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Moodle 2.4 Highlights

What's new in Moodle 2.4?

On May 16, 2013 UMass Amherst upgraded to Moodle 2.4. We are really excited about many of the new features and hope you will be too! Here's a snapshot of new features:

Changes to User Interface and Visual Design

Login Changes

New log in process

The login box has moved to the left side of the screen. This was caused by our move to a new mobile-friendly "base theme" which is now the framework for all our Moodle themes. (See Themes, below).

Instead of entering your username and password directly on the front page of the Moodle site, there will be a login button. This will take you to our new single sign-on authentication page. 

After you enter your NetID and password, you will be logged in to Moodle and other campus services that use the new Web Login service including Apps at UMass Amherst (our Google Apps suite) and the go.umass.edu portal.

Themes

  • Layout changes
    The new base course theme has a three-column layout (blocks on left and right sides). If you want your course to have only one column of blocks, you can move all the blocks to one side of your course page (recommended only for courses that use very few blocks).
  • No docking blocks
    In order to be compatible with mobile devices, the theme does not allow users to dock blocks. While some users found this convenient, docked blocks caused a good portion of OIT help requests.
  • Non-UMass themes discontinued
    Arialist, Binarius, Fusion, Leatherbound, & Magazine have been discontinued. Courses that used those themes have been set to the new color variation of the UMass theme (white, orange, or gray) that best approximates the discontinued theme.

For more on Moodle's new themes, see Select a Theme for your Moodle Course.

Why did we change the theme options in Moodle?

  • Mobile-friendly
    UMass themes have been adapted to use a new mobile-friendly base theme. The theme employs "responsive design," so that when a course page is viewed on a tablet or phone, Blocks are repositioned to the bottom of the page, allowing Sections, where most course content appears, more screen space.  Responsive design significantly improves the user experience, regardless of the device used to access Moodle.
  • Speeding up performance
    The old themes slowed down page loads. The new base theme uses a framework (Bootstrap) to optimize CSS and Javascript, which means Moodle runs faster.
  • Maintenance and stability
    Maintaining multiple themes is labor intensive. As some of you noticed, from time to time after updates, particular themes "broke" for certain aspects of Moodle, such as viewing the Gradebook. By reducing the number of themes offered, we will be able to better maintain Moodle.
  • Only little-used themes were removed
    We ran a report to see which themes were in use and discovered that only 6% of courses used a non-UMass theme.

Navigation block

There is a new "Current course" menu item in the Navigation block that makes it much easier to access the Reports and Participants links.

Moving Blocks

Drag and drop does not work with blocks. To move a block, click the move icon ( ) then click in the dotted red box where you wish to move the block.

My Home page

Individuals can set the order and number of the courses listed on their My Home page.

Instead of displaying a long list of items under each course name, upcoming activities are listed by type (e.g., "You have assignments needing attention"). Each item expands and collapses to show or hide details.

Icons

Settings icons are grey, activity & resource icons are larger and more brightly colored. The new icons use the .svg format to look sharp on all devices and displays.

Icon images are fairly consistent but a few metaphors have changed. For instance, the Update/Edit icon now looks like a gear instead of a hand holding a pencil.

New Features for the Assignment Activity

Offline Grading

Instructors can now grade Assignments "offline" by downloading all assignments to a zip file along with a marking spreadsheet. Grades and feedback can be entered in the spreadsheet and additional feedback files can be added, then either the entire zip file or just the marking spreadsheet can be uploaded back into Moodle.  Files, feedback, and marks will automatically be assigned to the correct students.

Group Submissions

Instructors can now allow a single submission for a Group assignment. This might involve for example, working in the same online text area, or one student uploading a PowerPoint file that another student downloads, changes and re-uploads to the common assignment area. Instructors have the option to give a common grade and feedback to all students in the group, or to give individual grades and feedback to each group member.

Submission Statements

Instructors can require students to check off a  "Submission statement" for Assignments, confirming, for example, that the work is their own and that they have included citations.

Submission Cut-Off Dates & Extensions

Assignments can now have a "Cut-off date" after which the Submit button will no longer display. After that date (or time) a teacher may grant an extension from the Assignment Grading screen by clicking the "Edit" column and choosing "grant extension" for a particular student. This adds some control for instructors who want to allow submissions after a deadline, but not indefinitely. Late submissions will still be indicated on the Assignment submission screen.

Blind Grading

Instructors can opt to see randomly generated Participant numbers instead of student names in their view of an Assignment submission screen. (Once the assignment has been graded, it is possible for instructors to see student names by clicking on "Reveal student identities" in the Assignment settings.)

Other New Features

Open and Close Dates for Quizzes

Before a Quiz is opened, both open date and close date are displayed on the Quiz page.

In the Calendar, the opening date for the quiz is highlighted and the closing date is in brackets. Note:  The Activities block page does not show the quiz start date. Once the quiz is closed, the opening date no longer displays on the Quiz page.

Publish a Workshop Activity

Workshop activities can be "published" so that students can view each others' submissions.

Google Drive Option in the Moodle File Picker

This summer, OIT is rolling out a new service: Google Apps for Education.  Undergraduate students will be moved to University Gmail accounts (instead of UMail).  All members of the University community (students, faculty and staff) will have access to the tools in the Google Apps suite, including Google Drive, Google Sites, and Google Calendar.  You'll be receiving detailed information about "Apps at UMass Amherst" from OIT.

To make it more convenient to use Google Apps and Moodle together, you'll see a new "Google Drive" option in the Moodle File Picker.

  • Add a File resource to copy a file from your Google Drive into your Moodle course.
  • Add a URL resource to link to a Google doc such as a Google spreadsheet or Google doc that you want students to collaboratively edit.  

Import or Subscribe to External Calendars

External calendars (such as Google Calendar, iCal or a calendar from another Moodle site) can now be subscribed to or imported via the iCal standard. You can set the subscription to update periodically, or you can manually update.