Comparisons and advocacy

Moodle 2.0 vs EDU 2.0

Picture of David Scotson
Re: Moodle 2.0 vs EDU 2.0
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
There's a very good definition of "intuitive" here:

key excerpt (but read the whole thing, it's very good if you like this kind of thing):

The Two Conditions of Intuitive

In our research, we've discovered that there are two conditions where users will tell you an interface seems 'intuitive' to them. It only takes meeting one of the two conditions to get the user to tell you the design is intuitive. When neither condition is met, the same user will likely complain that the interface feels 'unintuitive'.

Condition #1:

Both the current knowledge point and the target knowledge point are identical. When the user walks up to the design, they know everything they need to operate it and complete their objective.

Condition #2:

The current knowledge point and the target knowledge point are separate, but the user is completely unaware the design is helping them bridge the gap. The user is being trained, but in a way that seems natural."

It's a word I avoid myself, because people often use it to mean "better/easier" (e.g. Apple's software is "more intuitive" than Windows) and ignore the context, (e.g. Apple software is not more intuitive to someone using nothing but Windows for the last 10 years), but I find the framework given in my link is great for getting to the bottom of what's actually wrong when people complain about something being "unintuitive".

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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Moodle 2.0 vs EDU 2.0

Seems like a very useful contribution to the discussion about what we mean when we say an interface is "intuitive." I wonder about the idea of "error recovery" in an "intuitive" interface design - especially as it relates to your comment that "Apple software is not more intuitive to someone who has been using nothing but Windows for the past 10 years."

A salient example for me is the way my iPad behaves. I'm probably not the only one to have had this experience, but I often find that I have moved my finger across the screen in a way that has changed a setting: I have changed the interface in some way - and I have no idea how I did it! Now I need "error recovery" - take me back to the situation I felt familiar with. But I have no idea how to do it. I often end up showing the device to one of my kids, who will say something like, "Oh, you just tap the screen there - it's easy." But it seems to me that they are operating in condition #1 - no gap between target knowledge point and current knowledge point - while I'm clearly in condition #2, except there is nothing in the interface design to help me bridge the gap.

I wonder if Moodle's designers have always been cognizant of the need to provide that bridge, bearing in mind that many, many occasional, non-expert users will spend time in Moodle. So in that sense, error recovery is more important than providing a slick, mysterious, Apple-like interface design that works only for people in condition #1. Maybe Moodle is still like early Google - making it easy for even cats and dogs to use (though of course Google has become more and more Apple-like, while retaining the surface simplicity).


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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Moodle 2.0 vs EDU 2.0
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

The other way of looking at usability is the two dimensions:

  • Discoverability
  • Efficiency

Efficiency is "I have to grade 100 student papers each week for this entire semester. I don't care if I need a bit of help at the start of term to understand the UI, but I want grading each paper to require absolutely the minimum time."

Discoverability is the "I've never used Moodle before. What do I do now?" thing.

I think it is clear that both are important in Moodle at different times. (They are not mutually exclusive.)

Actually, we could break discoverability down into "known unknows" and "unknows unknows". In other words:

"I know that in Moodle you can have an activity avialable to some, but not all, studens. Now, how do you do that?"

and then the person who did not even know that was possible.

I suppose social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, ...) are excellent examples of web applications that get people to use features they did not even know that they wanted.

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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle 2.0 vs EDU 2.0
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

To me, Tim, people to whom this applies:

are excellent examples of web applications that get people to use features they did not even know that they wanted.

Can be broken into several sub-groups, people who want to expand their knowledge and are deliberately curious, people who are willing to try things because of a lack of fear, people who do not want to try things until someone tells them that this might be useful, people who click the wrong buttons, who really have no intention of doing anything but are clumsily stupid enough to get it wrong for a, what is to them, positive result, and people who are seriously intellectually lazy and subject to mass marketing policies that at some subconcious level promises to protect them from the evils of the world if they click this button. My experience, somewhat cynically, is telling this last group is the largest - (Douglas Addams or Terry Pratchett would have put it a lot better of course.) When you seriously examine what the definitions above are expressing, they are basically returning us to the very point I tried to make earlier, there is a strong connection between "intuitive" and "familiar".  

However, this does not overcome the fact that the sheer complexity of Moodle is not attractive to many potential users, they use the UI as an excuse not to use the product and are quite willing to accept a lesser product because it "feels" better. You and I both know that Moodle can appeal at so many different levels, from a simple, basic usefulness to a serious power tool. All I am suggesting is there has to be a way of developing Moodle where a user can be introduced to Moodle at the basic level and entice them into using more and more of its tools and strengths.

I am just not sure Moodle can make these kinds of changes to develop this kind of visual literacy now before another tool comes out of nowhere and becomes the next killer app.

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