Monthly Archives: October 2014

Exceptions – Assessment Settings for AAA students

A new guide has been produced explaining how to implement ‘Exceptions’ in the settings of online assessments in Succeed. The most common use of this would be to allow students who have an alternative assessment method set up and recorded in their Agreed Record of University Adjustments (ARUA), also often referred to as the Agreed Academic Arrangements (AAA), to have longer time to sit an online exam paper. These exception settings on assessments in Succeed get round the old problem of having to set up multiple versions of an assessment to cater for all students with different types of AAA.

The guide assumes assessments have already been set up and deployed to the relevant place in the Succeed module and that the identities of the students in question are known at the outset of the process.

Item Analysis and View All Attempts – Time Taken not shown problem

There is a problem with the ‘Item Analysis’ and ‘View All Attempts’ features in the Grade Centre in Succeed. If you run an Item Analysis or View All Attempts for an assessment, the average time taken by the users is not displayed.

Item Analyses are supposed to show you lots of useful stats about your assessment, such as how many people took it, average score, the ‘difficulty’ of each question etc. It’s also supposed to show you how long, on average, students took to do the assessment. This is the bit that’s not working, however. The average time is displayed as a very low number, often 00 hours and 00 minutes. Also, if you try to ‘View All Attempts’ for an assessment from the relevant column in the Grade Centre the duration is not shown through that method either. A report is produced with columns for Last Name, First Name, Username, Grade, Attempt Number, Date, Status and also a column for ‘Duration’. But whereas all the other columns are populated with data, the Duration column is empty. So you cannot find out how long students took via this method either.

The only way you can find out how long students took to complete an assessment is currently to view each student’s submission individually and look at their ‘Test Information’. This will tell you how long they took, but if you have a lot of students this will be time consuming.

This issue has been reported to Blackboard and they have acknowledged it as a ‘Known Issue. there is currently no patch we can install to fix this and it will be targeted for being mended in the April 2015 Release (which we may not upgrade to until some time after April 2015).

Self and peer assessment in Succeed

We have access to two tools that allow student assignment submissions to be distributed among the student group for formative, anonymous peer assessment – the bulit-in tool in Succeed and Turnitin’s PeerMark tool.

We have, however, recently become aware of a bug in the Self and Peer Assessment tool within Succeed that we think makes it unusable and are recommending that only PeerMark is used at the moment.

Logically, these tools should only allocate evaluations to students who have submitted the assignment and only ask for evaluations of the work of students who have submitted. The Succeed tool is assigning students for peer evaluation regardless of whether they have submitted  – this means that some students are being given nothing to review while others are not having their evaluations done. PeerMark only allocates evaluations to those who have submitted and so works as expected.

If you need any assitance in setting up a PeerMark assignment please get in touch with your eLD contact.


Teaching Bites

The next series of Teaching Bites starts on Thursday 6th Nov (all are in S10). The sessions running are:

6th Nov: 13.00-14.00: Mobile
The new wireless service at the University opens up some exciting possibilities for student engagement in teaching and learning – laptops, tablets and smart phones can now quickly and easily connect to Eduroam and get Internet access. Students amongst other things can then participate in polls (rather similar to clicker technology) or tweet questions/comments.

13th Nov: 13.00-14.00: Module Design — Make Your Succeed a Better Place
Building a module in Succeed where the content is easy for the students to navigate is not as straight-forward as it might first appear. This session looks at some easy wins:

  • Using Content Areas affectively
  • Naming Content and the Description area
  • Use of the Table of Content (left-hand menu/navigation)
  • Consistency

20th Nov: 13.00-14.00: Quizzes/Surveys
The session will look at the Tests, Surveys and Pools area of Succeed. Users will be shown how to set up a test or a survey and how to add questions to it. An explanation of the available question types will be given. The session will also cover how to edit the settings for a test or survey so it is made available to the relevant users at the relevant time, including how to set up exceptions for AAA students who require more time to complete their assessments. An explanation will also be given of the question pool, and how to add questions to this pool, and how to select questions from the pool to add to tests and surveys.

27th Nov: 13.00-14.00: Discussion Tool, Blogs, and Wikis
This session will look at some of the collaboration tools within blackboard, these tools can be used to help build a sense of community in modules, can be used for group working, social interaction and the exchange of ideas.  The session will look at the discussion tool, blogs and wikis and give examples of where these might be used successfully within your succeed module.

To sign-up go into Succeed and then to Learning & Development – My Learning, IT & Information Skills, Succeed Training. Also don’t forget to bring along your sandwiches!

These sessions can be available to remote campuses. To register for remote access please email Simon Booth.

Succeed Performance III

Further performance problems have been evident with one of the two Succeed servers on Wednesday morning, 8th October, Sunday afternoon, 12th October, and Monday morning, 13th October. The issue on the 8th & 13th is highly technical in nature but the upshot is that the server suffering from the problem (always the same one — learnapp2) is very slow. The other server is running fine and delivering perfectly acceptable performance. Whether you suffer the problem is entirely random but if your sessions are connecting to the slow server, performance is poor.

On Sunday, Learnapp2 for reasons that we don’t understand suddenly jumped from 20% processor utilisation to 80% in a 3 minute period between 16.05-16.08. After 16.08, performance would have been poor. The server was restarted on Monday morning to fix the utilisation problem and immediately the second issue occurred (the same one as the previous Wednesday). This server was restarted again at 14.00 which cleared the problem. The delay was made in the hope that we could find a solution to the problem before doing the restart. Unfortunately, no solution has yet been found but after 14.30 on the Monday 13th both servers are running properly and providing a good service.

The problem on Learnapp2 has been under investigation with Blackboard since the 8th.

Succeed Performance II

Having increased the hardware available to run Succeed last Wednesday morning (1st October) due to the slow performance it has been interesting to look at the usage figures for the previous week (29th September – 3rd October) and compare them with the same week in 2013 (30th September – 4th October). To measure usage we will take logins per hour from the Portal (the main access route to Succeed). This excludes mobile and direct logins but should provide a reasonable basis for comparison. Also note that the figures quoted below are for one of the two applications servers (learnapp1).

Perhaps the most interesting figure that the peak number of logins per hour for 2013 was 591 and in 2014 – 1027, an increase of 73% – the 1027 logins occurred between 9.00-10.00am on Monday 29th September. Unsurprisingly such a huge increase in demand caused major problems with the servers. Over the week in 2013, there were 26,384 logins whereas in 2014 this increased by 16% to 30493. This increase was not evenly spread across the day but was concentrated in the 09-18 period. Logins across the week in the 09-18 window increased from 17749 to 21899 (23%).

The graphic below shows the daily 09-18 logins for each day


As noted in the previous posting on performance, the additional processing power on the servers (8 processor cores to 12) should help Succeed handle the increased workloads that we experienced last week and fully expect to experience in the coming week!

Teaching Bites

The new wireless service (Stirling Campus) at the University opens up some exciting possibilities for student engagement in teaching and learning – laptops, tablets and smart phones can now quickly and easily connect to Eduroam. Students can then participate in polls (rather similar to clicker technology) or tweet questions/comments.

eLD is putting on a special ‘Teaching Bites’ session in S10 on 10th October (12.00-13.00) to discuss some the tools available to support engagement in the classroom. Please bring along your laptop, tablet or smart phone and join-in!

Email Simon Booth if you would like to come along.

Both Highlands and WI can use mobile technology in the classroom but the arrangements for connecting are different at each Campus. We will not cover connecting but remainder of the session will be useful.

Succeed Performance

Succeed’s performance in the mornings this week has been slow. On Tuesday we did some diagnostic work to identify where the bottlenecks were amongst the servers that form Succeed (load-balancers, application servers and database server). We identified the application servers as the part of the system that were struggling most — they both had very high processor utilisation figures. This morning (Wednesday, October 1st) we increased the CPU cores on both application servers from 8 to 12 and hopefully this will improve the performance of Succeed. This in itself generated an issue on Wednesday as one server grabbed all the traffic and then couldn’t handle that level of traffic and started behaving very strangely. This was resolved late in the morning and the service should be a quicker in the mornings and for the rest of the day from now on.

The reason that Succeed has been struggling is because of a big increase in the usage of the system during the day. The peak usage has increased by over 40% from last year — a considerable and unexpected increase. We suspect this is related to the new wireless infrastructure and the ease of connection that it offers.