I'm hoping to get some feedback for some work I'm currently planning relating to forums. This is work intended for Moodle 2.7 and at this stage is research-based to determine the possible requirements and scope of the work.
One of the longest requested features in Moodle has been the ability to subscribe to a single discussion rather than a whole forum, and this is something that I'm looking to implement. This was originally requested in MDL-1626.
My request for feedback is initially to assess how the discussion subscriptions should work in combination with existing forum subscriptions and related features.
When a user is subscribed to a whole forum, I see two potential options for this feature:
- you are not presented with the option of subscribing to an individual discussion if you are already subscribed to the forum as a whole; or
- you have the option of subscribing to a discussion, even if you are already subscribed to the whole forum.
Although 1) seems initially appealing because it reduces the complexity of the interface and reduces what initially seem like redundant options (that is to say that it seems pointless to subscribe to a discussion that you're already subscribed to), I suspect that 2) may actually be the better option as I'll explain below.
We've supported the ability to have an e-mailed forum 'Daily Digest' for a very long time in Moodle, which means that from their profile setting a user can select whether they want to receive:
- one e-mail per forum message;
- a single e-mail containing the subject of all forum posts made during a day; or
- a single e-mail containing the full content of all messages sent during a day.
These latter two options are the Daily Digests, and are currently sent once per day.
Since Moodle 2.6, we have additionally supported the ability to have a different digest setting for each specific forum. This means that you can choose to receive an e-mail per forum message as your default setting for most forums, but have a daily digest option for some forums which aren't as relevant to you.
We could extend these existing subscription states to allow a user to receive a range of interaction levels depending on their interest and requirements. So if their profile digest option is to receive an Subject-only daily digest a user can override this for a specific forum, or a specific discussion within a forum.
As an example, we'll take Jeff. Jeff is a Humanities lecturer at the University of Life. His department is very large; he has many students and teaches on ten to twenty modules per year.
Jeff teaches some of these courses as the main tutor and wants to receive every forum post as soon as possible because he takes an active interest in his specific subject matter and wants to interact with his students.
He is also a guest lecturer on a couple of other introductory courses which cover many aspects of the subject. Since he only takes part in the occasional lecture for these courses, he doesn't really follow the discussions as actively. He'd like to receive a daily digest with the subject of each message so that he can skim them in case there are questions relating to his lectures or his research areas.
When he spots these posts, he wants to be able to take part in the conversation more actively. He doesn't want to wait until the daily digest arrives and look for the specific subject, but to receive each message as soon as possible. In order to do so, he subscribes to the individual discussions. He now receives one e-mail per post on the discussion, but for all other posts on the forum he still gets a daily digest.
He's also on a faculty noticeboard in another course which he must read, but rarely has to reply to. For this forum, he wishes to recieve a daily digest with the complete content. This way, he can read the entire discussion at a time convenient to him.
In addition to the above argument, and arguably more importantly for students, since forum subscriptions can be forced upon a user I feel that it's important to give users the ability to determine the level of their personal involvement whilst still receiving e-mail notifications.
Having a granular level of digest and subscription states would cater for both of the above.
In terms of the User Interface, I've attached some very brief mockups for areas we might change initially. There will be other areas to consider, including the e-mail footer, and discussion views. In summary though, we will need to update interfaces:
- when creating a post (either a reply, or a new discussion topic):
- add the ability to subscribe to the discussion; and
- remove the ability to subscribe to the whole forum; and
- add a status view with toggle capability to the discussion list.
I'd love to hear any views others may have in this area - both positive and negative. If you have any other considerations you think we need to take on board, or have an alternative proposal for example.
Thank you in advance,