That Backspace “Error”
Recent email and phone dialogues pointed to an apparent problem within the Educator system. When students were working in an exam and hit the BACKSPACE (Windows) key or the DELETE (Mac) key when their cursor was not inside a text box, they would be “thrown out” of the exam. This apparent bug not only caused the working student a need to start from scratch; it also created additional headaches for the teacher. If the student had been in one of the many single-entry exams, then the teacher had to reset the exam in order for the student to gain entry again. Was this is an inefficient Educator bug? Actually, No!
Dialogue with Dan Gomoll, our VP of Learning Management Systems Operations, taught me something I had never known. The BACKSPACE or DELETE key functionality is actually a browser navigation shortcut! That’s right. Why not try it yourself right now? Go to another site or two. When you hit the BACKSPACE or DELETE (Mac) key, you will navigate in reverse! We’ll wait for you right here.
A check on Microsoft’s Knowledge Base for Internet Explorer confirmed what I had learned.
Another Internet search revealed countless tales from random Internet travelers who were frustrated by this “feature” built into modern browsers. The most annoyed were those unfortunate victims who had been filling in forms or indeed taking exams. We just cannot fix native browser behavior now, can we? We did, however, do the next best thing. We’ve added multiple warnings and even a pop-up to hopefully spare some students and teachers unnecessary work and annoyance.
Are we good so far?
So, we have issued statements of warning to the student, but we have also heard, “Some students don’t read.”
We decided to make it a bit more difficult for students to “accidentally” exit from exam pages. Again beginning this Friday, when attempting to leave one of these single-entry exams without submitting it, a student will see one of these warnings from the four major browsers:
PLEASE NOTE: This warning will NOT appear in an Opera browser.
Choosing to leave the exam page after all these initial warnings and the admonition for having all work lost in the event of escape might just do the trick. It is our hope on the Educator team that these waypoints toward their goal will help students avoid this browser pitfall. Everyone should know to never hit the backspace key (outside a text box) in your browser unless you want to travel to the previous page. We’ll have to wait and see what everyone thinks, but it should save teachers and the help desk from some of the trouble of resetting those single-entry exams. What do you think?