Category: News

New Moodle LAE Releases for September 2021

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 3.11 at the Summer 2021 Hack/Doc Fest; please see CLAMP’s report for details.

These releases were developed, packaged, and tested by Charles Fulton (Lafayette College). Charles gratefully acknowledges the work done by Andrew Zito, formerly of Lafayette College, who built a suite of scripts that greatly simplified the whole process.

CLAMP Chat: Documentation is Dead, Long Live Documentation!

CLAMP’s first CLAMP Chat for the 2021-2022 academic year will take place on Friday, October 15, from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern Time. Carly Born from Carleton College proposes to solve the age-old problem that “No one reads the documentation” through the use of Moodle’s User Tours feature. Experience with faculty members suggests that everyone–new and tenured faculty alike–are googling for answers rather than using the documentation provided or just contacting their support professionals. What if writing help articles is a waste of time, and just-in-time documentation, the kind that pops up when you visit a page for the first time, is the way to go? In Moodle, these are called User Tours, and there is an opportunity for CLAMP to work together to produce a collection of User Tours that are specific to small colleges and lighten our collective load!

The chat will take place over Zoom. Please register for the chat using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIkdO-orj4rHdBspLTmnqlUqIStw6kCr4Zi.

Emergency Moodle LAE Releases for August 2021

There are three new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. Moodle HQ released new versions of Moodle to address a regression in the regular July 2021 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-September. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 3.11 at the Summer 2021 Hack/Doc Fest; please see CLAMP’s report for details.

These releases were developed, packaged, and tested by Andrew Zito (Lafayette College).

New Moodle LAE Releases for July 2021

There are three new Moodle: Liberal Arts Edition releases. All three releases include updates to contributed modules; the Moodle 3.10 release includes backport of the custom user identity feature from Moodle 3.11. You can download the updates from the CLAMP code release archive. The Moodle 3.11 release is CLAMP’s first official release on that branch.

The next stable releases are scheduled for mid-September. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 3.11 at the Summer 2021 Hack/Doc Fest; please see CLAMP’s report for details.

These releases were developed, packaged, and tested by Charles Fulton (Lafayette College) and Andrew Zito (Lafayette College).

Summer 2021 Hack/Doc

CLAMP held the Summer 2021 Hack/Doc Fest online on its gather.town platform from Tuesday, June 8, through Thursday, June 10. In addition to evaluating the new Moodle 3.11 release, CLAMP hosted three CLAMP Chat-style discussions during the lunch window each day.

Moodle 3.11

Custom user identity and pronouns

A major change with Moodle 3.11 is that custom user profile fields may now be included in the Participants page, and eventually on other pages as well. This feature is limited to those text fields that have a maximum length of 255 characters. One use case is that if you had such a field for pronouns, a user’s chosen pronouns would be displayed on the Participants page. Fields may be selected on the User policies > Show user identity site administration page. CLAMP will include this feature in the next Moodle 3.10 LAE release as well.

Tabular interface showing user identity
The pronouns field is a textual custom user profile field

PDF annotation performance

Moodle 3.11 now supports using Poppler instead of Ghostscript to convert a PDF to PNG images. This means improved performance and reliability for the PDF annotation functionality used by Assignment grading. You will need to install Poppler on your Moodle server and define the path to the pdftoppm binary in Site administration to take advantage of this feature. Please note that Ghostscript is still required for certain tasks.

Accessibility toolkit

Moodle block showing accessibility statusMoodle 3.11 includes a free version of the Brickfield Accessibility Starter Toolkit, with the option to unlock paid versions with additional functionality. Setting up the service is baked into Moodle 3.11, but it’s supported for versions 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, and 3.10. The site administrator has to register for an API key for the Moodle instance before it can be used. To use the toolkit, you add the block to a course and then request that the course be analyzed. The results are displayed in the block; for teachers, the course is highlighted with the results. Click the eyeball in the block to turn off the highlighting.

In our testing, the toolkit did correctly flag a number of problems such as poor contrast text. It did less well with documents; both a Word Document with an image with no alt text and text as an image, and a PDF without a text layer were marked as “Passed”. We may need to assume that documents are not being scanned for accessibility.

Activity completion

Activity completion now applies to activities and resources. If Activity completion is enabled, then faculty will need to modify that setting each time they add something to a course.

You can disable Activity completion at the course level, and you can also change the course default (under Site administration > Courses > Course default settings) so that Activity completion is disabled by default.

Activity completion is a useful feature, but user education might be required, to help faculty members learn how to use that feature (or choose not to).

Completion tracking

There are some changes to Completion Tracking in 3.11, most notably improving the visibility of the conditions required for completion.

If completion tracking is turned on, there is a new option to show activity completion conditions.

These conditions can be shown to the student on the main course page, and also within the activity.

If “Show activity completion conditions” is set to No, then conditions only show within the activity, not on the main course page.

New “Show activity dates” option in course settings. If turned on, then dates associated with activities will show on the main course page under activity name

Exporting rubric grades

We took a look at the Export Component Grades plugin under 3.11 and confirmed that it works as advertised. Post-installation, the option to export rubric grades is located under the gear icon for the assignment. The export includes first name, last name, username, student ID, and a breakdown of the rubric with score, definition, and feedback comments. Although we were less familiar with the marking guide, we confirmed that similar functionality is available.

Lunchtime sessions

CLAMP held three CLAMP Chat-style sessions during the lunchtime windows: