Kids working together on a question.

Entering the cone of uncertainty: converting quiz questions

The single biggest risk to Project Bob was converting quiz questions.

Possible Question Conversion Strategies

When you have subjects like Chemistry with 480 quiz questions of a variety of types, copying and pasting is just not an option. What are the conversion options and how good are they?


Windows only tool; training/learning required for implementation. Limited question types supported (Multiple choice/True-False). As an incomplete solution it was prone to human error, time consuming and variable quality.


Fails to import: solution not available.

GIFT (question format)

Training/learning required for implementation, Images embedded in questions not supported.  An Incomplete solution, subject to uman error and time-consuming.

Moodle plug-in (Canvas QTI)

Further development required for implementation. Not supported (developer hasn’t updated since 2015). No official Moodle release. Installation approvals on Production server (high risk) would take too long; alternatively a development servers (low risk) could be used. Quality unknown.

Update Pre-Canvas Moodle Quizzes

Many Canvas subjects had a Moodle Origin. Many questions remain untouched. An extensive proceedure and time would be required to validate each question.

Recreate Quizzes from scratch

High risk of human error. Time consuming. Not feasible.

The Solution

The Canvas QTI Import. A team-member’s throw-away comment “the developer said they had been careful but they couldn’t guarantee it”. This understatement said to me this was an old-school, methodical programmer – so it could be worthwhile to at least look at the plug-in source code.

I’m glad I did. Not only did it showed it handled 11 of 12 question types but the code was clear and easy to follow. Therefore a detailed evaluation by performing unit tests. Kudos goes to Jean-Michel Védrine for his outstanding plugin.


11 of 12 question types were converted:

  • Converted: Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer, True False, Fill in the blank, Multiple Blanks, Multiple Answers, Multiple Dropdowns/Cloze, Matching Question, Numerical, Essay Question, File Upload.
  • Not Converted: Formula


  1. The Formula/Calculated question conversion is not implemented. Workaround: Manually recreate these questions.
  2. Questions in Canvas ‘Grouped questions’ were not recognised.  They appear as sections in the QTI xmlWorkaround: strip the <section> and <selection_ordering> tags from the Canvas QTI XML.
  3. Essay Question: Missing Field ‘General’ answer comment.  Workaround: Manually fix
  4. File Type: Missing field ‘General Feedback’. Workaround: Manually fix.
  5. Canvas Question Points are not transferred.  It was not identified whether this was a Canvas export problem or a plugin problem.
  6. Images were not imported – absolute links or relative links.  Workaround: manually fix.

Other issues found

  1. Canvas XML format sometimes exports encoded HTML with line breaks.  This stops the Canvas import process.
  2. Images can’t be imported with this methodology.  They have to be reinserted manually through Moodle UI or through manual hacking of XML code.

Testing Methodology

Two quizzes were prepared which included:

  • One quiz was media rich.  The same media was used in every possible field.
  • One quiz was without any media in any field
  • Both quizzes had one question of each type
  • Both quizzes used the same question, answers and distractors.

Both were exported to separate Canvas QTI files. Jean-Michel’s plugin was installed on a test server hosting Moodle 3.5.

The following checks were made:

  • question function
  • fields were checked for completeness
  • formatting closely compared between Canvas and Moodle quizzes.
  • comparison to original Canvas quiz.

Test Files

Attached are the test files, including the original Canvas Export QTI and the Moodle Export XML.


This plug-in is a cracker – it has saved Project Bob.

RE: VIABILITY: Yes it works to a very high standard. It’s a superior solution compared to any other approach – including commercial options.

RE: BUGS:The minor bugs could be quickly corrected with little development effort.More significant coding effort would be required to add image handling (highly valuable) and the Formula/Calculated question type conversion (valuable).

Canvas To Moodle Stories

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