Hack/Doc at Brandeis: Day 1

The Mandel Center, our home for the next few days. Photo credit: Charles Fulton

At Day 1 of Moodle Hack/Doc Fest at Brandeis University we began tackling the ever-expanding task list hashed out during Sprint Day.

Lunchtime presentation

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.

Moodle 3.6 review

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.

Hack/Doc Fest Winter 2019 at Brandeis University: Event page | Sprint | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3