Quiz

Refreshed question authoring interface

 
 
Picture of Colin Chambers
Refreshed question authoring interface
 
At the OU I’ve been trying to make the question editing forms simpler to use. I’ve picked 3 things to start with.
  1. Hide/show sections: Like blocks. Toggle display of each section by clicking it’s title. First section is shown on page load. Makes it easier to see and access the whole of the form.
  2. Hide/show HTML editor: The editor takes up a lot of space and is only needed when you edit the field content.
  3. Hide HTML format fields: After each HTML editor a format field appears with only one option. This is hidden until there are more options available.
There's a mockup showing these ideas in an essay question. To simplify things I’ve removed a lot of the Moodle extras. So you can’t save the question, just play with the form.
To explore the code further checkout essay-question.html in our repository on github. Feel free to checkout it out, play around and make suggestions.

What next?
I’ll merge this work into our OU Moodle development. In the next couple of months.

What do you think?
We want to get this into core so we’re looking for comments and suggestions. So:
  • do you think this makes things easier for teachers?
  • if you create questions will this make it easier for you to create questions?
 
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Picture of Colin Chambers
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

To clarify the changes made

Hide/show html editor

The change here is a new icon in the top left of each html editor toolbar. Next to the save icon. Clicking this will hide/show the full toolbar menu. It’s  an attempt to reduce the space taken up by the editor when it’s not needed.

What it does:

Provides a simple approach to toggling the visibility of the editor in an attempt at reducing a lot of the space it takes up.
What needs work:
  • The size of the editor doesn’t adjust when the menus are shown or hidden. The text just gets squeezed. I’m looking at ways to improve this.
  • The editor doesn't hide completely.

Screenshots
This is the essay question before the changes
Essay question before changes

 

This the essay question after the changes

Essay question after changes


 
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Picture of Margaret Matthias
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

I like the new design. Having an html button to click on rather than the drop box below makes the selection handy.  Thanks for taking the time.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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By reference to the docs

consider that in many MC cases users would want to enter short plain text answers and options in which case a more convenient layout could be something like

In rich text cases I would use an inline editing approach and not display the textarea at all but only the content as html and open the editor only if I want to add/edit content in a particular field. smile

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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I can see your point, but this is difficult to achieve, and so probably a step too far. The problem is, when you click 'Show editing tools' and the toolbar appears, the layout will have to change a lot which would be quite ugly and confusing.

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Styles aside for a moment, consider the following possible approach.

The form opens with displaying content of would-be editors. '>>' stands for open editor.

Clicking '>>' opens the editor in an overlay:

 

Edit content and then close editor by clicking the X.

Since the editor opens in overlay the form layout doesn't change. The user will have to close the editor to get to underlying items but this shouldn't be a usability issue. smile

 
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Picture of Itamar Tzadok
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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In fact, we could also go one step further and add a button to open the underlying textarea instead of tinymce which for some modes of working directly with html should be much simpler than extra buttons to disable the editor. smile

Starting point: two buttons, one to open the editor and another to open the textarea

Editor open

 

Textarea open

 
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Picture of Teresa Mackinnon
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

I think these are great improvements and -provided they don't upset our theme- we welcome them smile

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Come on people! Users have been moaning about how complicated the question editing forms are for years. Colin is now trying to do something about that problem. I told him you would be helpful if he asked. Don't let me down wink

 
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Picture of Colin Chambers
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

Thanks There anything I can do to promote this question better? As it stands I'll assume everyone is happy with what we've done and take it from there.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Colin has been working away at this, and we now have an implementation that (we think) makes the forms much more usable.

We have summarised the changes at http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Question_editing_form_improvements, and you can grab the code from https://github.com/timhunt/moodle/tree/qforms. I am afraid that we don't have a demo server where you can try this yourself. You will have to download and install our code.

We would now like to hear what you think. How many of these changes should go into Moodle 2.3?

(And, how can I put this politely? It would be nice if we got more of a response than we got to Colin's original post wink).

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Hi Tim (and Colin),

Just tried the qforms interface for editing questions (on my 2.3 local test site). Overall impression is very favourable.

Just 2 remarks/wishes:

1.- I've always found the position of the General Feedback field right at the top, before the Answers field illogical; plus I never use it; could it be moved somewhere else or be made "hideable"?

2.- I regret that each time I edit a question the edit form automatically adds a new Answers field. Sometimes, after a lot of editing, my screen is cluttered with lots of unused and unwanted Answers fields that I can't get rid ofsad. Maybe this is a bug/improvement feature that has already been filed, but mentioning it here just in case.

Nice job! approve

Joseph

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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1. We did re-discuss this, and decided not to change it.

We still think that General feedback is a really good idea. To give the students a summary of what they were supposed to have learned, or a worked solution that explains why the right answer is right (in case they just guessed and are still confused).

Phil also made the point that it is quite a good idea for the teacher to think about that summary of what the student is supposed to learn from this question, and even write it out, before diving in to the details of all the choices and grading.

2. This is a good point, and something that was on our todo list to address, but we ran out of time. Basically it is a matter of resurrecting Oleg's patch that lets the author choose exactly how many repeat elements they want visible. Perhaps one day this will get done.

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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@Tim "... Oleg's patch that lets the author choose exactly how many repeat elements they want visible..."

All I really want is the edit form to stop automatically adding new answer fields each time the question is re-edited. But - of course - to retain the "Blanks for 3 more choices" button. At the moment, the choice made by the programmer is clearly "if a teacher is re-editing a question, it means he wants to add more choices", which is obviously wrong.

That should not be too difficult?

Joseph

 
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Bryan Dawson
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

I agree with the coments above, especially because our authors are infrequent users, and will forget the subtleties of any system.

A couple of thoughts:

Hide editing tools:  when you hide the editing tools, you also lose the ability to re-size the entry window, which may be a pain.

Pre-fill combined feedback:  If there can only be one set of comments per Moodle (because they are defined as language strings)  they are going to have to be very bland.  Is there any way that the standardised comments could be on a per-module basis, or a per-author basis?

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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It is a small pain to have to click 'Show editing tools', then resize, then click 'Hide editing tools'. But, only a small pain. It is really hard to get a resize icon to appear in the right place, becuase you cannot tell, from CSS, whethter there is a scroll bar. We tried and failed. If you can make it work, be our guest wink

The specific pre-filled string we are proposing are shown. It is not feasible to have these configurable on a per-course or per-module bases.

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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EDIT.- And, in the same vein, it would be nice if Answers fields left empty when editing a question were removed from the editing interface upon saving the question, so that re-editing same question later on only displays those Answer fields which do have data in them.

Joseph

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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I think I've found a working solution to this irritating problem of automaticaly added blank Answer fields...

Moodle 2.1 file question/type/edit_question_form.php line 323 and sq.

replace

if ($this->question->formoptions->repeatelements) {
    $repeatsatstart = max($minoptions, $countanswers + $addoptions);
} else {
    $repeatsatstart = $countanswers;
}
with

if ($this->question->formoptions->repeatelements) {
    if ($countanswers) {
        $repeatsatstart = $countanswers;
    } else {
        $repeatsatstart = $minoptions;
    }
} else {
    $repeatsatstart = $countanswers;
}
Or something to that effect. Tim, please consider fixing this.

Joseph

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Please put this in the tracker as a new issue. Bonus marks if you can attach a patch as well.

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 
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Picture of Jean-Michel Védrine
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Hello, I second Joseph's idea of not having additionnal answers automatically added. The "Blanks for 3 mores choices" button is enought IMHO. Suppressing blank answers is also a good idea (some third party questions types not using the core answers table but their own one already do that)

I like the refreshed question authoring interface a lot and I can't imagine any reason someone would prefer the old one.

What is really interesting from a question type author POV is that only small adjustments are needed to benefit of this new interface.

The only real question is : why must we suffer 6 months more, rather than having it now as a christmas gift big grin ?

 
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Picture of Jean-Michel Védrine
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Surely General feedback is a good idea, but since 2.1 we have so many ways to give feedback to students (including hints) that I must admit I stopped using it for new questions (of course old questions still have their general feedbacks).

One notable exeption is my first trials of pmatch questions because I use general feedback to give students a right answer as this question type's "right answer" is currently not  "student readable" mixed.

I would be curious if a poll could be made among 2.1/2.2 users (older Modle versions are quite another story) to know the fraction of users still entering general feedbacks. Maybe I am completely wrong ?

 
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Picture of Phil Butcher
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
 

I think we added General Feedback back in 1.6. I thought then that it might be something required more in our distance learning situation than face-to-face institutions. It is still very important to us as we strive to create a (computer-based) dialogue with our students. A few points

    1. It is consistent, always there and fully explained.
    2. Relying on 'Right answer' is no good. Simple example: the square root of 4 is either 2 or -2. More complex questions can have more right answers than that.
    3. Writing the General Feedback makes in more accessible. It's a block of text and as such readily picked up by a screen reader.
    4. And, of course, we're trying to develop reasonably complex questions for our degree level students and these often need more explanation than might be required for a simple fact checking test.

 
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Picture of Ralf Hilgenstock
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Hello Colin, hello Tim

the ideas are great and lead in the same direction as some discussions in the usability forum here.

The changes have a more general aspect. some of them cahnge teh behavioir of elements that are used in the whole system (editor behaviour, opening of advanced features). Such functionalities should not be imeplemented isolated for a module. They should be implemented system wide. Isolated implementation will confuse users if they get  different views on the same basic functionality at different pages.

Martin Dougiamas announced usability discussion and changes for Moodle 2.3 and 2.4. Lets combine the different suggestions to a coordinated development process.

 

ralf

 
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Picture of Jean-Michel Védrine
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Hello Colin, Tim, Ralf, ...

I have been waiting for months a good opportunity to resurect this thread.

Now that code freeze for 2.4 is approaching I am very worried that nearly nothing has been done to really improve forms usability in Moodle (but I must mention real improvements for screen readers).

One of the most crowded form is certainly question creation/editing form. So it would be a good start to take care of this one.

Can at least good Colin's work be considered for inclusion in Moodle 2.4. ?

It's a pity that code exists to solve a real problem for more than 1 year, and nothing is done.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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Sadly, Coling got dragged away to work on another project, and he won't get back to my team until after the 2.4 code freeze. So, I guess this is now slated for Moodle 2.5 sad

 
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Picture of Jean-Michel Védrine
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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This is very sad news.

 
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Picture of Ray Morris
Re: Refreshed question authoring interface
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We want to get this into core so we’re looking for comments and suggestions. So:
> do you think this makes things easier for teachers?

Yes

> if you create questions will this make it easier for you to create questions?

 

Yes

 

 
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