Feb 16, 2010
Roster-in-a-Box project is a course management system designed to facilitate the use of autograded homework assignments, while also allowing for text-based questions to be submitted online and graded online by the instructor. I developed and currently use the system for my introductory statistics and microeconomics courses at Long Island University, and I have had it in production since 2005. While you will be able to break the program if you try hard enough, it is stable and very much ready for use. I wrote the program because I wanted something simpler than Moodle (and also because my school was not supporting Moodle at the time that I started the project). I love Moodle, and Moodle may be right for you, but it wasn't right for me, because I didn't want the course management system to take over my course web site. Basically, Roster-in-a-Box handles the homework and grading functions with a couple of web pages and leaves you on your own to design the rest of your course web site. That may or may not be what you want. It should be quite simple to take my statistics modules (and the forthcoming microeconomics modules that I just haven't gotten around to packaging) and get your own introductory statistics course up in no time. It is also quite simple to set up a course that consists of only text-based, manually-graded questions. On the other hand, if you want to write auto-graded assignments for some other purpose, you will have to know how to code them yourself.
The structure of the modules should be somewhat self-explanatory to experienced programmers, but is probably daunting to those who do not know how to code. The entire program is written in PHP, and uses MySQL as a back-end database.Limitations:· There are things you could do while editing the assignment list that would leave it in an inconsistent state. For example, if you leave a page open, then open up a different page and make edits in that page, and then go back to the first page and save your changes, you may screw things up. I will get around to fixing this problem at some point, but in the mean time try not to do things like that.· The program uses the PHP session variable, which by default times out after 24 minutes (supposedly due to security concerns). You should bug the web site administrator to lengthen the PHP system setting session.gc_maxlifetime to be as long as possible.· By default, the system resets to the Spring semester on January 1st, the Summmer semester on May 15th, and the Fall semester on September 1st. I should probably make these dates editable somewhere in site_settings.php, but instead you'll have to dig through administer.php and homework.php if you want to change them.