Friday, 8 June 2012

Intermediate Mode for Uniqurate

I am pleased to announce the first release of the Intermediate mode of editing for Uniqurate.

The idea of a "halfway-house" mode came back towards the start of the project, and came about after consideration of what we could do with content that was authored in some other way (e.g. another editor, or by hand). The difficulty is that QTI is essentially a programming language for electronic assessment and there is always more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. For example, there are many ways that a multiple choice question could be implemented in QTI - Uniqurate does it one way, but there are many, many others. It would be impossible to map every single possible permutation of QTI that might represent an MCQ onto UQ's appropriate question component. Thus, at an early point it was decided that any content that was not created in UQ would have to be restricted to the XML-based Expert Mode editor.

Some time ago, Wilbert Kraan suggested a layer on top of the Expert mode that would hide certain aspects of the QTI XML, and supplement what was left with a few additional aids. Ultimately you'd still be editing the QTI directly, but it wouldn't seem so "frightening". We took to calling that the "halfway-house" mode.

With the launch of the QTI-PET project and the need to be able to provide a means of adding new context to existing content, this became even more important. We've presented a number of papers and demos on this theme. The tl;dr version is that we've got lots of QTI content, but much of it is written from a generic point of view, and is too dry to be truly engaging. Our colleagues at (say) Harper Adams could use much of it, but their students would react much better if it could have a few subject-specific hooks added just to give it an appropriate context.

Hence, the "halfway-house" or what we're now calling Intermediate mode. If you switch to expert mode and load a question, you'll noice a little icon at the top right of the screen. Click this, and all of the XML will be hidden apart from the human-readable parts.

The overall "tree" of the question is preserved and delimited by the dotted red lines - so, in the example above where a multiple choice question is being edited in Intermediate mode, you can see where the distractors' boundaries are with respect to the question body itself.

The rich-text editor is also brought over from the "friendly" mode editor, so that you can modify the style as well as the text, along with any maths components (you can add new maths components, too).

This has been tested in the big three browsers - i.e. relatively recent Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer 8 (don't get me started on the latter - had it not been for IE you could have had this yesterday! Is anyone still using IE?!).

As always, the latest version of Uniqurate can be found at

which will take you into "friendly" mode, so you will need to switch to Expert mode to find this new feature. This URL

will take you straight into expert mode.

Please give me as much feedback as you can! Reports on bugs, problems etc are always "welcome" :) but of particular interest is the user experience. I am not convinced that a little button in Expert mode is the best place for Intermediate mode, and would welcome suggestion on where and how to place it.

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