There are two new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. CLAMP is releasing updating 3.5 and 3.6 releases to address a significant performance bug in MDL-64609. If you already updated to 3.5.4 or 3.6.2 then you should install this release as soon as possible. You can download the updates from the CLAMP code release archive. The next stable releases are scheduled for mid-March.
These releases were developed, packaged, and tested by Charles Fulton (Lafayette College). CLAMP would like to thank Eric Merrill of Oakland University for his diligence in finding, reporting, and fixing the performance bug.
There are four new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. The 3.1, 3.4, and 3.5 releases are maintenance-only. The 3.6 release includes updates to all contributed modules and new features in the Featured Course List block. You can download the updates from the CLAMP code release archive.
The next stable releases are scheduled for mid-March. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 3.6 at the Brandeis University Hack/Doc Fest in January 2019; please see CLAMP’s daily reports for details: Sprint Day, Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.
These releases were developed, packaged, and tested by Charles Fulton (Lafayette College) and Andrew Zito (Lafayette College).
The last day of Hack/Doc, as usual, was a bit shorter due to attendee travel plans. We wrapped up around lunch time after some discussions about Moodle 3.6, student projects, and user training.
Moodle Inline Trainer
Chad Bergeron demonstrated the Moodle Inline Trainer, a plugin in use at Brandeis University. This plugin was developed by Zak Kolar, then a student, in partial fulfillment of his senior thesis on how teachers use technology. This is independent of Moodle’s “user tours” functionality. Teachers may select from a list of available trainings which provide step-by-step instructions. For some steps instructional videos are available. An overlay feature will highlight the next place to click if the teacher gets stuck. Usage data is collected for review by site administrators. The plugin is open source, but no formal release is planned.
Moodle 3.6 features
Download participants table
The new merged participants list now allows the downloading of enrolled users. Previously the only place to get that information was via the grader report. There’s a set of controls on the bottom of the participants page similar to the bulk user actions list. All the standard data formats are supported. You can select some or all the participants.
Forum emails will display images from authenticated courses
This change addresses a long-standing problem for many CLAMP schools: when a forum email notification is viewed in a desktop client, the images are not visible, because they’re behind authentication. We couldn’t get this working in CLAMP test instances, but that could be down to peculiarities with CLAMP’s environment.
Work on the task list continued during Day 2 of the Moodle Hack/Doc Fest at Brandeis University, punctuated by three lunchtime presentations from members of the community.
Joe Bacal from Smith College presented on H5P and how they’re using it at Smith. H5P is an interactive, web-based content authoring tool. We kicked the tires on it at Hampshire College in 2017, and again at Lafayette College in 2018. Students at Smith used H5P in WordPress to create a spatial representation of a story’s plot. The use case for Moodle is different, because authoring is restricted to teachers. One useful way for teachers to leverage H5P content is to create quizzes. These integrate seamlessly with the Moodle grade book. In response to concerns from some of the attendees, Joe noted that H5P has published a guide on the accessibility of its various components.
Kevin Wiliarty from Hampshire College provided an update on the state of the Filtered Course List block. Filtered Course List provides a curated list of courses for faculty and students which is less cluttered than the traditional course list block. New features include listing courses based on enrollment method, support for starred courses, and persisting tree expansion between page reloads.
Finally, Andrew Reuther from Swarthmore College demonstrated the latest improvements in Swarthmore’s PDF accessibility tool. The tool scans uploaded PDFs and checks for various accessibility features, including title, outline, language, and the presence of OCR text. A block exposes the information on a per-course basis to instructors. New functionality will allow instructors to “repair” inaccessible PDFs within Moodle, without uploading a new file. Using Ghostscript, which is installed on most Moodle servers by default, an instructor can set the title and language, after which the PDF will be recreated and updated. In addition, Swarthmore is using its subscription to SensusAccess to scan and generate OCR text for PDFs which don’t have them. In addition, Swarthmore is adding site-wide administrator reporting tools.
Copy and paste of images from one WYSIWYG window to another
This is another new feature in Moodle 3.6, and one with a strong CLAMP pedigree. If you copy/cut text and images from one editor window (either Atto or TinyMCE) to another, it appears to work for a short period of time but then subsequently returns a broken image. This was a complicated bug which had to do with how Moodle handles drafts. Charles Fulton (Lafayette College) and Willy Lee (then at Carleton College) first reported the bug in April 2014, during CLAMP’s Development Workshop at Smith College. CLAMP’s proposed fix, after many revisions, was included in the Moodle 3.6 release and works as expected. Copying and pasting images from one editor window to another will no longer result in a broken image.
Live quiz report
This is a quiz report plugin developed by Bill Junkin at Eckerd College. A teacher may view a live spreadsheet showing student’s answers to a quiz, while the quiz is in progress. Possible use cases include teachers monitoring students’ progress during labs or teachers identifying students who need assistance in flipped classroom scenarios. The plugin worked out of the box; we used it to provide a live readout on where attendees wished to have dinner.
Chad Bergeron from Brandeis University demonstrated a plugin they’ve developed called the “Support Staff tool”. At Brandeis, the level 1 Help Desk is involved in Moodle support. This tool allows support persons to access courses temporarily to provide support. Permissions varying between student staff and full time staff, and access is revoked automatically after three hours. This makes it easy to grant, manage, and audit support staff access without granting system-wide privileges. Brandeis intends to release the tool on the Moodle plugins repository this year.
From the task list
Moodle 3.6 Liberal Arts Edition release
The first Moodle 3.6 LAE release is ready for testing. The only significant change was integrated the final version of the “grace period for classifying in progress courses” feature. CLAMP successfully added this feature to core Moodle last fall.
Review course end-date options
We’ve submitted a patch to Moodle core which creates the desired functionality. You may comment on the proposal at MDL-64517.
Alternative/preferred name templating
We’ve submitted a patch to Moodle core which gives administrators more flexibility in configuring how alternative names are displayed. This is particularly helpful for users who have preferred first or last names defined. You may comment on the proposal at MDL-44724.
Course Overview block language
Confirmed that the revamped Course Overview block in Moodle 3.6 dropped “favorites/favourites” in favor of “starred” courses.
Allow to open files in mod_folder without downloading
Moodle HQ has proposed various enhancements to CLAMP’s patch, which CLAMP’s developers are now reviewing. You may comment on the proposal at MDL-28501.
PDF file accessibility tool
Swarthmore has several improvements in progress. The tool will prioritize new uploads first, as opposed to backlog. They’re also working on an administrative interface.
Filtered course list
Several new features were under development, including having the expanded state persist across page loads.
Context freezing is a new experimental feature which lets an administrator make categories, courses, or blocks “read-only.” This has promise, but there are some limitations. There is no visual indication to the teacher or student that the course is frozen, and “freezing” prevents the teacher from creating a backup of the course. Students cannot see their grades. Moodle HQ is collecting new ideas for this functionality in MDL-63984. One new issue CLAMP discovered is that students may continue to mark items “completed” for tracking purposes in a frozen context. Activities cannot be frozen from the course page in Boost; you need to click through to the activity and then click the gear to freeze it.
Including media in assignment feedback works fairly well. We saw some problems in Chrome when trying to add multiple recordings to the same field, but it worked eventually. This could be an issue with Record RTC.
Messaging was overhauled in Moodle 3.6. Instructors can group-message students in their courses. The messaging interface itself can overlay on the course page, so you don’t lose your place. It’s much improved compared to past releases.