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).
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.
- 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: https://github.com/dbnschools/moodle-theme_learnr/issues/11.