Quiz

Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database

 
 
Picture of Peter Möbius
Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

Dear All,

I experienced the following strange and frustrating issue with quiz today and need to make absolutely sure it does not recur: I ran an examination with 82 students today, during which 6 testakers believeably complained that Moodle had "forgotten" essay answers when they tried to navigate back and take another look. The examination is broken down into two quizzes that the students have to take sequentially for administrative reasons.

The quiz in question contained a mix of MC, Cloze and Essay questions, the critical one was on a separate page with a longer writing prompt. I neither experienced the Problem with older versions of Moodle nor, until today, with a recent one. I would be extremely grateful for any input/suggestions where to look to rule this out for the future. Something ugly must be going on, but where?

Thanks & regards,

Peter

Some data that may be useful:

Moodle: Moodle 2.4+ (Build: 20121220), minimal install (no plugins, messaging; nothing not needed for running exams)

Stack: LAMP (OpenSuSe 12.2)

Hardware: Plenty (Quad Xeon, 24 GB Ram)

Network: LAN

Clients: Firefox 15 on Windows 7

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

I cannot think of any changes between 2.3 and 2.4 that might cause this to start happening.

To investigate this sort of problem, you typlically need to look at both the Moodle logs (mdl_log table), the Apache logs, and possibly also the PHP error logs.

It helps if you can work out which logs related to a particular user. That is easy in the Moodle logs. It can be hard in the Apache logs. Try filtering on IP address.

If the student can remember exactly what they did that cuased the problem, that is also very helpful, particularly if you can re-create that, but this sounds like a problem that was only noticed later, which reduces the chance anyone will be able to give you steps to reproduce.

 
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Picture of Peter Möbius
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

Hi Tim,

Many thanks for your response. I will follow the line(s) of investigation you suggest and post whatever transpires. You are absolutely right with your last point, I was called into the PC pool by the proctors after the incident. One (thin) pointer might be, though, that all students affected sat in the same pool (out of six).

Thanks again,

Peter

 
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Picture of Peter Möbius
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

Hi again,

Apologies for the delay in following through - marking season...

I think I have located the problem and can reproduce it. Moodle logs didn't help (nothing out of the ordinary), but marking did. The students had to respond to an email as writing prompt and include basic headers in their reply. The prompt looked like this:

To: John Doe <johndoe@acme.com>

From: Jane Doe <doe@xyz.com>

Subject: Lore ipsum

The replies of the stundents who complained (and sadly several more) were truncated:

To: Jane Doe

IMHO this points to a character escaping issue with "less" and "more." I found that the answer was completely truncated if there was no closing "waka" or the email address (if properly enclosed) disappeared. The reply format was plaintext (no HTML editor).

I hope this helps, and the issue can be confirmed and fixed.

Best regards,

Peter

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Oops! yes that is a bug. I am somewhat surprised that no-one else has hit this problem before, since it is pretty serious. I have created a bug report MDL-37847 to track solving it.

I am very sorry about this. The good news is that I am 99% sure that response the student entered is correctly stored in the database. The bug is only with the way it is displayed. So, once the bug is fixed, all will be will.

 
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Picture of Peter Möbius
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

I'm also surprised as you'd expect massive problems with answers that involve code. Maybe everyone else uses the HTML editor, which may not be affected(?) I'll wait for the fix, but just to make sure I can assign proper grades in the end: Which table would hold the full answer if it is still there so I can manually extract if necessary? (My students need their grades soon as they determine whether they qualify for an exchange semester.)

Thx and regards,

Peter

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

This database query should let you get at the raw data: http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Overview_of_the_Moodle_question_engine#Detailed_data_about_an_attempt (you may need to tweak it a bit.)

 
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Picture of Peter Möbius
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

Great, thanks!

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Acutally it is not great. I was just working on the fix, and I discovered that the problem happens the the student's response is received at the server, not at output time, so the data is gone. Sorry about that. I am just trying to think how I can write an automated test for this, so we can ensure it does not break again in future.

 
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Picture of Peter Möbius
Re: Quiz 2.4 - not all essay answers written to database
 

Pity, but we'll live through it. I'll just go to plan B and assign "temporary" grades based on students' performance on the other tasks. The correlation is quite high. Should be enough to clear them for the exchange semester, and they'll get another shot at the exam for the grade when they get back.

Slightly off topic: @Tim and all contributors: I really appreciate your help and great work on the module. Moodle quiz has been an extremely dependable workhorse since I started using it in 2005, freeing up valuable time for actual teaching and concentrating on quality examinations. Thank you very much! (That needed to be said.)

 
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