LWMN017: Everything Users, Developers and First-Time Moodlers Need To Know About Moodle 3.4 | Week of November 20th, 2017

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The last week in moodlenews 20 NOV 17

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Hey there – welcome to the Last Week in MoodleNews, I’m Stephen Ladek from MoodleNews.com.

In this episode I’ll be talking about the most important stories from the Moodleverse for the week of November 20th, 2017. I’ll be discussing everything Users, Developers and First-Time Moodlers Need To Know About Moodle 3.4.

Before we get started, a quick reminder share this show with a fellow Moodler or a colleague or friend who is interested in learning, EdTech or innovation. You can also find these episodes on our twitter feed @moodlenews or on facebook.com/moodlenews.

THE WEEK THAT WAS

In this section, I summarize the three most popular posts from the last 7 days on moodlenews.com

  • Our most read story last week was, naturally, the launch of Moodle 3.4.
    • Moodle 3.4 marks the beginning of a new development approach that puts people at the center of the design. As a result, we are likely to see a more intuitive and friendly interface in this and future releases.
    • The Calendar interface, and the Inspire Analytics engine out-of-the-box are some of the most interesting features, of more than a dozen coming this time around.
    • But this new way of developing Moodle is only the beginning. Expect more usability surprises in upcoming releases, also for Moodle Mobile, MoodleCloud and even completely new Moodle products.
  • And, we continue to follow the development of Lewis Carr’s “jaw-dropping” Moodle for homeschooling, or as he has named it, “Moodle Springboard.”
    • On a video following our story, Lewis shows how playful the whole experience can be, with simple sliders that leave only a few big icons on the screen, and the “bounciness” of the menus and options as a response to the user touch.
    • To include interactive activities, he dug deep into H5P, to remove menus and sidebars, that would only confuse children.
    • We’re looking forward to seeing new developments, and hopefully the code behind it so parents and developers get to test it out.
  • Finally, another distinction goes to Moodle, this time by readers of THE Journal.
    • Just like Campus Technology, the THE Journal Readers Choice Awards 2017 rank EdTech products in Platinum, Silver and Gold but with diferent categories. Both publications are owned by 1105 Media Inc.
    • Even thought it is not primarily an “E-Portfolio” solution, Moodle happens to be considered the best Portfolio solution available.
    • On the LMS category, Google Classroom gets Platinum, Gold goes to Schoology and Silver to Canvas.

Find these stories, and all the links mentioned in this episode at moodlenews.com, and if you’re looking for more information and resources, send us an email at podcast@moodlenews.com.

IN THE NEWS

In this section, I discuss interesting information that affects everyone in #edtech.

Along with the release and the announcement of Moodle 3.4, Moodle HQ has released a series of videos narrated by Mary Cooch, Community Educator who you probably know.

  • There’s nine videos in total detailing the main changes.
    • The first video is a general Moodle 3.4 Overview. If you only have 3 minutes to get into everything Moodle offers, this is it.
    • The new Calendar interface is the second video. It is Moodle’s effort to match the functionality of the most popular clients out there, thanks to the Moodle Users Association Project Development Cycle.
    • On #3: a long-awaited Course Management panel now gives teachers and admins control over user enrollment from the same screen, including the deleting of user profiles in bulk.
  • Going deep into specific new developments, we have:
    • #4: Teacher Completion on behalf of students. From a panel that lets teachers see the status of accomplishments by all students in a course, teachers now can mark activities as complete, or reset completed activities.
    • #5: Activity Navigation. Every page of the Moodle site is now full with links so you can forget about that back button! “Previous” and “Next” links and a “Jump to” dropdown menu will help students stay on track.
    • #6: Inspire Analytics. The Inspire plugin is now bundled into Moodle. For now it only gives you a score on the risk to drop out by individual students, but the predictive engine is completely transparent and customizable.
  • There’s also videos on small tweaks, that could even go under your radar:
    • #7: Private File Space. Users have a personal file space on Moodle, that can link with their personal file services. Now, they will see a message letting them know how much space there is left.
    • #8: File Type Selection. Just like on Moodle Mobile, teachers now can accept submissions only with the kinds of files they want. It comes with a comprehensive list so you don’t have to remember every extension.
    • And #9: Mobile App Links. To encourage students to try the Moodle Mobile apps, users will now see links all over the site where they can install their respective app.

THE MOODLEVERSE

In this section, I dive in-depth into one of the most interesting topics happening in the Moodle community over the past week.

Even thought the Moodle 3.4 coverage focuses on the visible parts of the improvements for users, developers will find a series of tools to make their work easier, whether they are setting up a Moodle site, managing data, or building a plugin or a theme.

  • Here are only a few of the most relevant “under the hood” enhancements coming on:
    • The Global Search functionality has been completely upgraded. Now it can show content from blocks and courses in which the user is not enrolled in the results, and an indexing method that is easier to update when content goes unavailable, back to being available, modified or reset.
    • On the command line side of things, now you have a few more tools for schedule and automate tasks, including compilation of CSS files, and resetting of all user sessions for instant sitewide protection.
    • Finally, a handy, one-click “HTTPS Conversion tool” will check for any external content and make sure there is a secure route to access the content, or it will notify you if there is none.
  • For administrators, some of the issues Moodle 3.4 solves might feel like a weight lifted off your chest.
    • It starts with the Moodle Backup, admittedly one of Moodle’s pain points for IT staff. Fixes to how roles and permissions work and are maintained before and after the backup are probably the most welcome. But expect more streamlining in future releases.
    • A new “Tokens” page gives admins a comprehensive view of what every type of user role can and cannot do in Moodle, and makes it easier to change them and create new custom roles.
    • And now, when administrators reset a course and move it to a date in the future to start the next edition from scratch, all the course dates and deadlines will also shift automatically.
  • There is still a lot of ground to cover, but we could not complete a review of Moodle 3.4 for developers without mentioning the new “Analytics Brain” in Moodle, which comes with an API to use its predictions on your plugins and themes.
    • The Moodle Analytics team, led by Elizabeth Dalton, made sure every part is completely modular, transparent, and accessible from code, from the predictions processor, the learning data set, targets, indicators, and parameters like data classes and time and the rate of update of the model after new data has been logged.
    • This means you can build a plugin (maybe also a theme) that makes it easier for users to tweak the model, or integrate its results into the teaching and learning. The Analytics API documentation is quite comprehensive and full of illustrations.
    • Finally, this is not exactly a feature, but you can take the recommendation of a “Researcher” role to heart and consider having a position devoted to understand your users, refine the engine, and consolidate your organizational knowledge base.

MOODLE PRACTICE

In this section, I focus on a practical way to help you up your Moodle game.

To end this episode, I thought it would be important to let you know how to get on board with Moodle 3.4 and start enjoying, or at least trying the new features, whether you are a newbie or a pro.

  • If this is your first time trying Moodle, why not making a weekend out of it?
  • If you successfully managed to launch a Moodle site on your own computer, your next challenge is to do it again but in a server:
    • You should know that some server configurations are better than others. Read about different server system configurations so you can compare them, or at least fine-tune the options if you already have one.
    • Now, you will repeat the steps but using only the command line. It is highly recommended that you get to know a version control tool like Git, so you can try things safely. By the way, Git is a powerful solution that will help in literally every development project you’re taking on, in Moodle and beyond.
    • Remember that you can always ask for help on the Moodle forums. Or if you are looking for more robust support, consider a Moodle Partner.
  • Now, if you already have an operational site used by a community, there’s a few common-sense actions you might want to keep in mind before as well as after you perform the upgrade to Moodle 3.4.
    • Before you proceed, first make sure all the supporting technologies are upgraded to the minimum version required by Moodle 3.4, especially the database engine and PHP 7.
    • Then, and I cannot stress this enough: Make a backup of all your data before the upgrade. There are usually three backup targets in Moodle: plugins and integrated software, files and multimedia, and the database of users and courses.
    • And after you complete the upgrade, take a look at the documentation for “Possible issues,” mostly related to legacy components, or those on their way out. In any case, the upgrade in the PHPUnit tool for automated testing should make it a lot easier for you to identify and fix any issues in your system, long after the upgrade.

THIS WEEK IN MOODLENEWS

In this section, I discuss what we’re excited about publishing this week at moodlenews.com.

  • It’s time for another Plugin Review!
    • This month, we have a bunch of quirky, but worth trying tools, like this “Button” that makes it easier for students to re-try Quiz without overloading the server with a lot of page refreshes.
    • There’s also the “Forum Block” that shows a stream of the latest updates on all or any threads of your choosing.
    • We try to cover as many plugins as you have an interest in. If you have a tip of a plugin you like or you are working on, give us a shout at podcast@moodlenews.com
  • We also share the winners of the “Moodle 3.4 Early Bird” Badge, given to developers who made sure their plugins work well with the release as soon as it is available.
    • Some 156 plugins earned the badge, which not only gets developers recognized but it means the plugins are now taking advantages of the new and upgraded Moodle technologies.
    • In order to earn the badge, developers had to perform a series of tests on a Moodle 3.4 beta site, and correct them until all of them passed.
    • If you have already installed Moodle 3.4, head to the plugins panel and click on the update button to automatically get the “Early Birds” on your site.
  • Finally, we jump on the latest EdTech trend to ask: What is microlearning, and how can you set it up in Moodle?
    • From the start, it’s difficult to deny the appeal of microlearning, especially in our age of mobile apps.
    • With microlearning, students get quick, intensive bursts of content and activities they can complete whenever they are idle. But if it takes advantage of those few minutes of idleness during the day, can you safely use it for all kinds of subjects and students?
    • Stay tuned for our story, where we discuss pros and cons, and show you a few examples, and some ideas about creating a microlearning intervention in Moodle.

Alright! That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening to The Last Week in MoodleNews Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing please take just a few seconds to give us a review on iTunes or whatever podcast app you happen to be using… And, of course, join me next week for all the most important news about Moodle.

Subscribe to Last Week in MoodleNews Podcast via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher, Android, YouTube or listen to it at soundcloud.com/moodlenews.

LWMN is hosted and produced by Stephen Ladek, with writing, research, and editing by Cristian T. Duque and Joseph Thibault.