Over the summer, Moodle received a version upgrade and a few cosmetic updates. All the changes are fairly minor in terms of functionality, and there are some useful new features we hope you will enjoy. Here's what to expect! 

New Default Theme

The Amherst Moodle has a fresh new look! Our default theme received a cosmetic makeover to bring it in line with current Amherst design and accessibility standards. We really like it, and hope you will too! (And if you don't, you have other theme options- see below!)

Activity Chooser

When editing a Moodle page, the separate menus for “Add a Resource” and “Add an Activity” have been replaced with a single “Add an Activity or Resource” link in each course section. This link takes you to the Moodle “Activity Chooser”- which lists all the same activities and resources, but adds helpful descriptions and information for type of activity or resource. We hope this will help faculty navigate the numerous Moodle options.

Don’t want to use the Activity Chooser? Or, do you want to try the Activity Chooser, but don’t see it on your course page (this may be the case for a handful of people)? You can enable or disable the Activity Chooser in your User Preferences (User Menu at top right > Preferences > Course Preferences).

New Default Text Editor: “Atto”

With the switch to 3.2, we are changing the default text editor from TinyMCE to Atto. Atto was introduced in 2014 with Moodle version 2.7, and since then it has been available in our Moodle on an opt-in basis, so some of you may be using it already.

Don’t want to use ATTO? No problem. You can switch back to TinyMCE in your User Preferences (User Menu at top right > Preferences > Editor Preferences).

Atto’s Advantages:

  • Autosave: Atto will autosave a draft every minute while you are working in the text editor. If you accidentally navigate away from a page, or have a network blip, simply return to the edit screen and your work will be recovered. 
  • Equation Editor: Atto features a new equation editor that lets you enter math notation using Mathjax or Tex.
  • Enhanced Media Embedding: Atto makes it easy to add images, video, or audio, and includes built-in support for important accessibility features like captioning and audio description.
  • Accessibility Checker: Atto lets you check your text for potential accessibility issues and screen-reader compatibility. This is key for making sure our content is accessible and usable for all students.

Emailing Course Participants

We’ve upgraded Quickmail, which is what allows you to email students through the Participants list. The good news? You can now attach more than one file to an email. The bad news? It looks a smidge different. See our Quickmail help page for an overview.

Theme Updates

"Themes" in Moodle control the look and feel of a site, not the content. You’ll notice that our default “Amherst” theme has a fresh new look, one that is in line with current Amherst design and accessibility standards. Again, this change is strictly visual and has no effect on site content.

New Theme: "Boost" 

With 3.2, Moodle introduces a new theme called “Boost”. While it won’t be our default, faculty are welcome to give it a try in any of their courses. It has a very modern and clean look and feel. It is also quite different in that it has fewer blocks and more menus. See what you think, and let us know!

Mobile Themes

If you use a mobile device to access Moodle, you will notice that we now use the same themes as in the desktop version. All our themes are now fully responsive and look good on any device, so we were able to retire our previous mobile-only theme. 

Theme Retirements

The upgrade to 3.2 also means that some of our current themes must be retired. Themes like Serenity, Anomaly, Fusion, Magazine, etc., are holdovers from the Moodle 2.0 era and are not supported in 3.2. These older themes are not responsive (ie mobile-friendly), nor are they accessible for users with color blindness or other visual impairments. They’ve had a good run, but it is time for them to retire.

We’ll be introducing a new version of Serenity (which was the most popular custom theme) as well as a couple other new options to choose from.

Moodle sites currently using older themes will simply revert back to the default Amherst theme after the upgrade. This will have no impact whatsoever on the site content, which will all be preserved, it will only impact the visual design and color scheme.

Grades and Switch Role Link Relocations

  • The “Grades” link to the Gradebook is now in the Navigation Block, under your course title.
  • The “Switch Role To…” link is now in the user menu in the top right corner of the screen (click where you see your picture).

Both these changes stem from the introduction of the Boost theme, which emphasizes the Navigation block and moves other administration block items elsewhere. It may take a little getting used to!

Easier Media Embedding & Linking

We’ve enabled a couple filters that will make it easier to add YouTube or Vimeo videos to your site. If you paste a YouTube or Vimeo link into the text editor, it will automatically convert that link into an embedded video. Easy! If you don’t like this feature, we can disable it per course, so just let us know.

For added usability and accessibility, any URL added into the text editor will automatically turn into a live link to that URL.

Student Profile Reports

When viewing a student’s profile page (Navigation Block > Participants > Click Name of Student) you will see links to various activity reports. The “Complete Report” in particular gives a useful overview of Moodle participation and/or grades for a particular student, all on one screen!

Add Files from Google Drive or Dropbox

Google Drive and Dropbox are now available in the Moodle "file picker," which means you can link your Google Drive or Dropbox accounts to Moodle and add files from them directly into Moodle. Note that this brings a copy of the file into Moodle, and does not provide live updates or collaborative editing. 

Questions, comments or problems? Submit a request on AskIT or email askit@amherst.edu. Thanks!