Students Staff
University of Essex

June 10, 2014

Similarity checking integration underway

Filed under: System Development,System Update,Technical — Alex ONeill @ 11:45 am

The ability to automatically send documents for similarity checking is currently in development!

We are working on an integration with Ephorus, a popular similarity checking software which has a large user base in Europe and is gaining many users in the UK. This integration will mean you can create assignments in FASer that will automatically check the similarity of all or a portion of submissions after the deadline. It checks against millions of web pages and online journals, as well as comparing documents with previously submitted items. Academics and administrators will be able to see at a glance what percentage of a document has been matched against something else and see a report detailing what bits are similar to another document and the source of the match.

Development is fully underway with a plan to release the functionality at the beginning of July.

May 12, 2014

Student feedback email alerts are coming!

Filed under: System Development,System Update,Technical — Alex ONeill @ 1:06 pm

As of next Monday, 19th May, students will be sent email alerts when they receive feedback through the FASer system.

Email alert

In response to requests from students, the FASer system will now send out an email to students whenever they receive a piece of feedback from their department. The email will be sent to their University email address and will contain a link in the body so they can click through directly to their feedback as soon as they have received it. Students will no longer have to check the system to find out whether anything has been uploaded.

For staff, they will be warned when they are publishing an assignment or making feedback visible so they know emails are going to be sent out. There is a half hour delay on the email being sent so that feedback can be hidden or deleted if released accidentally.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment below or email

April 29, 2014

Alternatives to TurnItIn

Filed under: System Development,System Update,Technical — Alex ONeill @ 9:37 am

When we first started the MEFE project, our plan was to integrate FASer with the TurnItIn plagiarism checking and online marking service. Many of you currently use TurnItIn for checking plagiarism and it seemed it would save lots of time for lots of people, plus give academics a great and easy-to-use feedback facility.

However, there have been a number of issues with the TurnItIn service over the last 18 months which means this has not been possible. We actually started looking at the integration with TurnItIn a number of years ago and have since been waiting for them to release a “new way” of integrating, only to find when it was released that it didn’t do what we needed it to do. On top of that, TurnItIn have suffered with some issues with stability of their system in the last few years which many institutions have found incredibly disruptive to their coursework submission process.

Due to these issues, and the knowledge that both online marking and integrated plagiarism detection are very important to our users, we have decided to persue a different route for our integrations.

We are shortly going to be releasing the ability to annotate documents online in FASer. This will be seamless for users, but is actually using a system called Crocodoc behind the scenes (what a great name!). It looks good and works smoothly and with a bit of luck will make annotating documents really easy! It even has some features that TurnItIn can’t provide yet. Here’s a sneak preview:

online annotation

In addition to this, we’re going to be running a trial with an alternative plagiarism detection service called Ephorus. They are very popular in Europe at the moment but haven’t had much exposure over here in the UK yet. However, they have made the integration process sound very easy and we have had regular conversations with their team so we are going to be working on that shortly.

We will be keeping an eye on TurnItIn and seeing how things progress, but in the meantime I hope in the next few months we can get a system to you that will really make a difference!

January 24, 2014

Feedback Assistant – beta testing phase

Filed under: System Development,Technical — Alex ONeill @ 9:47 am

We’re on the verge of releasing a beta version of the new Feedback Assistant, which makes the electronic feedback process simpler and easier!

To begin with we will only be allowing a handful of beta testers into the system to ensure that we test it fully before releasing it to the public. As long as this goes to plan, everyone will have access to the new assistant from the Summer term.

What’s changing?

The aim of the Feedback Assistant is to organise the feedback workflow to make it easier to mark coursework submissions electronically. The new interface allows you to view each student and their submissions individually so you can process them one at a time, whilst also being able to give feedback to everyone on a module, or groups of students within the module. You can also now type feedback notes directly into the system, as well as being able to use a new “drag and drop” feature for uploading files.

What else is on the horizon?

In the near future we shall also be looking at being able to provide audio feedback by recording it directly into the browser and ensuring students receive alerts when their feedback has been published. We are also starting work on being able to submit files to TurnItIn for similarity checking and being able to mark and make notes on files directly from FASer… watch this space!

If you want to receive alerts on any future FASer enhancements, or send us any comments or queries, please enrol on the MEFE project Moodle page!

December 13, 2013

Submission problems, 13th December, 2013

Filed under: System Development,Technical — Benjamin Steeples @ 10:59 am

This morning, we received a small number of emails from students who had encountered problems when submitting coursework to FASer. After investigating this, we discovered that between 5:00am and 6:30am another process had temporarily consumed a large amount of disk space, leaving no space for coursework submissions.

We rectified this issue at 9:30am, and will continue to monitor the situation.

November 12, 2013

Watermarking Microsoft Office 2013 documents

Filed under: Bug fix,System Development,System Update,Technical — Richy @ 2:31 pm

We had noticed that failures were coming in regarding the watermarking of some documents, we identified that the 3rd party piece of software that is used behind the scenes for document checking (Aspose) was not functioning correctly with the new version of Microsoft Office 2013 documents.

The development team have since introduced a fix which should resolve any issues dealing with the version incompatibility however errors now give us a reduced level of informaiton as to where there may be a problem.

Since releasing this fix we haven’t seen any submission failures regarding this specific issue at all, however if you are using Office 2013 and you get a submission failure please use the in FASer contact us form or send LTT an email detailing as much as you can.


October 22, 2013

COR integration updates: displaying weights and ID’s

Filed under: Bug fix,System Development,System Update,Technical — Richy @ 11:37 am

Further to the remedial and improvement works that have been rolled out over the past three weeks to improve integration between COR and FASer, the following features have been released and are available for your use:

Some of the more visible updates include:

  • Weight of assignments displayed in the overview page


By displaying the weight in the overview page, we aim to reduce your workflow, as this will mean you can change weights in COR and view these changes on one page rather than having to go into each assignments’ page individually.

  • Matching COR entry now displayed in the assignment summary page


Some DA’s were concerned about not knowing if an assignment had a corresponding entry in COR. Having a matching COR entry displayed in the assignment summery page will address this.

As well as the changes mentioned above, there are additional changes that may not be so apparent, these include:

  • Submission date is cleared automatically if assignment is marked as “No online submission required”
  • Student page displays “No current assignments” rather than “No online assignments” when there are no assignments

October 14, 2013

Validation updates to the assignment creation/ edit page

Filed under: Bug fix,System Development,System Update,Technical — Richy @ 1:55 pm

A new update has been released in order to ease the creation process of new assignments, these new features include:

  • Submission deadline default time
    • By default, submission deadline is now 12 noon; which means you will no longer receive the “LTT out of office hours” message.
    • The system should no longer send emails out notifying of “past deadline” when creating assignments with no submission deadlines.
  • Save notifications
    • A more visible notification should now be displayed when saving to indicate if any errors were found with your input.
    • The save button is now disabled while the saving process is occurring, we found that some assignments were being duplicated as users were clicking save multiple times whilst the save process was occurring.
  • Search on input fields
    Some browsers were performing a search when hitting enter on an input box, this should now be resolved; however the best way of moving into the next input field when viewing a website is by pressing tab.
  • Lecturer Input
    A  message is now displayed to indicate the maximum of 1 lecturer per assignment has been reached, this was the previous limit in OCS and has been replicated in FASer. If an assignment requires more than 1 lecturer, these should be added as secondary markers/ notification emails.

If you have experienced any issues or bugs please email the Learning Technology Team at with full details of the issue.

October 3, 2013

Start of new academic year 2013-14

Filed under: Technical — Richy @ 12:37 pm

As you will all know the new students started to arrive on Monday (Week 1) ready for the 2013-14 academic year. However, the official start date for the new academic year is today, Thursday 3 October. Some of you may have noticed, earlier in the week, that FASer defaulted to 2012/13 when viewing the overview page, you should now see it correctly defaulting to 2013/14 as of today.

October 1, 2013

Technical Development: Page changes and glow features

Filed under: System Development,System Update,Technical — admin @ 11:00 am

Page changes

Overview page (for everyone)

  1. There is now a box in the centre panel which displays status alerts of the system to all users. This now reads directly from an RSS feed which is linked to our MEFE news blog. The System Alerts are displayed to all users.
  2. There is a further feed below the system alerts which display personalised FASer feed notifications for that individual, such as upcoming deadlines. As we add new features over time, we anticipate that there will be more notifications for both staff and students.

Assignment creation page/edit page (for staff only)

  1. You also now have the ability to save an assessment and set it to unpublished – which means it is hidden from student view until you tick “publish” from the Assignment overview page.
  2. You must now enter the campus for which this assignment is bound to or generated for.
  3. We must supply the broader assessment type for our KIS information responsibilities. However we have also added a more granular level of assignment type which may be useful for the department to collect. These fields are not displayed to the students.
  4. You can select that there is no deadline for this assignment, however if you do not select this, you must enter either a hardcopy or electronic submission deadline. You can select both.
  5. There is a “does not require electronic submission tick box” which you can use for assignments that used to be created on COR for activities like attendance marks.
  6. Notification email, lecturer email and second marker emails. You can now find and add users by their username only and then clicking add. You don’t need to supply their full name, we will find that for you. To remove a user, hover over their name and an “x” will appear.

Assignment overview page (for staff only)

  1. There is now a checkbox for publish/unpublish. This has replaced the notion of “deleting” the assessment in FASer. When you select or deselect this checkbox – your request is saved immediately.
  2. We have added headings at the top of columns.
  3. We have retained the ability to create a new assignment directly from the module section.
  4. There is a new filter at the top “Are not published” which will toggle displaying assignments that have been published and not published.

Glow features and tooltips

When we release a new button or field we will now be adopting a glow feature, highlighting the area to a user. When you click on this feature, you will see an explanation of what it does or requires from you to input; these descriptions are called tooltips. The feature glow will then disappear. This has been set to an accessible colour Green to begin with, but shortly we will be releasing the ability for you to change the colour by going to Help & support on the left hand side, and selecting “system settings”. We will post a new blog post when this is released.

All the tooltips for a page can be reactivated by selecting the “take a tour of this page” in the top right hand corner as previous versions of FASer had. We hope this helps with the transition of understanding lots of new features at once.

Some administrators have been working with the MEFE project team last week to look at the process end-to-end for a user and make sure it is straightforward, as well ensuring we are providing the correct instructions in support materials on screen. Please get in contact with us if you have any outstanding enquiries.


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