HTTPS and how to view blocked content

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. She is also our ‘go-to’ for answers to random questions from our clients and larger community – here she covers https and how to view online content when our browser ‘says no’.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for HTTP Secure. With HTTPS pages, encryption is added to requests sent and received. It has three main benefits:

  1. Authenticity – the browser checks that it has opened the correct website.
  2. Data integrity – the browser can detect if an attacker has changed any data it receives.
  3. Secrecy – the browser can prevent an attacker from eavesdropping on requests, tracking websites visited, or stealing information sent or received.

What is mixed content?

Mixed content is where a HTTPS web page which starts with https:// contains links to a sub-resource HTTP page which starts with http://. Examples of sub-resource pages may be images, videos, extra HTML, CSS, or JavaScript.

If you are using a Moodle site where all pages are HTTPS and you link to a video that is on a HTTP page, then this is an example of mixed content and the connection will be only partly encrypted. Mixed content weakens HTTPS as these requests are vulnerable to an attacker eavesdropping on a connection, and seeing or changing the communication.

How to avoid blocked content

Unfortunately you are unlikely to notice mixed content until it is too late and you have clicked through to a blocked page. Read on for advice about how to view blocked mixed content if this happens.

If you are responsible for creating and maintaining online content, now might be a good time to review links within your secure pages to ensure that you’re not inadvertently frustrating your readers by sending them to http:// pages and therefore blocked content. Then, where possible, link to https pages instead. You may also like to let your readers know what to expect – and what to do – should this happen. No surprises!

How to view blocked mixed content

By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer 10+, Firefox 23+ and Chrome 21+. When mixed content is blocked, you will see a blank page or ‘Only secure content is displayed’. This can be frustrating, especially when we’re in a hurry.  Try this next time it happens:

Firefox

  1. Go to the top of the page, left of the address bar, and click the shield icon https_firefoxshield
  2. In the pop-up window, click the down arrow next to ‘Options’, and click ‘Disable protection for now’.

Chrome

  1. Click the shield icon on the right side of the address barhttps_chromeshield
  2. In the icon dialog box, click ‘Load unsafe scripts’.

Internet Explorer

  1. Go to the bottom of the screen, and click ‘Show all content’.

Keen to learn more?
Good old Wikipedia offers comprehensive information about URI, TLS, TCP/IP, certificate authorities HSTS, SSL, stripping and much, much more. And I might get around to writing on each of those topics one day.

Video: Competency based education in Moodle

John CollinsJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based eLearning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Part of his interesting job involves keeping up to date with the latest educational technology advancements.

This seven-minute video blog helps us to understand competency based education in Moodle version 3.1 including:

  • The relationship between the SMS, units of competency and Moodle courses
  • Linear and clustered relationships between units of competency and Moodle course
  • Directly linking assessment activities to specific units of competency.

More on Moodle competencies

If you found this blog useful you might also enjoy:

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IxD and usability: Must haves in online training and assessment tools

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Here
Allison discusses the impact of IxD and usability principles to both enhance the user experience and drive technical evolution in the world of education.

User experience and the technical evolution

Technology and the internet, both their development and uptake, have been changing at an amazing pace over the last five to ten  years. This has been greatly enabled by mobile devices and better internet/mobile data plans. Another key driver of this evolution has been improved user experience (UX).  For example, consider how touch screens, mobile apps and improved mobile phone responsiveness have greatly changed how we live our lives and communicate with one another compared to ten years ago.

However, it could be said that this technical evolution has not occurred as rapidly in online learning and assessment tools such as learning management systems (LMS), eportfolio tools and webinar rooms. This evolution is also unlikely to gain the same momentum as other technologies while educational institutions continue to accept a low level of UX design in these systems.

To ensure that your next online training and assessment tool (online tool) doesn’t fall into the same low UX design trap, ensure that you factor in UX from the perspective of the learners, educators and educational support staff, by basing your selection criteria on interaction design (IxD) and usability principles.

What are IxD and usability principles?

IxD and usability principles make sure that an online tool is:

  • Efficient to use as it takes the least amount of time to accomplish a particular task,
  • Easy to learn to use, and
  • More satisfying to use compared to other online tools.

IxD and usability principles concentrate on:

1.      Being user focussed

This is done by defining who the users of your online tool will be, and then determining their needs in relation to your online tool, for example:

  • Learners wants to easily find relevant information and access learning and assessment activities, eg discussion forums, assignments etc, from any device.
  • Educators want to easily find learners’ work to mark and provide feedback, and to be able to easily update information or activities.
  • Educational support staff want to be able to easily create exciting and interactive learning and assessment spaces; extract learner data such as their results; and view site stats about the use of the online tool for reporting purposes.

2.      Ease of use

How easy is it for users to navigate the online tool to achieve their goals is also important. Questions to ask in this area include:

  • How many clicks does it take the user to satisfy their needs?
  • Does the system’s workflow help users meet their requirements in the least amount of time?
  • Can users easily find where they need to go to achieve their goals?

3.      Learnability

Optimum learnability means the online tool has a consistent design approach  which makes it easy for the user to quickly understand how to use it, with the least amount of information and support. You determine this by consulting with organisations that already use the online tool you are considering and ask them how much upfront support their users needed before they felt confident to use it.

4.      Signifiers

Online tools should provide symbols which indicate how far a user has progressed through a task task such as ‘progress’ bars or through prompts such as ‘you are at Page 5 of 15’ or ‘you are marking learner no 2 of 5’.  Signifiers provide the user with a context of where they are at in completing a task which can help them manage their time better, and/or motivate them to continue to complete a task.

5.      Functionality

Considering the key functional requirements for each user group and the way they might therefore navigate your system will contribute to the user friendliness of it. For example:

  • Learners want simple ways to access content, as well as communicate and collaborate with others, and to upload their work.
  • Educators want simple ways to access learners’ work, provide feedback and results, and to review information about their learners eg activity logs.
  • Educational support staff want simple ways to present information and encourage learner activity, and to access results and reports.

6.      Feedback

As online tools cannot use body language to communicate how well a user is performing, it is important that the online tool provides feedback prompts to users as they progress through the system eg You have successfully submitted your assignment. This confirmation ensures that users feel confident that they have achieved their task, and they can take satisfaction in this achievement.

7.      Response time and responsiveness

Most users these days have access to fast internet on highly responsive devices. This means that they expect pages/screens of your online tool to load quickly. They will also expect to be able to access the online tool from any device, whether that is a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This means that responsiveness needs to be a key factor in the selection of your online tool.

Get it right at the start

Incorporating IxD and usability principles into the selection process of your next online tool will ensure a return on the investment you have made into researching, implementing and maintaining the online tool, and your users will quickly adopt and continue to utilise the system with lower ongoing support.

This approach requires user consultation and research into how other educational organisations rate the IxD and usability of the online tool. Any questions? We’re here to help.

Moodle Competencies for evidence of learning

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Currently she is excited about the inclusion of competencies and learning plans in Moodle 3.1, and ways that this function can be applied to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

Moodle competencies

For those of you who don’t know already, Moodle 3.1 comes bundled up with competencies and learning plans. This is perfect for the VET sector, where there is such an emphasis on demonstrating skills rather than simply knowledge. If you haven’t started using this feature, now is the time to get started.

What are competencies?

Competencies track what your students have demonstrated that they know or they can do. Instead of simply seeing which courses a student has completed, you can also see which competencies the student demonstrated whilst doing the courses. This is a powerful feature, especially when training students to work in practical fields such as trades.

How do we set up competencies?

Competencies can be set up in Moodle in three, easy steps:

  1. Make sure you already have the scale you require, such as ‘Not Yet Competent’, ‘Competent’. This can be set up by going to Administration> Site administration> Grades> Scales, see Scales.
  2. Set up a framework for a set of competencies – this needs to be done by an administrator in your site. I would suggest that you use a separate framework for each Unit of Competence, and add the year, eg ‘BSB20115 – Cert II in Business 2017’ to the name in case you want to update the framework in the future. This will also help your course creators to find the competencies they need to use. Instructions are available in the manually set up a competency framework video.
  3. Add competencies to this framework. Once again, I’d suggest adding the year to the name, eg ‘BSBWOR204 2017’.

This is a tedious process, and it is suggested that you use the Import competency framework plugin to do this. Instructions to use this plugin are available in the video importing the competency framework. This plugin will be in core Moodle 3.2!

Using competencies

Once the Competencies are set up, you can use them in courses.

  1. Add the appropriate competencies to the course
  2. Apply the appropriate competencies to the activities.

This step will ensure that you can track the competencies that your students have demonstrated by completing courses or activities. Information about doing this is in the applying competencies video.

Further information

Of course assessing competency is a little more complicated than that. Your VET students will need to demonstrate that they can do something more than once, over a time period and so on. To manage this, you may like to restrict access to an activity until the required skill is demonstrated in another activity, then award competency. For example, by completing activities A, B and C, a student demonstrates that they are competent in a competency. The student can’t complete activity C until activities A and B are successfully completed. The student is graded as competent once activity C is successfully completed. Or you may award competency manually. In any case, taking the time to set up competencies correctly, will save you time and effort when tracking whether or not your students are capable of doing what you, and their future employers, need them to be able to do.

Once you have competencies set up, you may like to look at implementing learning plans. More on that in a future blog post, but not until I get back from my imminent holiday to India! See Moodle docs for further information, read my colleague’s blog that introduces competency frameworks, and let me know if you have any queries.