From a usability POV, Moodle needs to give more user-control to enable hide/showing of each section in the centre column - being able to open one or all is a small step in the right direction.
Hi James and Mary,
James' request for a toggle system in the centre column is something I have been asking for ever since I started using moodle some years ago. As you say the Show only one topic feature is no good as it can cause lots of confusion, so much so that I have disabled it in my own orangechoc theme.
What is badly needed in that central column is a feature similar to the "toggle display" feature in the left and right blocks, which would apply at least to topics and also, ideally, to "subsections" as described in this post of mine. In that thread you will find other interesting proposals.
I do not understand why such a desirable feature has not yet been implemented in Moodle, not even in the forthcoming 2.0 version. Maybe 99% of existing Moodle sites only feature courses whose topics only take up one screen? I wonder.
I'm afraid such feature isn't implemented for one reason: no one want it badly enought to implement it and share a code.
I do know you can write code on php. So if you really want these "toggle display" features, why you don't implement it and post a patch in a tracker? (and post a link there so we could vote for it). You even know where to look for examples (i.e. block engine that already have it).
Thats how most of small but important for end-users features in Moodle is done (I have several done by myself - some applied and some pending). Moodle HQ seems too centered on major system architecture changes to worry about it much. But it still Open Source, so "if you want it - do it".
P.S. And no, I don't want this particular feature badly enought. I have more pressing issues to worry about. Just try to move a question category for some distance, and you'll find that course interface isn't that bad at all...
P.P.S. Anyone interested in more convenient assignment module interface please look and vote for such issues as MDL-17613, MDL-15635 and MDL-14238. They all have patches ready and could be accessible to you even on the next weekly release if we let Moodle devs think we really want them.
I absolutely agree with James and Joseph on this issue. As James wrote this 'scroll of death' is possibly the most significant usability problem with Moodle.
Oleg, my feeling for why this has not been implemented is not the same as yours. I feel that historically Moodle developers have lacked understanding of user experience and usability. The question for me is not whether developers think this feature is necessary, it is more a question of would this feature significantly improve the user experience within Moodle? I believe it would do. Of course the only way to establish whether this is true or not would be to carry out a usability test. NB this is not the same as suggesting if users wanted this they would request it through the Moodle forums.
Mary, thanks for the workaround tip. I believe also that other people use the book module to avoid the total cognitive overload of showing all course content in one go. I realise there is a mechanism for showing/hiding topics but it is not well designed and is itself a signficant usability problem.
From everything I have read about user experience my understanding is that if you have any significant amount of content it should be chunked and there should be sub-navigation by clicking on text or graphical labels/links. In effect this is what the book module does. It gives you a menu of links so that you can see the structure *without scrolling and experiencing cognitive overload*.
I will be trying out the above options in the next week and will feedback on what method I feel works best for users.
As for why it is not implemented:
This is a course format i.e. plugin, so anyone really wanting this feature could write a new course format just tweaking existing one (there even may be already one in Modules and Plugins database). A patch will be usefull as well, but new plugin will do nicely while Moodle developers will keep us waiting.
Overall usability of Moodle interface is not bad and usually better than of many similar applications. However, it quite lacked improvments in last time. It is too easy to developer to think like "you can done it some way so where is a problem?" and somewhat ignore usability since it is don't affected him much (especially while being bombarded by large universities complaining that Moodle doesn't always scale well ... that's what most current improvments in Moodle 2.0 are aimed at)
As for chunking the information it is not so easy on the web. Usually chunks means additional clicks and page reloads (and not whole world have a best Internet connection nowadays), and this is not the things many users appreciate. In my experience most users prefer scrolling to page reloading and are easily angered if some typical task require many clicks (having a course with 2-3 screens main page). Especially if information is clearly visually organized in a page, like a sections with clear headings. Of course, they are university staff and students, it may be quite different with kids. So having a different formats with different usability approaches is matter even more.
You may use HTML block with links to activities as a sort of workaround. It is also good to teach students to use activities block with links to index.php pages of the modules - they are quite useful in really large course. And Moodle 2.0 will have some Navigation improvments, thought I have only vague ideas of what it will be.