Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Resource Lab Refresh

This summer we've refreshed Resource Lab equipment and software.  The updates include new 27" iMacs with retina screens that can handle 4k video editing, virtual reality development, and 3D modeling.   Software upgrades include the addition of the full Adobe Creative Suite on each machine. That means all of the computers have the most recent versions of Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, Lightroom--there are really too many to list, so check it out here.

Another excellent upgrade is the addition of a Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printer.  This printer will allow us to print a wider range of materials like magnetic plastic, circuit printing media, and industrial strength plastics.
Ain't she a beauty

LC community members are encouraged to try out the printer. Where to start? There are loads of free models available from sites like Thingiverse that you may download and print.  If you're worried about costs, don't be!  3D printing is deducted from your LC print balance.  The process to get your print is easier than you might think. Either visit the Resource Lab with a file in hand, or send a file with a print request to itservice@lclark.edu.  We'll help you prep and print the file, or let you know if it's just not something our printer can handle.

So that's what's new in the Rlab.  Don't forget we still have fabulous color printers available to create your academic posters and photo projects.  Give us a call at 503-768-7225 for more information.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Theme Quirks in Moodle 3.3

With a new software upgrade comes new features and functionality as well as unforeseen issues. We know many Moodle users prefer to use alternate themes (Administration > Edit Settings > Appearance > Force Theme) to customize the look and feel of their courses. Unfortunately, some of our non-responsive themes are not playing nice with upgrades.

For example, users have reported when adding users in Moodle 3.3 using the Nonzero theme, the “Enroll Users” window appears transparent.

While it may be difficult to see, the “Enroll users” function still works as normal. Be advised, however, that these design quirks may appear in other aspects of the theme, as well as in other older themes.

While ignoring some of these visual quirks is one option, you may also consider trying a different theme. The new “Boost” Theme features a clean design that maximizes screen space and includes dynamic navigation tools such as a left sidebar that may be toggled on or off.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Moodle 3.3 - New Location for Switch Role & Grades

Moodle 3.3 has new locations for Switch Roles and Grades 

Switch Roles is now located in the user menu which is located in the top right of the screen in most themes. This menu is not supported by older themes.

To view grades for the current course, use the Grades link in the Navigation menu. To see a list of all enrolled course gradebooks, use the Grades link in the User Menu.
Grades link in new Boost theme

Grades link in default Moodle theme

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Moodle Upgraded for 2017-18 Academic Year

Moodle will run 3.3 for the 2017-18 academic year. Below we've highlighted major changes and new features.

For all users

  • Dashboard includes a redesigned Course Overview block.  
    • Completed courses or those whose end date have passed appear in the ‘Past’ section.
    • Courses appear in the ‘In Progress’ section if the course start date is in the past and the current date is before the end date OR there is no end date. Keep in mind you may see several courses in this section as migrated courses initially will not have end dates - this is a new setting.
    • For courses to appear in the 'Future' section, the student must be enrolled in them even though the course start date is in the future.
    • Some of the new timeline tracking features will require teachers to set activity deadlines, expected completion dates, or “remind me to grade by” dates.
  • New messaging and notification options. Messages now support media filters for embedding images and video.
  • Improved support for Moodle Mobile app. See Moodle Mobile Features for complete details. Teachers may want to view tips for creating mobile friendly courses.


  • Course Settings:
    • Courses can now have end dates. This is used to indicate when a course should appear in the ‘Past’ section of the Course Overview block.
    • The number of course sections can no longer be set in course settings. Add or delete sections directly from the course page. Weekly format includes an option to automatically add sections based on the start and end date of your course. This will prevent the orphaning of course content.
  • Assignments
    • Restrict assignment submissions to specific file types such as a Word (docx).
    • Expansion of individual or group overrides to assignments. Easily change or “override” deadlines or other assignment settings for individuals or groups.
    • Set ‘grade by’ reminder in assignments. Turn this on to see alerts on assignments to grade in the new course overview block.
    • Negative scores for rubrics.
  • Bulk edit activity completion settings in your courses and change default settings for new activities. Watch the activity completion enhancements screencast for a walkthrough.
  • Media player improvements including new default player, VideoJS. The Media players screencast describes new options for managing files including displaying thumbnails and adding captions. Drag and drop media files directly to course page or as a file resource.
  • New stealth mode allows teachers to make hidden content available. This is useful if you want to link to content or activities that don’t appear to students in the main page.
  • New theme option, Boost, is available for early adopters. It takes advantage of new icons and has an updated navigation scheme. We will work on updating the default theme to Boost over the 2017-18 academic year.
  • Lock discussion forums automatically after a period of inactivity.
  • Select for students in the choice activity.
  • Improvements to report charts.

See the following release notes for a complete list:
New Features for Moodle 3.3

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fingerprint Authentication is a Big Deal (at least for me it is)

I’ve been a smartphone user for close to a decade now. There are some conveniences—mobile internet, email, and camera, for example—I now take for granted. Other features, such as the ability to check my bank account balances via mobile app, have been available for a while, but slightly more cumbersome due to password authentication. Having to both recall and manually enter credentials to various services often outweighed the convenience and speed that was part of the selling point. While I understand the need for security, it did not make it any easier for me to quickly remember and enter the correct password for my banking app to check my balance while in line at the grocery store.

Utilizing a password manager has partly addressed this problem. I have used LastPass in my browser for a while now, though the LastPass mobile app had limitations—most notably, it did not auto-fill. While I could open the application, look up the password, copy it, and paste it into the field, that was several thumb taps and swipes away from the convenience I was looking for. For the bargain price of $12 a year, users gain the ability to auto-fill from LastPass on mobile. While that certainly made things easier, I still had to re-enter my master password at least once-a-day...which was approximately as often as I needed to log into mobile banking.

My recent mobile phone upgrade included a fingerprint scanner feature, allowing me to use my fingerprint as an authentication method instead of a numeric PIN or swipe codes to unlock my device. While I do still have to deal with the occasional “be sure your finger covers the entire scanner” error, unlocking and accessing my phone became quicker and easier. I was also pleased to discover not only could I unlock my phone using fingerprint, but I could also enable LastPass to accept my fingerprint authentication rather than the master password. Even better, however, was that most mobile banking apps allow the enabling of fingerprint access separate from my password manager. After I logged into my banking app and enabled fingerprint access, I had officially achieved the dream of one-touch secure access to information like my bank account balance, password manager, PayPal app, and other financial services.

An unexpected (but hardly surprising) consequence of my growing reliance on fingerprint authentication and password managers is I am now more impatient with manually keying in a password. I want (perhaps even expect) my computer to be as easy and quick to access as my phone and most websites, and it’s become a small, but notable irritation to momentarily return to manually entering a password.

Fingerprint scanners—like all security tools—are not infallible. Fingerprints can be copied faked, and physical changes to fingerprints may prevent access (I’ve scanned both my index fingers to be safe). In the end, I'm less concerned with these scenarios as I am with someone watching me type in my password or PIN. For me, fingerprint access provides an acceptably high level of security while also being much easier and faster than memorizing several passwords for several accounts.

...perhaps a USB fingerprint scanner is in my future?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Faculty Technology Institute 2017

Assistant Professor Rebecca Lingafelter describes the use of
VR technology in a Thesis Theatre Festival project.
EdTech kicked off the summer in style with the 18th Annual Faculty Technology Institute

The program follows a conference format organized in themed tracks. Our 2017 tracks were Adding Value with Video, Foundations in Technology, Encouraging Engagement, and Tech to Transform Teaching and we had over 75 participant attend sessions.  A big thank you to the presenters from across campus who helped develop and deliver our oustanding 2017 program.

As in past years, faculty told us they appreciated the wide variety of sessions. Lunchtime conversation buzzed around new topics such as Copyright, Digital Literacy, Open Educational Resources, Accessibility and Universal Design, and Google Classroom. Faculty were also interested in hands-on sessions on our in-class polling software pilot, video production, web publishing, and classroom technology. Finally, there were several sessions and opportunities during meals and breaks for faculty to share ideas and discuss methods for engaging students. Over half of our participants came away with ideas for future collaborations - a big win for FTI 2017!

We Built a Lightboard!

Over the spring semester, your EdTech team designed and built a lightboard.  What's a lightboard, you ask?  Basically, you write on it like a whiteboard, but it's transparent and lit from the edges by LEDs.  The visual effect is easier to grok with a picture:

A Lightboard, just like it says on the lightboard...

 The idea here is for an instructor to be able to see and interact with students while writing on the lightboard.  The image is flipped 180 degrees and projected above the teacher's head in glorious visually appealing fashion.  We got the idea based on a similar design put together by some good folks at San Diego State University.

They call their original device "Learning Glass."  As described on their website, "Learning Glass was developed by SDSU Physics professor Matt Anderson to make learning a more engaging experience for both on campus and online students.
Dr. Anderson has utilized the Learning Glass to create over 450 online videos, stream synchronous lessons, and incorporate this technology into face-to-face and hybrid courses for thousands of STEM students on his YouTube Channel – professormattanderson.com." Check out the link for cool-futuristic-learning-fun.  

We received the bulk of funding for this project through a grant from the Library/EdTech committee.  The total was a few hundred dollars, not counting a few days' hard labor. (Who knew cutting acrylic glass could be so much fun!)  We'd like to especially thank Steve Attinasi from the Physics workshop for lending his time, tools and expertise.

To pilot test our Lightboard, EdTech has solicited the help of faculty in Math/Computer Science and Economics.  We'll be rolling it into classrooms starting fall semester 2017.  Check back for updates on the project, and hopefully we'll have videos of our Lightboard in action.