Greetings and a Moodle Update from Instructional Tech!

Who am I?

Hi, Hampshire College, I’m your Instructional Technologist! I’m here to support the use of technology for teaching and learning. That can mean anything from answering your questions about Moodle, giving trainings on programs like WordPress or Photoshop, or helping you find the right tech solution to support your individual course.

I’m here because I’m invested in solving problems of all sorts, and also because I’m excited and inspired by the process of learning new technology. If you’re already thinking of questions and ideas, great! I’m happy to hear from you.

What is this column?

I’m going to be coming to you with a twice-monthly post about useful and interesting technology. The posts will be split between Hampshire-specific topics (like the updates on Moodle you’ll find below) and a sampling of the other tools that may be helpful and inspiring as you go about your academic and personal lives. Posts will be nontechnical and fairly short, and I hope they’ll be something that you’ll be interested in following along with.

And without further ado, we will now move on to this week’s topic:

What’s New in Moodle for Fall 2017

As of mid-July, we upgraded our Moodle system to version 3.2. This means instructors will see a handful of minor improvements, though the look and feel of the site are remaining much the same. For those who maintain Moodle courses, read below about useful new features, improvements to the assignment grading interface, and some minor adjustments to menus and links. Even for those who do not create in Moodle, future posts geared toward your interests are on their way, so stay tuned in two weeks!

As always, if you have Moodle questions, get in touch with us!

New Features

  • Recycle Bin: If you’ve deleted an element on your course page that you really want to keep, try refreshing the page and looking at the bottom of your Administration block. You should see a new link to your Recycle Bin. Items will hang around in your Recycle Bin for two weeks after their initial deletion, so you have enough time to grab anything that has been accidentally axed and return it to your course.
  • Download Instructor Files: In just one step, you can download all the files you’ve added to your Moodle course and save them in a folder, either to your computer or to Google Drive. This a great way to preserve the components of your Moodle course for reference or later use.  Want to know more?  Here are our instructions on Downloading Instructor Files.
  • Pin Forum Discussions: Ever have a really critical forum post that you want students to be reminded of whenever they go to participate in the discussion?  You can now “pin” it to the top of the forum page.  Look for the “Pinned” checkbox when you are adding a new discussion topic.

Improvements: Assignment Grading

If you use the Assignment grading feature, you will see that the grading interface has gotten an overhaul in this version of Moodle. The options available to you are the same as they were in the old interface, but if you need a tour of the new look, see our updated assignment grading instructions.

Different titles, different locations

A last few minor changes:

  • Each course used to come with a News Forum by default.  This forum is now called Announcements.
  • The link to Grades can be now be found in your Navigation block. (This link used to be under Administration).
  • If you want to view your page as a student does, the option to “Change Role To…” is now part of the User Menu, under your name and profile picture at the top right of the page.  (This link used to be under Administration).

Moodle News for 2016

Great things await us in 2016, at least in the realm of Moodle! Here are some updates on new features you may want to put to use next semester.

Importing Course Materials: Yes, You Can

Faculty can now import materials from one course to another without getting an error message! Yeah! Here’s how. We’re still happy to do it for you, too, just let us know.


Home is Where the Hamp Is

Using our new “set default home” feature in the log in block will save you a few clicks each time you log in. Setting a default home makes Moodle remember that you are from Hampshire, and will take you right to the Hampshire log in screen instead of first having to choose Hampshire from a list. Just think of all the time you will save!



Where am I? What day is it? Now you can find out, thanks to Moodle!

In courses using the default class-by-date format, Moodle will now automatically highlight (in beige) the sections nearest to the current date. This way you can see at a glance where you are in the course and in the semester.

This particular feature was developed by our student web programmer, Andy Zito, and lays the ground work for further improvements to our Moodle formats! Thanks Andy!!!Highlighted Sections

Collapsed Topics: Give Your Moodle a Makeover

Is the “scroll-of-death” in Moodle driving you crazy? The new-ish collapsed topic format makes your course more navigable. You can even use it in combination with individual dates for each class meeting. Find out more about it here.

collapsed topics

Many thanks to our new web programmer Kevin Williarty who joined us in 2015 and made many of these improvements possible. Also big thanks to our student web programmer Andy!!

 As always if you need Moodle help or have any questions please email

Enhancing Student Learning and Engagement Through Moodle

The Five College Blended Learning Program is hosting a workshop on enhancing student learning and engagement through Moodle.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

4:30-6 p.m.

Main location:
Amherst College, Webster 102

Satellite locations with video conferencing:
Hampshire College, FPH Faculty Lounge
Smith College, Seelye Hall B4

Register Now »

Moodle Upgraded to 2.6

In order to keep up with security updates, feature additions, and improvements, we’ve upgraded Hampshire Moodle installations to version 2.6. The highlights of the changes include:

  • A new, Hampshire-branded, responsive theme/design.
  • A new format that allows for collapsing and expanding sections in a course/site.
  • A new text editor.
  • Editing icons switched to a menu.
  • A new feature for annotating PDFs.
  • A new login block that shows help text and login link when logged out and a log out link when logged in.


Hampshire College uses Moodle for course websites, but we also have a separate installation called CWS (community websites) that is used for managing collaborative projects and committees. Up until now, CWS had been using a different version and theme for Moodle, but now it has the same version and design as Hampshire course websites.

Check out the Moodle Guide for Faculty for screenshots and more details about the new Moodle version. Questions, concerns, or feedback can be sent to

Notes from Last Week’s Moodle Meet-up

A group of faculty met on September 20th, 2013 in the Center for Teaching and Learning to discuss Moodle. Natalie Arnold of IA and Jason Tor of NS showed their moodle sites and strategies with the group. Here are some highlights and tips from the discussion.

Useful Practices & General Tips

  • Moodle is helpful for keeping the class organized, especially when it comes to group projects and making sure each group knows what it is doing when.
  • Giving TA’s editing access to Moodle and letting them help set up the site can be great, as they are “less scared”.
  • Since the Moodle site can become very looong, Natalie puts information pertaining to the final project at the very top instead of the very bottom.
  • Readings can be assigned to groups within a class- either by just stating on the site “this article is for group x” or you can set Moodle to limit access to a resource to a group of students.
  • Natalie found that putting information “one click down”- ie on a sub-page or within an assignment- became problematic because students wouldn’t always click a link and were missing information. She started putting all important info right on the main page.
  • She found that lots of repetition was also important in making sure students didn’t miss important information, especially in tutorials.
  • Jason used the “Questionnaire” feature to poll the students at the beginning of the term about their current knowledge and interest levels, goals for the class, etc.

Questions & Clarifications

  • Quickmail versus News Forum: The News Forum is a one-way forum which the instructor can post to, and posts go out as emails to the whole class. Students cannot post or respond to the news forum.
    • The news forum no longer appears by default in new course websites, but it can be added in by adding in the “Latest News” block.
    • Quickmail basically does the same thing so IT recommends people just use that.
  • For those that don’t want or care about the Course Information block: you can click the little eyeball appearing to the top right of the block when editing is turned on. This hides it from everyone, including the students. Minimizing or docking the block only affects an individuals view.
  • Discussion of reports in Moodle. You can view a student’s activity report, but please bear in mind that it is not 100% accurate. Depending on how a resource is set up, Moodle may not know whether a student clicked it or not. Files, for example, default to “force download”- which is far better usability-wise but does prevent Moodle from registering if a student clicked a link.
  • That said, even if a student downloaded a reading that’s no guarantee that they read it!
  • General questions about tracking student work in assignments and forums. Both can be set up to use Moodle’s “grading” feature to allow the instructor to keep track of who’s submitted what.
  • Question of how to have students build portfolios from semester’s work and then submit on Moodle. There’s not a great automated way to do this but students can compile their work as a single PDF or similar and submit as assignment.

Use of Discussion Forums in Moodle

  • Natalie used forums and had them as a required class activity. Students had to post and also had to post a reply to someone else.
  • She found that having a discussion forum changed the class dynamic in a positive way in that students were more comfortable in class after interacting online.
  • Jason required students to post a question about the week’s reading to forum. This made it very apparent who had done the reading and who had not.
  • He had students attempt to answer each other’s questions, he also addressed them in class. He generally only chimed in on the forum when a student gave a wrong answer to a question.

General Discussion of Jason’s “Team-Based Learning” Approach used in Biochemistry Class

  • The class worked in groups on problem-based case studies and reported out during class on their findings.
  • Jason took more of a guide-on-the-side role, never lectured, and simply floated around class answering questions the various working groups had.
  • There was no way to not participate in class. Also, it would quickly become apparent when students didn’t prepare or do reading since there was no way to fly under the radar.
  • General discussion of how this kind of learning experience builds greater retention of material and really stays with the students.

We plan on offering similar sessions in the future so stay tuned or check out the Center for Teaching & Learning Program Calendar here.

Moodle News!

Fall 2013 Sites Are Here

Most Fall 2013 Moodle sites are now available in Moodle. After logging in you’ll see them listed under “Future Courses”.

If you had a Moodle site for a previous version of your course, email and we can import the content over for you into the new site.

May Moodle Sessions

Want to get some ideas for your Fall courses? We’re running a series of demonstrations of Moodle features that other faculty have used with success.
Continue reading “Moodle News!”

Recap on the Spring Moodle Lunch

Here’s a recap of last week’s Moodle lunch for faculty.

John Slepian of IA kindly agreed to show us how he uses Moodle. He also teaches at Smith, so had used it for a few years there, even before Hampshire adopted it.

John spoke about using to organize the schedule for the semester- he outlines the topics and sections for the semester and then plugs in appropriate readings, media, etc.
Continue reading “Recap on the Spring Moodle Lunch”