Day 2 at Moodle Hack/Doc Fest, Winter 2014

Day 2 of the Winter 2014 Hack/Doc Fest saw the Doc’ers continue their work on testing Moodle 2.6’s new features while the Devs ran through their integration tasks and came to a consensus on what would be included in the upcoming 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 releases. We also had a discussion about the future of the Liberal Arts Edition of Moodle and two lunchtime presentations. The presentations are available on YouTube.

Lunchtime Presentations

The lunchtime presentations were on these topics:

  • “Learning Analytics” – Bob Puffer, Luther College
  • “Disaggregation in the Gradebook” – Bob Puffer, Luther College

View the recording on YouTube.

A new presentation has been added to Thursday’s (1/9/2014) lunchtime schedule:

  • 12:45-1:15 p.m.: “Integrating WordPress and Moodle via LTI” – Andrew Ruether and Michael Kappeler, Swarthmore College)


The doc’ers spent some time looking at Liberal Arts Edition features in Moodle 2.6. Anonymous forums is working as expected. Quickmail appeared to have some formatting issues with the mail it sent, but more testing is needed confirm this.

Returning to vanilla Moodle 2.6, the doc’ers discovered that the “clean” responsive theme has some oddities on the iPhone; things that either aren’t working, or are clunky. They are going to spend more time reviewing this to nail down specifics.

PDF Annotator was tested with the upstream patch for MDL-43595 and verified it now works correctly. They are going to do more testing to see how well it works when adding notes from the iPad when using a stylus.

They also spent time digging into “marking workflows” in the assignment module, which allows you to set different states for grading (e.g. reviewing, marking, releasing). This feature is useful if courses have multiple people marking or grading a course, and allows the instructor to assign different submissions to different markers. It will also be handy for teachers who want to have finer control over when grades are released.


Code review revealed that LAE Grader needs to be refactored to support Moodle 2.6; they are hoping to have a new version of that report next week.

The LAE User Report and Quickset have been deferred, and won’t be included in the Moodle 2.6. Quickset is going to refactored to split out it’s quick settings components (the ability to hide/reveal the course, the ability to hide/reveal the gradebook) from its quick edit course view (which gives instructors access to course view that lets them manually enter sort orders for topic blocks rather than clicking and dragging to re-order them).

Quickmail and CLAMP Mail (CLAMP’s replacement for QuickMail) are done but need further testing. At some point we will need to revisit CLAMP Mail’s interface to make it work better with responsive designs (or even desktop themes). Charles Fulton will be presenting on CLAMP Mail during lunch on Thursday.

The devs encountered some issues with Filtered Course List, which causes all courses to display for administrators.

Future of the Liberal Arts Edition

The Liberal Arts Edition is CLAMP’s version of Moodle that bakes in certain core hacks and bug fixes as well as modules and blocks commonly used by our cohort. On Wednesday we discussed our approach to the LAE in the future. Three possibilities were identified:

  • limit ourselves to just core hacks and bug fixes
  • maintain our current mix of fixes plus essential third-party modules modules
  • expand the LAE to be a best-in-breed Moodle version that is more liberal about adding new features and provides a strong alternative to Moodle core.

A good deal of discussion followed, but in the end we chose the middle path (#2) of core bug fixes and hacks coupled with essential third party modules. The consensus was that the LAE was primarily aimed serving the needs of CLAMP school, rather than the larger Moodle community (though naturally they are free to use the LAE and provide feedback on it).

During the session concerns were raised about the sustainability of taking a more expansive approach to the LAE and indeed, the current path. Integration (in which we fold our tweaks and modules into Moodle core) takes a considerable amount of time and is a largely manual process.

We identified a critical need to improve the integration cycle through automation of both tasks and testing. The integrators are going to come up with a recommendation on what’s needed and then propose a solution to the Steering Committee. It was agreed that it would be worth allocating money in CLAMP’s budget to supporting this integration effort.

Finally we determined that we needed to know more about how the CLAMP community is using the LAE and its components. The steering committee will be putting together a survey to get at this information. Like our previous surveys it will ask about Moodle versions used, but it will also delve into what parts are most important (e.g. Quickmail, Anonymous Forums, Filtered Course List).

In addition, we want to ask colleges questions like:

  • Why is your school a member of CLAMP?
  • How much time do you allocate to Moodle support?
  • Do you plan on using the Plugin Manager to do upgrades (Moodle 2.5+)?
  • Can you contribute dev time?