Hack/Doc Fest at Reed College: Post Event Report

Hack/Doc Fest III was held at Reed College, January 7-9, 2009. The big issues tackled at the event were the Gradebook and Moodle usability (with the two colliding more often than not). In the Gradebook, we’ve created documentation explaining how to simplify and streamline it using existing Moodle options and one or two easy-to-apply patches.

We’ve also created a rough draft of a “simple grade report” that will be polishing into shape after Hack/Doc Fest. We engaged the Moodle community on how to assign weights to all assignments on a single page (MDL-15680) as well as the just-forged movement to introduce the much-easier-to-use Louisiana State University gradebook variant into Moodle core (MDL-17807). Both are major initiatives scheduled to be included in 1.9.4, and would have a huge impact in Gradebook usability on our campuses.

On the usability side, we’ve created scripts to test how faculty and students handle certain tasks within Moodle. The goal is to assess what works and what doesn’t, create our own patches and fixes to address these issues, and report our findings (and patches) back to the Moodle community.

Addressing a long standing need to keep track of all the enhancements and patches we create, both at Hack/Doc Fest and on our own, we’ve created a “Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition” package that incorporates the third-party modules that NITLE schools use most (Feedback, Scheduler, Quickmail), fixed versions of broken files, and home-grown solutions like the “Filtered Courses Block” and the new “Census” report. We’re also setting up a web site to allow for individual downloads of the various fixes.

The Census report builds on the work of Earlham and Carleton Colleges, and allows schools to instantly see how many active courses they have, how many students are in one or more courses, and much more. It also includes an optional reporting option that sends summary data about what how many courses the school is running as well as what blocks, modules and reports it is using, back to a central database. This will greatly help with our collective support of Moodle, as we’ll no longer need to gather this data through one-off surveys of the NME community.

Hack/Doc Fest IV at Smith College 

Hack/Doc Fest IV will be held at Smith College from June 3-5, 2009. It is being in held immediately after the NITLE Moodle Camp at Smith earlier that week in the hopes that we can increase attendance from developers and instructional technologists.