Cirrus Hidden Gems: Authentic Online Programming Exams with VPL

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Welcome to the November edition of ‘Hidden Gems’! This month, we’re excited to spotlight a significant innovation for online programming exams: the VPL Programming question type in Cirrus. This feature is especially relevant for professionals and educators in computer science, IT, and computer engineering; It offers an authentic, real-world coding experience, with autoscoring and support for all major programming languages. This question type has the potential to reshape the way programming skills are taught, tested, and perfected.

What is the VPL Programming Question Type?

VPL (Virtual Programming Lab) is a programming assignment management system that is integrated in Cirrus: In short, it allows candidates to write, compile and debug code during their exam precisely as they would in real life. The code is run in a secure, sandboxed environment, preventing access to sensitive data and system resources.

How does VPL improve online programming exams? 

  • Authentic Testing: These questions offer a practical assessment of a candidate’s problem-solving and coding abilities by simulating real-world scenarios. 
  • Immediate Feedback and Learning: VPL addresses the issue of students not knowing if their work is correct until assessed. The immediate feedback allows students to learn from their mistakes in real-time.
  • Reduce Marking Workload: VPL automates much of the assessment process, saving considerable marking time and effort. Answers are auto-scored based on test cases, offering an objective assessment of candidates’ coding skills. You can set the maximum number of compilation attempts and provide feedback after each failed attempt. 

“Auto-scoring computer programming code, in more than 40 different computer languages – sounds like alien technology? Not with Cirrus. The scoring algorithm takes into account the number of attempts the candidate tries to (un)successfully compile the code. The fewer compilation attempts, the higher the score.”

  • Efficient Setup: VPL’s integration with Cirrus simplifies setting up and managing online programming exams.

VPL features in Cirrus

Controlled Submission Process

  • Deadline and Task Description Management: Set specific time frames for submissions and provide clear task descriptions.
  • File Upload Regulations: Limit the number of files that can be uploaded, specify maximum file sizes, and designate mandatory files for submission.
  • Secure File Handling: Restrict file browsing, editing and uploading through password protection or by network. 

Efficient File Management:

  • Browser-Based File Editing: Let test-takers edit files directly in the browser using an integrated code editor.
  • Enhanced Readability: Uploaded files are displayed with syntax highlighting, making them easier to read and understand.

Execution and Evaluation of Submissions

  • Broad Language Support: The system supports all major programming languages, catering to diverse coding requirements.
  • Automated Testing and Feedback: Automatically evaluate submissions against set criteria and provide immediate feedback.
  • Resource Usage Control: Set limits on the execution resources like time, memory, and file size to ensure fair and efficient assessment.

Authorship Verification

  • Plagiarism Detection: Search for similarities between submissions to ensure originality.
  • Code Security: Implement watermarks in the code to trace its origin and prevent unauthorised copying or editing.

Which programming languages are supported? 

  • Ada (ada, ada-12)
  • Assembler x86 (asm)
  • C (c, c-11, c-99, c-ansi)
  • Clojure (clojure)
  • C++ (cpp, cpp-11, cpp-14, cpp-17, cpp-98)
  • C# (csharp)
  • D (d)
  • Erlang (erlang)
  • Fortran (fortran)
  • Go (go)
  • Haskell (haskel)Java (java, java-jgrasp)
  • Javascript (java-script)
  • Lisp (lisp)
  • Lua (lua)
  • Matlab (matlab)
  • Pascal (pascal)
  • Perl (perl)
  • PHP (php)
  • Prolog (prolog)
  • Python (python, python3, python-2) python-3-pudb
  • R (r)
  • Ruby (ruby)
  • Scala (scala)
  • Scheme (scheme)
  • Bash Shell (shell)
  • SQL (sql)
  • Verilog (verilog)
  • VHDL (vhdl)

Getting started with VPL Programming Questions

To sum up, the VPL Programming question type in Cirrus is an indispensable tool for educators in computer science and related fields seeking to enhance their online programming exams. It simplifies the creation and management of online programming exams and offers a realistic coding environment for test-takers. The question type is an essential asset for any educational program focused on developing and evaluating coding skills. 

Keen to get started with VPL in Cirrus and elevate your programming exams? Please refer to our Knowledge Base or reach out to our Service Desk for more information on enabling VPL for your organisation. 

Not a Cirrus customer yet? Let’s talk about how we can help you supercharge your online programming exams. 

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Picture of Jad Kaddour
Jad Kaddour
As a Customer Success Specialist at Cirrus, Jad helps train Cirrus users and support them in creating, delivering and marking better digital exams.
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