Students Staff

January 2, 2018

FASER Update

Filed under: FASER — Benjamin Steeples @ 4:20 pm

Update 10 January 2018:

We have added a few more frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to the update. Please see the list of questions at the bottom of this post.

 

Original post:

As previously blogged, over the last 18 months we have been working hard on a new and improved version of FASER, developed in response to feedback from staff and students. The main goal has been to change the underlying infrastructure, paving the way for future enhancements and providing a modest performance and usability improvement.

This new version has been tested by selected volunteers and departments, and we are now putting the finishing touches in place. We aim to release this new version to all staff and students in the spring term.

Key improvements in the new version include:

  • Implementing Single-Sign-On (SSO) to reduce the number of login prompts.
  • Performance improvements. Ensuring FASER only reloads parts of the page that have changed, rather than reloading the entire page every time. We have combined this with additional caching of information and some database changes to ensure that pages and information loads faster than before.
  • Adding calls to action to FASER. These guide staff to common outstanding tasks relating to an assignment, and reduce the number of clicks and page loads required to achieve that task.
  • Rewriting the majority of FASER to take advantage of MVC software design. This allows us to separate the code responsible for the appearance, logic, and underlying data of FASER, and enables us to make changes to the service in a quicker and more responsive manner.
  • Improvements to online annotation. We have listened to feedback and are now working with an alternative supplier to introduce improved online annotation.
  • Increased visibility of and guidance about students with a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) or Asperger Syndrome Disorder (ASD).
  • Upload checking. FASER now carries out basic checks on uploads, and warns the student if they have submitted a corrupted document.
  • Finally, we have taken the opportunity to fix a lot of minor annoyances and bugs in FASER.

 We are aiming to release this new version to all staff and students on Monday 22 January 2018.

 If you would like a sneak peek of the new version, simply click on the blue banner when you next log in to FASER.

 

Questions you may have:

Why wasn’t I invited to see the new version sooner?
We know you’re all busy, and so last year we ran a FASER Staff Survey which included a question on whether staff were willing to help us test the new version. This acted as our initial list of testers.

Why is the new version being released part-way through an academic year?
Ideally we would have released this at the start of the academic year, but we weren’t happy with the volume of testing and feedback we’d received over the summer. The new version of FASER includes some important new features, so rather than wait another academic year the decision was made to release mid-year.

Won’t this confuse students?
There have been very few changes to the student view of FASER.

Some pages are still slow!
We have made some big improvements to FASER’s performance in the new version, but there is still more work to be done. We aim to implement further performance improvements in the coming year.

I’ve found a problem or encountered something confusing, how do I report this?
Either click on the Tell us what you think link at the top-right of FASER’s web pages, or send us an email at ltt@essex.ac.uk.

I’ve had a sneak peek and something is missing, what’s going on?
We are still putting the finishing touches in place. Rest assured, everything will be there when we release in the spring term.

Why doesn’t the new version do … ?
We have focused on improving FASER’s usability and performance, in addition to laying the groundwork for future enhancements. You may find that a feature you’ve been asking for hasn’t made it into this new version. Don’t worry, it’s still on the list for future versions and we are continuing to work on FASER behind the scenes.

I had an email saying that I would not be able to annotate between 15 and 22 January, will this impact my marking?
This only affects FASER’s inbuilt online annotation feature (Crocodoc). Markers who download work to annotate offline (eg. Word or PDF annotation) will be unaffected, and can continue to mark and provide feedback during this period.

Will there be training on the new version?
Yes, we are tackling this in several ways:

  • Most FASER pages will include a Take a tour of this page link, which guides you through common features of each screen.
  • We have improved FASER’s help and support pages.
  • We will be running drop-in sessions during the start of the spring term. Dates will be announced via email and the IT Services blog.
  • We will be improving the Introduction to FASER Moodle course.

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