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What is Safe Exam Browser?

Safe Exam Browser is a webbrowser-environment to carry out online exams safely. The software changes any computer into a secure workstation. It regulates access to resources like system functions, other websites and applications and prevents unauthorised resources being used during an exam.

SEB runs on a local computer and it is connected via the internet to a learning management system (LMS). Generally SEB works with any web based LMS and other kind of web based exam systems. Some learning management systems (LMS) like for example Moodle, ILIAS, OpenOLAT and exam suites as Inspera Assessment offer a quiz mode specifically compatible with SEB.

SEB consists of a kiosk application and a browser part, which are running on a examination computer or tablet device. The kiosk application locks down the examination computer, the browser part comunicates via the internet (or a LAN) with the quiz module of a LMS running on a server.

Illustration of SEB architecture

Schematic illustration of a online exam with Safe Exam Browser and a LMS, for example ILIAS or Moodle. In addition a third party application can be allowed to run at the same time, for example Excel or R

The illustration above shows the two internal components which SEB consists of, the kiosk applicationand the browser part. The third part of an SEB exam environment is build into the supported LMS. Optionally one or several third party application(s) can be allowed to run during an exam and are started by the SEB kiosk application.

  1. The kiosk application locks down the computer and starts the SEB browser plus optional third party applications. Since this application has to control miscellaneous OS functions, it is designed very system specific.
  2. The SEB browser loads and displays the LMS exam page using a preset URL and doesn’t show any navigation elements like address bar, search engine field etc. The Windows version of SEB currently uses the Mozilla Gecko browser engine, either in the form of Firefox or XULRunner. SEB for macOS and iOS use the WebKit browser engine.
  3. The learning management systems contain so-called quiz modules, which are used for onlline exams. SEB relies on extensions/skins to the quiz modules in Moodle and ILIAS for secure exams. With these extensions the user interface of the LMS is reduced to just contain navigation for the exam (no links to other pages outside the quiz) and no other undesirable features like messaging. An exam can also be configured to run only with SEB, not another browser. These SEB LMS extensions, which originally had to be installed separately to achive this connectivity with SEB, have been integrated into the LMS in recent versions of ILIAS and Moodle.

Safe Exam Browser for Windows consists of the SEB kiosk application, which opens an own Windows desktop and catches system commands like keyboard shortcuts (for example ALT+F4) and right mouse-button clicks. The second part is XULRunner, a runtime package from the Mozilla Foundation (Firefox version 3 and above is also based on XULRunner). The SEB browser part running on XULRunner connects to the LMS and it doesn’t contain navigation and status bars.

In contrast to the Windows version, Safe Exam Browser for macOS and iOS is a monolithic application using a web browser framework instead of a browser runtime. It’s using the WebKit engine, on which Safari and some open source browsers are based. SEB for macOS/iOS connect to the Learning Management Systems in the same way as the Windows version.

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