Moodle 3.9 and Safe Exam Browser: open source supporting open source

June 17, 2020 By Júlia Verdaguer

In case you missed it, we made some big news after releasing Moodle 3.9 earlier this week. Our latest version of the open source LMS delivers improvements to the online teaching and learning experience, including a stronger integration with Safe Exam Browser, the open source lockdown browser.


What is Safe Exam Browser?

Safe Exam Browser (SEB) is an open source lockdown browser that allows teachers to restrict student access to external websites, system functions or other applications while they are taking an assessment online. SEB supports teachers to deliver improved and secure online assessments by turning the computer into a secured workstation. SEB is used in a wide range of learning institutions (universities, schools, on the job training), mostly together with in-person proctoring to ensure assessment honesty.


How do Moodle and SEB work together?

In Moodle 3.9, SEB is now available by default in Moodle Quiz settings, enabling teachers to easily set up a controlled environment for students to take quizzes, including:

  • Facilitating students to access a quiz only through SEB
  • Preventing SEB to be closed until the test is submitted
  • Disabling the ability to switch to other applications while still allowing specific ones (for example, allowing the use of the Calculator app during a Math quiz)
  • Configuring specific websites or (online) resources to be accessible during an exam.

The configuration of Safe Exam Browser offers dozens of settings that may make it a bit daunting for teachers to use. So in Moodle 3.9, we’ve made it easier: site administrators can create SEB configuration templates that instructors can then use in their quizzes.

A community project and a collaborative effort

The SEB integration in Moodle 3.9 is the result of a superb collaborative process between 8 Universities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Moodle Partner Catalyst and Moodle HQ. Initially, the joint effort was sparked by ETH Zürich, home of SEB lead developers. It was the team at ETH, joined by the Bern University of Applied Sciences, who created user stories and wireframes, implementation plans and specifications, as well as leading the search for funding partners.

Universities and institutions worldwide were already using SEB operationally, and most of them were using it with Moodle. Until now, SEB was available only as an experimental setting in Moodle, and we thought that it could be a great opportunity for both projects to properly integrate with each other. After all, they are both open source projects, with strong support for Higher Education, looking to provide organisations with effective tools for online learning” said Thomas Korner, Moodle service owner at ETH Zürich. 

Korner raised the idea with Moodle LMS Product Manager Sander Bangma in 2019, and the project was incorporated to the Moodle 3.9 roadmap shortly after. “We’re continuously improving our Moodle LMS with support from our community, and fostering integration with other powerful open source tools for education is aligned with our mission to create the world’s most effective learning platform”, said Bangma.

Moodle Partner Catalyst IT was contracted to work on the development, with funds contributed by the 8 European universities involved in the project. The final results were integrated by Moodle HQ in Moodle LMS 3.9, released in June 2020.

We’re proud to see that Safe Exam Browser in Moodle has gone from an experimental setting to a very deep integration. SEB doesn’t integrate at such a deep level with any other LMS, and vice-versa. Now it is a lot easier for organisations to create controlled environments for online assessments” said Korner. 

 “This is an exciting collaborative project within the Moodle community to advance our LMS, including 8 higher education institutions, a Moodle Partner and Moodle HQ. We’d especially like to thank Thomas Korner and Luca Bösch for their initiative, the project team, led by Marco Lehre, for their efforts, as well as the universities who have helped fund this project: ETH Zürich, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Hochschule Neubrandenburg, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hannover.” Sander Bangma, Moodle LMS Product Manager.

You can read more about the SEB project in this PDF presentation and by watching the video below