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When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted

 
Mary Cooch
When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

Hi allsmile This is a discussion topic (hence its location in the Lounge)although I did wonder about putting it in Using Moodle . Basically...

it relates to an issue  in the tracker here http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-31563

which is that - if you have a course with say 10 sections full of activities and you only want five of them, if you reduce the number they don't actually get deleted; they just stay "unseen". This could be construed as a bug or wrong behaviour -yet on the other hand it is often considered very useful for teachers who like using the "unseen sections" trick to display items on a course page but not actually have them on their course page if you know what I mean ("make your Moodle course page look more like a webpage) The behaviour is the same in Moodle 2 but we as teachers see the words "orphaned a ctitivies".

So I am just gauging opinions here - do people think this is best left as is? Do people think that once you get rid of a section it should be got rid of altogether? Michael de Raadt offered these suggestions - any thoughts?

  1. Maintain the current behaviour
  2. Warn the user that reducing the sections will cause the activities/resources to become invisible, but not deleted
  3. Shift resource/activities from lower hidden sections to the next most visible remaining section
  4. Warn the user that reducing the sections will cause the activities/resources to be deleted, then delete them
  5. Delete activities/resources in sections that become hidden when the number of sections are reduced, without warning
 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Leave it as it is.

In recent versions, the hidden sections show up when editing is on, in an area called 'Orphaned sections'. The most we need to changes is a usability tweak to make sure that teachers know what that means without reading pages of docs.

3. 4. and 5. are all terrible. They would require a lot of manual work to undo if you make a mistake.

2. Adds an extra click for people who already know what they are doing. 1. is better. Moodle just does something reversible without pestering you, and they you can see the result which should make it clear what happened.

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Voting VERY FIRMLY with Tim on this. Leave as is.

Your conservative Moodler (in this case) ,

Ben

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Huge +1 with Tim on this one.

I have always made use of this as a feature - create a section to hold resources and activities which are then not visible to students, but are still accessible when linked to, while resources which get 'hidden' are not then available through links either.

Please do not change this behaviour!!!

Richard

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Richard, can you clarify exactly what you mean here?

  1. If you create items in a section that is not accesible to students by adjusting the number of sections in course settings, how are you linking to them?  Opening up the item and cut and past the link?
  2. What problem are you trying to solve by doing this?  eg Is this so you can create one page and link to it several times?
  3. You refer to the 'scroll of death' in your other post. "If this behaviour is removed, then we have no simple option for holding resources other than scroll-of-death"
    What do you mean here?

IMO: We really shouldn't have a kludge (linking to items in hidden sections) using unpredicatable behaviour (sections behaviour at present) to solve a problem (scroll of death).  But I was really wanting to clarify what you were actually doing and why.

My views: My problem at present is the difficulty of course maintenance. I often would like an "Empty section of all items" option. If a section has 20 items, I dislike having to click 20 delete icons.

I like the current behavour of just leaving the unexposed sections as they are when you change the number of viewed sections.  Do no deleting/moving.  Hence I dislike options 3, 4, 5.

I like option 2: IF the proposed option hides non empty sections, display the warning message.  Otherwise just do it, no warning.  I'm happy for the extra click.

Darko's comment: "I would like to be able to view orphaned sections in course edit mode if I'm teacher or admin regardless of the fact that these sesctions may or may not have activities in them" Agree.  I had not thought of this.

I'm just picking up with Moodle again after 2.2.  Just refreshing my understandings of what is there or not.  Looking to optimise some of the workflows.

-Derek

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Hi Derek, Thanks for your message about this post - I didn't reply to it specifically as i felt it was answered with the other posts in the discussion. But here is my reasoning.

 

I, and other members of staff, often have a large number of external files such as Word documents and Powerpoint files (and many other types). This can result in 10 or 20 (or more) resources listed in every section of a page. As an example I teach 10 lectures on a module which is made up of 12 different subjects in one section each- it is validated as a single module so is required to be a single Moodle course on our system. If I have 3 or 4 resources for each lecture, I have 30-40 resources listed in my section under summary and with any labels I add into the section.

My prefered method is to add these resources into a 'spare' section at the end of the page which is then hidden from the students by reducing the number of visible sections. The resources are then linked using hyperlinks within the section summary or labels - either within the text or by icons. This makes a much more appealing and attractive way of accessing those lists of resources (imagine every one of the 12subjects having 30/40 resources listed in each section). While there are obviously alternative ways of organising the entire thing (so that each subject had its own moodle course within an overall course page for example) this is not an option the way the relationship between moodle courses and validated modules in our university currently works. Neither is setting up additional courses as holding pages for those materials.

Moodle2 has no course files folder to put these resources in out of sight (they need to be attached to the course not in a private files area for access by other lecturers on the module) and the normal hiding of resources, or sections prevents access to those resources. I want the editor/teacher to haveaccess to those resources (they are visible when editing is turned on) but for the sake of appearances on the page I want them 'hidden' from the students and to me, the method of putting them in a spare section that is then not visible by reducing the number of sections seems to me to be the most intuitive option available.

The idea then of forcing those resources to be moved into another section (which may be completely unrelated to the section they actually relate to) deleting those resources, or forcing any other action would remove that option, while not -as far as I can see- providing an alternative manner to store those resources.

Like you, I would prefer the situation where the unexposed sections are left as they are rather than the resources put into a single 'orphaned activities' section which seems to fit in with Darko's comment of being able to see those orphaned sections in edit mode. My biggest concern with the original proposal was the suggestion that those resources would be randomly moved to another section or even deleted. I don't see the need for a warning message - it'll be obvious as soon as it happens and should be easily reversible - but if it was felt necessary then so be it. And if the decision is to continue putting all the resources into an Orphaned Resources section, then I don't particularly like it, but I can accept it.

 

But my main point from the OP options and those in the tracker is please do not just decide that all resources must be visible on the page - even in a different section - and definitely do not delete resources in these sections!!! Some of us have valid reasons for using non-visible sections.

If anyone can provide a more intuitive alternative to this issue then I'd be happy to hear it and try it out.

Richard

 
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Picture of Darko Miletić
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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The problem with how this thing is handled now is that it is not consistent. Unless reading really carefully the documentation on Moodle wiki users will not be aware of this behaviour (See http://docs.moodle.org/22/en/Course_settings#Number_of_weeks.2Ftopics ).

Furthermore the orphaned sectiones are actually just orphaned activities. Currently Moodle 2.x behaves like this:
If you have more sections than listed in numsections of a course they will be considered hidden and not displayed in general case.
They will be displayed ONLY when course is in edit mode and sections have at least one activity in them. This is just wrong. I am the course editor or admin, I want to know at all times what is in this course which means I need to see this.

The correct thing would be to display orphaned sections always, regardless if they have activities or not.

It is also wrong to display orphaned activities/sections only using course format, what if course format does not have support for orphaned sections?

This should also be displayed in the Course block or a new block at all times to teacher/admin.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Suggesting that 'orphaned sections' are always displayed to editors is VERY different to the suggestions of adding all those resources/activities to another section or even deleting them.

In 1.9 I believe these sections were always visible to the course editor (ie when editing was turned on) and hidden to other users. I'm not sure what you mean by at all times Darko - Do you want the course to display those sections to you, even if you do not have editing turned on - surely the advantage the way things are now is that you get to see the course as others see it and then by turning editing on you get the additional features to actually allow you to do the editing?

Richard

 
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Picture of Darko Miletić
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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I have no problems clarifying my position here so let us start:

I realize that my post in this thread differs from what I wrote in the issue but I'm just being realistic here. If so many users relay on this "feature" we should keep it. My main objection is the way it is presented or not to the user responsable for managing the course. This of course applies to teacher and administrator ONLY.

In Moodle 1.9 these sections are NEVER displayed to any user under any condition in course view regardless of the fact if course editing is off or on (I checked).

In Moodle 2.x these sections are displayed only to teacher/admin (this is correct) when a course is in editing mode but under condition that they have at least one activity (this is wrong in my opinion).

If I'm responsable for a course I want to know what it contains simply by looking at it, not by keeping a hidden knowledge in my skull or looking at database. This is what is wrong with current implementation of orphaned sections in Moodle course. Also the visual representation of these orphaned sections depend on course format impementation. In my opinion that is not good enough. This should go to the course block and be visible to teacher/admin ONLY.

And have in mind that not only the people who create the course are responsable for it, there are other teachers, admins etc.

To summarize:

I would like to be able to view orphaned sections in course edit mode if I'm teacher or admin regardless of the fact that these sesctions may or may not have activities in them.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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And that makes perfect sense Darko smile

thank you

 
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Picture of Eric Hagley
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
 

I also love this "feature" and use it in all my courses. Please don't change it.

Eric

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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According to tracker, it is about versions 2.x

Since 2.x are completely different one could consider this change too.

But, please keep 1.9 as it is!
 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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No - I would say it's even more important for 2.x as there is no Course Files. If this behaviour is removed, then we have no simple option for holding resources other than scroll-of-death

Please keep all versions as they are Please!!!

 
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Picture of Barbara Gardner
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
 

I agree with Richard - we NEED this behaviour

but how about making it an option in course settings? Choose Number of topics and then choose Number of orphan topics.

They will always be set as not visible to students but are always visible to teachers and admin, something like that?

 

 

 
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Picture of Paul Ganderton
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
 

I'm following the crowd here Mary! The ability to put materials in a course section and look at them but not display them is very valuable. It's not just the look-and-feel of the thing; it allows staff to be able to develop an idea.

 
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Picture of William Lu
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Our teachers are encountering this problem.

As Mary suggested years ago, our institute requires all courses to use :"make your Moodle course page look more like a webpage". It has been our 'Standard course template' for 2 years now.

This term, our Moodle is upgraded to V3, when a teacher changed the number of section, their content were deleted WITHOUT warning!

To reproduce this:

  1. Type something into a 'Edit Topic' > Summary of TopicX > Summary field
  2. Save changes
  3. Reduce section number by click on the '-' icon, or 'Edit course settings" > Number of sections
  4. Content deleted without warning!

To workaround:

Add anything....Resource or Activity...into the section, then, works as we used to, the section changed to 'Orphaned activities'.

Is it a bug? Anyone reported already?

If it is a feature of Moodle3, then better comes with a warning.



 
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Picture of Susan Mangan
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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We just found this too!!  Ack.  A lot of our teachers have lengthy summaries which are now deleted they choose to reduce the sections.  For example, we have compressed terms during the summer where instructors need to shift their course content.  I'm just starting my search for whether or not this is an 'undocumented feature' or a bug.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

Ah - I see what you mean! You mean, if you just have a topic section with something typed into the summary - then it gets deleted. Well, I understand that as Moodle probably thinks there is nothing in that section since there are no activities. I don't know how long this has been like that though. Maybe always?

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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I believe it has always been like that Mary - activities/resources get put in an Orphaned activities section, Summaries get lost. Its one of the reasons I always encouraged staff to use labels for anything other than a very brief sentence or two smile

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Pragmatically, if you delete something, then you 'delete' something.  So on the flip side, if you want to keep the summary, where would it go?  What action does the software have to take as a result of the action?  Should it be converted to an orphaned label?

If you're worried about this in your courses then use a label at the top of the section instead of a summary, then if the section gets deleted then at least the label will be an orphan and still exist.

 
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Picture of Susan Mangan
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Yes, I most definitely think the section should be considered orphaned if there is text in the Summary, and only text in the Summary.  That is 'content'. 

I agree with you 100% - if you delete something you 'delete' something.  However, 'reducing the number of sections' that are visible has always been a 'non-destructive' function in Moodle.

If one chooses to reduce the number of sections visible and the software does not delete activities and resources, but rather leaves these activities and resources in an 'orphaned' section, why would it then delete the content that has been entered into a Summary?  Who makes that decision?  I feel that if an instructor spends time writing a summary for a section and creating links, and does whatever else they do when mucking about with the HTML editor...  that should be considered content and not be deleted if other resources are not deleted. 

With regard to whether or not this behavior makes sense or not, it doesn't matter.  It's the expected behavior and the consistent behavior that is most important I think.  If other resources and activities are not 'deleted' then I would expect any other content that resides in that section to also not be deleted.  I understand the chances of having just content in a Summary and changing the display at the same time is likely slim but not unheard of.  I know of teachers in our university that use just Summaries with images, links, etc.

With regard to using labels, I will definitely start informing our 600+ faculty to now use labels and not use the Summary if this is not considered a bug so they don't inadvertently lose content.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Picture of Susan Mangan
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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No, this behavior is definitely new.  Somewhere in between 2.8 and 3.0 I think.

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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I have tested the cases described in 2.8 and 3.0.

If you have a label (or other activity) added to a section, and you then reduce the number of sections such that they are less than the section in question, the section remains intact and displayed as "orphaned". It can be restored intact by changing the number of sections back to the original number.

In 2.8, if you have a section with no content and a defined summary, and you reduce the number of sections in a course, the section record is retained in the database. If you then go back and increase the number of sections back to its original setting, the section is again visible with the summary intact.

In 3.0, if you have a section with no content and a defined summary, when you reduce the number of sections in the course, the course section record is deleted from the database, and restoring the number of sections cannot bring back the summary.

I have not determined if that was "by design" or a "regression error".

mike

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Oddly enough, if you change the course format to a format that doesn't have sections (like Social), the sections are not deleted. If you restore back to "Topics", the sections come back.

I have looked through the code, and deleting the empty sections was introduced in 2.9. Looking for the issues now...

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Okay. I found where this was changed.

The deletion code was added to 2.9 here - https://github.com/moodle/moodle/commit/bb01883867f3c85ebaa094615ddfadb8c5f1f518

The commit comment uses MDL-10405 as the issue for doing so.

The original issue was to add a new feature that allowed teachers to delete a section if they wished. It appears the automatically deleting non-empty sections came into the solution here - https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-10405?focusedCommentId=334056&page=com.atlassian.jira.plugin.system.issuetabpanels:comment-tabpanel#comment-334056

I really think that nobody considered the possibility of a "Summary" being considered content, and hence didn't treat it as one of the non-empty rules. You may be able to create a new tracker item asking this to be reinstated.

mike

 
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Picture of Susan Mangan
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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My thoughts exactly.  Thank you for finding this Mike!  I will create a tracker item to see if there is enough interest in having this functionality restored.

https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-54557

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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FYI - MDL-54557 has now been fixed and integrated into core code. It will be part of the next release.

mike

 
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bee
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Further to Mike's testing.

> In 3.0, if you have a section with no content and a defined summary, when you reduce the number of sections in the course, the course section record is deleted from the database, and restoring the number of sections cannot bring back the summary.

Our results are slightly different.

If you have a section with no content and a defined summary in the middle of a course (i.e. not at the very bottom), reducing the number of sections to less than the section in question causes the section to disappear from view (it's not listed as 'orphaned'.) However increasing the number of sections will cause it to reappear.

Only sections with no content and a defined summary which appear at the very bottom of the course are actually deleted. Multiple sections will be deleted if they all fit that criteria.

Moodle v3.0.3


Hrynkiw

Kwantlen Polytechnic

 
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Picture of Susan Mangan
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Good sleuthing Donna!  I thought you had retired already!  Hope all is well smile  I'm jealous of your helpful Moodler badge - I haven't gotten one since 2014 but I haven't been able to be on the forums as much either sad

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: When you change the number of topics down in a course they don't get deleted
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Looking at the code I referenced, what you are describing makes sense. If you reduce the number of sections, the code starts at the oldest last section and works backwards, deleting "empty" sections until it hits one that isn't empty. When it hits one that isn't empty, it stops moving through them and exits.

 
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