12 March 2013

Monassis release 1.2

Based on teacher feedback during our first user group meeting, we made improvements to the Teacher Dashboard. Some teachers reported that it can be difficult to locate a learner on the different plots, especially when classes are large.
  • You can now choose to sort your learners alphabetically rather than by performance. This makes it easy to locate a learner by name.
  • When clicking on a learner, his or her information is now highlighted in blue on all plots. This is especially helpful on the time–performance plot where it can be difficult to know which dot belongs to which learner.
There is high demand for Geometry questions, of which we don't have many yet. Monassis now supports TikZ and PStricks images. These are two very powerful LaTeX-based languages for specifying vector graphics. Our template team is hard at work, learning these languages and making new questions. Expect to see the first batch soon!

Since generating questions and especially images from templates can be computationally intensive, we now have even more aggressive caching than before. Users might notice an increase in the responsiveness of the practice service, but the main gain is that we can handle more simultaneous users. At the moment we're handling about 1,000 questions per hour during peak times and about 40,000 questions per week, without breaking a sweat. A thumb-suck estimate is that we need to be able to process about 20 times that, to handle expected traffic later this year. On the software roadmap is some serious performance testing to check whether we need to do more work to support the required 20,000 questions per hour.

We're in the process of cleaning up and improving the mobile phone interface  to the practice service. There is still a lot of work to be done, but you might notice a few small changes already. The main changes that will show up before the next Monassis release are
  • less cruft: we're removing or moving to the bottom of the page a lot of logos and navigation elements, to make the practice questions visible more quickly;
  • progress indicators, showing the number of points attained per chapter.
We've also fixed a number of bugs.
  • Rounding of decimal numbers.
    Due to a numerical precision issue, some numbers were rounded down when they should have been rounded up.
  • Distinguishing between sqrt(x) and x^(1/2).
    Some questions specifically ask the learner to distinguish between square root notation and exponential notation. The system did not support this well.
  • Stricter enforcement of standard form.
    In some questions a learner would be marked correct when writing, for example, y = 3 + x^2 rather than y = x^2 + 3 as standard the standard form of a quadratic equation.
A huge thank you to all our users and for the error reports and suggestions that you send in. They really help us to improve the practice service!