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Since Monday 03 October 2005 04:30 pm

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This Week's Tweaks

Thursday 28 January 2010 04:30 pm

This weeks tweaks post is a day early as I'm going to St. Andrews University tomorrow with a group from IT services to look at their installation of uPortal. uPortal is one of the systems we are investigating as a potential system to act as the gateway to the different systems that will make up the 'Unified VLE', the project to enhance the integration of all the different VLE systems on campus.

fixed bug allowing the demo account on the stand-alone script site access to the Rx browser

add exam results
bug fix in the script allowing class tutors to post exam marks - editing exam marks (prior to confirmation) was introducing a ' ' character into student registration numbers, that was being converted into a '_' in the database, messing up the reporting of marks to the student e.g. 200912345_ instead of 200912345, resulting in the student not being able to view their marks.

BM310 lab report
online lab report data collection module live for 'lab 6'

manageClass - class Reps
updated class management tabs with 'Student tutors & reps' - moved class tutors to this tab and added in new class reps option. Class reps belong to a class + session, and are able to post news items to their class (+email copies). Polls will be added soon

SoW for radiation
updated the management of  user lists to be department restricted (script was failing to execute correctly due to lack of dept filtering, resulting all SPIDER users appearing in a drop down...). PDF view of output fixed to include 'visitor' staff category.

as part of the update to allow class reps to post news, reformatted the display of news postings  during the addition process to improve clarity and better define the output users should expect to see, both in news and the email copies sent. Added an 'emailed' field to news table to store number of emails sent (shown on home page as envelope icon, alt/title shows number value).

help wiki
major updates/ creationg of pages for web links, groups, class reps, edit class data, class tutors. Minor changes/ categorisation of questionnaires, batch copy move, booking, class pages.


  • added activation date & enforce deactivation
  • image placement option added to builder. NYI in quiz viewer
  • Quiz window autosizing for images working in FF/ Safari but not IE
  • IE 7 fix for display of drag & drop
  • parse error with bad XML chars NOT fixed for old qs but can't be replicated in new builder

staff template pages
pull grants publications & students from databases sipbs/staff/index2.php

template filestores
permissions are ok, just needs edit / deletion of shares


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This Week's Tweaks

Friday 22 January 2010 04:27 pm

updated dental and FP10 NHS England background colour to better match the real Rx. Minor tweak to Rx 66 so that patient name matches the ethnic background of patient history.

SIPBS website
updated google analytics with main @strath analytics script

research admin module
started to create data import script to allow import of monthly budget data from central finance [wip]

lab stock
rewrote lab stock tool to make use of AJAX filters, updated look and feel, updated table structure to add in units, supplier and cat/product number. Renamed tables. Updated pdf creation scripts.

bug fix allowing users to rename files with 'illegal' characters in file names (now uses standard cleanFileName function)

finally sorted out shibboleth authentication issue. Wasnt receiving attributes from IdP due to FC9 rpm version of curl having bugs in the NSS/ SSL interaction. Installed latest curl from source and all now works. Not hooked in to main authentication just yet, but you can login via https://spider.science.strath.ac.uk/spider/shibboleth/

updated to include time of posting (as title of posted icon)

further investigation of this Java math applet has shown that it wont be possible to fully integrate with the quiz tool. Can use it as input method for generating mathematics. It can output LaTex format, but is unable to read it back in, so editing input is not possible - can only 'clear' and start over. Alternative Java-based tools have similar issues.

file manager (for template site)
updated to allow for instancing of file manager based on directory paths. This will allow for the creation of distinct file stores with various levels of permissions. Includes option to allow for 'read only' directories. Stil requires some refinement, but working.

user suggestions
requests from the forums for:
  content - "download all"  generate a zip of all the files in a class category (limit by session)
  myClasses - allow headings (collapsable div?) to allow users to sort their classes e.g. year 1, year 2 cf myCounsellees



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This Week's Tweaks

Friday 15 January 2010 04:01 pm

Altered the discussion last time to prevent edits by student level users 30min after a post has been made. Updated the change so that if there have been no replies to the discussion, they can be edited even after the 30 minute limit. 

added a lab report form for 'Lab 6'. Custom form to save data in the assessment table, plus staff view/ marking/ data export/ absentee etc (cf FMT module)

Research Admin
updated the pFact submission tool to include new fields. Reworked code for better form handling, data saving, re-use of code, sanity of post/get requests.

myQuiz results
option to review completed quizzes (set on quiz by staff) to allow students to go back through completed quizzes to view their own answer, correct answer and feedback.

investigating integration of dragMath into quiz tool (java based plugin for forming mathematical expressions) [wip].

file manager
working on allowing file manager to work with any supplied path. [wip]


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Unified VLE- Portal

Wednesday 13 January 2010 04:09 pm

I now have the grand title of “Technical Consultant on the Unified VLE project” - I’m sure this will look great on my CV. I’ll be focusing on the ‘portal’ aspects of the project, which will involve scoping and giving technical input into the development of a central web platform to aggregate existing systems and functions. This will eventually allow us to make use of the tools we already have available in PEGASUS, SPIDER and others, in addition to the core VLE (Moodle), from a single unified site, to better support online teaching and learning. Essentially, once you sign in the portal (via Shibboleth), you’ll have access to all the tools you already use without having to login to each tool again, as long as the tool has been ‘portalised’.

There are a number of possible portal solutions - open source, in-house or commercial - each of which offer various advantages and disadvantages. The basic idea behind a portal is to provide a website that the end user can login to, then customise in various ways and pick ‘channels’ of information relevant to them. The user can organise these channels in any way they wish, adding and removing the channels they need to carry out their role, be it undergraduate or postgraduate student, academic, support or administrative staff. The channels typically appear as ‘boxes’ on their portal page which the user can drag around the page and place to their preference. For example, there could be a ‘classes’ channel, pulling a list of classes the student is studying which link to each class home page on the VLE as well as various news channels pulling news from Moodle, PEGASUS, SPIDER and the main university home page or external sites such as the BBC. An email channel could display information from the central mail system, a timetable/ calendar channel could show information relating to a student’s course such as upcoming examinations; a library channel to display various library services and so on. An example of this is the Kent student portal (I chose this one as an example as you can see various channels without having to login, you cannot customise the channels though).

The content in each channel can come from variety of different sources and there are various options on the format the channel content can take. Theres a (short-ish) discussion of the options available at http://www.ja-sig.org/wiki/display/UPC/Channel+Development+Strategies . Its aimed at uPortal, but gives a nice idea of the different ways content can be ‘portalised’ - RSS feeds, XML and the like. Some of our campus apps already generate data in this format (e.g. SPIDER news is output as an RSS feed already) and depending on what the channel is going to do, converting other application tools to a portal ready format should be possible. Some tools will be relatively simple to portalise, others will require a fair amount of work, which is going to determine to a degree what functions the final portal system can provide in the beginning.

A mix of people from the Learning Technology Team (VLE Team), IT Services and myself are planning a visit to the University of St. Andrews as they have recently set up a portal using the open source uPortal tool (http://www.jasig.org/uportal). It will be interesting to see this portal in action and discuss with them the pros and cons of the system to help us determine the best way forward. I’m particularly interested in how the portal integrates with their existing systems and how much development they’ve done to create custom channels.

I’m also looking at another open source tool, Liferay (http://www.liferay.com/web/guest/products/portal) as well as taking a look at some other free systems. Its also worth considering the in-house option as we’ve done some work on a ‘portal’ prototype within SPIDER, so can throw it into the mix too. I’ve not looked at any commercial products (I’m a fan of open source and home grown tools), though others involved in the portal side of things may have insight into what is available.

We’re still at the early stages of the portal investigation, so we’ll be working through the different possibilities to come up with a valid solution. We’ll report on progress here.

(posted on the Learning with new technologies blog by me; copy here for convenience)


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This Week's Tweaks

Friday 08 January 2010 03:57 pm

First week back of the new session. Spent a lot of time researching "portal" software, such as uPortal and Liferay, plus looking at various other LAMP type systems to see whats out that and what they can do. Not convinced any of them are particularly good, though still need to look at the main systems a bit more to see what they are really capablie of.

fileType function
updated this function with newer icons for office file types, and different icons for the 2007/8 office (.docx, .pptx) and 2003/4 (.doc, .ppt). Updated file manager to make use of this function instead of its own.

joint SU/GU research group after an online document store. Set up a 'template' site, but need to modify the 'doc store' tool to allow for custom access rights so they can have more control over access [wip].

research admin module
bug fix in REFStrathprints not saving changes correctly

updated to prevent edits to discussion posts after 30minutes of original posting (students only). Fixed bug allowing users to edit other users postings using URL spoofing.

assignment make live
fixed bug that didnt save live status for assignments that had no status (SQL was only doing update, wouldn't insert if no record found)

fixed bug in index page preventing some live tests from showing to student users.

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