Hack/Doc at Swarthmore: Day 1

Wayfinding signage on a glass door
Wayfinding for Hack/Doc and the CLAC HPC Mindshare. Photo credit: Charles Fulton

The biannual Hack/Doc Fest is being held at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The event kicked off on Wednesday, January 8, 2020, and runs through Friday, January 8. The following tasks are queued up for Hack/Doc (very much subject to change):

  • Evaluating Moodle 3.8, which was released last November
  • Improving the Roster report to support pronouns
  • Taking a fresh look at the Moodle Mobile app
  • Improvements to the file accessibility block

This year the Hack/Doc Fest overlaps, physically and otherwise, with CLAC’s high-performance computing (HPC) mindshare, taking place on the lower level of Singer Hall. Rumors of superior lemonade at the CLAC craft table may–or may not–have led to direct action around lunchtime.

From the task list

Moodle 3.8 Liberal Arts Edition release

The first Moodle 3.8 LAE release is ready for testing. Moodle core continued its revamp of the forum module, which began with Moodle 3.7. Fortunately, this required far fewer changes to Anonymous Forums this time around!

Moodle 3.8 review

One new feature in Moodle 3.8 is the ability to grade forum posts. Evaluating this feature produced Hack/Doc’s first bug, a browser conflict in Safari. That issue aside, and presumably it’ll be fixed soon, the feature is a significant improvement over the old workflow. It presents a user-by-user view of forum posts and presents the teacher the ability to give that user a grade for the forum, based on their contributions. It’s very similar to the assignment grading view. The forum also supports a nested view of the discussions now. This appears to work as expected showing primary forum posts with the nested post, open and visible below. The threaded view shows the reply post below the original but it is closed and only viewable by clicking to open it. This worked in the Mobile app as well.

Moodle has also taken the first steps toward core support of H5P. H5P is an interactive, web-based content authoring tool, and a perennial subject at Hack/Doc Fest (Brandeis, Hampshire, Lafayette). At this point, the core support complements the existing H5P activity plugin, rather than replacing it outright. The new core functionality allows you to add H5P content to Moodle as you would a page or a label, but you can’t yet use it to author content within Moodle. It also adds an Atto button for easier embedding. For now, if you’re already using the H5P plugin, you’ll want to keep doing so.

Moodle Mobile app

No one’s quite sure when CLAMP first kicked the tires on Moodle’s Mobile app (there have been several), but it may have been at the Winter 2012 Hack/Doc at Tulane, where we described it as “lackluster.” We’ve looked at it off and on since, and a number of CLAMP schools now have it enabled and report few support issues. This time around we noted a few positives and challenges:

  • There are some accessibility challenges related to color contrast. It may be possible to mitigate these with a custom CSS file.
  • The default behavior is still to sync changes on Wi-Fi only, but it’s possible for the user to change this behavior.
  • Assignment submissions worked well.
  • Login with institutional single sign-on is smooth and the login persists.
  • Push notifications have to be configured server-side and there’s a lot to review there.

The consensus in the room was that there was no downside to turning on support for the app, though no one planned to make a big push to encourage adoption.

Roster report

We discussed ways to make the Roster report more flexible, and Sharon Strauss from Haverford raised the possibility of giving it a capability similar to Name Coach, which allows students to record the pronunciation of their names. One option would be to have a custom field with the attached audio, which could then be exposed via the report.