Category: Events

Registration open for Summer 2024 Hack/Doc Fest

Stone sign reading "Bryn Mawr College" in front of a three-story house
The admissions building at Bryn Mawr started as a private residence designed by Frank Furness

Registration is now open for the Summer 2024 Hack/Doc Fest, which will be held at Bryn Mawr College from June 25 through June 27, 2024. CLAMP’s Hack/Doc Fests are twice-yearly unconference-style events dedicated to improving the Moodle experience for liberal arts colleges.

For CLAMP schools, CLAMP will reimburse your first night’s stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Devon/Villanova. There is no group rate for lodging.

Winter 2024 Hack/Doc at Connecticut

CLAMP held its Winter 2024 Hack/Doc Fest at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. The primary focus of the event was evaluating Moodle 4.3. We’re happy to report that we encountered no major issues and no blockers to upgrading to Moodle 4.3 over the summer. Please read on below for for details of the various issues we discussed.


Activity cards

Icons with descriptive text
Activity icons in Moodle 4.2
Icons with descriptive text
Activity icons in Moodle 4.3

Moodle redesigned the activity cards for Moodle 4.3, making a number of incremental changes:

  • The icons (shown above) are smaller, taking up less screen real estate.
  • When in edit mode, a teacher may view and modify access restrictions from the course page
  • When in edit mode, a teacher may view and modify group settings

Group icons for teachers

Menu selector showing groups
Group mode drop-down in Moodle 4.3

As mentioned above, an activity with group mode enabled will now display an icon, and this icon has an associated drop-down menu for modifying that group mode. There are a few caveats that you should be aware of:

  • There is no warning if an instructor designates a group setting in the assignment activity even when there are no groups in the course.
  • When working with assignments, this drop-down refers to the setting in the “Common module settings” and is not affected by the “Submit in groups” setting.

Communications providers

Moodle 4.3 adds the ability to integrate with an external communications platform. At the moment the only well-supported platform is Matrix, an open-source communications platform. We set up a Matrix server in the CLAMP environment and verified that it worked as expected–you could add a Matrix integration to a course, and Moodle set up a room on the Matrix server and provisioned user access. At the moment, there are no other providers listed on the Moodle roadmap. We could see this being useful for Microsoft Teams or Google Chat.

Gradebook improvements

Weight total exceeding 100% shows a warning
The gradebook is too heavy

There are several incremental improvements to the Gradebook:

  • Adding a grade item/category is now in a drop-down menu on the right side instead of buttons. Selecting one generates a pop-up window with a form field (instead of going to a new screen). However, clicking “show more” within the pop-up window in order to see additional options causes the pop-up to change to a new screen (the same way it behaved previously).
  • Moving grade items in Gradebook Setup is modified – checkboxes on the left. It’s easier to see which ones you’re checking. When items are checked, a new option appears at the bottom instead of the “Move Items to” drop-down menu.
  • Clicking the “Move” icon at the bottom opens a pop-up window allowing you to select the category to Move the items to. Despite the fact that the “Move” icon is the cross-arrow Move tool that normally allows you to drag-and-drop items, this is literally just a clickable icon, no dragging-and-dropping.
  • On the user report, icons show overrides, hidden, and locked items using icons instead of words.
  • When using Natural Weighting, the gradebook setup shows if the sum of the weights isn’t 100%.

Rescaling forum grades

We’ve confirmed that rescaling forum grades is handled differently from rescaling assignment grades, and that this issue is tracked in MDL-56949.

TinyMCE 6 Plugin Integration

There are paid TinyMCE plugins that can be activated without installing additional code–you just need a valid paid TinyMCE plan and API key through Most plugins worked as expected; we ran into problems with Link Checker and Page Embed. See for information about pricing.

Question bank filtering

Moodle question bank interface with active filters
Filtering in the question bank

Two conditions are defaults. The first is a category field. The set options are “Course,” “Category,” and “System.” For course, you only have the option of the course whose page you’re on. So, you couldn’t do something like hop between multiple course sections’ versions of a quiz from this menu. You can do this if you put all questions into the same category, however. Still, you will only be able to see the one category you’re already in (e.g., all physics courses for the Spring 2024 term). You can use the “With Selected” menu (in the bottom left-hand part of the above screenshot) to move questions from category to course.

The second default condition deals with whether hidden questions are shown. It can only be set to “Yes” or “No.” Finally, you can add an extra condition onto these first two. At the moment, however, the only supported extra condition deals with tags.

Taken together then, this feature is not particularly helpful. It’s too limited in the questions banks it can search and the search terms it can use to be truly helpful. It can be ignored easily enough, but many who interact with it will be disappointed and/or frustrated.

Removal of time delay in forum activity

In Moodle 4.3, the Q&A forum can be configured to allow students to post immediately without any time delay. This works as expected.

Limiting LTI tools to by category

Moodle 4.3 allows administrators to restrict preconfigured LTI tools by category. This could be useful in cases where there are discipline-specific tools (e.g. for Chemistry) that wouldn’t be useful outside that discipline. We verified that this works as expected, and that you may restrict a tool to more than one category.

Deleting rubrics

We investigated how Moodle manages rubrics and learned a few things:

  • If you delete a rubric from an assignment it’s actually deleted
  • Every time you import a rubric it creates a new rubric, which is then itself available as a template, even if the two rubrics are the same

Charles built a report for listing rubrics by user:

Changes to activity completion

Moodle cleaned up the language to make activity completion conditions clearer for students and instructors.  The functionality is entirely the same. Examples:

  • The settings menu is now called “Completion conditions”
  • Radio buttons instead of drop-down menu
  • Fewer words describing the conditions
  • Added a “set a reminder” feature for the timeline (changed from “Expect Completed By”)
  • Completion requirements show up in drop-down menu in activity card (takes up less space)

Book navigation improvements

The book activity now has floating navigation. Moodle’s new features page says this is better, and the group agrees.

Exact match in user selector

Moodle added a way to search for users that only matched a precise username or email. This feature passed, both within course level searches (e.g., group menus) and site administration levels (e.g., check system permissions).

Event monitoring notifications

This isn’t new in Moodle 4.3, but it was improved. Moodle offers the ability to subscribe to various events and receive emails when things happen. As with any monitoring feature there are tradeoffs; you run the risk of being overwhelmed with messages that you won’t act on. See Event monitoring for more details and examples.

Swarthmore’s accessibility plugin

We’ve looked at Swarthmore’s PDF accessibility plugin at past Hack/Doc Fests. Tony Weed at Swarthmore rewrote the Moodle Accessibility Filescan plugin to work without external dependencies. The plugin evaluates the accessibility of PDF files uploaded to Moodle courses. An optional Moodle block provides the ability to inform Teacher roles of the accessibility of PDFs in the course.  In the past, this plugin required a separate server to process the files, but everything is contained within the plugin.

OpenAI Quiz Question Generator Block

We evaluated a plugin that allows teachers to enter some text and have OpenAI (ChatGPT) create some questions based on the text.  It worked reasonably well, but is probably better aimed at K-12 or simple quizzes designed to check if a student completed a reading.

For example, we pasted in the US Constitution and asked the block to come up with 5 short answer questions:

  1. Who has the power to impeach the President?
    The House of Representatives
  2. Who has the power to try all impeachments?
    The Senate
  3. What is the minimum age to be a Representative?
  4. What is the minimum age to be a Senator?
  5. Who is the President of the Senate?
    The Vice President of the United States

The author of the plugin works for Moodle US.

Retain course page position

Previous versions of Moodle would encounter an accessibility error when using browser’ back buttons to return to a previous page. They would return to the previous page, but they would not return to their previous position on a course. So, if a user clicked on an activity that was the fiftieth item on a course page and then hit a browser’s return button to go back to the course page, they wouldn’t go back to the fiftieth button. It would instead go back to the first item. The fix solves this problem so, in the scenario above, the person would correctly go to the fiftieth item.

Another component of this fix occurs on the block menu. Previously, a block menu that required scrolling because so many blocks were enabled could produce an error. The error would result in someone who’s trying to scroll on the block menu instead scrolling on the main page, breaking the layout. This behavior is not happening in our test instance.

The Forum function has now been tested and works as expected. The same applies to the sticky footer feature that is intended to be used in mobile settings. Finally, the gradebook has an appropriately sticky header. As a result, the column titles will stay in place even as you scroll all the way down a list.

The last function that’s part of the fix works on the block drawer. If you’re tabbing through the block drawer such that the scroll function will be used, dialogue will pop up asking you to skip a block before entering it. If you tab to that dialogue and hit enter, you will skip the box.

Local course LTI tools

The “LTI External Tools” option within courses allows for the toggle of LTI tools to be displayed in the Activity chooser window. In order to make it available, the “Tool configuration usage” settings needs to be set to at least “Show as pre-configured tool…” when setting up the integration.

An applicable use for this feature would be when a tool is added for a teacher and will be in limited use, the teacher can be made aware and add this to their Activity Chooser without forcing it to display for all course instructors who are not utilizing the tool or service.

The settings work and display as intended. Local tools can also be added by the instructor and managed from the “Tool configuration usage” menu.

File upload progress z-index problem

The Moodle block drawer clips the upload progress
The Moodle block drawer clips the upload progress

In Moodle 4.3, when dragging files into the course, the progress status modal is hidden by the block drawer.  The progress modal displays as expected in Moodle 4.2, so this appears to be a new problem in this release.

And in conclusion…

As always, thank you to all our participants, both online and in-person, for all their hard work that went into this event. Please watch this space for details about our summer event, location to be determined.

Registration open for Winter 2024 Hack/Doc Fest

Boxy three-story rectangular building with glassed-in center
Shain Library at Connecticut College. Photo credit: Nancyhmarshall @ Wikimedia Commons

Registration is now open for the Winter 2024 Hack/Doc Fest, which will be held at Connecticut College from January 9 through January 11, 2024. CLAMP’s Hack/Doc Fests are twice-yearly unconference-style events dedicated to improving the Moodle experience for liberal arts colleges.

Summer 2023 Hack/Doc at Lafayette

Smiling man with can of Diet Coke and Mac laptop
Jim Nicnick, hybrid coordinator and manager of the Diet Coke inventory

CLAMP spent three pleasant days at Lafayette College evaluating Moodle 4.2. The group’s impression was favorable; Moodle 4.2 addresses several issues from Moodle 4.1 (see the Swarthmore report for details on 4.1) and improves the user experience. CLAMP also held a roundtable discussion on the present state of integrating Moodle with Banner, facilitated by Eric Merrill. Read on below for details of the various issues we discussed. CLAMP’s next Hack/Doc Fest will be held this coming January at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.



Ellucian will deprecate support for traditional flatfile Banner extract generation (ICGORLDI) in June 2024. While the tool will not be removed, the end of support requires a rethink of integrating Banner with Moodle. The discussion at Hack/Doc identified four options:

  1. Switch to using Ellucian’s cloud-hosted ILP offering. This will require paying an additional yearly licensing fee and changing to a different Moodle enrollment plugin. In addition, Ellucian’s current implementation does not support all the features LMB supports. Schools would need to discuss this with their Ellucian representatives to determine possible loss of functionality.
  2. Build an alternative ILP integration using the Ethos and Person APIs. Oakland University already has a working implementation and is willing to collaborate with other institutions. This would allow real-time enrollment updates.
  3. Write a script that queries Banner and generates XML files that can be used by the existing LMB plugin, acting as a drop-in replacement for ICGORLDI. Swarthmore College already does a version of this and shared their scripts.
  4. Continue to use ICGORLDI, given that deprecated tools tend to continue working for years on end.

Several schools expressed interest in option 3 as a short-term step and will collaborate within CLAMP to produce a generalizable solution.


Moodle 4.2 restored the ability to indent items on the course page, albeit you may only ident one level. You do need to enable this behavior for the topics and weekly course formats in the site administration. In general, resources that were indented pre-4.0 are intended again in 4.2. The indenting was also backported to Moodle 4.1. As a further enhancement, the indenting is now reflected in the course index at left. Moodle HQ has also opened a new issue to discuss further improvements around creating a “hierarchy” within a course.

Plugin name on course page

Moodle no longer displays the plugin type (e.g. “Forum” or “Quiz”) under the name of the activity on the course page. This information is still available when editing is turned on. This change was also backported to the most recent 4.0 and 4.1 releases.

Student notifications

We looked into whether you stop students from disabling all notifications. The answer appears to be no: it is possible to disable the “moodle/user:editownmessageprofile” capability for a given role. This prevents the user from editing their messaging (User Menu > Preferences > Message preferences, /message/edit.php) and notification (User Menu > Preferences > Notification preferences, /message/notificationpreferences.php) preferences. This is a severe restriction and not advisable. CLAMP recommends setting up a report in the Ad-hoc database queries plugin to detect users who have all notifications disabled:

SELECT, u.firstname, u.lastname, FROM prefix_user u WHERE u.emailstop = 1

Old assignment module removed

In 4.2, Moodle removed the Moodle 2.2 and older assignment (mod_assignment). This had been retained for compatibility with old backups; old assignments were converted to the new assignment activity (mod_assign). The module is published on GitHub if anyone encounters this need in the future. We successfully restored an old backup into 4.2 using the module.

Text editors

At Swarthmore, we flagged an issue with the “new” TinyMCE editor integration and embedding links to documents and images. This is now fixed and the new TinyMCE is the default text editor on new installations. The “old” TinyMCE has been removed.


We reviewed the state of H5P and its integration with Moodle. CLAMP recommends that you review H5P’s content types recommendations to see which modules have accessibility challenges.

Grading interface

Table with rows and columns
Grader report with significant whitespace

A number of interface improvements for the grade book landed in 4.2. New editing features include collapsing, sorting, lock, and hide indicators to clearly show the current status of each grade category and item. If you nest a category within a category, there are a ton of extra empty cells at the top of the grader report which makes the table awful to look at/scroll through.

Messaging within assignments

Assignments now have a new ability in 4.2 that allows instructors to send a message to specific students. For example, you may easily message all the students who haven’t submitted an assignment. Messages sent are in the sender’s private messages. Messages received also are in the receiver’s private messages. Activity in the messaging system is logged in the admin log but isn’t obvious.

Permalinks to Moodle course sections

Context menu with list of options
Get a permalink to a section

Moodle 4.2 added the ability to permalink to a course section within a Moodle course. The permalink does not change if the course sections are reordered. It works with all course formats that we tested but isn’t very useful with the Grid format.

Moodle Mobile

CLAMP undertook another thorough review of the Moodle Mobile app. Hampshire enabled the app for evaluation; there were specific concerns about how well the app would support some of Hampshire’s customizations, such as support for monoymous names and pronouns. Findings included:

  • The app adequately supports mononymity and external user images, but none of our other front-end hacks like pronouns.
  • The app does not display custom blocks.
    The app is clearly designed primarily for students, since editing capabilities are slim to nonexistent.
    The free version can only send push notifications to up to 50 devices. The paid version is $218/year for 500 devices, $534/year for unlimited devices. Hampshire sees the push notifications as the primary advantage.
  • SSO logins are well supported, you can configure the app to just open whatever SSO you use in an embedded browser (Site Admin > Mobile authentication > Type of login).

Never submitted quizzes

Lafayette had a problem last year where a professor set an expiration/closer to a quiz and a student’s computer crashed and they were kicked out of their quiz attempt and were unable to submit the quiz. Moodle 4.2 addresses this by allowing a teacher to “re-open” a “never submitted” attempt, which will then be immediately submitted for grading.

Blocks–what is to be done?

Moodle 4.2 refactored the block drawer, reducing the default visibility of blocks. We surveyed participating schools to see how they’re handling blocks going forward:

  • Lafayette: went “blockless” by default when it switched to Boost; uses the main or secondary navigation for additional links.
  • Swarthmore: using default Boost with blocks in the drawer, but have experimented with Learnr, which allows for defined block regions.
  • Macalester: using default Boost with blocks in the drawer. Has default blocks at the dashboard level, not the course level.
  • Hampshire: using default Boost, blocks in the drawer, plus a “Course Information” block at the top of sections (core hack for that region). We use a lot of blocks (added to courses by default) including Filtered Course List, custom “Library Info”, “Learning Collaboratives”, and “Study Tools” info blocks, and Quickmail.
  • Connecticut: similar to Hampshire. Default blocks in course-level drawer include calendar, library/ARC, upcoming events, Quickmail. Default blocks in the dashboard drawer include student resources (accessibility), calendar. Courses will also have a block linked to a book hidden on dashboard moving forward.

Bulk actions

Moodle 4.2 adds a “bulk actions” feature for teachers. A “Bulk edit” button at the top of the page displays the user menu at the bottom with options to move, duplicate, delete, or change availability. It doesn’t do dates, so CLAMP still includes the “Edit Dates” plugin in the LAE. A few notes about the behavior:

  • If you select multiple things to duplicate, they will duplicate separately immediately under their respective original item.
  • If an entire topic is selected, the duplicate option goes away
  • Bulk moving only works using the “move” icon, can’t drag them even though the nav cross-hatch icon shows up when you hover

Independent of this feature, you can duplicate an entire section from that section’s context menu.


MoodleNet seems to be Moodle’s answer to the growing call for open educational resources (OER). It is meant to serve as a repository for individual resources (PDFs, URLs, etc.), modules (activities, quizzes, etc.), and entire Moodle courses that anyone can acquire and utilize. Users can upload a backup file from Moodle of any of these items if they wish to share it with a larger community. The website lets you browse openly for resources, though options are fairly limited at the moment. In order to actually put MoodleNet material into your Moodle site, one can simply click the “or browse for content on MoodleNet” icon at the bottom of the “Add an activity or resource” menu.

There doesn’t seem to be much moderation; there empty sites and some inferior resources. We were able to find a course that was populated with activities and was able to import it pretty seamlessly directly from MoodleNet (no download needed). Uploading open resources for others to use is also pretty straightforward. We’ll need to see how this develops.


The Learnr theme had a pretty significant update for Moodle 4.2. The developers recommend uninstalling Learnr prior to installing 4.2r6 or higher. Things that seem to have changed since 4.1:

  • “Boxes” in the navigation menu (left-hand) separate the topics
  • Course management bar at the top replaced old top block drawer
  • Less white space, even less than 4.1 Learnr
  • Big unavoidable banners present at top of page when course is hidden from students or if you are in a role other than your own
  • If you are in a hidden site as a student it does NOT immediately kick you out – it lets you look at the site as a student!
Warning banner
Learnr warns you if you’re student

Boost Dark Mode

There’s a long-standing proposal to add a dark mode to Moodle’s Boost theme. Boost is based on the Bootstrap framework; Bootstrap 5 supports dark mode, but Boost is still based on Bootstrap 4.

Kaltura navigation in 4.2

The latest Kaltura Video Package release updates the internal navigation for Moodle 4.2.  The “My Media” link is now in the main site navigation across the top. There is a configuration option for displaying the course gallery in the course settings or in the Kaltura Course Gallery block.

Hidden group membership

Moodle 4.2 allows hiding group memberships from certain roles (for example, for data privacy reasons). This worked as expected.

Moodle 4.2 Liberal Arts Edition

CLAMP has released the Liberal Arts Edition of Moodle 4.2.1. This includes the usual package of contributed modules and core modifications; we encountered no surprises in preparing it.

And in conclusion…

Whew! A big thank you to everyone who participated in this June’s Hack/Doc Fest, whether in person or online, and to those who couldn’t make it but sent in suggestions/ideas anyway. We’re looking forward to seeing you all in New London in January.

New Moodle LAE Releases for June 2023

There are four 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-August. CLAMP evaluated Moodle 4.1 at the Winter 2023 Hack/Doc Fest at Swarthmore College. Please see CLAMP’s report from Swarthmore for additional details. CLAMP will evaluate Moodle 4.2 at next week’s Summer 2023 Hack/Doc Fest at Lafayette College.