The Numbas Blog

Development update: November 2023

Here’s a development update, covering everything that’s changed since July.

I spent a lot of time on the Summer working on our other project, Chirun. I wrote a new LTI 1.3-compliant tool, to make it easier to embed Chirun material in our virtual learning environment. That’s now in use at Newcastle, and I’m looking for other institutions to test it with virtual learning environments other than Canvas or Moodle. Our intention is to make our server available to everyone, since it won’t handle any personally identifying information.

So it’s been a while since I had time to do a Numbas development update. There have been quite a few bug fixes and an encouraging number of contributions from other people. The main news is that the Numbas runtime is now WCAG 2.1 AAA compliant.

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Development update: July 2023

Here’s a development update, covering everything since the release of Numbas v7 last December.

Progress on Numbas has continued fairly quietly, while I’ve had to split my attention between this, Chirun, and other stuff at Newcastle.

I gave a talk at EAMS 2023 with an update on developments over the last year:

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Important bug notice: broken suspend data when variable names are capitalised

A bug was introduced in v7.0 of the Numbas runtime which led to variables whose names contain an uppercase letter not being correctly saved to the attempt suspend data. Exam packages downloaded from between the 4th and 12th of December 2022 are affected. The values of these variables were not saved, so any attempts at affected packages can not be recovered correctly.

This would affect any students who left an in-progress attempt and later resumed it: they would potentially see different variable values to those they saw on the first launch.

Please check any packages that you downloaded between these dates and used with a SCORM player or the Numbas LTI tool. The bug is now fixed, so you should download a new copy of the exam package to replace the broken one.

We apologise for the inconvenience. Tests have been added to the automatic test suite to ensure this kind of problem doesn’t happen again.

Numbas v7 and our own lockdown app

Collage of screenshots showing new Numbas features

It’s been a while since our last development update. The reason for that is that we’ve been working on some big changes to every bit of the Numbas software. We’ve released v7 of the Numbas app and editor, and a new lockdown app to integrate with the LTI provider which ensures that students can only access assessments in a restricted environment. There’s also a Safe Exam Browser integration, for in-person invigilated exams.

Laura Midgley has joined the team, replacing George Stagg, who left for an exciting job with RStudio.

Four people stood in a line, facing the camera
The e-learning unit now: from left to right, Chris Graham, Christian Lawson-Perfect, Laura Midgley and Aamir Khan.
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Development update: August 2022

Sorry for the long gap since the last development update: the user meeting, EAMS, and work at Newcastle have consumed all of my time. Now it’s the summer, and I can take a moment to reflect on what I’ve done since March.

We had two student interns working for us for a couple of weeks in July: Will McNestry and Aleksas Bagdonas. They each contributed a few new features to the Numbas runtime, tackling some things that had been on the to-do list for a while.

I’ve mainly spent my time trudging through the ever-growing list of issues on GitHub, adding features and fixing long-standing bugs.

George Stagg left us at the end of June to work at RStudio. We’re interviewing his replacement in a couple of weeks – the new role will have a lot more time dedicated to Numbas development.

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Numbas training – July 2022

We’re running another of our semi-regular public training sessions, on Monday 18th July 2022.

The training will this time take place on, since it worked so well for the Numbas user meeting in May.

The session will go as follows (all times in British Summer Time, UTC+1):

  • 10:00 – 12:00: Introduction to Numbas – a short demo of Numbas, followed by a guided tutorial to write your first question.
  • 12:00 – 12:30: Lunch break – bring your own!
  • 12:30 – 14:00: Advanced Numbas training – we’ll show how to use some of the more complicated features of Numbas.

If you can’t attend this session, you might like to watch the recordings of the previous sessions.

To attend, please fill in the registration form.

Talks from the Numbas user meeting, Spring 2022

The first Numbas user meeting was a big success: over 50 Numbas users from around the world gathered to share their experiences and work together on plans for the future.

The recordings of the talks are now available to view on the Numbas user meeting Spring 2022 programme page. My intention was to record every session, but I had some technical problems which meant that the training sessions and a couple of the talks weren’t recorded properly. There’s still plenty of good stuff to watch, though!

As a taster, here’s my development update:

Development update: March 2022

Here’s an update on Numbas development, covering December 2021 to March 2022. Sorry about the long gap between posts – holidays, strikes, exams and finally catching covid didn’t leave me much time for blogging!

In February, I wrote about our new extension for assessing programming. In order to implement this, I added a framework for running asynchronous tasks before marking a question part, and for defining new kinds of input method. These should both open up all sorts of possibilities beyond the programming extension.

In the editor, I’ve been working on adding a “queues” feature to projects. The main motivation is to support the Open Resource Library, but I’ve already thought of a few other use cases for it.

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Announcing the Numbas user meeting, Spring 2022

We’re going to run a mini-conference for Numbas users this April, offering an opportunity to find out what’s new in Numbas and to share what you’re doing with other Numbas users around the world.

The Numbas User Meeting 2022 will bring together the Numbas community of academics and practitioners to exchange ideas and best practice through a week-long schedule of talks and workshops. The meeting will offer the chance to collaborate on shared goals and to contribute to a compendium of case studies on the use of Numbas. 

The meeting will run from 25th to 29th April. Throughout the week, live talks will take place at 09:00-10:00 and 15:00-16:00 BST (UTC +1) each day in, a web-based virtual environment. Recordings of all talks will be available later, along with pre-recorded material and case studies hosted on the Numbas website. 

The call for talk proposals is currently open. If you have a use case, research or experience using Numbas that you would like to share, then please consider submitting a talk. The format of talks is flexible; talks can be live or pre-recorded. We are also encouraging speakers to submit the content of the talk in the format of a case study to be published on the Numbas website.

The main aims of the meeting are to:

  • Share ideas and best practice.
  • Offer training for beginners and advanced users.
  • Bring together case studies for a brochure / Numbas website.
  • Collaborate on documentation – no technical experience necessary.
  • Develop interest in the new Numbas Open Resource Library.

There’s more information about the meeting, and links to register to attend or propose a talk, on a dedicated page for the meeting. The deadline for talk proposals is March 31st.

We look forward to seeing you in April!