Hack/Doc at Centre College


People seated around a table
A busy day at the Centre College Hack/Doc.

CLAMP held its Winter Hack/Doc Fest at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, from January 8-January 11, 2018. This was CLAMP’s first visit to Centre. The event began with a half-day “Sprint Day” on January 8 and concluded on the afternoon of January 11.

Moodle 3.4

The group kicked the tires on the new Moodle 3.4 release and didn’t find any major problems. The most noticeable change is that the “Participants” list and the “Enrolled users” page have been merged. On non-Boost themes such as Clean and More both links still exist, but they now go to the same page. This may require some tweaks to existing documentation but on the whole it worked as expected.

Joe Burgess from Butler University evaluated the new Analytics functionality. Analytics API shows how to use predictive models.  Moodle HQ is asking for individual institutions to submit data to allow them to create better models, but will maintain anonymity. To contribute data visit Moodle HQ. Currently they will need to be coded by the individual institutions.  Reliability is difficult to assess as the models require time to pass so data can analyzed by the AI.

Charles Fulton (Lafayette College) and Kevin Wiliarty (Hampshire College) finished work on the Moodle 3.4 version of the Liberal Arts Edition and published updates to the Filtered Course List and CLAMPMail blocks.

Discussions and presentations

Lunchtime presentations continue to be big part of Hack/Doc. On Tuesday Jason Simms from Lafayette College reported out on his experiences at the US Moodle Moot, which was held November 6-9, 2017 in Miami, FL. Major highlights:

  • Moodle’s mission is expanding to: “empowering educators to improve our world”
  • Focus on introducing new functionality rather than refactoring existing features
  • Heavily targeting emerging educational, non-profit, and corporate training spaces
  • A strong emphasis on mobile and offline access to Moodle
  • Emergence of MoodleNet, with a goal to connect educators and user of Moodle globally

On Wednesday Andrew Reuther from Swarthmore College demonstrated the latest version of his PDF accessibility tool. The plugin runs whenever cron is set to run and evaluates the newest files first. Working on a small amount of files each time, it shows if the PDF is an image or text. It also evaluates scan quality. The database table keeps the content hash of the PDF, whether it was checked, page count, and OCR status. Teachers may add a block to their course to see a summary of their PDFs. Discussion focused on future improvements, including automatic OCR of files.

Wednesday afternoon we took a break from Moodle, as our host Kristi Burch led a tour of a new experimental classroom space at Centre. We explored features available in the room such as multi-point displays and the eBeam smart board, and discussed the uses of smart technologies in the classroom and the pedagogical implications of such tools on student learning.

Finally, on Thursday, the group discussed the forthcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation. This regulation governs the use of personal data for EU citizens, and could potentially affect US colleges with foreign students. The consensus was that evaluating compliance was a matter for college counsel, but that we should be prepared to act. Moodle HQ has announced a plan for supporting the GDPR and is publishing a guide for site administrators.

Bugs and features

No Hack/Doc is complete without bug reports and feature requests. Issues that came up at Centre included the following:

  • MDL-50763: add official support for a preferred pronoun.
  • MDL-61174: accepted file types does not update on focus change. Discovered by CLAMP while evaluating Moodle 3.4.
  • MDL-61161: grace period when displaying “In progress” courses. CLAMP will incorporate this feature into versions 3.3 and 3.4 of the Liberal Arts Edition.
  • MDL-61175: “Remind me to grade by” date does not roll on course restore with new start date
  • MDL-61200: Grade export defaults do not always apply as expected.