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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Marking online submissions of PDF files

Thanks to this UploadPDF module by Davo Smith, and this post by Joseph Thibault, I've now enabled my Moodle site to receive online submissions of PDF files, AND direct annotation on those submissions.

To get the assignment module to work, Ghostscript (GS) has to be installed on your server. If your Moodle server doesn't have GS installed, then you might want to request your Web hosting company to do it for you. Or you might want to DIY it.  I use a Centos Virtual Private Server to host my Moodle site. At this time of posting, the latest version of GS is 9.02. These 2 links helped me to install GS on my VPS:
http://linuxadminzone.com/install-html2pspdf-library-to-create-pdf-files-using-php/
and
http://mirror.cs.wisc.edu/pub/mirrors/ghost/GPL/current/
So NOW, I can get my students to save their homework or assignments in PDF format (Ms Word 2010 allows one to save in PDF format), and to submit their work in PDF format. Here's how it worked out for me. I created a dummy PDF file and logged in as a student account and uploaded it as a dummy test file.

Next, I logged in as my usual account and proceeded to annotate the PDF file submission.
After all, I didn't want Shakespeare to roll in his grave as a result of the "howlers" in the submission.
Here's what I did to the original PDF file while online on my Moodle site:

After I have finished annotating the PDF file, the (hypothetical) student is able to access/download the annotated PDF submission while logged in in his or her account. Now is that a great feedback mechanism or what? The best thing is the annotation tools of this module now allow me to give feedback to my students, RIGHT INSIDE THE PDF file itself! AWESOME. Simple AWESOME.

Note: this post was originally posted on http://moodle.org on 19th April 2011.


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