[Edit: Richard Oelmann - Discussion split from https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=253429#p1100978 in order to carry on a useful discussion separate from that initial thread]
For the risk of going completely off topic, I want to add my subtle rant to this topic.
The issue here is not Moodle, it is bad admin setup.
It is often said that Moodle's strength, and weakness, is its range of features. The strength is that it allows us to customise the system and courses to exactly what we want. The weakness is the confusion. So why am I blaming Admin? Here is why.
Moodle provides numerous areas where Admins can enable/disable functionality as well as setting defaults.
No organisation uses all the features. Why have them all on? The admin should customise the site to the needs of the organisation. How can we do this. Some examples are below:
- Disable/enable plugins based on what you need moodle to do.
Blocks can be culled very easily. As can many other plugin types.
- Set defaults
Plugins as well as course settings can have default settings. Don't force educators to have to change numerous options every time they create. Find what 80% plus use and set the defaults to that level. This is very useful at the course default level
- Customise your plugin settings
Many plugins in Moodle allow you to "hide" settings in the "show advanced" toggle. Not removing them completely, but removing them from the initial view. This enables power users but makes things far less confusing for beginners
- Create custom permissions
Another way of limiting how many options appear to a user is to change/create custom permissions. Most organisations don't fit into the seven standard Moodle roles. And why should they? Every organisation is different. Customise moodle's feature set based on the real world roles your organisation has.
- Create course templates
Now personally I hate the idea of course templates. I find template based courses are forced to make too many assumptions around how a course should be delivered. That being said, to many new users who don't know where to start, this can be a god send. (P.S. course templates are a simple use of Moodle's backup/restore function)
- Create a help course
This is so obvious and yet done by only 10% of sites I come across. Support your educators! It is a simple idea isn't it. You don't even have to make all the content yourself. At the lowest level link to relevant Moodle docs. Check out the how to's on the Moodle YouTube channel. But you should do MORE than that. Invest some time every week to create your own videos and documentation. Don't magically expect your users to magically absorb information from the Knowledge Unicorn as it flies past dropping sugary sweet candies of perfection and best practice as your educators sit in front of their screens of satisfaction. It just doesn't happen!
- Invest in PD
Another contentious statement. What? Moodle is free you say? Hell no! N system is free. Even if you are not paying for the software you need to invest in support. Training. Don't invest and expect no uptake!
I could go on...and I will in my next blog post. But in short, it is easy to blame a system for all your woes. Moodle IS complex. it IS detailed and it IS full of settings. But only as far as you want it to be.
Are you an Admin and never thought about any of this before? That is why YOU should be the first to be upskilled. How can YOU be responsible for a system YOU don't understand? Don't know how your educators are/should be using Moodle? Find out? Speak to them. Get involved in the process. My closing point is that being a Moodle administrator is NOT a technical role. It is just as heavily focused in understanding the pedagogy/andragogy of its intended application as much as the LDAP and security settings.
End of rant
(Edited by Richard Oelmann - original submission Sunday, 9 February 2014, 10:58 PM)
Wonderful off topic rant Julian! I'm with you completely. I find myself making these points on a weekly basis with various districts in my area. This would make a terrific blog post. When you make it I'll be sure to share it as widely as I can. I like the way you've organized all of it here. I hope you don't mind if I lift some of it (giving you credit of course) for a post of my own.
I believe that pretty much any confusion or feeling of being overwhelmed can be addressed by implementing what you've outlined here.
Same goes for what teachers can do for students. Last summer I went back to the classroom to teach for a program and about 3 weeks into the session a student turned to me and said, "I thought we were going to be doing our coursework in Moodle." She was quite surprised to find out that's what she'd been using all along.
So often teachers and students have a prior negative association with Moodle because of an organization's poor implementation, but once they see it used well they really like it.
It would be great if we could split this topic and continue this conversation with these posts!
Basic common sense, I'd say.
The problem lies both in the system itself, where its power and flexibility are also part of its weakness, and in the people who manage it, making the issue a bit complicated because there are so many factors to take into account.
For example, start with the fact that on the one hand are the people that have studied some computer system related area, and so have the fundamental understanding to act as a Moodle admin, and on the other are the ones that come from other areas but had to take or were given the role as admin. This is similar to what has happened in many other areas, like web design for example. Since Photoshop became widely available, many have become "Web designers" without actually having studied Web design.
Another point to take into consideration is the fact that while there are people who care and do their best to keep it working, there are those who don't, and even those who are totally against it.
It also seems that few people, companies or organizations, realize that taking care, even of a small sized Moodle installation, can really become a full time job, even without taking into account having to keep running in shape all the required components (the physical, web and data servers, etc.).
One of the biggest problems in my area (probably others as well), is that the IT Department in various organizations is just told to install Moodle. They install it and it just sits there without any attention to admin settings, professional development and support.
Where I've seen it be deployed well they have their IT Dept. install it and then someone from Curriculum takes it over for settings adjustments and support. When they need anything more complicated they work closely with IT to get what they need.
Yes, I've seen it and I agree completely. I'd say that for most system administrators, who are dealing with quite a number of activities, being instructed to install and take care of a new application becomes a matter of just installing it and saying, "there you go"; few have the time, energy or interest to do anything else beyond that. Unfortunately, not only administrators have to deal with that problem, it's the same for teachers, content creators, tutors and students, and all this brings us to most of the problems that we see here at the forums. Ironically enough, many of the users that complain about not being able to understand and use Moodle --at a very basic level--, are the same that we see using Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and such, like real experts
Interesting. I think as with most things in life everyone is going to have their pet 'but' about tools, team dynamics etc. Can't please everyone eh. That said, I would suggest there is always room for growth, evolution even- as to how teams perceive the roles of their team mates and how the team can function with a degree of understanding about what the other might need/know/be able to do/as well as limitations. For example, one might suggest there is room for development in terms of DEV-ADMIN-TEACHER-LEARNER-in terms of seeking shared meanings for practice and innovation.
Anyway....back to us all having our own 'but'...shall end with the words of one wise chap:
"Lynn's a good worker. But I suppose she's a bit like Burt Reynolds. Very reliable but she's got a moustache."