On Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th April our Moodle hosting provider, ULCC, are upgrading our Moodle installation from Moodle 2.2 to Moodle 2.4, during which time our Moodle site will be available only as read -only. The reason for the upgrade is to improve the stability of the system, fix some issues with course backups, improve performance and to move the installation to new hardware.
As well as improved performance, there are a number of new features that we are looking forward to, namely improved user interface for tutors and students, and the improved Moodle assignment module.
Improved user interface
One of the first changes you might notice is that the icons used have been improved, not only for the resources and activities, but also for the editing options.
One new icon that will really help to speed editing up for tutors is the Edit title icon. This means that you can now edit the name of any resource or activity directly on the course page.
We also really the new activity chooser. Rather than two separate menus for resources and activities, you can now simply click on the link + Add an activity or resource in the appropriate topic area. You can then see a help section which explains what each resource or activity is.
It is now also much easier to increase or decrease the number of topic sections. You no longer have to go to the ‘Edit Settings’ area to do this – you simply click on the + or – signs at the bottom of the course front page.
Another nice new feature is the Navigation warnings that display if you try to navigate away from a page without saving, thus ensuring that you do not lose unsaved changes.
There is also a new Course layout option (under Edit Settings) which lets you choose to Show one section per page. This collapses sections to their summaries, but by clicking on the section title you can see the whole topic or week.
You can navigate to the next or previous topics by using the navigation links that appear and return to the main course page by clicking on the link Return to main course page.
All in all, this is another clever way of avoiding the dreaded ‘scroll of death’.
Finally, blocks can now also be drag-and-dropped to new locations on the course page.
Drag and Drop File Upload
Speaking of drag and drop, we think our tutors are going to love the fact that you can now drag files from your desktop straight over to Moodle. For example, a teacher can add files straight to the front page of the course from the Windows explorer window on their desktop.
Similarly, a student can drag their saved assignment file directly from their desktop through to the assignment activity.
Unfortunately, drag and drop does not work with Internet Explorer versions below 10. If you do not have IE 10, you could ask the helpdesk to install it for you, or to install an alternative browser that drag-and-drop will work with, such as Google Chrome or Firefox.
Alternatively, you can continue to add files using the Add button and the File picker, as you could do in Moodle 2.2.
Improved Assignment module
In Moodle 2.4, rather than having four different Moodle assignment types, there is a new assignment module which combines all of the previous assignment types into one activity, with the available settings covering all of the previous options. This means you can combine options, for example asking the student to submit a file but also to produce an online text submission (perhaps with embedded hyperlinks or other media). (There will be little or no change to the Turnitin assignment as far as we know).
The new Moodle assignment also looks to be more student-friendly. In the past we have had issues with students who are not sure that their assignment has been submitted successfully (even when tutors had enabled the ‘send for marking’ button it was not clear to them). In Moodle 2.4, tutors can Require students click submit button, which requires them to click on Submit assignment when they are happy with their work.
On each assignment students see a Submission status which tells them whether the assignment is still a Draft (not submitted) or Submitted for grading.
Added to this, they should also, in future, receive an email receipt to inform them that their assignment has been successfully submitted. This should make things easier for tutors, who have often been contacted by students who are unsure whether or not they have submitted their assignment correctly.
There are also some significant new features in the new assignment module, such as being able to set group assignments, so that groups of students can work collaboratively and receive a common or individual grade. You can see an example of this in Mary Cooch’s video: Group assignments in Moodle 2.4
It is also now possible to allow for blind marking, so that students’ identities are hidden whilst their work is being marked. Again, Mary Cooch has provided an example of this in her video: Blind marking in Moodle 2.4.
Other improvements include the fact that tutors can now set a cut-off date, beyond which submissions will no longer be accepted as late. However, they can also now grant submission date extensions to individual students. Also, it will be possible to include a submission statement, so that students have to tick a box agreeing that the assignment is all their own work before being allowed to submit it.
Basically, the new assignment means you just need to add an assignment activity and then configure the settings to your own needs, and the user experience is improved as it is much clearer to students that their work has been submitted successfully.
The main changes are those that have been outlined above. However, we also like the following new options in Moodle 2.4:
- Conditional access to course sections – you can now restrict access to a course section based on dates or on completion of other activities on the course
- Displaying file size and type – you can now choose to display the file size and/or type on the course page. This is particularly useful if you are going to upload a large file (students can decide whether or not to try and start downloading it from a data connection which may charge them for data download)
- Quiz ‘Open attempts are submitted automatically’ – a new setting allows the tutor to set the quiz so that any partially completed student attempts are submitted. This will solve the problem of the what one of our tutors had called the ‘Russian roulette’ game some students play when doing a quiz under exam conditions (waiting until the last possible moment to submit, and not allowing enough time to do so).
I have outlined some of these new features in the screencast below, using the test site provided by our Moodle hosts, ULCC. I hope to produce one on the actual site once our upgrade has taken place. To get the best possible quality, use the cog icon on the bottom right of the video to choose HD.