Category: Events

Registration open for Winter 2023 Hack/Doc Fest

Fall foliage and Parrish Hall on the campus of Swarthmore College on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in Swarthmore, Pa. (Laurence Kesterson / staff photographer)

Registration is now open for the Winter 2023 Hack/Doc Fest, which will be held at Swarthmore College from January 10 through January 12, 2023. CLAMP’s Hack/Doc Fests are twice-yearly unconference-style events dedicated to improving the Moodle experience for liberal arts colleges. The main focus of this event will be upgrading from Moodle 3.x to Moodle 4.x.

Hack/Doc at Carleton: Day 3

Kristi contemplates infinity
Em flexes for the final plunge
Charles plummets for the sidewalk

Late Wednesday afternoon the Hack/Doc attendees were invited to the basement of Weitz to walk the plank. Not off the edge of a pirate ship, but through virtual reality, via a headset and Richie’s Plank Experience. In this experience, a wooden plank is placed on the floor and then mapped to a virtual location. Wearing the VR headset, each person “rides” an elevator to the top of a “building”, and the door opens, revealing the plank, swirling air, and long drop below. The goal is to overcome your sensory input and walk off the edge of the plank to plummet several hundred feet to the ground. The other people in the room see what you’re seeing but don’t get the same immersive experience.

It’s incredibly difficult. Almost everyone successfully “walked the plank” and plummeted in the end, but several needed multiple tries to do it. The objective knowledge that you’re standing in a basement, surrounded by friends and colleagues, is nothing against the sensory input that you’re hundreds of feet up and inches from disaster. The below video shows Kristi Burch during her second (successful) fall:

Grading with letters

A non-functional prototype of how a teacher would define the letter scale.

During Carly Born’s Moodle Showcase presentation on the grade book (see the Day 2 recap), several participants discussed the long-standing desire to grade with letters. Thursday, Hack/Doc attendees discussed what such a module might look like and prototyped the interface. Ideas:

  • This could probably be delivered with an advanced grading form, similar to rubrics or checklist
  • Teachers should be able to create direct mappings between letters and grade values
  • Students should see the letter and not the grade value

CLAMP will schedule a follow-up online event in July or August to determine the next steps.

Anonymous forums

Testing of the LAE 4.0 beta revealed one minor problem with the anonymous forums patch: the Moodle logs, restricted to teachers and administrators, show the actual poster of anonymous forum posts and not the Anonymous User. This is unexpected and probably true in previous versions of Moodle. CLAMP intends to correct this problem in the next stable releases, scheduled for mid-July 2022. Note that even with this patch, a teacher can always look at the course logs and see who was active on the forum at any given time, and the patch does not mask IP addresses.


And that’s a wrap on the Moodle Hack/Doc Fest for Summer 2022 at Carleton College.  A big thank you goes out to our participants, both in-person and online, to those who attended the Moodle Showcase talks, and to Carleton College for being such an excellent host. CLAMP will announce its plans for the Winter 2023 Hack/Doc Fest after the start of term this fall.

Summer 2022 Hack/Doc Fest: Event page | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


Hack/Doc at Carleton: Day 2

Beaver swimming in a river
On closer examination, this is a beaver

Following dinner Tuesday night several attendees strolled along the river and were excited to view and photograph a water creature, which they confidently (and baselessly) identified as an otter. Wednesday morning, a frank discussion with the locals and presentation of the photographs led to the more accurate if less interesting identification of a beaver.

Compared to Tuesday, Hack/Doc was more scheduled, with the three Moodle Showcase presentations over the lunch hour and a tour of the new science building on Carleton’s College (which had various fauna and flora, but no otters, false or otherwise).

Moodle Showcase

As part of this year’s Hack/Doc Fest, we incorporated the Moodle Showcase: three Zoom webinars covering different aspects of Moodle. All three are available on the CLAMP YouTube channel:

Using CodeCheck to Help Learn Programming (David Musicant, Carleton College)

Theming and Filters in Moodle 4.0 (Michael Spall, Idaho State University)

Taming the Gradebook (Carly Born, Carleton College)

Moodle 4.0 LAE release

CLAMP tested a beta of Moodle 4.0.1 with the various Liberal Arts Editions fixes merged in and confirmed that everything worked as expected. We did find one pre-existing bug in Anonymous Forums: the non-anonymous poster is shown in the course logs, which is restricted to teachers and administrators. CLAMP will address this in the next stable release. Please see the CLAMP code release archive for this and other code releases.

General Moodle 4.0 notes

The new home of course import, backup, and restore.

While playing around with Moodle 4.0 we noticed a few assorted issues/changes that didn’t justify a full section:

  • When editing is on for a course and you go into the gradebook, editing is STILL on!
  • Course import, backup, and restore are now grouped together under More > Course reuse in the top-level navigation.
  • The activity completion sidebar is only available in the Boost theme (not in Classic or LearnR).

Summer 2022 Hack/Doc Fest: Event page | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Hack/Doc at Carleton: Day 1

A harbinger of things to come

On their first morning in Northfield, Minnesota, the out-of-town attendees passed an uncomfortable silence. Each was separately aware of a singular phenomenon that had resisted all explanations. Finally, having traveled from the Fairfield Inn to Carleton’s campus, someone had the courage to ask if the others, too, smelled french toast with maple syrup.

Thus began CLAMP’s first in-person Hack/Doc Fest since Winter 2020 at Swarthmore College. The mundane explanation of this sensory experience was the presence within the town of a Malt-o-Meal factory. It is apparently quite normal for Northfield’s air to reflect whatever’s being made that day, though chocolate is more common than french toast. An extreme, if benign, example of a small town taking on the characteristics of the local employer.


Cereal questions resolved, CLAMP spent much of the first day at Hack/Doc tackling the display of pronouns in Moodle (see the Summer 2021 write-up for discussion of pronouns in Moodle 3.11). First, CLAMP submitted fixes for the Moodle 3.11 and Moodle 4.0 versions of the Attendance module so that pronouns would display correctly. This was an issue discussed on the CME and first reported to the maintainers by CLAMP members. Second, CLAMP tested viewing a student’s pronouns in the Participants list and discovered that this worked for teachers but not students and that giving students the necessary capability could inadvertently expose restricted user profile fields. CLAMP reported this to the Moodle tracker (MDL-75086).

Timed assignments

A new feature in Moodle 4.0 is timed assignments. This feature is still somewhat experimental and must be enabled first. Once enabled, you may choose to give an assignment a time limit. A student is prompted to begin the assignment, at which point a visible timer starts running. The time may be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, or even weeks, and the clock continues running if the student navigates away. If the remaining time until the due date is less than the maximum time permitted, then the shorter time is used.

In the course of testing, CLAMP uncovered an interesting and important bug (MDL-75087). If the assignment takes file submissions, a student may click on “Add submission” directly from the dashboard and bypass the timer. The next time they visit the assignment the timer will start running, but for short-timed assignments, this is a significant flaw.

We also encountered a somewhat confusing situation: if a cut-off date exists and a student tries to submit when time has expired, they receive a “no permission” error message. It’s possible to see this in untimed assignments as well, so it’s not new, but the message could be improved. We didn’t get a chance to follow up on this issue.

Question bank improvements

Moodle 4.0 made several changes to the question bank. The question bank list view now exposes the following fields: Status, Version, Comments, Facility Index, Discriminatory Efficacy, Usage. Most of this information already exited but it’s easier to access. You may customize these columns and their sort order in the Site Administration.

Questions may now be versioned. You can’t set up A/B questions but you can choose which version the quiz uses. If you change the version mid-stream the change does not affect existing attempts unless you regrade. This versioning means that you also have access to question history.

LearnR theme

We took a look at the LearnR theme, which is the Moodle 4.0 replacement for Fordson, which a number of CLAMP schools use. LearnR is a Boost derivative with a number of features:

  • Allows the admin to set “unneeded blocks,” these will not be available in the Add a Block menu when this theme is active.
  • You can create custom “buttons” on the dashboard that link to your specified location
  • Marketing tiles could be used for links to other campus resources, allows for pictures.
  • Alert messages can be posted to Dashboard, along with general welcome information.
  • Can put activity navigation (prev & next) in several locations (upper right, footer, etc)
  • Can customize the course display on Dashboard, choosing from a variety of tile and horizontal layouts

We did find and report one bug: text for Authenticated User appears even when not authenticated:

Summer 2022 Hack/Doc Fest: Event page | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

New Moodle LAE Releases for May 2022

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-July. Moodle HQ has released Moodle 4.0; CLAMP evaluated the development version of 4.0 at the Winter 2022 Hack/Doc Fest. Please see CLAMP’s report for further details. CLAMP is preparing a beta release of the LAE distribution of Moodle 4.0 and will evaluate it at the forthcoming Hack/Doc Fest at Carleton College.