.
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