What is FETLAR?


The FETLAR project is the MSOR community's bid through the Subject Centre strand for the Open Educational Resources (OER) call from HEFCE/JISC. This project takes place in the pilot phase to encourage and enable the open sharing of educational resources. The FETLAR project addresses the challenge associated with students' mathematical skills and competencies on transition into higher education and the need to raise the retention rate of first-year students on science and engineering courses.
More here and here
Download full documentation for these technical tools here

What does FETLAR provide?


FETLAR provides a raft of electronic learning content. It also provides the infrastructure to deliver end-to-end electronic assessment to students within a VLE.

What does "end-to-end electronic assessment" mean?


The phrase, "end-to-end" is used to denote the process of creating electronic assessment content and then delivering it to a student. To achive it, a solution must provide the ability to: Assessments should be presented to students within a familar environment, e.g. a VLE, and integrated alongside the appropriate learning objects in that VLE.

Why QTI?


QTI is an IMS open standard format that represent assessment content and results. It is intended to allow assessment materials to be authored and delivered on different systems and promote interoperability between systems. This means that the investment of time and resources in creating content is protected: in the event that a system ceases to be supported, an alternative system can be deployed. Because the open standard is inherently interoperable, the content can still be used on a different system. In contrast, if a system using a closed standard is deployed, in the event that the system ceases to be usable, the content then becomes useless.

What's the difference between a question and an assessment/test?


A question is a single item presented to the student for their answer, e.g. "what is 2+2?". An assessment is a series of questions, potentially arranged into sections, presented to the student in a sequence.

Tools for QTI Content Authoring



Mathqurate


  • The QTI question authoring tool
  • Developed by Kingston University
  • A desktop application, written in Java, and compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Supports complex questions with multiple interactions
  • Supports maths questions that integrate with a computer algebra system
  • Questions can have randomised values - a different question every time!
  • Student input is evaluated by the computer algebra system - not just string matching!
  • There is also a quick multiple choice builder for the less complex tasks

More information and download links can be found here.

Spectatus


  • The QTI assessment authoring tool
  • Developed by Kingston University
  • A desktop application, written in Java, and compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Questions can be authored in any QTI question authoring tool (but it will integrate directly with Mathqurate if present)
  • Questions can be imported from the local hard disk or from Minibix, either in the form of an IMS Content Package, or XML
  • End-of-test feedback (e.g. what a student scored) will automatically be added to the test, if required.

Click here for more information about Spectatus

Installation is by way of Java Web Start. Click here if you have Java and the application will self-install.

What is virtualisation?


Virtualisation provides a complete simulation of a computer. The simulated computer can have a simulated hard disk, pre-populated with software and pre-configured. When the simulate computer runs, the software on its simulated hard disk also runs. Such virtual machines can be easily distributed as binary files (rather than physically hauling a real computer around) and copied (difficult with a physical computer unless you have a Star Trek replicator!). Among other things, this makes virtual machines an ideal medium to distrbute server software in a ready-to-run state, without someone needing to purchase an expensive physical server, or knowing how to set such a beast up.

Tools for QTI Content Delivery



Tip: All web-based applications can be found ready to run within the FETLAR Virtual Appliance. If you do not have administrative access to your institution's web server, or just want to try them out, this is probably what you want!

MathAssessEngine


  • The QTI content renderer
  • Developed by the University of Edinburgh, based on QTIEngine by Southampton University from the QTITools and MathAssess projects.
  • A web application, written in Grails
  • Supports both individual questions and tests.
  • Implements the MathAssess extensions to QTI for maths-based content.
  • Interfaces with Maxima for maths content.

A WAR file for deployment on Tomcat or similar can be downloaded from here.

A demonstration of the application can be seen here.

A standalone version of the application, can be found here. This can be used to run the application on a server without needing Tomcat or similar, or on a standalone PC.

Source for the application can be found at the FETLAR project on Sourceforge.

QTIPlayr


  • The Moodle plugin for MathAssessEngine
  • Originally written by Southampton University as part of the QTITools project.
  • Further developed by the University of Edinburgh to integrate with MathAssessEngine extensions.
  • Written as a Moodle "activity" which can be installed on any Moodle instance.
  • Presents a QTI assessment within a Moodle course, potentially alongside other learning content.
  • Student performance on an assessment is recorded and viewable by the course tutor.

A ZIP file containing the plugin can be found here. Unzip this into the "mod" folder of your Moodle install, and then click on "notifications" within Moodle to complete the installation.

Source for the application can be found at the FETLAR project on Sourceforge.

The FETLAR Virtual Appliance


The Virtual Appliance leverages virtualisation to provide a FETLAR "black box". This is a ready-to-run, complete instance of all the tools required to deploy FETLAR content with a minimum of configuration.
  • Can be used with freely available virtualisation software such as VMWare Player or VirtualBox
  • Needs little configuration or knowledge of complicated server-side technologies.
  • Comes already loaded with an installation of Moodle, with MathAssessEngine and QTIPlayr - in short, everything you need to immediately start pushing QTI assessments to your students.
  • Available with or without FETLAR content already loaded.

There are installation guides explaining how to run the Virtual Appliance using VirtualBox and VMWare Player.

A visual representation of how the Virtual Appliance can be used to achieve end-to-end electronic assessment delivery can be found here.

FETLAR Virtual Appliance (522Mb)
to install the FETLAR repository into this image, type install_repo into the virtual machine's Linux console.

Other technologies used in FETLAR


  • STACK
    • The System for Teaching and Assessment using a Computer Algebra Kernel
    • Open source project, written entirely from a mathematics perspective.
    • Active user and development community
    • STACK content and application is included in the FETLAR Virtual Appliance
    • For more information click here.
  • Minibix
    • The QTI item bank.
    • Used by Mathqurate and Spectatus as an option for content storage and retrieval
    • Developed by CARET at Cambridge as part of the QTITools project.
    • Included in the FETLAR Virtual Appliance.