Future major features

Moodle Forums......

 
Picture of Mark Andrews
Moodle Forums......
 

Hi all,

I know this question has popped up a few times in the past but, is there a tangible development plan for the moodle forums?

If nothing is currently in the works could we perhaps form a working group to look into; possible developments, tidying up the open tracker jobs, etc...

I've done some casual looking in the docs and tracker and can see it's mentioned on the dev roadmaphas a dev page with some quite radical and neat development ideas on and am aware there has been a moodle forums V forumNG debate going on.

We're going to be funding an add-on for forums that would add basic readling list (or read it later) functionality and would ideally like this to tie into wider developments (if any are planned).

Cheers

Mark

 

 

 
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Martin Dougiamas
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Testers

I've been looking at Forum NG but I'm worried about migrating everything to it as a replacement for /mod/forum.  It will be quite a lot of work. 

It appears that it would be easier and safer to upgrade the current forum code, possible using "Advanced Forums", but making sure of this is a work in progress.  Which reminds me to make a issue about it!    MDL-39707

About your "read it later" feature, is there a spec?  Are you think of a generic bookmark-type function per page or some sort of checkboxes per post?

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Have you got any notes about what you found looking at ForumNG.

Your comments about migration are back-to front according to my experience. Two examples:

1. Question engine upgrade from 2.0 -> 2.1. That was an in-place upgrade such as you are proposaing. It was a bloody nightmare to code, and was a major head-ache for admins. It is still causing problems today: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=228226

2. New assignment module in 2.3. That was a new module beside the existing one, with a migration script that could be run at any time, one course at a time. That has been remarkably trouble-free, from what have seen in the forums.

forum -> forumng would be an example of 2., and seems like the easiest option to me. We had migration code in Moodle 1.9, but it has bit-rotted now. Still it was not that hard to code.

 
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ME
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Having worked on Advanced forums for the last 5 years, ever since HSU first created it as a patch to core forums, I can say it would not be like the question engine upgrade in 2.1.

It is a patch to core that adds additional functionality. There would be no conversion process it would just be adding functionality to existing code. The only reason it is a separate module at the moment is because we were unsure how core wanted to proceed with forums and our clients demanded the extra functionality ASAP. So to be able to maintain it long term and allow clients to also use Moodle forums that would upgrade with Moodle core's decisions we made a separate activity.

We have kept Advanced forums up to date with all changes to Moodle core forums as well. It would be a drop in solution not a conversion or migration. In the code for Advanced forums you should be able to replace hsuforum with forum and slap it on top of forum and it will work.

 
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Picture of Mark Andrews
Re: Moodle Forums......
 

Hi Martin,

Many thanks for your response. 'Advanced forums' functionality seems to add a nice set of additional functions. But I was quite excited by the content of:http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Forum The idea of being able to; label posts under pre-defined categories, use them anywhere etc.. would be great on many fronts.

Regarding our 'read it later' spec we've got some more detailed documentation and will be meeting with our developers next week but as a brief overview please see below:

Goals:

  • To develop something that is really easy to use
  • Not alter core-code
  • Not be too tied to forums, so that it could be added to other areas of moodle.
  • be a temporary 'working area' for storing interesting bits, not as a personal library for posts.

Bookmarking a post

Next to posts is an icon that the user clicks on, when clicked a pop-up shows allowing the user to; add a due-date and set colour to post. When added the icon reflects that the post has been bookmarked.

Removing a bookmarked post (in situ)

User clicks on icon next to post. a pop-up then allows the user to remove the post from their reading list.

Managing List

Users can get to this interface from any moodle page (there will be a link in the menu bar).

It allows for filtering and searching of list by; text search, colour, who posted (faculty or group).

From here users can click to view a preview of the posts (detailed below)

Preview post

A 'light box' prevew of the post from which the user can:

  • 'View in context' - this will take the user to the forum
  • Edit & remove from list (by using the icon next to the post, as above)

 

Any Feedback would be greatly appreciated, as mentioned in my previous post would be really good to know or develop a roadmap for the forum tool - am happy to help if I can.

Thanks

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 
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ME
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Looks pretty nice. With advanced forums we coded it up such that multiple flag types could be added. it works much like how you have it only without the date overlay. The major miss is no display of those bookmarking types.

I think this spec would be a huge enhancement.

Are there any communications or alerts around the due dates? I am nto seeing how that fits in the system. It isn't part of my reading list.  It would be good if that date was part of my reading list and was sortable. It would also be good if the my reading list was expandable so that a user could read the post inline and remove it from the list. This would quickly allow them to resolve the reading list.

Other ideas would be a way to auto populate a reading list. So at the forum or discussion level set a auto add new posts to my reading list similar to subscriptions.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Surely Martin this process of migration would be quite database intensive, but actually straightforward, like a simple mapping of forum settings and transfer of post data.  I'm not sure if this is a showstopper.

I've been waiting to see the outcome of a conversation between you and Sam's boss.  I notice you have some problems with NG's code.  I'd be interested in what this means.

And also the interface. (Cluttered).  Point taken, but in a hypothetical future with NG, this is surely part of the process.  Really, where is the adequate evaluation of NG.

Re Advanced forums.  I have not seen these, so I have no point of comparison.  I am interested to note this tracker item: https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-39707 (evaluating Advanced forums for incorperating into Moodle core) and https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDLSITE-1910 (some for Moodle.org)

I'm concerned that putting effort into cobbling together enhancements for Standard forums are making decisions by default, and it will be using valuable coding time.  I wonder what has bumped subscriptions to be 'critical' for Moodle.org, which I see as a philosophical shift.  I support this: but not at the cost of clear thinking on a way ahead with forums.

I've also noticed this: https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/CONTRIB-3681 where Sam has basically moved on with work on this thing (an evil hack that I have no idea of the significance of it).  I hope this does not mean development of NG is stalled outside OU for migration to future versions of Moodle.

My final comment: we've had a number of conversations about the functionality of the ideal forum.  Here we come to the old issue of one person's vital is another person's essential.  How we come to consensus about this is still a question.  I've had my say about this elsewhere (drafts, 1<>1 options, inline, tags etc) but we could be wasting time developing lots of single issue developments and merely bolting them onto existing forums.

Is there anywhere public where we can check out MR advanced forums?  Is there something in the way of user notes?

I do not think we should underestimate the significance of this issue of getting a decent forum into Moodle core.  In Most settings, online, forums are a key component of an LMS.  Functionality, simplicity and power (or lack of it) is a big factor in how easy it is for tutors and lecturers to manage dialogue.  Just one illustration of what I mean.  Currently, click reply and you loose the view of the whole thread.  The inline reply of an AJAX version has huge power for many users.  To say OK, use tabs, cut and paste etc is fine, it puts a consistent overhead on the activity of everybody.

We have yet to have any discussions on what the best for the end user really is in terms of the learning and interaction.

Is this correct? - our options fix existing forums (may incorperating some bits like AF from MR) (maybe getting input from HSU read later etc) or incorperate NG (after a develop) and offer a migrate process.

Off my soapbox now.  As with Buddy, we are also following this conversation with interest.

-Derek

 

 
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ME
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Moodlerooms Advanced forums can be used at http://demo2k12.moodlerooms.com/.

Organizations interested in Joule features and possible hosting can also request a 15 day trial of Joule as well. The 15 day trial will be their own site to play with where the above link is like demo.moodle.org and gets recreated every 12 hours. There are also several videos on Youtube just search for advanced forums.

Both of these options provide a demo of all of the features we are suggesting be part of Moodle core, activity grading interface, advanced forums, alerts and streams, and outcomes (as of July 13th when we release it to our clients).

Because advanced forums is a separate forum type we have never recreated the forum search functionality or the display posts in the user's profile. This would all come by moving Advanced forums back to a core forum. As I said the migration would be as simple as search and replace hsuforum with forum in the code.

Nothing currently exists in Advanced forums for user notes beyond adding the notes block to a forum. https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-39707 lists all the features that have been added beyond core forums with the exception of manual grading through the activity grader interface. Which as Martin stated is not included because AGI is not in core.
As for the lose of the reply I agree that is the one feature that Forum NG has the I want to add to Advanced forum's nested view. It is my opinion that if you combine Forum NG's inline reply with Advanced forum's Nested view (AJAX load of forum and replies on demand) you would never use any other forum view unless you were visually disabled.

One thing that both advanced forums and forum NG fail at is an accessible view of the forums. I have seen nothing from OU in this respect for forums, but I know we will be implementing this functionality by August in advanced forums. Again as per the ticket above the design will be based on http://blog.bargirangin.com/2013/03/a-model-for-accessible-lms-discussion.html. I still need to get a public specification for this, working towards this by the first week of June. Multiple display options to me is a huge advantage of advanced forums over forum NG. A user is allowed to pick a view of the forums that is most productive for them.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Jason, I will check this out at the weekend.  (Busy in a big writing project at the moment)

Accessibility: just because we haven't seen anything from OU doesn't mean they have not got something.  They often have in house tweaks and addons to solve problems the rest of us live with.

Re other comments + information, food for thought, THANKS.

-Derek

 

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Some of the folks in the OU's Institute of educational technology are experts on accessibility and assistive technologies.

The regularly review parts of our VLE, and since Forum NG is one of the main tools used by students, it has been reviewed several time, and the accessibility problems fixed.

(IET reviews and testing have also fed into accessibility improvements in core Moodle over the years.)

So, if nothing else, ForumNG is very accessible.

The other area where ForumNG has more features than standard forum (in addition to student-visible features that everyone wants like subscribe to thread) is in the moderation features. Some of our courses are very big, and have very high traffic, and we insist on moderating them, sometime by teams of people. So, for example, when a post is 'deleted' by one moderator, it is actually only hidden, and another moderator could review that decision, and undelete the post. You can also delete any post, even if it has been replied to. You can subscribe to a group in a forum, if you have access to multiple groups and don't want to subscribe to everything.

Another point to make is that a lot of forumNG functionality is implemented using the 'ForumNG feature' sub-plugin type. By default there is a lot of functionality, and if you don't need it all, you could remove some sub-plugins. (Some of the sub-plugins are quite specific to how the OU does things. We recognise that.)

 
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Picture of Mark Andrews
Re: Moodle Forums......
 

Hi all,

 

Some interesting comments in here; regarding forumNG, advanced forums, various functionalities, accessibility and usability etc…. All of which bring me back to my original question: 

'is there a tangible development plan for the moodle forums?'

Based on the discussion it seems not. But there does seem to be people with ideas, and some with solutions.

So I guess the next question is:

How to move this forward? - should we be looking to simply update the current forum tool with the advancements in forumNG, Advanced forums and other developments or look to build a new tool that takes these factors into account plus adds some best practice functionalities from forum(esq) tools from the web.

Thoughts, ideas?

Cheers

Mark

 PS. We're meeting with Catalyst IT later this week to discuss the technicalities of the 'reading list' functionality, perhaps when we have a technical design we can post here for comment/discussion.

 
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Picture of Mark Andrews
Re: Moodle Forums......
 

Hello,

Earlier in this thread I outlined some bookmarking forum post functionality that we we're planning on having developed. To close the loop I thought I would post an update.

We now have the first iteration of this tool live for our participants initial indications seem to show it's going to be useful. I'd be keen to hear if others would find this useful, or how it could be further development enhanced - would it even be useful for core inclusion?

Regards

Mark

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums......
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

The bookmarks Mark?  Did they ever get finished?  Are they available as a plugin?

-Derek

 
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Picture of Mark Andrews
Re: Moodle Forums......
 

Hi Derek,

Yes it did - hopefully the demo video higher up in the thread shows it in action. We were really quite pleased with how it works.

I understand the development was a local plugin but did require an additional line into core so I guess would not be a neat plugin. However, my recollection was that if forums implemented renderers then it would be possible to make it a 'clean' plugin.

We did discuss at the time submitting it to core, but, unfortunately i'm not sure if that happened. I've left that role so doubt if I would be able push it any further forward.

However, if it's felt that this could make contact and see if there would be the possibility of this.

Apologizes for my slightly unclear comment.


Best

Mark

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Martin, I'm curious where this is up to at the moment.  Is there anything in the pipeline for 3.0??

There are two hanging questions here that you have not responded to in this forum, but may have been addressed elsewhere.

  1. Sticky posts: There are patches here waiting for something: https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-372
  2. Renderers: Jetha Chan has some work on the go here: https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-45862 that seems to be fundemental to other movements.
  3. Reports for a foumhttps://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-8 one of the oldest tracker items may be easier now with new API changes?
  4. Accessibility?  https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-41773  I don't understand this much, but I know it is an issue.
  5. Edit inline: Personally, I'd love to see Inline posting addressed as well.  I've watched students try to engage in a forum thread and have to use two windows.  https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-33692

I guess 1) is the most ready.  Just needs patches to be evaluated.

Having made the decision that ForumNG is not good enough, Moodlerooms advanced forums is not good enough, having got editor save draft, and email to forum, how about just a little progress in this current cycle to assist in the core Moodle forum development?  One or two of these issues maybe?

-Derek

 
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Picture of Conn Warwicker
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
 

I'm thinking about writing a new forum plugin to be honest, which would implement most of these requested features, to make it much more like proper forum software like invision boards, phpbb, etc... as there is so much more that could be done with these forums. 


 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

What, another one? https://moodle.org/plugins/view/mod_forumng and https://moodle.org/plugins/view/mod_hsuforum already exist.

ForumNG has all the features mentioned, I think.

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Tim is right about ForumNG. I have tried to see this included in core. The only problem is versions. It is currently only up to version 2.7. 

- Derek

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

ForumNG for Moodle 2.8 certainly exists. We have been running it at the OU for the last few months. And we are just testing ForumNG with Moodle 2.9 now. Apologies if we have failed to push the latest versions to the plugins DB.

 
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Picture of Andrew Nicols
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Core developersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Testers

Hi Derek,

Apologies for the delay in my reply. I've had a very busy few months and some of my forum subscriptions have fallen behind.

Regarding your first question, I was really hoping to get some Forum changes in for Moodle 3.0. I have been actively working on User Disguises (formerly Anonymous Forum - MDL-1071). This is a work-in-progress and I have a working prototype with basic functionality already. I hope to be able to set aside a week at some point to try and finish my prototype and get some initial feedback.

Regarding your specific items:

1) Sticky posts

Sticky posts are an interesting one. There have been a number of patches along the way, and the latest from Charles looks pretty good. He has already identified an integration blocker regarding it. The main blocker though is that Sticky Posts do not have a pedagogical purpose.

The Moodle Forum is intended to be a single-use forum. You use it to discuss a single topic, and any essential information which would be found in a Sticky Post should be in the forum description. This is a view that Martin has put forward at various points, and has re-iterated in discussion about this feature.

Personally, I can see a place for this kind of functionality, but I think that it is also highly dependent upon the ability to freeze discussions in real-usage. The pedagogical use to me is that individual discussions can be pinned as important for those students coming back to view the content again later.

2) Renderables / Renderers / Templates

I've attempted to work on this numerous times too. Jetha has recently done so, but he has now moved on to greener pastures over in Japan. Again, this is one of the features I am really keen to work on and to finish. I deliberately held off on doing this work until the new template system arrived, which it did in Moodle 2.9. Now it is here, I simply haven't had any time to pick this up again. I started looking at it again 2 weeks ago.

Personally I see this as the biggest blocker to all forum changes and this has my highest priority.

3) Reports for forum

I'm really hoping that someone can define more of what they want here. With the new logging systems, we should be able to do more. I would love to close this (it's the oldest open Moodle issue), but other items are higher on my personal list. A decent specification for this item would bump it up the chain significantly.

4) Accessibility

This is very related to item 2. It's also one that is high on our radars. I have tried to address this before at the same time as 2, but I think this made things too complicated and ultimately led to the problems that I was having. I think that this needs to be completed once we have 2 in place, but hopefully straight after.

5) Edit inline

Again, very dependent upon the templates, but also on our forms library in general.


To my mind, 2 is the most important because it also enables a host of other things:

  1. ability for designers to change the DOM structure
  2. improved accessibility (4)
  3. allows templating of forum e-mails too
  4. easier to add new features like sticky posts (1), and user disguises


I'm sorry that we haven't made as much progress on the forum as we would like. I am actively trying to improve the forum. The forum is an incredibly complicated module, largely because it supports so many use-cases and has so many diverse and inter-connected features (multiple groups + grouping modes, multiple distinct types of forum with different features and functionality, email out, subscriptions to both discussion + whole module, digests, post read tracking, rss, etc.). This complexity is often forgotten, and I suspect that when I look at the code for the sticky discussions, this will be the case there too - it simply doesn't make sense to pin posts in a blog forum for example.

Hope that helps explain the state of play,

Andrew

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Andrew, thanks.  There is some hope and some encouragement in  there

Your comment . . . .

3) Reports for forum
I'm really hoping that someone can define more of what they want here. With the new logging systems, we should be able to do more. I would love to close this (it's the oldest open Moodle issue), but other items are higher on my personal list. A decent specification for this item would bump it up the chain significantly.

I'll get right onto this.  I'll start with a few common use cases and go from there.  Tx

-Derek


 
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Picture of Andrew Nicols
Re: Moodle Forums Enhancements . . . | Where are we up to?
Group Core developersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developersGroup Testers

Great, thank you Derek! That will really help.

 
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