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The good news is that you have a number choices when it comes to selecting an assessment platform. The bad news is that almost all these platforms are proprietary, and are designed to make it difficult for you to switch to other systems down the line—even if those systems are a better fit for your needs.

Essentially, proprietary technology locks customers to a vendor’s product and service stack— which is great for the vendor, but not so great for you. This is where OAT comes in.

Because TAO is published under GPL-2—the most commonly used Open Source license—you win with our platform in two significant ways:

  • By controlling the source code you gain speed and agility, which are key to innovation.
  • Equally important, you pay only for what you really need. After any customization is done, you are free to use TAO however you want. No license fees, no test-delivery fees—ever

Open source fosters innovation by connecting users around the world through a community where rich, cutting-edge technology solutions are born. So with TAO, you get the best of both worlds: commercial support and professional services–and the inherent control, cost savings and flexibility of an open platform.

  • Eliminate vendor lock-in
  • Easily integrate with your environment and 3rd-party tools
  • Monitor test-takers and deliver unique assessments, from to formative to summative
  • Solution for low-stakes tests and practice assessments
  • High-stakes solution for certifications, proctored exams, etc.
  • Community contributions evolve the technology
  • Flexible pricing models
  • Reduce your total cost of technology ownership

You’ll want to have a solid understanding of your requirements, and compare platforms to determine which solutions best fit your needs. Consider not only functional aspects—like software features—but also cost of ownership calculations (how much a vendor will charge in annual fees), organizational aspects surrounding test development, student administration, test delivery and results reporting. Don’t forget to keep your future needs in mind, too.

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If you need assistance with TAO installation and deployment, please contact us.

Server Side

Your web server needs the following software components in order to manage and deliver TAO tests:

  • Apache 2.4
  • PHP 5.6 to 7.1
  • MySQL 5.7, Maria DB 10.1, PostgreSQL 9.5 or newer versions

We recommend using a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, or similar. We also support macOS and macOS Server. TAO runs on Windows as well, but community support is limited.

Client Side

The TAO platform requires a modern web browser. We support the following:

  • Chrome – recent version
  • Firefox – recent version
  • Safari – recent version
  • Edge – recent version

You can deliver tests using a wide range of iOS and Android devices. For optimal experience, we recommend using a 7-inch screen at the minimum.

GPL-2 doesn’t cover content, but only changes to the code of the application itself. So, the items and tests you create using TAO are your property. Custom interactions are considered content too, as is and any data you collect (e.g. candidate responses). And, so are tools you use to (externally) process this data. There is no requirement to release anything, unless you choose to of course.

You can best compare it to MySQL. Any data stored in this GPL-2 database is yours. Any stored procedure you write to extend functionality is also yours. Modify the code however, and if you choose to release it, it has to be under GPL-2 as well.

Here’s a link to the general GPLv2 FAQ: https://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.en.html

Software Development

Open Assessment Technologies develops and publishes TAO, an industrial-strength, standards-compliant, open source assessment and survey platform. The TAO software is typically updated twice a year in spring and in fall, with under-the-hood improvements, user interface enhancements and/or new features packed into each major release. We make all of this intellectual property available free of charge via the GNU GPL 2 license.

Professional and Custom Services

We’ve accumulated years of experience in designing and deploying multi-lingual assessment solutions and surveys for international delivery. We share this expertise through migration workshops and product trainings. We’re also happy to assist you with your requirements analysis, and provide development services to tailor TAO to your needs. Whether it be through customization of the existing system or developing new, client-specific functionality.

Support & Maintenance

Support for the TAO platform is available through the TAO Hub at https://hub.taocloud.org/, where you can interact with TAO’s Open Source community. However, clients with commercial deployments often require predictable response times, so we offer dedicated support & maintenance agreements to ensure a reliable and positive test experience.

Hosted Test Delivery

If you don’t want to use your own servers for content development or test delivery, we offer hosting services on the TAO Cloud ™. We work with leading providers like Amazon and Linode to provide a highly scalable, robust environment for both online content development and test delivery.

The Question & Test Interoperability (QTI) standard, developed and maintained by IMS enables the exchange of item, test, and results data between authoring tools, item banks, test constructional tools, learning systems, and assessment delivery systems. In short, this standard ensures your test content is completely portable—which is necessary if you want to migrate from legacy proprietary systems to an open, interoperable environment.

You can also use QTI to create best-of-breed solutions. It allows you to combine delivery and authoring modules from multiple vendors. Because after all, adherence is key in building learning solutions of the future.

A lot of products and vendors claim QTI compliance, and even use the QTI name. But that can be misleading. In fact, being QTI-compliant isn’t the same thing as being IMS-certified. The requirements for the latter are much more stringent. Find out more about TAO’s QTI and IMS Certification and what it means for your solutions here.

How can I adjust the TAO platform for my organizations needs?

Because TAO is published under GPL-2, you have several options for customizing your platform:

  • Use in-house software development resources
  • Subcontract the customization effort to a third party of your choice
  • Work with a TAO Partner
  • Work directly with the OAT team

If you’re leveraging internal resources, you’ll need to have someone with the following skills to help you get up and running:

  • Software development expertise with the LAMP stack (PHP, Apache, Linux, MySQL, PostgreSQL)
  • Web front-end development (Javascript, XML, HTML, jQuery).

If you don’t have someone on your team readily available to tackle your platform customization, you can also outsource the effort to a partner of their choice. But, in order to guarantee the best possible service, we strongly recommend that users work with a TAO Partner, or our team of digital assessment experts at Open Assessment directly.

You can access free support via the  TAO Hub. Here, you can interact with TAO’s developers and the broader Open Source community. You can also access the TAO User Guide online at any time.
If you require more predictable response times, OAT offers dedicated support & maintenance agreements that help ensure a reliable and positive test experience. Alternatively, you can purchase Technical Support from TAO Service Partners.

Education serves the common good – whether at school, at home or at work. So at OAT, we invest our passion and energy in building software that helps people advance personally and professionally. Because we believe the future of education is an open digital ecosystem that unites technologies and accelerates innovation.

That’s why TAO is the only platform built on open standards. And we chose open standards for a reason. It allows use to work differently with our clients, so we can be future-forward and collaborative, evolving as today’s learners do. Because ultimately, we believe in accelerating innovation in digital assessment.

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