Friday, February 25, 2011

MFAB February 2011

The Moodle Faculty Advisory Board (MFAB) met today for an hour and a half to discuss issues related to a possible (and likely) move from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2.0 (and eventually 2.1) sometime in the next year; as well as to hear concerns from faculty about what this move will mean and how it will affect their ability to teach their distance-based (and hybrid) courses.

One of the major concerns the ITRC has about the potential move is the current (although likely not, future) incompatibility of the contributed add-on modules currently in use at ISU (including the Attendance, Book, Feedback, Questionnaire, and Quickmail modules) with the Moodle 2.0 platform. This is, however, a temporary concern as the Moodle community is working on updates to these modules and most of them should be usable from within Moodle 2.1 (around June). The book module specifically is worrisome to us because it is so popular with faculty; nonetheless, it will have an update that will make it usable in the Moodle 2.1 release.

The following table shows the contributed modules currently in use by ISU faculty and their status of development for Moodle 2.0 (or 2.1) or alternative:

Contributed ModuleStatus/Alternative
Attendancein development - release date unknown
Bookin development - release date likely in June 2011
Feedbackadded to core in 2.0; will be merged with Questionnaire and Survey modules.
Questionnairepossible alternative - feedback module
Quickmailbeing phased out; alternative is Messaging or Google Mail

The ITRC is also concerned about the backup and restore functionality when moving classes over from Moodle 1.9 to 2.0. As of now there is not an easy way for faculty to do this on an individual course basis. There is however a tool called 'Conversion thingie' [insert URL] that will allow faculty to make backups of their 1.9 courses and move them over to 2.0. This is a quick fix until the full backup and restore functionality between the two versions of Moodle is resolved (which should be Moodle 2.1).

Although the process of moving from Moodle 1.9 to 2.0 will not necessarily be easy for all faculty we believe it has some important advantages, including the following:
  • Conditional Release (which allows an instructor to define conditions such that access to an activity or resource is not available until certain criteria become true (for example, a grade is reached by the student in another activity, a resource is viewed, etc.)
  • Google mail and enhancements to the internal messaging system in Moodle 2.0 will replace Quickmail (and be better in many ways - such as, users will have more control over how they receive messages)
  • Tighter integration with Google Docs
  • Files can easily be shared among courses
  • Working with files generally will be easier, and especially for collaborative work and peer review.
  • Faculty will be able to set student roles to inactive which will prevent them from doing anything in the course even if they are withdrawn (this is a big issue now with students being able to access courses once withdrawn).
  • There is a progress tracker that makes certain resources or activities available to students depending on what work they have already completed (the guest speaker had more information on this tool - see below)
Some concerns faculty have, that the ITRC will address, include the following:
  • Is it possible for the internal messaging system in Moodle 2.0+ or Google mail to see from which class a student has sent email to the faculty member? (for faculty with many classes specifically)
  • Can faculty duplicate in the new Feedback module what they used to use the questionnaire module for?
  • Can we enable manual grading of manually graded items, that allows faculty to see and grade just one item or assignment at a time, as they do now in 1.9?
We discussed also, WHEN we might make the move to Moodle 2.0 (or 2.1) as well. Many faculty suggested they would be happy with an earlier roll-out so they could have time to get accustomed to the new features and interface of Moodle 2.0. However if we go very soon faculty will only have access to Moodle 2.0 features (and not all the upgrades of 2.1); most faculty seemed to be okay with this. We discussed also not moving to Moodle 2.0 at all, but instead essentially remaining with Moodle 1.9+ for another year (but with some additional security fixes), with the understanding that Moodle 1.9+ will not have as much support from the Moodle community in the future. Not a lot of faculty seemed interested in this idea.

Clayn Lambert, an English professor at ISU, gave a guest presentation on his use of Moodle 2.0 for his class this semester (Spring 2011) for our one-man pilot project; his results were mostly encouraging. He especially liked the Course Completion block, which, in conjunction with Conditional release, gave him the ability to restrict student access to resources and activities depending on what work they had already accomplished (or not) in the course up to that point. Moreover, the Conditional Release block lets students know what they still need to be able to complete to access the activity or resource; useful, he said, and automated once setup. He also liked the new quiz features that show student images in the timer box when an exam or quiz is being proctored, and that the Workshop activity allows anonymous, peer review of other student’s submissions (instructors of course can still see everything). He cautioned however that Moodle 2.0 is very "sensitive", as he put it, to being used with Internet Explorer; however, to most Moodle users the problems with using Internet Explorer and Moodle together have become quite obvious; Firefox is still the preferred browser, although the ITRC is testing the newest version of Internet Explorer with Moodle 2.0 to see how they interoperate (initial, very limited testing, has been positive). Also, any block may be docked from within Moodle so it is always visible and available no matter which page in Moodle you are visiting in your course, which is a huge timesaver. Finally, the import feature is more intimidating and may require some additional training on the part of faculty.

Other considerations for the Moodle 1.9 to 2.0 move include the following:
  • The ITRC has a general announcement meeting scheduled for March 30th at 9:00 am for all four ISU sites; we will also be providing a lot of Moodle 2.0 workshops, once we announce the change; currently we have one a month on offer.
  • ITRC will consider creating video-based tutorials on how to use the various Moodle 2.0 features
By March 28 the ITRC hopes to have updates for the MFAB on the backup and restore capabilities for moving between Moodle 1.9 and 2.0, the new book module for 2.0, and the quickmail module (or alternatives).