What’s new in Moodle-Winter 2013

MoodleThe Moodle development community is constantly trying to improve their code and add features to the core Moodle product.  Moodlerooms, our cloud hosting provider, usually waits a few weeks (or months) to fully test the changes before releasing them to their clients.  Moodlerooms also adds new features to their joule product at that time.  Below is a link to the list of the extensive changes that were made in December 2013.

Most Noticeable Change:

The first change you may notice in your Moodle courses is the Course Settings page (see the screenshot below).  Moodle has collapsed the many sections of this page and provided “drop-down triangles” so you don’t have to scroll through an extremely long page.  Just click the gray triangle next to the section you are interested in and the section will expand.  Click again to collapse the section.

Moodle also moved the Course Availability section to the General section and renamed it Visible.  This setting controls whether students see your Moodle course or not in their list of available courses.  Set the Visible control to Show instead of Hide when you are ready for your students to see your Moodle course.


What’s new in Moodle-Summer 2013

MoodleThe Moodle development community is constantly trying to improve their code and add features to the core Moodle product.  Moodlerooms, our cloud hosting provider, usually waits a few weeks (or months) to fully test the changes before releasing them to their clients.  Moodlerooms also adds new features to their joule product at that time.  Below is a list of the extensive changes that were made in July.  We will be adding some of these features to our training session on assessments and gradebook.  The most useful changes in my opinion are the Group Assignments, Blind Marking, and Offline Marking features mentioned below:

Moodle 2.4 Major Features

  • Assignment Module Updated

    • Group assignments: Now it’s possible to setup an assignment that a group can work on collaboratively and each student can receive a common (or individual) grade.
    • Blind marking (not knowing the student’s identity when grading): Randomly generated Participant numbers will replace Students’ names.
    • Submission Date Extensions: Teachers can set a cut-off date (and time) beyond which submissions will no longer be accepted. They can also grant extensions for those who miss the deadline.
    • Submission statement: It will be possible to set a submission statement so students have to check a box promising their work is original before submitting it.
    • Offline marking: Teachers can download all assignments plus the grading sheet, view, grade and give feedback offline and then upload back to Moodle and have the grades/files/comments transferred into Moodle’s Gradebook.
    • Students can now see the content of advanced grading forms on their assignment page before they submit.
  • Workshop Module Updated

    • Full support for alternative grading evaluation methods.
    • Final grades are displayed to workshop participants when the activity is closed.
    • Ability to define a conclusion text to be displayed to workshop participants when the activity is closed.
    • Teachers can assess submissions in the grading evaluation phase without the need to switch to the assessment phase.
  • Miscellaneous

    • Users can set the order and number of courses displayed on their My home page.
    • Activities and topics can be restricted according to user profile fields.
    • The screen reader profile setting has been removed – all pages should now work with a screen reader
    • Submission added to the Activity Completion tracking options
    • When searching for users exact matches are listed first
    • The messaging providers page has been tidied and ordered
    • Safe Exam Browser window no longer includes a logout link
    • Blog system can be completely disabled
    • Automated course backup settings include options to specify whether the backup of certain courses should be skipped
    • Options to include selected user profile fields and custom profile fields in grade export

New Joule Grader

  • Updated Joule Grader to work with assignment team submissions and assignment blind marking
  • Assignment comments and feedback are now fully integrated with Joule Grader
  • Added a Full Screen Mode that offers more room to view documents/activities (enabled by default)
  • Joule Grader and Assignment comments have been integrated into the Moodle Messaging system

New Plugins

Pearson Direct

The Pearson Direct for Moodle plug-in facilitates direct integration between Moodle and Pearson’s MyLab / Mastering and CourseConnect products. Direct integration allows instructors and students to log in to Moodle and click a link to access their Pearson resources without the need for the user to create a new account, a course, or to log in a second time.


This plug-in gives you access to your MediaCore account from within Moodle. Using MediaCore (a cloud-based video education platform) you can browse, search, and add your videos directly to Moodle pages and courses. You can also upload videos directly to your Moodle course without needing to leave Moodle. The plug-in also works with MediaCore’s iOS Capture App, which means you can bring mobile video capture into the Moodle learning experience.

Combining Sections in Moodle

Moodle“I am teaching 2 (or more) sections of the same course but I only want to manage one Moodle course.  Can we combine the course enrollments into one large course?”

Link and PostYes you can.  Moodle calls this process “meta linking.”  You can go here to read more about it.  It is common for faculty to want to combine or merge sections of their Moodle course.  However we do not combine them by default because there may be a good reason not to combine.  For instance, you may want different deadlines for the distinct sections, or you may actually want to post different content for the separate sections.  Banner will continue to manage the enrollments of the meta course. If a student drops in one of the combined courses, Moodle removes them from the meta course.

It is possible for faculty to create their own meta courses, however we want the meta linked course names to be standardized, therefore OIT will combine your courses for you.  Fill out the form below and OIT will combine your courses within two business days from the date of your request.

Attendance with Moodle

Moodle is not just for online courses.  It can be helpful in traditional face-to-face courses as well.  For instance, there is a handy attendance module inside Moodle that you may not be aware of.  It allows faculty to take attendance in class and post the results to students so they can see their attendance records within Moodle.  Click the graphic below to go to the tutorial page:

Mars Rover: Relevancy and Current Events

Current events related to your subject matter can be a powerful source to make your courses engaging and relevant to your learners. Here is a great example at NASA’s JPL website that gives a visual demonstration of how the new Mar’s rover landed on the surface of our second nearest planetary neighbor this morning. No more giant airbags are necessary like the ones used with previous lander missions. This one touches down on the planet similar to my favorite Atari game of the 1970’s, “Lunar Lander“!

It is easy to add links such as this one to your Moodle course:

  1. In your Moodle course content area click on “Add a resource”
  2. Choose URL as in the screen shot below.

Blackboard buys Moodlerooms

On 3/26/2012 Blackboard announced that it was acquiring Moodlerooms and NetSpot, both of whom are Moodle hosting partners that provide learning management services (LMS) through the venerable open source software initiative known as Moodle.  Oklahoma Baptist University has partnered with Moodlerooms as our LMS service provider since 2007.  Nevertheless, the majority of OBU faculty (52%) have never used Moodlerooms according to a recent survey.

Blackboard has had an open source initiative for a few years now and has wanted to be more involved in the development of community-sourced software projects, but it remains to be seen how this merger would benefit existing Moodlerooms customers.  Why invest in a service that competes with your own and has a much lower profit margin?  Also a concern for Moodlerooms users is Blackboard’s track record of acquiring competing companies and either assimilating the product into their own (Wimba) or discontinuing it altogether (WebCT).

Brad Wheeler CIO of Indiana University, Bloomington, and one of the forefathers of the open source LMS movement, summarized the concerns in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education.  When asked about the effects of this merger on the open source movement on university campuses he asked; “Does it cause software to mature faster because of Blackboard’s deep pockets,…or at some point and time does a value conflict arise?” Of course Blackboard says that they are dedicated to the support and development of open source software, but the standard disclaimer at the bottom of all of their press releases leaves plenty of wiggle room:

Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for Blackboard represent the Company’s views as of the date of this press release. Actual results may differ materially as a result of various important factors. The Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company’s views to change. However, while the Company may elect to update these statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so.

Please comment below if you have an opinion you would like to share about the Moodlerooms/Blackboard partnership, especially if you have used both products either as a student or a teacher.