CLAMP Recognition Awards Announcement for 2014-15

The CLAMP Steering Committee is proud to announce the 2014-2015 winners of the CLAMP Recognition Awards. These awards are given annually to honor outstanding work by members of the CLAMP community.

Fritz Vandover‘s outstanding work as the local contact for the 2014 MUG deserves to be recognized. Fritz did excellent work to make the MUG a success, shouldering the load for most of the local arrangements and frequently serving as a team leader to keep the program committee on task and on deadline. Fritz Vandover is Academic Information Associate in Humanities at Macalester College and he has previously served on the CLAMP steering committee.

Ken Newquist has been at the heart of CLAMP from the beginning. He’s the guy who organizes Hack/Doc and other CLAMP events like the 2014 MUG, he’s the liaison between the steering committee and CLAMP’s fiscal agent, he helps maintain CLAMP tools such as the websites and CME, and he even spent time hacking on the scheduler module during past Hack/Docs when nobody else wanted to touch it. Ken has provided countless hours of support and communication toward CLAMP’s efforts; his dedication is the glue that helps keep this community together. If Ken hadn’t been serving on the steering committee for years he would have won this award already. Ken Newquist is Director of Web Application Development at Lafayette College.

About the Awards

The CLAMP Recognition Awards are awarded annually to one programmer (e.g.; hacker) and one instructional technologist (e.g.; doc’er) to acknowledge outstanding achievement as members of the organization. These achievements include work on Moodle development, Moodle documentation, CLAMP organization and/or recruitment to CLAMP.

In 2014-15, the value of this award is $500. Learn more about the awards at CLAMP-IT.org.

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Moodle Hack/Doc Fest, Summer 2015 under way at Holy Cross

Moodle Hack/Doc Fest is now under way at Holy Cross. Our top tasks are:

  • Understand changes to the Gradebook’s functionality in Moodle 2.8/2.9
  • Update CLAMP’s grade book advisory based on the current state of things (recently released fixes, outstanding issues, etc. Read the advisory.
  • Documenting changes and new functionality in Moodle 2.8
  • Documenting changes and new functionality in Moodle 2.9
  • Offering a community recommendation regarding upgrading to Moodle 2.8 or Moodle 2.9 this summer.

If you have any bugs you’d like us to look at, please post them to the CME forum thread.

Please note that we will not be streaming our lunch time presentations. We stopped streaming the presentations because it was creating too much logistical overhead.

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Moodle 2.8 and 2.9 gradebook advisory

CLAMP has become aware of several critical bugs in the Moodle gradebook which were introduced in 2.8. CLAMP recommends that schools do not upgrade to Moodle 2.8 or 2.9 until these bugs have been mitigated. All current versions of 2.8 and 2.9 (as of writing 2.8.6 and 2.9.0) are affected. Please continue reading for a full explanation.

Background

Moodle 2.8 included significant changes to the gradebook. These included, in part:

  • A revamped interface for the grader and user reports with improved scrolling and display on all devices.
  • A new “natural weighting” aggregation method.

On the whole these are positive changes. CLAMP evaluated the new gradebook at the 2015 Winter Hack/Doc at Occidental College and the participants there thought it much improved on the old gradebook.

It was always expected that certain edge cases such as drop low/keep high and the sum of grades aggregation method would lead to minor variations in calculated grades. This assumption was incorrect. One major institution reported that after upgrading to 2.8 11% of all enrolled students were affected, some in major ways.

For each individual grade Moodle has always stored the maximum points for that item at the time of grading. Thus if a teacher changed the maximum points for an item after issuing grades two students could have different values for maximum points stored. However, this number was not used in calculating a grade: Moodle always presented to teachers and students a grade based on the student’s individual grade and the current maximum grade.

Moodle 2.8 changed this behavior: the individual maximum points are now used to calculate grades. This means that there are now many cases in past courses where student grades appear to change, often dramatically. This has important consequences for grade auditing and will reduce faculty confidence in the gradebook. Any institution which upgrades from a prior version of Moodle to either 2.8 and 2.9 will see these fluctuations.

On clean versions of Moodle 2.8 and going forward on upgraded versions this behavior will cause confusion as the maximum points for a grade item is no longer a constant for all students in a course. Furthermore, the grader report will in places show the current maximum points for a student even when that student’s actual maximum points vary from it. This inconsistency will also undermine faculty confidence in the gradebook.

Recommendations

These are significant issues. We cannot recommend going with either 2.8 or 2.9 until they are resolved. There are three relevant Moodle tracker issues where these issues are being discussed:

  • MDL-48618: Unexpected changes on grades after upgrade to Moodle 2.8
  • MDL-48634: Changing max points on an already graded item leaves grades in an inconsistent state
  • MDL-50432: Grade integrity must be maintained during upgrades

We encourage everyone to add their voice to these discussions, especially MDL-48618. Moodle core needs to hear from those of us who work with faculty every day. They need to understand that grades changing during an upgrade isn’t an acceptable outcome.

CLAMP hopes that Moodle core will address these issues in a satisfactory manner during the next point releases, scheduled for early July. Eric Merrill at Oakland University has developed several patches which supply a way forward. If core does not take them up CLAMP will evaluate including them in the next round of LAE releases, also scheduled for early July. We will also focus on these issues at the forthcoming Hack/Doc at the College of Holy Cross, June 24-26.

If you have any questions please visit the following topic at the CLAMP Moodle Exchange: https://cme.clamp-it.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=1708.

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Get Ready! Moodle Hack/Doc Fest at Holy Cross in June

Don’t forget to register for Moodle Hack/Doc Fest, Summer 2015! It’s being held at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts from Wednesday, June 24 through Friday, June 26, 2015 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. A pre-Hack/Doc documentation and coding sprint will be held Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

At this Hack/Doc we will be testing Moodle 2.9 (view the release notes) and digging into the Moodle gradebook issues surrounding upgrading from Moodle 2.5 to 2.8/2.9. Read Bob Puffer’s CLAMP Moodle Exchange post “Grades Changing When Upgrading to 2.8 or 2.9″ for an overview of the problem.

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New Moodle LAE Releases for 2.6.11, 2.7.8, 2.8.6

There are three new CLAMP releases. There are no new LAE features; these are maintenance releases only.

You can download the updates from their project pages:

The next stable releases on the 2.6, 2.7 and 2.8 branches are slated for July 19. Core has released Moodle 2.9.0; CLAMP anticipates releasing a beta in late May and a production release following the MUG and Hack/Doc Fest at the College of the Holy Cross in June.

I would like to thank Kevin Wiliarty (Smith College) for testing this set of releases.

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