Moodle Quiz Near Failure
I just finished giving my students instructions about their midterm exam on Moodle. They pressed the button ‘attempt now’, and then…nothing. That’s right, nothing. A blank white page. The exam I spent hours and hours creating on Moodle effectively reduced to a blank white page. Surely there was some mistake. After all, I had previewed the exam days before. Changing browsers, logging back in, force refreshing pages…nothing worked. My only thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”.
My students looked at me. The mixture of expressions before me seemed to ask “Is this a joke?” Or, “What are you going to do?” And even, “Does this mean we all get an ‘A’?” I had about 30 seconds to come up with an answer to all these question. I also needed a plan. A plan other than the one I had rejected days before; printing a paper exam as backup. So, I quickly decided to spend about half that time laughing and expressing my own surprise about the situation. I believe my exact words were “I have absolutely no idea what is going on. This is a first.”
During that brief moment, my mind desperately rummaged around for a solution. Whether by providence, experience, or fortune (or a combination of each), I figured the quiz likely did not start because it was too large; too many questions. This seemed like a plausible explanation. Moodle quizzes do require a decent amount of memory, especially when multiple students are taking them concurrently. In addition I had less memory presently available since I was at this time using shared hosting as opposed to the dedicated server I had housed in years past. Given this thought, I constructed a quick plan.
I decided that I would split the one quiz into multiple sections. By the way, just in case you are not familiar with Moodle, quiz is the moniker for the module that implements all quizzes and tests. I quickly created a new quiz with the first page of their midterm; this only required a minute or two (I was working fast). I had my students refresh their pages and get started on part one. Success. They all loaded the quiz just fine and were able to get started. Although, some were a little disappointed that the exam was not canceled. While the students worked on part one, I prepared the other parts. After about 10 minutes I had all the other parts prepared and thought I was in the clear.
I did not get to feel too proud of myself for long, however, for one student alerted me to the fact that they could not access part three. When they attempted that part, they experienced the same problem as before; a blank white page (or error, depending on the browser). “What now?” I wondered. I went back to my desk, previewed that section, sure enough, it didn’t work. I had the students (several of them reached this section by now) skip part three and move on while I tried to come up with another solution.
I tried duplicating the quiz several times to see if that might cause it to work. Nothing. I thought, “Perhaps there is a problem with one of the questions.” I doubted this as an answer initially because I had already given the students a preview quiz to work with for a week that contained all of these problems, albeit with different values (this was a math quiz and I often use the calculated-type questions). Regardless, I tested the theory. It didn’t take long thanks to the fact that after deleting the first question, the preview worked. I informed the students that they should now be able to attempt that section. They did, and it worked. Phew!
That was the last of the issues during this midterm. The students finished a tad on the later side, but this was acceptable. They also gladly accepted news that as a result of this ordeal, I would factor in a more generous curve when grading. All seemed right now. However, one question looms, what am I going to do with their final?