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I'm working on classes that cover software tools and languages. Obviously the classes are going to be more valuable if the students actually do some of what they're supposed to be learning, so I'm planning to incorporate lab work.

Has anyone used automated functional testing tools to grade lab assignments? Lab 1 is to install Apache, so the testing server looks to see that your lab machine is listening on port 80, and responds with the default index page. Lab 2 is to create a page that takes ?name=MyName and responds "Hello, MyName!", so the testing server GETs ?name=random and expects "Hello, random!".

If you haven't used them this way yourself, what tools might be a good candidate?

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Yes, my scheme hw 8+ years ago was graded by a scheme program. If you can get this right and fully automated, then it is a good idea. You do want to check things yourself from time to time to detect any cheating. –  Job Jan 26 '12 at 4:03

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What tools might be a good candidate?

curl is always a good place to start.

pyCurl might be easier to script and automate.

Selenium can do almost anything browser-related, but it's probably overkill for such simple assignments.

Yes, I actually wrote this kind of homework-runner a long, long time ago. So long ago, it's hard to imagine. It run on an OS called TOPS-10.

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