By Dasha Sokolova
It is high time to look back at what 2016 brought to us. Regarding Moodle, the LMS passed many milestones, bringing new capabilities to millions of educators and students all over the world. Take a look at the evolution of Moodle in 2016 driven by the dedicated team of developers, as well as the many contributors of the Moodle community.
Moodle 2016 highlights
From the first major upgrade in May (3.1) to the last in December (3.2), Moodle changed significantly. Here is a list of the main updates that contain tweaks in functionality and improvements in the interface.
Competency-Based Education (CBE)
Preceded by a few years of discussion and development, support for competency-based learning is perhaps the most essential feature of the year. Administrators of Moodle 3.1 and later can create Competency Frameworks to evaluate students’ subject-related skills. They can also create learning plan templates and add competencies to them.
Moodle HQ has been working on this feature throughout the year. Version 3.2 added the capability to export and import Competency Frameworks, so that they can be moved between sites.
Grading assignments has definitely become more intuitive with all the tools in a single window. The possibility to annotate DOCX and ODT files is also a great plus, though note that you will need Unoconv and Ghostscript for that. Finally, you can select which submissions to download instead of having to download all of them.
‘Boost’, new default theme
The new customizable core theme, “Boost”, has given Moodle a fresh new appearance with improved navigation. In general, it looks cleaner and neater, as there are no more blocks. Instead, teachers and administrators can get access to all the important elements from the left-hand nav drawer and editing options via a gear icon at the top right. The great thing is that the nav drawer is not static, and you can add new blocks to it. All the site administration options are available from the link of the same name.
If you have used the Moodle Mobile App, you will notice that “Boost” is similar to it in many aspects, so you will feel familiar with the new theme. And since “Boost” is optional, you can keep the old interface if you are not into the changes.
This is the first feature contributed by the Moodle User Association, an independent entity, where members pay a fee to have their say on the next Moodle core features. The Recycle Bin prevents users from irrevocably losing removed course content or even entire courses. It stores recently deleted materials, the meaning of “recent” allowed to be set in the administration settings.
Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)
Moodle 3.1 allowed users to publish any course or even a course activity with the LTI standard. This means that you can now share your educational materials with other “Moodlers” from different sites, or even users of non-Moodle platforms that support LTI. To access shared content on an external site, students will not have to log in a second time. Alternatively, you can embed content shared by other educators.
Moodle is compatible with LTI v2. As a result, shared content can be configured to specific needs and contain additional information (title, icon and description).
With the new repository search function, it has become much easier and quicker to find necessary content. If desired, you can add a special search block or simply use the standard box at the top. Administrators can define the areas from where users are able to get results.
New media player
The new default media player, Video.js, brought a wide range of new capabilities. Users can add back-up sources to make sure the video will work in both desktop and mobile browsers. They can set video size dimensions, provide it with thumbnails, subtitles, captions, and more. These options promise to bring new, better accessibility and usability for both audio and video content.
Administrators can welcome teachers and students with walkthroughs to help them get oriented on the Moodle site. For your convenience, the OER repository at moodle.net includes several pre-made tours in different languages, contributed by other Moodle community members. In turn, you can share your tour with the world too.
One more major improvement this year concerned graphs and charts, which are now interactive and fully responsive to fit screens of every size. By hovering over variables, you will see a tooltip with relevant information. New graphs are available for all kinds of reports including grades or attendance, among others. Apart from flexible functionality, graphs have a visually pleasing interface, which also matters, right?
While the above-mentioned highlights cover the essential changes, there have been tons of additional usability and security enhancements, bug fixes, and other kinds of improvements. The most curious among us can check out the full list of updates in the Release Notes. Whatever version you are upgrading to, pay attention to server and client requirements for smooth operation of all new features.
Improvements to Moodle have not been restricted to the server-based Moodle platform only. In fact, there are a lot of related events that totally deserve to be talked about.
Moodle Mobile has come even farther this year: from version 2.8 to 3.2. With each upgrade, it provided its users with amazing new capabilities, such as offline content access and grading, the submit assignments option, and many others.
One more exciting piece of news here is the introduction of The Branded Moodle Mobile App with custom branding and simplified login. To get a customized app, contact your Moodle Partner to discuss the details.
Like any other cloud-based service, MoodleCloud has been constantly evolving. This December, it was upgraded to version 3.2 following the release of its big brother. Earlier this year, the MoodleCloud team has developed a special edition for schools, which includes various teaching tools.
In 2016 Moodle has seen a rise in the number of community plugins, which already amount to 1,270. New content plugins, such as H5P and Content Pages emerged, giving users new capabilities for creating interactive content right in Moodle and aiming to replace traditional authoring tools one day. Plus, since the introduction of Competency-Based Education in Moodle, developers have submitted plugins to work on top of that, and most likely this will remain a trend in the upcoming year. To help you get oriented with the growing number of plugins, the Moodle Plugins Directory has received a new interface.
Moodle’s network of official Partners has never ceased to grow. This year only, Moodle welcomed 10 new partners, to provide certified Moodle services in 11 different countries across 4 different continents.
In 2016, traditional MoodleMoots were held in truly different and remote corners of the world―6 countries and 4 continents, to be exact―. These events are focused on discussions between Moodle developers, contributors, and users. If you are excited about the possibility of participating, check out the Moodle calendar for 2017.
The plethora of updates shows that one year is a long time for Moodle. Its never ending evolution regularly brings new capabilities to all the platform’s users. Have a peep at the Moodle roadmap to have an idea what to expect from the platform in 2017.