Courses and course formats

 
 
Brian
Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Can someone please point to me how to embed activities within the section when using Page Per Section View?

I don't want a URL or POP UP - I would love the content to appear on the Course Section itself.

For example, I am attaching 2 screenshots showing a typical activity as a link, and another screenshot showing how it might look with the activity embedded in the Section itself. 

I am happy to store the activities at the end of the course, hidden, if that makes it easier to achieve.

Sorry - my earlier post used the wrong terminology so I am trying again

Many thanks in advance!

Brian

The Image Below Shows What I Have Managed to Get Moodle To Do

Page per Section as standard

 

AND THIS IS HOW I WOULD PREFER TO PRESENT IT

Section per Page with Activities Embedded

 

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Brain,

I've been thinking about this for a few days and at the moment, I'm not sure you can.  However I could envisage a code change where in normal mode activities where expanded and in editing mode the standard way of presentation existed for editing purposes.

I know this is not a solution but I'll have a look at the code when I get a chance.  Unless there is a new option on each activity to show it expanded.

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks for replying Gareth - much appreciated.  I am working with a charity that is moving off a (rather expensive) LMS so they can create and publish their own content and they prefer users to see each module (resource) rather than have to click to access it.

Does collapsed topics help here?  Would that be a better route in?  Some code changes might still be needed but that could be a start.

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hmmmm - it seems that has been discussed and rediscussed many times in the past Moodle decade, and quite a bit of code already exists but has yet to see light.

Dev community have talked about it http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Talk:Paged_course_formats

The Open University in the UK uses Moodle and has resolved to my mind how we could and should offer to present courses (each bit of material appears on it's own, with forward and back buttons much like a Moodle Book.  

The Moodle discussion was at https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=175758#p770737

An example of a good Open University course that exhibits the desirable view is http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=3636.   A Moodle compatible version of this course can be found at https://dl.dropbox.com/u/12415370/OER_1_moodle.zip - it is under creative commons license so please do respect that people.  But you can restore this to your Moodle server and compare with the OpenLearn course.

Anyway, the point is, if I could achieve just the central part (the actual Open University course) in Moodle, I and a lot of other Moodlers would appear to be very happy.

Which of the existing code bases and sponsors within Moodle should I (we?) approach?  Let's assume rashly that I have a small budget for development and/or access to coders.

Thanks to anyone responding smile

 

 

 

 

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Brain,

Sorry for not responding sooner, I've had Man-Flu.

Collapsed Topics currently does not expand activities / resources as its main aim was to compress large topic based courses.  I don't think it should as I think your requirement relates to specific courses that have few resources / activities as being expanded would take up a lot of space and introduce the scroll of death.

I'd forgotten about that conversation last year.  Since then Marina Glancy has done some wonderful work on course format refactoring.  Including creating a new format that has sub sections, please see:

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=212405

http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-35218

http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Course_formats_2

As for a solution, I consider that it is a matter of looking how the code works and determining a solution which perhaps incorporates the creation of a bespoke course format for the task.

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Brain,

I had a look at a possible solution and it appears that the work needs to be done in 'print_section' of '/course/lib.php'.  It would be silly to copy the code and re-implement it in a course format and then maintain it in effect twice.  Therefore this should be a core enhancement as an extra option for displaying resources / activities, perhaps using the 'iframe' html tag.

A Moodle Tracker on core to be raised?

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Gareth for your help and support - very much appreciated!

Happy to input a Moodle tracker, and yes I believe this would be a great benefit in the core (rather than a hack), but don't want to trod over other trackers already in place (but which would also be of benefit to me).  

I am keen for the course control / format to include:

  • When displaying a course as section per page, have the option of starting with the first section rather than showing a full course summary and the user then having to click again to get into the course proper.
  • Resources have the option of displaying in section, rather than a URL click (as per my request above). I believe this could also be of benefit with the option of collapsed sections (e.g. so the user doesn't get everything loaded at once, but sees the material immediately upon expanding a section)
  • Other functionality (such as completion marking) still working
  • Completion is visible at section level, e.g. if that section is completed (e.g. all resources are set as completed) then it is marked complete in all appropriate course formats e.g. all in one page, page per section, collapsed sections etc.

I will search out existing Trackers and add as necessary wink

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Just a thought - a temporary solution would be the ability to iFrame any existing resource without having all of the navigation and menu blocks added.  Is there a URL + parameter that allows the teacher to display a resource (book, lesson, file, quiz) whilst suppressing the full menu/navigation system?  

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Gareth - I raise https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-37416 after spending almost all of Christmas and New Years trying to understand Moodle (perhaps if I didn't have to learn PHP at the same time, it would have been easier wink

Please see also: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=219236

If we get this right, then we can also add the "embed activities" into your own course formats, like Collapsed Topics and Grid.

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Brian, your ideas looks alot like the Flexpage format originally designed/built for Intel Education and later refined for Cisco and others:

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=83817

Maybe if enough people ask for something like this in core, it will get into core somedaysmile.

 

 

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Michael, my concept does look a bit like Flexpage smile  However, the difference is it would be available as an option for all course formats and (eventually) all activities and resources.  

Flexpage doesn't convert to other course formats, and also supports only resources displayed directly and not activities.

I hope you vote for the idea, because it comes up often

 
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Picture of Kris Stokking
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
 

Hi Brian, Flexpage does support both embedded resources and activities, as long as the module has implemented it within the Flexpage Activity block.  This block can be added to any region within a Flexpage course (left, right, center, or top), and renders the course module directly on the page instead of providing a link.  Currently only Folders, Forums, Page, Files and URL's are supported but certainly more can be added.  If a developer is interested in adding support for a module, please let me know.

However, that's really only half of the battle with Flexpage.  While embedding activities directly would be beneficial to have as a Core feature, it's also prone to one of two side effect with the current course formats - creating a scroll of death or creating a huge amount of course sections.  Flexpage is a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of course formats because it allows for a nesting of Flexpages instead of a flat association within a single course section, and allows for custom menu'ing to navigate between pages.  This allows content creators to separate content more easily without adding page clicks.

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Kris

I had a good look at Flexpage, but the delay in new releases (2.2 vs 2.4) and the massive changes in course formatting options in 2.4 helped me to decide to use 2.4 and "create my own path".

I'm hoping the organisation for my current project will let me release the code to the Moodle community.  It is much simpler than Flexpage, and not so flexible, but it does allow a student to navigate a course from start to finish without all those intermediate sections yet still jump forward and backward under student control.

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Michael and Brian,

I've read the UX Article - http://uxmag.com/articles/cognition-the-intrinsic-user-experience - and it raises some good points - definately something to consider perhaps as a driver to make the much understated 'MyMoodle / MyHome' - http://docs.moodle.org/23/en/My_Moodle - more used and developed to reduce the superflous information presented to the user in their decision making process.  I'm going to apply what I can to my Collapsed Topics (CT) course format even though I have attempted to make it as easy to use as possible already.

Regarding getting Flexpage into core, this - https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=218947 - is worth a read.  A few people have asked for CT in core, but I do not think that will happen.  Therefore because of the same argument so Flexpage will not make it too.

I think what needs to happen is to drive development as much as possible though plugins that become "must have's" for any Moodle installation.  The key here is to combine a clear well thought out base theme that can be inherited with custom navigation blocks and appropriately matched course formats.  Because Moodle is modular then change can be driven, it just needs effort and convincing the community that it's a good thing.

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

P.S.

What do you think of 'The ribbon' - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribbon_(computing) - and should Moodle have one?  If so can it be made sufficiently different as to not infringe Microsoft's patent - http://www.patentbuddy.com/Patent/20060036965 - ?

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Brain,

Thank you for the informaton.  If the tracker goes to plan as I hope it does then 'print_section' will be enhanced and all course format's will gain the functionality by default as the option will be apart of the activity / resources attributes.

I'll have a look at your code as soon as I can.

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Picture of Marina Glancy
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi, there is no universal way at the moment to display module content "inline". Even for label there are hardcoded module type checks in several places in code. I believe I've seen some course formats that similarly embed mod_folder and mod_resource

Regarding print_seciton(), please look at issue MDL-37085 - it is aimed to move code from print_seciton() into number of renderer functions. It still does not solve the specified problem but may help

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Marina - I now get so many emails from Moodle forums I missed your reply!

Changing the structure of how activities and resources work is not trivial, but it would really make Moodle so much more modular.

It may be that setting the layout to embedded and using an iframe is a short term possibility (will check that out if I get time), but "adding embeddedness" as a capability per activity/resource is the long term way to go.

If you are aware of course format examples that embed mod_folder & mod_resource that you can point me to, that will help me in my current poor efforts to do this all manually.

ps - my current efforts are modifications are to extend get_url (skipping section headers where possible), and a modded Theme where the breadcrumb trail disappears and Custom Menu alterations provide the student with a list of their personal courses and a nav section points them to the previous and next resource. 

 
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Picture of Marina Glancy
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

We seem to have two parallel discussions, one in forum and another in tracker. I copy here my comment to your issue MDL-37416:

Hi Brian

I gave this issue more thought. This does not seem to have anything to do with course formats. This is completely up to module if it wants (or is able to) display content inline or on the separate page. And there is no need to add FEATURE_xxx for it. It should be module's setting regardless of course format. Besides module should be responsible for this inline display option to work correctly with completion, availability, visibility, etc.

I tried to add an option for the mod_folder activity module to display contents inline. It worked pretty good. I will create an issue for it and post a link here

Although some core changes are still required. For example I faced some problems with Javascript. Since this appeared to be completely different issue than what you described, I raised a new one - MDL-37454

MDL-37455 Allow mod_folder to display the content inline on course page instead of on separate page

--

Just want to add that we had a little discussion in HQ and found bunch of related issues, see tracker.

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Marina

Thanks - I agree that each module /activity should have control of how it presents and interacts with the student.

However, there should be a wrapper (not sure if that is the right term) so that for example, when I finish my book or my file mod activity, I am taken to the correct activity / section / content.

I am trying to build universal (same look and feel across the course) navigation, but how do I add that if each module has a different layout for next / back buttons and no consistent way to determine "where to go next" once the activity is completed?

Moving the print_section code into the renders makes a lot of sense, and I can see how far Moodle has come recently!

So please don't take this as a complaint.  I would just like to see activity modules adopting a more standard set of methods for within-activity navigation smile

 
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Picture of Marina Glancy
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Brian. I don't think modules should have next/prev buttons at all. Course format can add them though. Did you see the new feature in course formats in 2.4 to add content to any page in the course (MDL-36048)? The main purpose of it is to allow course formats to add this next/prev/back navigation or course-depended menu or tabs.

Please also note that theme should support it, there is an upgrade text about it: https://github.com/moodle/moodle/blob/master/theme/upgrade.txt#L7

Some modules, for example mod_book, have "back to course" button. And honestly I don't know how to allow course format influence them. Imho the modules should not have this link at all. We should not forget that module can be added to front page and the string "back to course" makes no sence there.

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

From a users perspective, return to course buttons are great. A student finishes an activity, and casts about for what to do next. Ah, look there is a big "Return to Course" button, that is what I do. Wow, this software is intuitive!"

Students and teachers don't want to become Moodle experts and learn about our sort of like a breadcrumb navigation method, they want to teach and learn (well, in many students case they just want to get done so they can go do something else). I know it's much easier for developers not to have "Return to Course" buttons on modules, and not to have to deal with what to do with them when they don't make sense - like when the activity is on the front page, in course number 0, you would need to print "Return to Home Page" or the like.

However, for teachers and students, they tend to prefer applications that make things easy for teaching and learning, rather than applications that make things easy for developerswink. One thing that means lots of big, clear buttons that tell them what to do, placed where their eyes are - in the case of the completion of an activity, that is just below the content of the activity. wink.

Of course with theme development and maybe a new custom format, its possible to create a very user focused navigation scheme in Moodle, but most people don't do that, they mostly use the defaults and complain about them.

 
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Picture of Marina Glancy
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

So what exactly are you suggesting Michael?

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Help Kris get Flexpage into core - its good stuff lots of good folks have spent lots of time re-inventingsmile.

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Michael,

I agree with Marina, what are you asking for?

To say that "rather than applications that make things easy for developers" is false despite the wink.  Developers continunally strive to make the user interface as easy to use and as intuative as possible without forcing the user to resort to mountains of documentation.  Software is like an Iceburg, what you see on the surface is only a small fraction of the whole and things do take time and a substantial amount of effort to create for what may appear to a user as trivial.

The breadcrumb trail is a standard form of navigation that is used elsewhere precisely because it is easier than older forms.

Developers do not do things in software because it is easy for them, they tackle the hard, tricky and down right difficult.  They (including myself in this) undertake their work for the challenge of it and the emotion that they are making a positive difference to the world.  Developers are engineers, and if we were not writing software then we would be out there making the impossible possible.  For instance, driving a railway through the Rocky Mountains in the 1800's or in the modern world converting the 'Ghan' up to Alice Springs to be EuroStar compatible.

I looked at some of the 'moans' on the link and some are related to Moodle and some are to do with what it links to.  However, they are 'moans', they are not 'here is this problem, please can you fix it for me'.  It is far easier to do the former than the latter.  So therefore, please could you sketch out on paper, take a picture of it and put it here of what you would like to have and I'm sure we 'the developers' will try to make it happen.

Kind regards,

Gareth

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Gareth, I've been creating & supporting educational software since 1995. I've taught courses on web application design, and designed and co-taught seminars on software design. What I suggest is you put yourself in the place of a novice user, and you look critically at your interface.

I've trained hundreds of teachers to use Moodle, and used it in my own courses. Have you sat down and watched a lab full of students use Moodle?  The top of the page breadcrumb-like* navigation is one of those things that continually trips up new and occassional users - their eyes end up at the bottom of the screen and they then have to stop thinking about the learning material and then remember to look up, figure out what link to click, etc. That sounds trivial, but if you observe users, it proves not to be (to them). There are other things I've pointed out in these forums over the years since 2003.

Developers are engineers, and if we were not writing software then we would be out there making the impossible possible." - the difference with Moodle is that the engineers are designing the software as well as writing it, while Moodle is competing with applications where the designers are designing the software and engineers are writing it. 

That means you should learn to think like a designer. Good designers are very concerned with how the users use and perceive the software, how users feel when using the software, and good designers understand that overloading the visual channel with icons and links causes confusion - note that with educational software, the UI is part of what the user sees on every single screen they are on. While they are trying to understand a difficult mathematical or philosophical concept, they are also having to try and figure out the UI, and whether they should be paying attention to any of the dozens of icons and links on their screen along with the concepts they are trying to learn. Therefor, the UI should be minimal, simple, and very clear, so that the student can focus their limited processing power on the material they are there to learn.

All that above relates back to the original statement I was concerned about - that a Back to Course button should not be allowed. A simple back to course button at the end of an activity module is a great UI element from a student's point of view - because it's right where their eyes end up at the end of the learning content. They don't have to stop thinking about what they just learned and try to remember how to navigate the application, the button is right there telling them what to do. But it's hard for developer to get that button right, because in some cases it might need to say something other than Back to Course, etc (I've had these built into custom Moodle formats for Cisco, Intel, and Scholastic, by the way and the answer is that the course format should always print it for every module, except when it doesn't make sensesmile). So we don't do it because it requires more cases, and more testing in different scenarios, and that is hard -building good UI is hard.

But its a great UI/UX element because it makes it easier for the students to use the software. 

By the way, while I was typing this Davo posted about his navigation buttons hack below. That is a great example of what I am saying above - make things simple and easy for students and they will have more brain power available to learn the material. Now if we could get that functionality into core or at least not requiring a core hack to implement (because many many users can't hack core). 

 

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Michael,

I've been a software engineer since 1994 and a fully qualified teacher since 2003 (11-18).  I have taught all ranges of abilities both staff and students in ICT and introduced Moodle to a school of around 1500 students and 110 staff, both from the novice training to figuring out LDAP authorisation via Active Directory.

I 'do' understand where the novice user is comming from and attempt as much as possible to make the UI's I create as easy as possible for the user.  But, some engineers do not because of lack of exposure and not ability.  Therefore it really bugs me when users moan about software and then don't explain what they want or expect it to be fixed / updated in minutes.  Software engineering is hard, really hard and users do not appreciate how difficult it can be to make something work correctly such as a drop down box which can take days when a user thinks it's ten minutes work with one hand tied behind their back.  And because it is hard it is possible to loose yourself in the complexity of the solution and go so deep as to not see the surface UI and that is where problems can happen.  Therefore a good design is essential, but that needs to be stated up front and worked out rather than 'can it do this please...' and expect it to be done.

In working with users and learning the Agile process it is evident that often users don't know what they want until they use something they don't like.  Before then they cannot explain exactly what they want because they don't actually know.  They need a negative to understand what makes a positive.

The 'breadcrumb' is a good idea, just like the ribbon in MS Word etc.  It's just a matter of getting over the 'fear of change' and learning something new.  This is a two sided thing, engineers need to understand users more and users need to understand technology more without either side baulking like a rabbit trying to outstare a truck.

I have good ideas all the time of what will make the software better for the user and am often asked to make improvements - such as changeable grid sizes for the Grid Format.  But despite being 'wanted' it is not there yet because of the effort involved and that is down to available 'free' time and not because I'm lazy.

Therefore, please can both camps educate and have patience with the other in the drive of the common goal of Moodle.

Cheers,

Gareth

P.S.

You may have noticed that at no time did I say you 'should' do something I have only implied that it 'could' be done as I have not made any false assumptions about you and your experience.  'Could' requests that it is more made apparent if it is done already.  Sorry if this is over the top but saying 'you should do this' to a teacher without knowing the full story is like trying to tickle a sleeping Polar Bear.  Teachers in a classroom are right even when they are wrong because they hold full responsibility for everything that happens.

 
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Picture of Bob Puffer
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

+1 for Michael -- I think there's unbelievably ample evidence of users putting forth ideas for improvement along with their complaints.  Many of the ones I've seen are still untouched by the developers.  Michael hit the main complaint nail on the head of it needing to be "simple and easy".  if this was a core principle of developers' design we'd be well on our way serving millions of more students and teachers effectively.  Take a look at Canvas from Instructure, please, without saying it was a ground-up design -- Moodle was supposed to be totally rewritten for 2.x which is what we were waiting two+ years for.  Students and teachers find it "simple and easy"right out of the box -- its why it has won some very major deals with large schools in North America where Moodle was not even in the running.

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Bob,

Canvas is an interesting product, I cannot seem to download and install it even though it's Open Source which is claimed to be good (http://www.instructure.com/compare-higher-education) but in a practical reality you are lost when the internet connection dies or it's overloaded or the route to the servers and back is conjested.  I did attempt to look at the videos on http://guides.instructure.com/s/2204/m/4151 but they don't play because of a 'trademark complaint in my country'.

However, perhaps if Moodle is on the back foot then a kick up the **** is a good thing every now and then.

Moodle 2 is much better than 1.9 and is getting better by the week.  But things do take time.  Moodle HQ has 28 employees (http://moodle.com/hq/team/) and Canvas has 150 full time developers (http://www.instructure.com/about-us) and venture capital funded so therefore the capability of progress cannot logically be so great despite the efforts of community developers like myself who create additions mostly for free and Moodle partners.

With software it is always far easier to create something new and fresh from scratch.  It is always much harder to maintain momentum and adapt.

I have used Moodle, Blackboard and another LMS that I believe has now died because it was so bad and of the three Moodle is the best.

Who knows what will survive, watch this space.

Cheers,

Gareth

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Hi gareth,

You can download Canvas from their git page https://github.com/instructure/canvas-lms/wiki although looking through their instructions they may need a bit of upadting as they state they are based on the latest Ubuntu LTS release 10.04 - the actual latest Ubuntu LTS release is 12.04 released April last year, even though they state that their architecture allows them "to be updated with new features and bug fixes faster and more often" smile

Richard

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dear Richard,

Thanks for that smile - I have a virtual Ubunti 10.04 knocking around somewhere.  Interesting that they say 'Debian Squeeze' I wonder if it will run on a Raspberry Pi.  I have managed to get Moodle working on a Pi if I used an external hard disk to speed up storage access - it did sort of work, but more like a ZX Spectrum with tape drive load responsiveness.

Thanks,

Gareth

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

The big difference between Canvas and Moodle is not the number of developers (note that they say 150 employees on the page you linked to - most of of those not developerssmile). If you add all the staff at all the Moodle Partners, the number of people employed by Moodle is much bigger than Canvas.

I'm no huge fan of Instructure the company, by the way. IMO they went Open Source just to be able to check a box off on a RFP.

 

The big difference is there is a prototyped design for features in Canvas before code gets written. Its design driven software - that doesn't take venture funding, that takes a change of point of view from users as moaners to users as partners in acheiving great design.

There is a science to design, people study it. What do you think about the issue of UI based Cognitive Load I raised above?

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

Well, I went and read your link about people complaining about Moodle. Michael and from my point of view reading those complaints, its generally the tutors who should be taken out and shot not Moodle.

Proper information not being provided for students, using a really naff looking theme that doesn't work properly and so many more of the complaints are ALL issues which are easily rectifiable within an institution or even by an individual tutor.

If people don't like the standard theme that appears when you first install moodle - try one of the 50+ others which are all available either in core or as downloads from moodle's own site. Don't like any of them? design your own or pay a designer or company to create one bespoke for you (at a cost far lower than installing certain commercial alternaitives in the first place!) You can build the cost of modifications like this into your initial planning for moodle and still come out way ahead of others in the cost stakes! Take a look around at some of the fantastic UI/front ends/Themes which are in use in the thousands of institutions using Moodle for some examples.

And I really do despair when i read (and deal with in my current job and previous ones) where people state they hate Moodle/Blackboard/Canvas/Wordpress/XYZsite because the information they need isn't on there - as seems to be the case in so much of the page you linked to (rather than focussing on the UI and navigation scheme in the point I believe you were making). I hear this from students on a regular basis and have to point out that Moodle/XYZsite does not provide the content, does not set the assignments, timescales or any thing else. That is the responsibility of the tutors using it! And yes - I have dealt with exactly the same complaint from people using a wide variety of other LMS/CMS systems as well.

Personally, i don't like the default settings out of the box in Moodle, or Wordpress or Drupal, Joomla or any others I have worked with. But then neither do I see very many sites that do use those defaults without some changes.

Again as a personal opinion (and being VERY aware that others will have different opinions!), I don't particularly want to have to find a 'Return to Course' button at the end of an activity/module - what if that activity is over multiple pages or invokes the 'scroll of death' and I need/want to switch back and for between activities and my course page in the middle? I can think of any number of situations where I would not want to go to the end of an activity to find that Return to Course link. If an activity all fits on one page and I can see the bottom and there's a big Return to Course button there, I'm sure I would find it useflu - but if that activity involves scrolling down the page - very often I will have scrolled it so i can see the last line - I'm not worried about what's in the footer or anything and I wouldn't see that nice big user friendly button because it wouldn't be on my screen. At the same time that doesn't mean it shouldn't be there for those that do want it - I just don't think comparing that with other methods and saying one is right and this other is wrong and implying that it obstructs learning is very helpful.

So many matters of UI design are personal and based around what someone is used to. My own experience is that when i want to move to another page, my eyes flick back to the top left of a screen automatically - its where the browser back button is in most cases, its where breadcrumbs normally are (and I often find myself wishing a site had breadcrumb navigation to use when they dont!) and its where my eyes would go to type a new url.

I feel there is a massive case of 'what you are used to' in any design - how many people hated the Word Ribbon at first because they were used to the previous style menus (I still hate it because I'm more used to using LibreOffice) That doesn't mean its wrong/bad design, just that people took time to get used to change.

Theme designers, contributors and hq developers all work very hard to get the designs RIGHT for their users - is any website/LMS perfect? I would say no. But when a system uses a fairly standard navigation tool such as breadcrumbs I don't think we are talking about asking people to become 'Moodle experts and learn about our sort of breadcrumb navigation method'! Is there a place for alternatives - of course there is. But that doesn't mean what's there right now is bad (in my opinion!)

Richard

 

PS I have to say I'm not totally surprised that the site you linked to is closing - a site which appears to be set up to provide space for people to swear at and loudly complain about whatever they want (89% of all users on the site 'hating' something) and a site which has stats such as that for Sakai - 56% love and 44% hate based on 393 opinions and yet could only show me 1 positive and 1 negative comment is fairly likely to struggle to make it pay! Maybe its because I'm not signed up (and I'm not going to to such a negative site!) and yet it shows me a full page of +ve comments for Moodle and 2 full pages of -ve ones? Perhaps finding a link to a rather more balanced site (I'm talking generally not about this specific issue - one which does not appeared to be aimed specifically at 'haters') may be useful and one which focuses on the UI issues you are posting about? Preferably one which encourages a debate rather than just the spleen-venting which appears to be evident on that site. Statistics can be very useful in a debate, but when they are as obviously skewed as those on that link, they can also be detrimental to the valid points being made.

R

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

You can tell the breadcrumb is bad UI by using eye tracking & studying cognitive load research.

The interface of the software should interfere wih the user's focus, right? The UI should make the student stop learning and remember how to navigate the software, we need to make sure their have a high cognitive load, or it won't be challenging.  

Now heres the thing. Moodle's breadcrumb is just fine for expert users. Thats why we all like it. I LOVE it, I really do. I thought it was awesome in 2003, and I still use it nearly every single day without even thinking about it. But students, they mostly hate it. Don't listen to me, watch them try to use it. 

When your students have developed courses, plug-ins, themes, for Moodle for 10 years, they will love it too, and use it without thinking about it at allsmile.

But, sadly most users of Moodle are not experts. Most of them never become experts, in fact. Even teachers who have been through multiple classes of Moodle trainers much better than I am, many never become experts. The kids on amplicate hating it are mostly novice users of Moodle. And why should they become experts at using the software that is delivering them their learning material? They have enough to learn with Math and Grammer, their minds, their visual channels, their working memory, its all already overloaded trying to remember who Pythagoras was and whether his theorum or his troubles in Croton are more important.

A simple interface that doesn't take the student away from processing what they are learning will help your students learn bettersmile. Its research basedsmile. Put a big button telling them what to do next so they don't have to stop thinking about what you just told them, and they will be more likely to understand it.

And, that button, its not for me, and its not for yousmile.

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks Marina - I am investigating now.

re "Next / Back" buttons in Modules, many activities and resources have them already.

For example, book has arrows in each direction, lessons have buttons set by the tutor, quiz navigation is set by Moodle.

It may be too late or need too much resource to change this, so no worries, but having the ability for a common in course and in module navigation (where possible) is I believe a good aim.

 
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Davo
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

In case it is relevant, I wanted to add a quick mention of my navigation buttons block ( https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=block_navbuttons ) which adds next / previous buttons to the bottom of each activity page.

This doesn't use the new Moodle 2.4 hooks, as the plugin predates those hooks by quite some time (there is a Moodle 1.9 version available). Instead it, unfortunately, has to use a small 2-line core modification instead (which could be replaced by a renderer, except that renderers can only be overridden from within a theme, which isn't much help if you are using one of the standard themes or want the override to be theme-independent).

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks again Marina - wish I had noticed / found this earlier

Some of the code I've written for "Custom Menu" is probably better moved back into course format, but a lift and shift should tidy it up too.

Is there a course format already using this new capability that I could review and learn from?

Best regards

Brian

 
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Brian
Re: Page per Section - How to embed Activities directly rather than as a URL
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

And ignore the last comment, as you have loaded test code already in preparation.  Sorry to be a pain, and please note you have been extremely proactive and helpful Marina!!

 
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