Moodle 3.7 Is Out! Revamped Forum, Analytics, Messaging, Badges But No Built-In H5P

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On the Moodle Forum, Moodle HQ’s Open Source Development Coordinator, Sander Bangma, announced the availability of Moodle 3.7, the latest major or “single point” release of the popular, open source Learning Management System (LMS) today. Over a hundred volunteers from all over the world helped the Moodle HQ team in a feat matched by no other project.

Major improvements to the Moodle Forums inspired by Moodlerooms and funded by the Moodle Users Association, new Learning Analytics features, more Messaging options, Open Badges 2.0, LTI 1.3 Advantage, hideable lists and custom fields for courses, and a new “Classic” theme coming along with “Boost,” both default based on the Bootstrap web development framework; are the most important parts of the release.

Some insiders and participants of recent MoodleMoots might be surprised to know the much awaited support for the H5P Content Interactivity standard out of the box was not announced.

Let’s break down the features that did make the cut.

Advanced Forums

A reingeneering of the internal architecture commissioned by MUA, continuing for Moodle 3.8, brings more responsive behavior and extended controls, including:

  • Users can quickly create Forum updates that will be reflected immediately on the page, no reload necessary.
  • Users can reply to a post within the page, and it will update automatically, no reload necessary.
  • Users can choose to reply privately do only the author of the post that’s being replied to can see it. A note user the message notifies the user that the message is private.
  • Option to add a star to a discussion.
  • Option to pin a discussion on top of the list.
  • Option to sort discussions by number of replies, number of unread replies, date of creation or date of last reply.
  • Option to lock a discussion. (Available by whoever started it.)

‘Advanced Forums,’ MUA’s Winning Project For Moodle 3.8; Moodle 3.9 Cycle Opens. Moodle Users Association February Newsletter

Learning Analytics Models

Development in Learning Analytics lost priority to features like messaging back in Moodle 3.6. It’s nice to see it back on the spotlight. While still figuring out the “magic formula” that would make the interface more intuitive, some very welcome enhancements are now available:

  • Model import and export. Users can bring models built and trained in one Moodle site onto another. They can exchange the data used for the training or the model configuration, either on its initial state or with the weights resulting from its training.
  • Restore a trained or edited model to its default settings.
  • New targets on the visual interface. Moodle’s learning analytics can take any variable as target, but those who prefer not to deal with code can choose new targets from a drop-down menu: “Students at risk of not achieving the competencies assigned to a course,” “Students at risk of not meeting the course completion conditions” and “Students at risk of not getting the minimum grade to pass the course.” They are added to the already available “Students at risk of dropping out.”
  • New time-splitting methods. Time-splitting methods refer to the frequency in which the model should provide forecasts throughout the run of the curse with the data collected at that time. To the current options (single range, quarters or tenths, simple or accumulative) new options are not available: “Upcoming 3 days,” “Upcoming fortnight” and “Upcoming week”
  • Usage and site data and metadata. Beware: If your site is registered with Moodle, the company will collect data including the models you have currently running, the predictions they have made and their accuracy.

Moodle Launches “Introduction to Learning Analytics” Online Workshops For Developers, And Researchers

Messaging

The rise of messaging apps in raw users, time spent and competitors is tantalizing the “Moodleheads.” Next to the features brought and quickly fixed in Moodle 3.6.1, Moodle 3.7 pushes further with:

  • Mute conversations in order to avoid getting notifications
  • Group digest emails
  • A link to full messaging page from messaging side bar showing contacts and chat windows on the same page. (It replaces the old single-page messaging interface)
  • Self-messaging, or a space to send messages to yourself
  • Support for embedded content, such as YouTube videos. The user has the option to disable rich previews.
  • Teachers only: Delete\unsend messages in group windows
  • Several group messaging creation options from group pages and group import
  • Message search highlights matches on results
  • Timestamps now include days and years
  • Admin can choose enter key behavior (new line or send) for the whole site

Open Badges, Badgr and Competency-Based badge issuing

Moodle is expanding compatibility with open digital credential standards, starting with Open Badges 2.0. Badgr (formerly Mozilla Backpack), based on the standard, now appears as an available “Active external backpack.” (It requires users to be sign in on their Badgr account to work.)

In addition to the attributes of a Badge introduced in Moodle 3.6, Moodle 3.7 brings Competency as a Badge issuing criteria, alongside activity or course completion, awarding of previous badges and manual issuing. The issuer can award a badge upon completion of one, some or all within a set. The earned badge will include the Competency information.

LTI 1.3 ‘Advantage’ Certification

Moodle is now officially LTI Advantage certified. This certification allows Moodle users to connect more easily and securely to other systems with the same certification. Through the LTI protocol, information and resources from third-party providers can be used without leaving the LMS. Likewise, Moodle can serve as a host of resources accessed by users from external systems, platforms or apps. Some of the features included in the 1.3 version are “Deep Linking” and standardized data provisioning.

IMS Global Launches LTI Advantage Program

Most of the main LMS providers, Sakai, Canvas, Blackboard are already LTI 1.3 Advantage certified.

Custom Fields for Courses

Organizations with a significant amount of courses can take advantage of custom fields to better organize, present and manage their curses and their instructor.

When managing custom fields, admins can also decide which custom field types they can enable. Dates, checkboxes, dropdown menus, text fields are some examples. Then they can proceed to create a custom field with a type that has been enabled previously.

Custom fields can be optional or required for the site’s courses, they can be locked and unlocked for non-admin roles, and they can be hidden or shown according to role. When creating a new course, the custom fields will appear at the bottom of the Course creation form.

Custom fields can also be used as a search and filtering criteria.

Hide Course Lists

A new permission allows admins to decide which roles can view the complete list of courses existing on the Moodle site. Admins can show or hide the list of courses in full or on a per-list basis.

A new panel offers an easy way to customize this.

New default “Classic” theme

As announced previously, the upgrade to the latest version of the popular Open Source, web framework powering Moodle’s visual interface means the demise of the previous “Clean” and “More” default themes.

With the Bootstrap 4 framework officially supported, designers and theme developers enjoy a more modern and robust set of elements for a cutting-edge look and feel.

The “Classic” theme seeks to offer a bridge to Moodle’s former fixed 3-column layout. It does offer some customization options and even a SCSS box, but they are limited by design. Those looking to unlock all of Moodle and Boostrap’s UI power should look into what “Boost,” the longstanding default theme, can offer.

Even more

The release notes for Moodle 3.7 reveal even more new features of lesser general impact, but that could benefit key roles and user groups. To name a few:

  • Accessibility improvements and conformance standard across the board
  • General rendering, cron task scheduling, and even HTML tweaks have been added for faster, more reliable performance

Should I update to Moodle 3.7 now?

Very few production-ready Moodle sites stay on top of the latest major release of Moodle as soon as it’s available. The experience from the past release, in which a serious issue with the new messaging system was found only after the release, despite giving the major update a “100% QA Pass Rate” suggest some caution and patience can come in handy.

If you know your way around it, you are welcome to install Moodle 3.7 on a testing environment and play with it.

Make sure your plugins work fine. The Plugin Directory already offers a “Moodle 3.7” compatibility category“Moodle 3.7” compatibility category with several items, including some of the most popular plugins. (The “Early Bird” 3.7 badge has not been awarded yet.)

Otherwise, it might be a good idea to wait for expert’s opinions. Many of them, in fact, build their upgrade schedules around their organization’s calendar, taking advantage of breaks and prep weeks to onboard teachers.

You Are Probably Making Your Moodle Upgrade Harder Than It Should

Make sure your system complies with the minimum install or upgrade requirements:

  • MySQL 5.6 or newer (Check out the Moodle Docs for other database engines —
  • PHP 7.1.0 or newer with intl extension
  • If you are upgrading: Moodle 3.2 or newer only

You can always contact your nearest Moodle Partner or expert for their opinion is Moodle 3.7 is ready for you.

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