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Digital exams: New Moodle extensions for drawio and PlantUML

Digitalization is a top priority at Hof University of Applied Sciences. This was made impressively clear not least by the fact that Hof University of Applied Sciences was once again awarded second place in the Germany-wide Digital Readiness Ranking by studycheck. In the Free State of Bavaria, the university was even able to defend the first place it achieved last year.

Mann lachend vor dem Laptop sitzend mit Kopfhörern
Digital examination methods have been used more and more frequently at colleges and universities since corona; graphic: canva.com

However, the university’s efforts go far beyond this. For example, the cross-university joint project ii.oo, to which Hof University of Applied Sciences and many other universities such as Coburg University of Applied Sciences and OTH Regensburg belong, is developing good practices for digital skills-oriented testing. At the same time, some professors are also working on their own projects to further advance digitalization.

Moodle-based tests and examinations as a vision

Prof. Dr. Walter Kern has set himself the task of integrating existing software from practice into Moodle. This should enable students to be provided with various web-based tools directly via the respective Moodle course for the lecture. This should also enable Moodle-based examinations with these tools in the future.

Prof. Dr. Walter Kern
Prof. Dr. Walter Kern; Photo: private

For students, this offers the advantage that they can work with tools from their future professional practice both in the tutorials and in the respective exams – and all this is web-based and directly from the Moodle course for the respective lecture. “Bring your own device” (BYOD) is also possible as a result.

The major advantage for lecturers, on the other hand, is that the software is immediately available for students to use, meaning that the material covered can be applied without wasting time on installation or configuration. In the future, examiners will no longer have to spend several hours preparing a separate system for each examination and each examinee, as is the case with current electronic examinations and the associated virtualization solutions. Instead, by simply selecting the relevant Moodle test question type when creating a Moodle test, the respective system is automatically available in a Moodle-integrated form in a matter of seconds.

Established tools drawio and PlantUML as a first step

Modeling with the Unified Modeling Language (UML) is an important requirement in the area of software development, but also in other technical disciplines and in the area of business processes. But even beyond this, there is a need in many disciplines to produce sketches or drawings electronically. Two of the extensions created by Prof. Dr. Kern integrate the tools drawio and PlantUML into Moodle for this purpose.

While the first extension allows you to create any graphics, including UML diagrams, via drag & drop, the second extension focuses on creating UML diagrams and allows this in the form of code. Both extensions can be integrated directly into Moodle as a link/popup to make it easier for students to access the tools. They can also be integrated as questions in Moodle tests.

Tool PlantUML mit automatischer Umsetzung von Code in ein Diagramm
PlantUML tool with automatic conversion of code into a diagram; photo: Plant UML

While some students prefer modeling via drag & drop and thus with drawio, students with an affinity for programming tend to prefer the programmatic creation of UML diagrams. As both approaches and tools are also used in practice, the extensions created allow students to choose their preferred tool for answering a question in a Moodle test, just as they would in their later professional practice.

In Moodle tests, the tools approved by the lecturer are displayed in the answer area for a Moodle question and can be selected by students. While students create their diagram in the selected tool, the question is automatically synchronized in the Moodle answer area. If a student has already closed the tool but does not agree with their submission, they can reopen it at any time using the corresponding button and make changes.

Einblick ins Backend deR Software drawio
Tool drawio in use to answer a Moodle test question; Photo: drawio

The Moodle extensions created make a decisive contribution to digitization by allowing practical tools to be used directly in lectures and, in the long term, in Moodle test-based examinations.

Further information on the integration of the Moodle extensions can be found in the Moodle course.

Prof. Dr. Walter Kern

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