ETHZ.11

SEB2012 extension und .NET Portierung (Phase 3)

Long Title: SEB2012 - Safe Exam Browser extension und .NET Portierung (Phase 3)
Leading
Organization:
ETH Zürich
Other
Partners:
Berner Fachhochschule
Université de Lausanne
Domain: ELS
Status: finished
Start Date: 10.07.2012
End Date: 30.04.2013
Project Leader: D. Schneider
Website: http://www.safeexambrowser.org

This extension has allowed to approach the SEB versions for Windows and Mac, to implement new functions, and facilitate maintenance and future extension through .NET porting.

(see also SEB (Phase 1) and SEB2012 (Phase 2))

Results

Component Description
Safe Exam Browser Website Safe Exam Browser Website with demo and documentation
SEB for Windows SEB for Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8
SEB for Mac OSX for Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8
Open Source Projekt SEB Safe Exam Browser on Sourceforge
(application, source code, developer ddokumentation, bug tracker, forum)
Questionmark Secure for Mac Questionmark Secure for Mac (based on SEB) by Questionmark Computing Limited; available for free in the Mac App Store

SEB is open source and available via sourceforge or SEB website. It's the only secure browser application allowing flexible use of third party application for exams, being working with different learning management systems, on Windows as well as Mac operating systems, easily extendible and open source.
As kiosk component only (without browser component) it can be used together with (proprietary) assessment software and any other application.
During phase 2 and the extension several goals have been reached:

  • versions for Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OSX 10.7 and OSX 10.8 (implemented and tested)
  • automatic manipulation recognition (application and start configuration)
  • opening of additional browser tabs or windows
  • deployment of SEB Starter with a VDI client (with VMware View Client)
  • porting SEB to iOS for iPads as prototype
  • code refactoring und porting to .NET of SEB starter (developer version ready; SEB 2.0 for Windwos will contain same functions as OSX version)
  • easy configuration of SEB per exam
  • updated XULRunner browser component (version 2)
  • automatic closure of exam after completion (additionally adaptations in LMS necessary) (implemented and tested for OSX version)
  • URL-Filter (Whitelist); saving of not allowed called sites; recognition and filtering of embedded external content in allowed sites (partially implemented; will be productive in next version)
  • documentation updates (in German and English)
  • dissemination: presentation of SEB and new functions in workshops, demos and at conferences (eduhub days 2013, e-Assessment/SEB workshops at ETHZ (international) and UNIGE, ILIAS conference, DeLFI, SwissMoodleMoot, GMW, Online-Educa, Open Source Software in education at EB Zürich, demos at UNIBAS, BFH, Klubschule Migros, DHBW Lörrach)

SEB is in regular use since 2010 at ETHZ with Moodle, ILIAS and SIOUX. The smallest exam was organized for 25, the largest for 350 participants. Up to 10 exams and 17 online-tests have been performed in one semester with 1163 participants.
Also HWZ and PH Thurgau use SEB on a regular basis. Several Swiss universities plan the use of SEB or evaluate the secure browser actually.
The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure is already in use for real exams and allows with SEB starter to assess competences using third party applications as R, SPSS and software development environments.
The usability was considerably improved with .seb configuration files replacing a previously necessary deployment system. Instead of an integrated VDI client, also in the OSX version a secured VMware View Client will be used. With iOS only a prototype was realized because of missing suitable hardware and deployment systems. But the remaining way to tablet exams is now short with the SEB Windows 8 version and meanwhile available x86 tablets. The deployment of SEB over client deivery systems and the direct use on students laptops is simple and quick to realize.

SEB has started a collaboration with Questionmark and provides the OSX secure browser for their testing suite (Questionmark Secure for Mac). This kind of cooperation with companies may be a way for further develoment in the future as well as the work within the learning infrastructure project in 2013 and planned submissions for the CUS 2013-2016 P-2 project.


Goals

The extension will improve the sustainability of SEB by changing the framework to .NET for the Windows version, allowing easier maintenance and extensions.
Some of the codes for the Windows version of SEB (many originated during the time prior to the first AAA/SWITCH SEB project), are so old that they will require a lot of maintenance, and they will slow down or even prevent SEB from having new functions added to it. From the technical angle, the fact that this code, written in C++, is based on the old Window's COM framework, is particularly problematical. A large number of the system functions required for the new SEB functions, such as dialog boxes for entering passwords, encoding and decoding the new manipulation-proof configuration files, opening and administering additional browser windows and code signing operations, etc. are either not available at all or are only available in rudimentary form in this COM framework. Out of necessity (because of the C++ architecture) a number of new SEB functions have already been implemented within the Microsoft .NET-Framework in the meantime, such as the SEB Windows service, the new graphic configuration tool and the MSI installer.
The linkup of the currently used XULRunner-Browser component to the SEB kiosk application unfortunately no longer meets the requirements that result from the planned new SEB features, on the one hand, and the demands of the Swiss SEB community, on the other hand. For this reason, the XULRunner-Browser is to be upgraded or replaced by an embedded browser framework.

Benefit

The refactoring and porting of the old code to .NET ensures that the planned new SEB functions can be implemented efficiently and neatly by employing the current Windows system framework. Switching the internal web browser will similarly modernise the structure of SEB for Windows. This measure will also make it possible to implement new functions and some of the existing functions in the Windows and the Mac OS X version of SEB in such a way that the two versions more closely resemble each other in terms of the functions they offer and the way they are operated.
The refactoring and the .NET porting will serve to considerably improve the SEB code, thus clearly facilitating maintenance and future extensions. This will assure the use of SEB at the Swiss universities over the long term. It would then be possible to implement new functions or adaptations to new operating systems much more easily through the open source community.

Steps

These new milestones are embedded in the project plan of SEB2012:

  • Individual, secure and simplified configurability of SEB through encrypted ".seb" files
  • Code refactoring and porting to the .NET framework of the technically obsolete "SEB Starter" component of SEB for Windows
  • Testing of the SEB Starter once it has been ported to .NET
  • Upgrade or replacement of the XULRunner-Browser component with an embedded browser framework (WebKit or .NET Internet Explorer framework), implementation
  • Testing of the new embedded browser framework

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