SMOWL: proctoring for Open edX platform

In the recent years, education has undergone a significant transformation, with online learning platforms gaining immense popularity.  Open edX, one...
20 November 2023

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SMOWL: proctoring for Open edX platform

In the recent years, education has undergone a significant transformation, with online learning platforms gaining immense popularity. 

Open edX, one of the leading open-source learning management systems, has played a pivotal role in this shift. 

However, ensuring the integrity of assessments and exams in online education remains a challenge. This is where SMOWL, a proctoring solution, comes into play, offering a robust means of maintaining the credibility of assessments on the Open edX platform.

The need for Proctoring in Open edX

Online education has witnessed an unprecedented surge in popularity. Institutions and educators are embracing online platforms like Open edX to deliver courses to a global audience. 

Summarizing a bit, Open edX is an open-source online learning platform that offers several advantages over other Learning Management Systems (LMS):

  1. Scalability: Open edX can accommodate Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with millions of students, as well as smaller, customized courses. It can adapt to the needs of organizations of any size and sector.
  1. Interactivity and Flexibility: Open edX allows authors to create courses with multimedia content, quizzes, forums, wikis, and other learning tools. It also provides the option to integrate external tools like Zoom, H5P, or data analytics. Authors can customize the design and functionality of their courses using xBlock plugins.
  1. Open Source and Active Community: Open edX is an open-source system, which means users have access to the source code and can modify it to suit their needs. Furthermore, it boasts a thriving community of developers and users who continually collaborate, innovate, and enhance the platform.
  1. Accessibility: Open edX is designed to be accessible to students with disabilities, adhering to WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards.

While this provides immense opportunities for learners, it also raises concerns about academic integrity.

One of the primary challenges in online education is the potential for cheating during assessments made through digital platforms like Open edX. Without proper proctoring measures, students may resort to unethical practices, jeopardizing the credibility of the educational institution and the value of the certification.

This is where the advantages of having proctoring software like SMOWL come into play.

SMOWL: proctoring for Open edX platforms

Why is SMOWL the best proctoring option for Open edX?

As you may know, SMOWL is a cutting-edge proctoring solution designed to address the unique needs of online education platforms like Open edX

Let’s explore why SMOWL stands out as the best proctoring option:

1. Seamless integration

SMOWL seamlessly integrates with the Open edX platform, providing a hassle-free experience for educators and students. Its user-friendly interface ensures that instructors can easily set up proctored exams without any technical complications.

2. AI-powered proctoring

SMOWL utilizes artificial intelligence to monitor and authenticate students during exams. It employs facial recognition and biometric analysis to ensure that the person taking the exam is indeed the enrolled student.

3. Enhanced data security

Smowltech, the company behind SMOWL, operates within the EU and has put in place technical and organizational measures to ensure GDPR compliance. 

This entails processing personal data in a fair, transparent, and lawful manner, with appropriate security measures in place to safeguard this data.

4. Secure environment

Once installed on users’ PCs, SMOWL allows you to start collecting evidence from the beginning of the test. These pieces of evidence can come from connected peripherals, open applications, copy-paste actions, and more. Importantly, your institution can decide which evidence is relevant, all detailed in reports that we will explain further.

5. Detailed reporting

After the exam, SMOWL provides detailed reports on student behavior (opened apps, connected devices, etc.) during the test. Instructors can review these reports to identify any irregularities and take appropriate action.

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How do you set up the SMOWL proctoring tool for Open edX?

SMOWL seamlessly integrates into an Open edX unit as an xBlock, ensuring continuous monitoring without redirecting students away from their exam page. 

The xBlock specification is a versatile component architecture originally developed by edX, primarily focused on education but applicable to various web applications requiring multiple independent components on a single web page. 

What’s advantageous for XBlock developers is that they don’t need to download or run the entire edx-platform developer stack or have extensive knowledge of edX’s underlying technologies. Instead, developers can work with the xblock-sdk and deploy their creations on any platform compatible with XBlocks.

Configuring SMOWL in Open edX

In this guide, we will walk you through the process of setting up SMOWL within an activity in your Open edX course, as well as how to review monitoring reports.

Create a Unit with SMOWL

To monitor an activity effectively, you must include SMOWL in a unit. Follow these steps:

– Create a new unit or add SMOWL to an existing one.

– Configure the unit according to your requirements (e.g., text, open response).

– Add an advanced component.

– Select the Smowltech Proctoring xBlock and drag it to the top of the unit.

– Click “Edit” to configure the monitoring.

Configure SMOWL in a Unit

A pop-up will appear, offering various options for configuring SMOWL within your unit:

  • Display Name: By default, this is “Smowltech Proctoring XBlock.”
  • Modality Name: The modality name (e.g., quiz) should match the activity type being monitored.
  • Smowl Instructions Mode: By default, set to “False,” which starts SMOWL monitoring when users access the unit. If set to “True,” SMOWL will enter a checking mode before the monitored activity, allowing users to verify their monitoring setup.
  • Display CM Installer Link: By default, set to “False” as it requires SMOWL+ activation. If set to “True,” it will display a download link for SMOWLCM in the instructions view for your users.

Click “Save” to apply changes. After configuring your activity, click “Publish.”

Best Practices for Configuring SMOWL

To ensure a seamless user experience and avoid issues, follow these steps:

  • Create a new unit within the subsection for activity setup before monitoring.
  • Place this new unit before the monitored activity.
  • Include a text informing users about the activity rules and SMOWL monitoring.
  • Add SMOWL as an advanced component (as discussed in “1.1. Configure SMOWL in a Unit”).
  • Configure SMOWL with the following settings:
  • Set “Smowl Instructions Mode” to “True” to allow users to resolve technical issues before the activity.
  • Set “Display CM Installer Link” to “True” to provide users with a download link for SMOWLCM.

Click “Save” to apply changes, then “Publish” to finalize the configuration.

How do you set up the SMOWL proctoring tool for Open edX?

Reviewing user performance

In “Live View” mode, you gain access to the unit designated for SMOWL monitoring. This powerful feature allows you to closely monitor and manage the performance of your users throughout the activity.

To make the most of this functionality, follow these simple steps:

  1. View User Registrations: Click on “Show User List” to gain insight into user registrations within SMOWL. This feature enables you to keep tabs on your users in real-time. You have the flexibility to review this information as it unfolds or download it for more in-depth analysis.
  1. Activity Report: Under the “Activity Report” section, you’ll discover a treasure trove of data pertaining to user performance during the activity. This report provides comprehensive details, including evidence of user actions and any incidents detected during monitoring.

By following these steps and leveraging the “Live View” mode, you can effectively configure SMOWL within Open edX and ensure thorough and real-time monitoring of user performance.

In any case, if your institution lacks the time or expertise to carry out such extensive implementations, there are providers like eduNEXT, Open edX specialists, who can take charge of the entire technological implementation with ongoing support.

Summarizing, in the rapidly evolving landscape of online education, ensuring the credibility of assessments is paramount. SMOWL emerges as the best proctoring option for the Open edX platform. 
By choosing SMOWL’s proctoring plans, educational institutions can maintain the highest standards of academic integrity and empower students to succeed in the digital learning era.

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