CLAMP Moodle Hack/Doc Fest, Winter 2020 will be held Wednesday, January 8 through Friday, January 10, 2020, at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. CLAMP’s Hack/Doc Fests are twice-yearly unconference-style events dedicated to improving the Moodle experience for liberal arts colleges.
The lodging deadline is Monday, December 9, 2019. The event registration and travel grant application deadlines are Friday, December 13, 2019.
There are three new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. There are no new LAE features; these are maintenance releases only. You can download the updates from the CLAMP code release archive.
The next stable releases are scheduled for mid-November. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 3.7 at the Smith College Hack/Doc Fest in June 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 Kevin Wiliarty (Hampshire College) and Andrew Zito (Lafayette College).
There are three new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. The 3.5 and 3.6 releases contain an update to the CLAMPMail block. The 3.7 release includes updates to all contributed modules and new features in the CLAMPMail and Featured Course List blocks. You can download the updates from the CLAMP code release archive.
The next stable releases are scheduled for mid-September. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 3.7 at the Smith College Hack/Doc Fest in June 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), Kevin Wiliarty (Hampshire 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 3.7, Quickmail, and “blockless” courses.
Chad Bergeron confirmed, following on on the previous day’s testing, that rotating a PDF in an assignment does not rotation the associated annotations, and reported the issue to core: MDL-66030. This is a comparatively minor issue, and on the whole attendees were pleased with the latest Moodle release.
Quickmail and going “blockless”
With Boost becoming the default base theme many schools are adopting it or a Boost derivative. While Boost does support blocks, there’s only one columnar block region now (on the right), and core’s clearly stepping away from blocks as a pattern. This creates challenges if there’s integral functionality, like Quickmail, which is wrapped up in a block (largely for historical reasons).
For Quickmail, Lafayette College addressed this by making two changes:
Adding functionality to extend the default Course administration navigation to include a link to Quickmail by default, regardless of whether the block is added to the course.
Improving the internal navigation of Quickmail so that the links to all sub-pages are available from every sub-page.
Teachers can still add the block if they wish, but they can still use Quickmail in their course without it. This approach could be followed with any other “block” which uses the block interface for navigation but stores or displays its content independently of the block.
And that’s a wrap for this summer’s Hack/Doc at Smith College. Warm thanks to Joe Bacal and Smith College for their outstanding hospitality this week. If your institution is interested in hosting a future CLAMP event, please consider filling out our host interest form.
Work on the task list continued during Day 2 of the Moodle Hack/Doc Fest at Smith College, punctuated by two lunchtime presentations from members of the community.
Darren Hall from Occidental College presented on the ACRL IL Framework and how they’re working to map each of the frames to Moodle competencies, and then associating activities/assignments/projects with those competencies. Individual faculty could then add this competency to their course, but the conversation would have to be driven by instructional technology and librarians. Darren has created a document, Setting Up and Using Competencies, which illustrates the work behind this implementation effort.
Andrew Reuther from Swarthmore College called in for a group discussion of next steps for Swarthmore’s PDF accessibility tool. We were also joined by Rob Eveleigh, Five Colleges EIT Accessibility Coordinator. Swarthmore is still working on interface for administrators for system-wide status and reporting. They’re looking for a way to identifying bad OCR in files, possibly via spell-checking. There was also a discussion about CLAMP hosting an accessibility server on AWS for the benefit of its member schools. Dan Wheeler has created an ad-hoc report for aggregating results.
We ran down the list of new features in Moodle 3.7 and found that they mostly worked as advertised: improved printing from the book module, the new test email feature (would have been handy for the CME migration to AWS), the various messaging interface improvements, the new Boost-based “Classic” theme, PDF rotation, and starring/sorting forum discussions.
Asynchronous backup and restore mostly works. This new feature, which must be enabled by the site administrator, creates a background task for backing up or restoring a course. This eliminates the timeouts which can occur with large courses. While backups are in progress, a user with editing turned on is warned not to make changes to a course. No such warning is issued to a user when a restore is in progress. We did find one bug: if you choose to delete a course when restoring asynchronously, the course will not be deleted and the new and old content are merged. CLAMP has reported this issue to core as MDL-66021.
Moodle added custom course fields: MDL-57898. These are similar to custom user profile fields: you can define different types including checkbox, date/time, dropdown list, short text, or text area. The fields can be grouped into categories, which affects how they’re displayed on the edit course page. Visibility options include visible to students, visible to teachers, or hidden. The fields appear on course listing pages such as the default Site home or a course category page, but not on the course overview dashboard. This makes it hard for students to find this information. It’s not possible to filter on these fields either. The intended public use case is exposing them to global search.
Fordson is a Boost theme with innumerable settings and fiddly bits. Several CLAMP schools are running it or switching to it for Fall 2019. Mount Holyoke compiled and shared a document with their standard settings: Fordson Theme Settings from Mount Holyoke.