Scenario: In January, during my end-of-term tests, students spent one hour doing 30 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay questions. Generally, they spent about half an hour writing the 200-400 word essays. Upon submitting, their essays disappeared. All text was gone. I put on a calm, smiling face and said no problem. And thanked them for their hard work. They assumed the data was there, and I pretended so as well.
Investigation: Searching the issue tracker, I found that yes, indeed this was a bug that was fixed in version 1.6.3. When the HTML editor is used more than once in IE, "unreliable" things happen. Unfortunately, at our school we installed version 1.6.2+ at the beginning of the semester, in September. The bug was fixed a few weeks later unknown to us. Once we install a server for a semester, we never change it until the end of semester, so we choose stable releases only.
Questions: At first I was angry that a stable release (actually three stable releases 1.6.0, 1.6.1, 1.6.2) used with default settings would still have a catastrophic bug ('catastrophic' meaning either a script crashing or a critical/total loss of student data). I have used Moodle since version 1.0 and found stable releases to always be solid. I suggested that 1.6 should have remained as beta status as a warning not to be used with students in critical situations. Tim replied that version 1.6 had been delayed in beta from January to June 2006, and that "delaying releases indefinitely was not a solution". So I am wondering what the solution is. If this was just an odd, rare situation, we could forget it. However, IE/Windows and essay questions are all very standard things used in education. I am especially curious why it took so many releases (over about 9 months?) for this problem to surface. So here is my list of questions:
- Am I one of few teachers who use essays in the quiz module? Is everyone using multiple choice?
- (if so, maybe this post should be moved to a pedagogical forum)
- Were other teachers confused or hesitant to report the problem?
- Was the new essay question type not user-tested in its beta phase?
- Or was it simply tested with only one essay question?
- Was the problematic switch from a plain text editor (Humboldt version) to an HTML editor (1.6 version) not well noticed in the nine months of integration into standard Moodle?
- Should we keep new releases in beta longer? Wait for more user testing?
- Should we warn that stable releases may not be stable?
- Should we strongly recommend to schools that servers need to be updated continually, even while classes are in session?