Course management service that enables auto-graded programming assignments.
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Welcome to Autolab

Autolab is a course management service, initially developed by a team of students at Carnegie Mellon University, that enables instructors to offer autograded programming assignments to their students over the Web. The two key ideas in Autolab are autograding, that is, programs evaluating other programs, and scoreboards.

Autolab also provides other services that instructors expect in a course management system, including gradebooks, rosters, handins/handouts, lab writeups, code annotation, manual grading, late penalties, grace days, cheat checking, meetings, partners, and bulk emails.

Autograding. Each time a student submits their work, the system autogrades it and stores the results in a gradebook. Autograders and the programs they evaluate can be written in any language and use any software packages. The model for a traditional programming class is that students work on their code, hand it in once, and then get feedback a week or two later, at which point they've already moved on to the next assignment. Autograding, on the other hand, allows students to get immediate feedback on their performance.

Scoreboard. The latest autograded scores for each student are displayed, rank ordered, on a real-time scoreboard. The scoreboard is a fun and powerful motivation for students. When coupled with autograding, it creates a sense of community and a healthy competition that seems to benefit everyone. Students anonymize themselves on the scoreboard by giving themselves nicknames. A mix of curiosity and competitiveness drives the stronger students to be at the top of the scoreboard, and all students have a clear idea of what they need for full credit. In our experience, everyone wins.

Since 2010, Autolab has had a transformative impact on education at CMU. Each semester, it is used by about 3,000 CMU students in courses in Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, Qatar, and Rwanda. In Fall, 2014, we are releasing Autolab as an open-source system, where it will be available to schools all over the world, and hopefully have the same impact it's had at CMU.

This is the main repository that includes the application layer of the project. Installing other services are optional but highly recommended for full functionality. For further information:

Getting Started

  1. Install rbenv (Basic GitHub Checkout method): Github rbenv

  2. Install ruby-build (as an rbenv plugin): Github ruby-build

    git clone ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build

    (You might need to restart your shell at this point in order to start using your newly installed rbenv)

  3. Install the version of ruby in the text file .ruby-version:

    rbenv install 2.1.2

At this point, confirm that rbenv is working (depending on your shell, you might need to logout and log back in):

$ which ruby

$ which rake
  1. Install bundler:
gem install bundler
rbenv rehash
  1. cd into autolab-src and install the required gems:
bundle install

You need to have MySQL installed before hand.

  1. Configure your database next. You need to fill the username and password fields on config/database.yml.template and rename it to config/database.yml.template.

  2. Create and initialize the database tables:

    bundle exec rake db:create	
    bundle exec rake db:migrate

    Do not forget to use bundle exec in fron of every rake/rails command.

  3. (Optional) Populate dummy data for development purposes:

    rake autolab:populate

    (#TODO: make it so that initiates the directories)

  4. Start rails server:

    bundle exec rails s -p 3000
  5. Go to :3000 to see if the application is running. You can use the Developer Login option with the email "".


You can run the tests by:

bundle exec rake spec

We have a very limited testing suite at the moment, but we are working on it.


We encourage you to contribute to Autolab! Please check out the Contributing to Autolab Guide for guidelines about how to proceed. Join us!


Autolab is released under the Apache License 2.0.

Using Autolab

Please feel free to use Autolab at your school/organization. If you run into any problems, you can reach the core developers at and we would be happy to help. On a case by case basis, we also provide servers for free. (Especially if you are an NGO or small high-school classroom)