Moodle 3.5 is released! GDPR is here!

Source: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=370798

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Hi again!

For every release since Moodle 1.0.7 in December 2002, I’ve posted a release announcement here in this forum with a picture of my kids in some creative pose related to the release.  We’ve all grown up together, and I have often called the Moodle project my third child.

Moodle is much bigger now though – there are so many people worldwide involved in our project – so I think this will be the last time I use the moodle.org release posting for this little personal vanity of mine, and we will invent new and better traditions going forward!

The last little offering at right reflects our recent work on privacy-related features in Moodle 3.5 (we originally created a much edgier image with the kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks which I liked a lot, but quite a few of the team here at Moodle HQ felt this could be misinterpreted so we canned it tongueout).  The image is not important.

Privacy, however, is extremely important.

This is a topic which I’ve personally given a lot of thought to over the past 20 years.  There have been some who have said that privacy itself is a concept of the past (Mark Zuckerberg included) – that the future is one of full transparency.  While this is a nice dream in many ways, and we do need to place a high priority on society over individuals in some cases, my experience leads me to think it’s practically impossible to implement transparency in a truly equitable way, and it will always ends up with people’s data being exploited in some way (Facebook just being one high-profile example).   So I think we should just agree that we, all human individuals, need to have some control over what we want to be private, and what we want to be public, and that we should design our digital and non-digital worlds accordingly.

Unfortunately, privacy policy clashes with the very physical nature of digital information, which “wants to be free”.   Designing a complex computer system to collect, process and replicate data is not easy, but it’s definitely easier if you don’t need to worry about getting permission for every little bit of data.

This is why so many of our software systems end up pooling data forever and just “trusting the admin” to do the right thing with it all.   To do anything else is so much work that it’s been very difficult for any software system to justify the investment of time and effort to rewrite systems to respect privacy properly – there is always some more pressing work to do.  In Moodle, for example, even though we’ve been consistently working over 15 years to implement innovative systems to guide how data are shared between users in education contexts, we gave very little of that control to the end users of our system –  students and educators.

This trend has all changed with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) being enforced in Europe from next week: May 25, 2018.   Those mastermind geniuses in the European Union have found a way to force practically all software makers and websites worldwide to put control of data back firmly back in the hands of citizens.   It affects anyone who may have EU citizens using their systems, which, given how global the internet is, basically affects everyone.   This is a terrific fabulous thing, really!

We ourselves have spent millions of real currency in recent times working on this issue here at Moodle HQ, and I can only imagine the billions that have been spent worldwide.  But just improving our software is not enough.  As some famous person once said: it’s not what you have but how you use it.

If you are using Moodle, and you have any of your servers or your users in the EU, then just upgrading to a recent version is not enough.  We have built new tools in Moodle 3.5 that make your job easier: but you are still 100% responsible for ensuring that your installation is GDPR-compliant.   You need to define your policies, you need to define your processes, and give people roles to support those.   A good place to start is in our GDPR docs or by speaking to one of our local Moodle Partners.

What else is new in Moodle 3.5, you may ask?   Well, a surprising amount, considering the GDPR focus!

  • Features to improve privacy control for users
  • Audio and video recording direct into any text in Moodle
  • Image-based listing for courses in the dashboard
  • Question bank searching using tags
  • Global search without installing additional software
  • New badge criteria
  • Cohort themes
  • Support for IMS LTI Advantage!
  • much much more

See the Moodle 3.5 New Features page for a better overview, or Moodle 3.5 release notes for full details.

Moodle 3.5 is available as usual via the Moodle download page, or speak to your friendly Moodle Partner.

Thank you so much to all the staff at Moodle HQ who I know have worked incredibly hard on this release … not just what you see but for all the problems that you have now blissfully avoided because they were fixed early on.   I also want to thank the full list of 120 developers who directly worked on this release, as well as the hundreds more who helped indirectly in all the other ways you do.  Thank you.

It’s a very exciting time for Moodle as we are refactoring how we work, starting new products, hiring a lot more people, expanding our Barcelona office, and much much more, but we’ll be posting a lot more about all that on our main Moodle news site so follow that!

I know I’ll also be seeing many of you at our upcoming MoodleMoots and Moodle Parties around the world.

Best regards to you all, and best wishes for the improvement of educational quality in all your Moodle projects!

Martin

P.S. Definitely Laurel, not Yanny.

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