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Recommendations for Moodle core developers

 
 
Picture of Paolo Oprandi
Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Dear all,

The Sussex University e-learning team is passionate about education and supporting student learning through online tools. We really want Moodle to be an industry standard product that can meet the needs of educational institutions such as ours. We believe it has some way to go, but that it can yet achieve its goals. These are our recommendations for Moodle HQ:

1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more designers

2. Follow the Market leaders of social media

3. Focus on Moodle core functionality

4. Consider Moodle courses as a bespoke textbook

5. Navigation needs to be clear and clean

6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables

7. Moodle course administration needs to be improved

8. Make it easy to make content

9. Have notifications

10. Create a Moodle Lite

For an explanation of these suggestions please visit our blog. Please leave comments on it or discuss below.

Best wishes,

Paolo

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I'd like to profoundly disagree with one of the points in the blog

"Social media is adopted by people because it is easy and enjoyable to use. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ are used because they have the user interface right."

They have the interface of the dominant tools, and those tools are not necessarily dominant because of the interface. I do not find Facebook easy or enjoyable to use, I find Facebook to be a mixture of the ugly and incomprehensible, This is because I rarely do anything on it, I am just not used to its interface. I have recently joined Twitter, I have no idea how the interface works, or indeed what many of the options mean.

Moodle is not and should not be primarily filling the role of social media, but at the same time should not be reluctant to be inspired by it.

(Good Blog post by the way)

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Most interesting, thanks.

Found tooth-comb, need some time.

Back soon with my response.

Cheers,

Dawn

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Hello there,

as I said, really useful, thanks for this.

My response now follows:

1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more designers:

-I think this is already in place: Stuart L is with Moodle at the mo........

'If Moodle takes the advice of a similar UX designer they will be able to produce a highly usable Moodle that works for all sectors of the community'.

-What does this mean? Learners aged across the age-range of education or just HE?....does this include primary/secondary schools/FE?Having generic management system expertise is great-what about knowledge of the epistemological, ontological and contextual differences for L&T across educational age-groups that use Moodle globally? Sounds a bit narrow to me.  Perhaps see (just one example of many) what others in the community (share) are up to too:

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=226791

2. Follow the Market leaders of social media

Social media is adopted by people because it is easy and enjoyable to use. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ are used because they have the user interface right.

-Certainly not an ignored factor, on all fronts (dev/L&T/and so on). Agree with Marcus-yep inspirational stuff, but student data must always be a core consideration and related privacy issues, see an example of just some of the related threads from the Moodle.org community:

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=255236

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=197229

Our tutors deserve an interface that is intuitive so that they can focus on teaching and not Moodle course administration.

-Agree, and I like the admin separation idea. How this is translated across global educational practices remains to be outlined in more detail for it to work for me. Reason being, could run risk of an infrastructure where hierarchical powers end up dominating L&T instead of learner needs.

3. Focus on Moodle core functionality

Moodle core needs to be consolidated because the core of Moodle still isn't as good as it should be, including many of the "social constructivist” activity modules.

-Eh? Can you unpick this a bit more please? I get the consolidation bit...of course (perhaps a number of items could become hybridised into the one feature-and I have told HQ about this-linked with their Tracker system, but the educational-philosophical/pedagogical design of Moodle needs to be 'applied' during L&T...this kit doesn't do it for you and I am sure that text-book teaching and learning whether face-to-face or 'bespoke online' (not sure I get the difference between the book feature already in place, imho) will always run risk of a didactic approach-whether we like it or not-the students will lead that pathway for sure. And, there is nothing worse than students churning out regurgitated efforts-with the odd word change from such texts, which in turn reflects a complete lack of understanding and application of knowledge.

It should not spend time focusing on non-core features such as messaging and further integrations.

Fair point, how things are prioritised? I know Moodle HQ juggle that-all the time and rely on the community at Moodle.org, Conferences, Moots and research to inform decisions too...(hope you manage to spread the word there at Sussex, about the gradebook survey ;).

Remember, the core Moodle function for the core of Moodle adopters is to make it easy for non-technical teachers to create online content and activities from which students can learn.

-I am sorry Paolo, do forgive me here, tongue in cheek: 'ya don't say?' :0)

4. Consider Moodle courses as a bespoke textbook

At all levels of education, teachers refer to textbooks. The strength of systems like Moodle is that the non-technical teachers can create their own online textbooks, specifically for the curriculum they intend to cover.

Textbooks usually include activities to complete at the end of the chapter. In VLEs like Moodle, the activities they set can be varied, social and dynamic - more so than activities in a traditional textbook.

Martin D commented that our Moodle courses were just like the Book module. My reply is:

"Yes, and this is no surprise - we consider Moodle courses to be online textbooks tailored to the needs of the course's curriculum”

-I can only conclude this is context bound....not come across this before...and I am sure Martin would have said so otherwise (He gets to hear a lot about Moodle (LOL!).But nice ideas if they work, of course can only praise your innovation.

5. Navigation needs to be clear and clean

See my response for 4.

I am inclined to say this is all context bound, mind you we have colleagues here from Glasgow, OU, Wales, England and Ireland.....they might disagree with me in terms of the UK slant I am presenting here.

6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables

However, until Moodle is really an industry standard VLE/LMS, we need to keep focused on the core functionality and core user groups.

-Yes, I would agree with the need for more of a focus on accessibility in core, but I disagree that Moodle is not an educational- industry LMS, and standardising it too much defeats the object, sounds like you are talking about BB, in my experience of using both.

7. Moodle course administration needs to be improved

See my response for 2.

8. Make it easy to make content

We changed the interface in line with social media platforms so teachers intuitively create content-rich courses for their students.

-Nice touch, like and agree with all this section for 8.

9. Have notifications

Ditto, nice touch for section 9.

10. Create a Moodle Lite

Again, really lovely ideas here, which sound effective.

with my kind regards,

Dawn


 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Fascinating post.  Sort of blunt and to the point.

I could pick up on a few things I may differ with, but the general thrust of this is great, and worth some reflection.

I wonder if anyone is listening who has actually got some power or influence?

-Derek

 
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Picture of Joseph Rézeau
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
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1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more designers

Yes.

2. Follow the Market leaders of social media

Moodle is about pedagogy. As a pedagogue by profession, I am suspicious of concepts such as "Market" and "social media". And I also cringe at the expression "We really want Moodle to be an industry standard product". Pedagogy is not and (I hope) will never be an "industry".

3. Focus on Moodle core functionality

Yes

4. Consider Moodle courses as a bespoke textbook

No. Online teaching and learning is much more than a "textbook".

5. Navigation needs to be clear and clean

Of course. But we all know that is most difficult to achieve.

6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables

See point #10.

7. Moodle course administration needs to be improved

There is always room for improvement. You should specify which areas you have in mind.

8. Make it easy to make content

Yes but... making things easy is ... a difficult task. See point 10.

9. Have notifications

?

10. Create a Moodle "Lite"

How much light is light? Let me expand on that point. If the materials/contents interface has to be easy and simple, then it may be over-simplified and not present the end-user (materials creator) with all the existing options, with the (unintended) result that the end-user will never use those "hidden" options. That is a real danger.

Thanks for starting that discussion, Paolo.

Joseph

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Hi,

@Derek,

 'Sort of blunt and to the point.'  I have never come across a blunt point before :0)  (Bit of a stckler for the odd oxymoron DC eh).

@Joseph,

'Moodle is about pedagogy.'  Thank goodness!

&

"We really want Moodle to be an industry standard product". Pedagogy is not and (I hope) will never be an "industry".  Alas, education per se is, arguably an industry of which pedagogy sadly sits within.

&

I was once asked what the difference is between pedagogy and andragogy...my answer: two concepts that overlap in many ways.  My view is that the latter is a strategy within one's pedagogy...just my view though.

D



 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
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andragogy/pedagogy - pedagogy refers to children, andragogy to adults. At least thats what the notes from my Masters course say smile

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Richard, hi

a common misconception...the concept 'pedagogy' has evolved and is now often related to the science and/or art of teaching...the child-links were linked in the past, often, to Piaget's developmental theories and the etymology of the word...(greek-translation- origin)

Times, they do move on eh.

cheers,

Dawn

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Thanks for sharing Paolo. I agree with many of the points you made.

However...

Re: "4. Consider Moodle courses as a bespoke textbook

At all levels of education, teachers refer to textbooks. The strength of systems like Moodle is that the non-technical teachers can create their own online textbooks, specifically for the curriculum they intend to cover.

Textbooks usually include activities to complete at the end of the chapter. In VLEs like Moodle, the activities they set can be varied, social and dynamic - more so than activities in a traditional textbook."

And following on from Joseph's comment, "No. Online teaching and learning is much more than a textbook."

I've read and heard many curriculum development theorists and practitioners warn against the "text book" approach, e.g. Barbara Gross-Davis. My personal reasoning is that it constrains curriculum developers and teachers to a particular approach to learning and teaching, which is the tradtional view of "knowledge transmission", AKA "present->practise->produce". To me, this represents a particularly narrow view of learning and teaching theory and practice. Moodle is founded on a social constructivist view of learning and teaching (See: http://docs.moodle.org/26/en/Pedagogy ) which makes a sharp departure from the traditional view and is based on alternative theories of developmental psychology (Vygotsky, Piaget, Bruner, et al).

Declaring that an LMS should be more like a bespoke text book, encourages us to exclude and marginalise/or learning and teaching practices that are adaptive, emergentist, complex, socially oriented, self-directed, learner-centred, etc. (See: Malguzzi, Knowles, Schon, Gibbs, Brookfield, et al). A greatly simplified abstract explanation of this would be to say that, based on learners' backgrounds, previous learning experiences, and needs, curricula are co-created by (all) the course participants, as a course progresses, towards broadly defined learning outcomes in relation to central/core/essential questions of the discipline/subject matter. In order for this to happen, the power relationships between teachers/curriculum developers and learners (and administration) have to change.

Academics, who are professional researchers and not necessarily professional teachers, are often required to teach and may or may not be well informed in learning and teaching theory and practice (or be particularly happy about having to teach). The way that status, positions, and salaries are awarded in academia also reinforces a certain degree of indifference to teaching. Faculty who are interested enough to dedicate sufficient time and effort to develop broader, more informed views of learning and teaching, in my experience (across a number of universities in a range of countries), are in a small minority (They do it for personal interest alone since there's little or no recognition or status awarded for such efforts). The research I read and the conferences I attend appear to support this view. There are exceptions and maybe mainstream views are changing, and hopefully Moodle's core philosophy is helping to change that and inspiring more institutions to embrace more coherent efforts towards developing their teachers and teaching, e.g. http://research.moodle.net/mod/data/view.php?id=1

So yes, you can create online text books with Moodle if you wish, but this isn't it's primary philosophical goal, as far as I understand Martin Dougiamas' intentions.

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Agree Matt.

D

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Rather than

1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more designers

I suggest

1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more interaction designers

It's not about pretty it is about ease of use. There are bits of Moodle that I still find incomprehensible despite over 10 years obsessively fiddling with it.



 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

interaction designers? Do you mean peeps who have ideas about navigation/GUI or something else?

Ta

Dawn 

 
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Picture of Dean Leggo
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

I can understand the reason why people want to use Moodle as a textbook (that's what I'm doing). It is easy and how most of us learnt. I like how Moodle has been trying to break this model but without alienating new and existing users.

I just came back from 4 days of (climate change) activism training and the facilitation technique used is more like the social constructionist approach. Nearly everything were activities. They taught us a bit then with that little knowledge we did an activity and we kept on building on top of that and practising everything. We did brainstorming (mindmaps, popcorn, lists, etc), pair-sharing, role-playing, etc, and energisers to stay at the optimum learning mindset. Even with a dry topic like climate science there were a lot of activities for everyone to express what they heard to deeply understand it.

This type of learning can be moved online but it can be hard to facilitate activities when everyone is not online at once and trust can be hard to establish when you cannot see people.

The company I work for are creating 'text book' resources for students to use and the classes are more to actively learn the material then for the teacher to say what is in the book. For us Moodle is to be used as a delivery system for the resources. Hopefully in the future when we finalise the resources and classes, then we can make Moodle more of an active learning experience. But at the moment it is just a text book tongueout

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dean, you say: "This type of learning can be moved online but it can be hard to facilitate activities when everyone is not online at once and trust can be hard to establish when you cannot see people"

Hard maybe, but not that hard.  IMO, easier, much easier than you seem to think.

Icebreakers.  Personal profiles. Stories.

This is the art of online facilitation.  Google this.  Nancy White.  Amy Kim.  Gilly Salmons. Derek Wenmoth.  Bronwyn Heggarty. Ettienne Wenger. John Smith.  Leigh Blackhall.  etc. http://onlinefacilitation.wikispaces.com/History+and+Future+of+Online+Facilitation and this supports constructivist rather than 'spray and pray' approaches.

It is also "asynchronous".  You don't need to be online all at the same time.

And what does 'see' mean?

Your model sounds like a flipped classroom.

Just my 2c worth.  It is sad that a lot of corporate learning is still in this 'delivery' model.

-Derek

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Derek,

Yes, the difference between cultivating social presence (i.e. getting learners to perceive each other as human beings that they can trust and learn from) in face-to-face vs. online contexts isn't as great as many people seem to think.

However, I'd say that effectively implementing social constructivist oriented methods and cultivating the (pre-requisite?) climate of collaborative learning among cohorts of learners in both face-to-face and online contexts is far from easy. It takes a lot of awareness and skills that even professional teachers aren't usually trained in or necessarily develop in their careers.

Everyone knows and understands "spray and pray" teaching (love that expression BTW) but far fewer are as well versed in collaborative learning and the underlying principles that make the difference between mixed and mediocre results vs. consistent success in terms of learning outcomes. I think it makes little difference if courses are online or face-to-face, at least in higher and adult education. In other words, teachers need to know what they're doing and why.

 
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My ugly mug
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
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Hi, Paolo.

Thanks for your suggestions and opinions. I found your blog interesting reading and I encourage you to continue investigating, experimenting and contributing results to the community.

First let me start by saying that, while Moodle HQ has a leading role, your suggestions should be referred to the whole community. As an HQ employee don't say that to dodge blame, but to state that if change is needed, the community has to drive it there.

I thought it was worth, for my own benenfit, reflecting on each of your suggestions, so here I go.


1. You don't need more PHP developers you need more designers

We have a quite a few designers in the community now, and I think the recent changes to Moodle, moodle.org and other community sites show that. I would also like to see more input from user interface and accessibility experts. See my post about the shift from a feature focus to an interface focus. We always need more developers; there's no escaping that.


2. Follow the Market leaders of social media

There's good ideas in social media sites. Some of those are influencing Moodle's interface (eg Bootstrap). I do think there still needs to be a distinction between the functions of Moodle and activities that are primarily social, though there is some overlap.


3. Focus on Moodle core functionality

Moodle is a system that has to work within an educational "ecosystem". Withdrawing into itself won't help education progress. In saying that, we have been making hard decisions that have removed some plugins from the standard distribution so that we can focus on the more important bits. I suggest you look into "technical debt".


4. Consider Moodle courses as a bespoke textbook

I don't see why you can't achieve this, if that is what you want. I personally prefer a mix of chunked learning and activity in courses I teach.


5. Navigation needs to be clear and clean

People are experimenting with navigation right now, with a focus on responsive design and use on different devices. One hope is to do away with the navigation block altogether.

I do like your point about the default number of sections. It reminds me of Parkinson's law. Would one section be enough to demonstrate to new users that they could add more sections? That sounds like a good UI investigation question.


6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables

There is a tendency among developers to offer every possible configuration option they can think of. There is also a lot of suggestions from users on more options still. I think the challenge is expose the essential options and bury the other options. Recent form improvements have worked towards this.


7. Moodle course administration needs to be improved

Your dashboard sounds interesting. If there ways to get rid of the Administration block, that would be embraced, I would say. There is still a need for contextual administration at various levels, including at above and below the course level.


8. Make it easy to make content

Your policy of course layout is not a bad one. I'd been interested to see evidence that this approach works better than alternatives. I have seen policies that have been almost the opposite to yours, with content on the course page being very simple and underlying activities/resources being the target for richness. It's good to know that Moodle can achieve both ends of the spectrum and the space in between.

What I'm more interested in at this stage are the generation of content and the implementation of curricula in new ways. Imagine a block that allows you to drag activities/resources onto a course page in a sort of "course designer" mode. How about a map that allows you to create pathways through a course, with transitions controlled by activity restrictions, with additional alternatives offered to students who didn't "get it" the first time. We need to move towards tools that take education to places it hasn't been able to go before.


9. Have notifications

The new events framework is in place and people are starting to capitalise on that functionality. Proactive prompting of students, teachers and decision makers is now possible. One project underway currently is a system that notifies users when certain events occur with a certain frequency in a specified time window. For example, when discussion on a forum gets hot, teachers should be told about it. When a new activity is added to a course, students could be notified about it.


10. Create a Moodle Lite (sic)
Not a bad idea. Perhaps, when a site is installed, a light option could be offered and the list of default plugins and components could be set accordingly. That was what Moodle Flavours was working towards, but it could be even simpler.
 
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Dan at desk in Moodle HQ, Perth
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
A general response I wanted to write Paolo (but couldn't find the right way of expressing it, so I'll write it here): We do have these kind of conversations internally all the time. You'll see it on the tracker if you look hard enough - but there is much to learn and improve. Every day is a learning journey!
 
6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables There is a tendency among developers to offer every possible configuration option they can think of. 

This topic is something I feel strongly in agreement with Paolo about. I hate it. When we offer a choice we confuse new users, we double our testing load, we are not bold enough.

But while I do agree its the natural tendency of developers to add configuration options, in Moodle I don't think its the primary cause of the proliferation of options. Often it comes from the fact we have an established community of users and don't want to break their use case, or if we are bold - people shout to add an option to allow the previous behaviour..

I've mellowed about this over the years though, it strikes me that the configurability of Moodle is key to its success across sectors. So my conclusion is really in agreement with Michael - the best way we can play to Moodle's strengths is to work to limit the exposure of configuration options as much as possible. For example - if we add a 'legacy' backwards compatibility option - don't let new users get exposed to it ever! We should choose what is best and enforce that, test against that. Put all our effort into making decisions that make Moodle easy and intuitive to use. 

 
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Picture of Alan Ball
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

The thing I find with many options is that it's stuff administrators and course creators should see, but are often lower down the tree. I guess that roles are highly configurable for this, but time consuming to tweak for every eventuality. 

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Re: "6. Stop the proliferation of configuration variables There is a tendency among developers to offer every possible configuration option they can think of."

To counter this argument/give the other side, I think it's important to take into consideration those who want to cultivate more autonomous, responsible learners and give them more control over their learning environment. Particularly with capabilities/permissions, it's nice to be able to create detailed profiles to give learners exactly the levels of autonomy and control they need to work collaboratively and responsibly.

Also, with grading and feedback; there are so many different theories/approaches to formative and summative assessment that educators need as much flexibility as they can get in order to serve learners' needs. In some contexts you may need rather traditional, conservative grading systems but in others you may need to allow learners to grade themselves and each other. For example, John Hattie's research has identified self-grading as one of the strongest strategies for increasing learning gains. Should we have options that give learners access to edit part or all of their course grade book? Probably.

But yes, there are some things that more than likely don't need to be options and probably should be managed in other ways. The thing is not to ignore educators and practitioners on the margins who may not have as loud a voice as the more conservative traditionalists.

Just my €0.02 smile

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Dan,

"When we offer a choice we confuse new users"

Then put them behind an "advanced settings" button as some pages already do. I would hate to limit what more advanced users can do in order to appeal to new users, or those who are not particularly interested / engaged.

"it strikes me that the configurability of Moodle is key to its success across sectors"

Indeed it is, but on the flip side poor usability could be its downfall.

There are not many comparisons online between Moodle and another not quite so open LMS, I think I found four. These documents related to vendor competition / product selection.

Each of them conducted trials of rival LMS systems (some including Moodle Partners) with groups of staff and students. In every case I found (granted a very small sample in the public domain) Moodle was not the LMS chosen. In short, organisations with a decent budget who weight usability highly in the selection process seem (again based on limited information) to be going elsewhere. Not only that, they are paying more money to go there.

I have seen the 80/20 rule used to describe Moodle on more than one occasion, something along the lines of:

"80% of users use 20% of the features"

What this other LMS seems to have done, and what Paolo seems to suggest above is to focus more effort on that 20%. The 20% everyone uses. The 20% that wins a vendor competition process.

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

...reflection is one thing, and taking measure is good....but come on...Moodle is great! I mean really, having used other systems....it would be nice one day to see a thread celebrating all the useful and highly effective stuff too, Doh!

And so, my response follows in response to your comments Jez:

'In short, organisations with a decent budget who weight usability highly in the selection process seem (again based on limited information) to be going elsewhere. Not only that, they are paying more money to go there.

-The info Jez, the info...where is it/what is it? Sounds too vague otherwise.

'I have seen the 80/20 rule used to describe Moodle on more than one occasion, something along the lines of:

"80% of users use 20% of the features"

-The data Jez please, be great to have that too smile)  Am not convinced....would agree a poss different weighting perhaps...but not 80/20 surely?

'What this other LMS seems to have done, and what Paolo seems to suggest above is to focus more effort on that 20%. The 20% everyone uses. The 20% that wins a vendor competition process.

-
Which LMS? And what exact features make up that 20%?

Otherwise, let us cut Moodle some slack eh....so many people work hard for the project and show real passion for its evolution, and users (all types) adore the nature and versatility of it-onward!

So there! ;0)

D

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Dawn,

Moodle is great, I think it is still the best system of its kind and I'm not going to start throwing links out to things that say otherwise.

I think Martin said this at a Moodle Moot a year or two back (i just copied this, may not be quite right):

"Moodle is not used well," said Dougiamas. "We think 80% of teachers use 20% of the features. That's just an educated guess... though I can tell you that probably 90% of my time is spent on the 80% you're not using."

It can be a relatively small portion of the total feature set that drives purchasing decisions.

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

In relation to the comment:

"There is a tendency among developers to offer every possible configuration option they can think of"

That is not always a bad thing. I recently went through all course settings with some academics to find out which settings were not used. The only ones were settings to determine access based on email addresses, every other permutation of course settings was in use.

A quote I quite like made by an academic in 2004:

"The great thing about Moodle is it doesn't push its users in any particular direction. A lot of software tries to say to me, "This is what you need to do." Moodle says "What do you need to do?"

I think that had a lot to do with adoption of Moodle within our University which was very much a bottom up affair.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Re: 10. Create a Moodle Lite (sic)
Not a bad idea. Perhaps, when a site is installed, a light option could be offered and the list of default plugins and components could be set accordingly. That was what Moodle Flavours was working towards, but it could be even simpler.

I like this idea. It could be particularly useful if a Moodle installation is undergoing heavy traffic for some reason and admins need to lighten the load temporarily without taking the site offline. Or indeed, when an installation's use doesn't require the full range of features, services, and processes.

BTW, I've seen a few articles about how to configure Moodle and courses so that they're "lighter."

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
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I suggested something along these lines in a previous discussion with Stuart Lamour (sorry can't find the discussion link at the moment and it was a minor point in a much fuller discussion about a different topic anyway!) - mainly relating to the fact that Moodle as a whole supports everything from Primary Schools through Higher Education to WorkPlace Training (as well as so many other purposes).

A benefit might be that you could even have a setup such as this:

1. Core Basic - very lite Moodle

2. Standard package of plugins for:

    Primary School

    Secondary School

    Tertiary Education

    Adult Education

(for those familiar with Linux, something along the lines of tasksel - in functionality if not in its user interface!)

3. Other people could make their own suggested collections of plugins e.g. Moodle Flavours, but starting from a lighter base

4. Full Moodle with all the standard plugins installed (e.g. Moodle as it is now)

5. Administrators would still be free to add or remove individual plugins as they want to create a Moodle tailored to the requirements of their own institution


My biggest concern would be to make sure that the average Primary school IT coordinator or small business user (or even small University academic department with their own Moodle instance) is not put off using Moodle by thinking 'well the core only does that and then you have to add.....' One of the big selling points of Moodle as I see it right now is that it does so much for so many people out-of-the-box. This DOES add complexity, but the trick will be to find a way to minimise that complexity, but maintain the flexibility and power it provides to such a wide range of users.

 
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Picture of Art M
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Re: BTW, I've seen a few articles about how to configure Moodle and courses so that they're "lighter."

Could you please post links to these articles? Or maybe someone with the expertise can summarize what can be done during and after the installation to make Moodle "lighter", that will require less resources from the server and would run faster?

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Michael, you say: "First let me start by saying that, while Moodle HQ has a leading role, your suggestions should be referred to the whole community. As an HQ employee don't say that to dodge blame, but to state that if change is needed, the community has to drive it there"

Do you really mean this?  

Some of the way change occurs is still a mystery.

-Derek

 
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Picture of Paolo Oprandi
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/elearningteam/2014/05/08/recommendations-for-moodle-hq/


Some great discussion here - thanks everyone for their input. Here are some more points based on the discussion so far:

A Moodle course should be considered a bespoke textbook for a number of reasons. One, tutors appreciate having a reference to something they are familiar so they know what they are creating. Two, textbooks include activities. Three, those activities can involve (and expect) social engagement.


Social Media has useful models to follow because they make it is easy to create and distribute content (and activities) to select audiences. They have the interaction design right (else they would lose their self-selecting massive customer base) and they are setting the norm for how we use the Internet.


I am not completely opposed to the idea of hiding the complexity from users rather than losing it, however the advanced button doesn't cut it. As a side, one small improvement we made at Sussex was to put our submit button at the top of the page, so the tutor doesn't have to scroll through all the options unless they want to. We also highlight the field that the mouse is on (forum introduction in the image below).

Save at top of form




 
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Picture of Michael Hughes
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Developers

"A Moodle course should be considered a bespoke textbook for a number of reasons. One, tutors appreciate having a reference to something they are familiar so they know what they are creating. Two, textbooks include activities. Three, those activities can involve (and expect) social engagement."

My main problem is the "should be considered", not the "a bespoke text book". 

This makes an assertion that this is the *only* way (or the "best" way) that a Moodle course should be used, which may be true for your institution (based on valid assumptions on ability, available skills, pedagogy), but conversely it's only valid for *some* of our courses, which primarily use the Moodle class as a forum for discussion (say)

However to paraphase Jonny Ive, the words that you use constrain the thoughts that people have, so "text" and "book" also instantly narrow down people's ideas on how they may use, in this case, a general purpose package. 

The ability to derive new forms *does* have to be balanced against familiarity, but neither should familiarity be chosen for the sake of it being familiar and comforting.

Finally:

  • I agree that the advanced button isn't great, 
  • I like having lots of settings (as an institutional admin) but it would be nice to not have to show them to users if I had to.
    So the "lock" option on a setting could(should?) actually hide the display of the setting that is locked (e.g. Assignment settings)
 
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Picture of Paolo Oprandi
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

Point taken but, in my defense, we are not trying to change the world. 

Our educational models are problematic. Teaching and learning within institutions is often convergent rather than expansive. 

I want education to recognise the true nature of learning - developing analytical capacity, resourcefulness, reflection, team working and criticality - but that is not what I get paid for and is not the remit of Moodle in the majority of institutions that have adopted it. 

At my institution we are trying to provide online space which supports the teaching and assessment methods that already exist. And the closest physical metaphor for the Moodle course a teacher is creating is a bespoke textbook, hopefully with cool activities. 

We can - and do try to - provide tools which support tutors who recognise the social constructivist nature of learning. However, these aren't the majority of tutors - they are still using traditional teaching and assessment methods - which, by the way, are the methods supported by the well-established structures within most educational institutions. 

And they want to know how Moodle can support them.

"Hey people, it is like your own bespoke textbook which supports your teaching. It has cool collaborative activities which you can add to each chapter (section)!"

But in any case, despite the rhetoric, Moodle tools aren't great and do not support collaboration well. They need a refurb and we need a notifications system which encourages further interaction and excitement in the learning activity. 

By the way, "should" is possibly my least favourite word, and maybe I could have phrased it better.

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

OK Paolo. This all seems reasonable to me, and has grabbed my attention.Please could I ask a few questions? (I know people are too busy to respond - if so Paolo-no worries).

1. Bespoke textbook to support learning and teaching with collaborative activities: So, are you saying you are seeking a template/schema....if so why not create a plug-in?

1b. With that plug-in you could then monitor how 'effective' the bespoke textbook template turns out to be in terms of successful student outcomes/attainment/achievement- over time-across a range of courses(ergo measuring impact....otherwise can be wondering around in the dark, and/or end up meeting the needs of some-a minority- but not a majority).

2. What type of Moodle tools do you consider to be effective in order to support collaboration-if the current ones do not suit your needs-or in your words: aren't great' ?

3. Notification system? What do you suggest? This sounds interesting too.

Cheers,

Dawn

 
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Just wondering . . .
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dawn: Your Q2:

2. What type of Moodle tools do you consider to be effective in order to support collaboration-if the current ones do not suit your needs-or in your words: aren't great' ?

Just curious: do you teach with Moodle on any courses bigger than 10?

-Derek

and I've just noticed your new pic

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 
Derek-hi

you can take a pick from one of two answers up to you:

No...don't know nothink about an LMS, particularly Moodle, what does it all mean? I just talk claptrap...honestly I do gov.

OR

You can be sure I know about teaching with a number of different LMSs including Moodle...with very large cohorts as well as smaller ones.....

...and your point is?


 
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Picture of Paolo Oprandi
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

@Dawn

Hi... "bespoke textbook" is a metaphor - not a template, plugin, course format, pdf (@jez). The metaphor allows us to understand a Moodle course in relation to a well-establish historical, culturally embedded, of-this-world, familiar object. We know what we are dealing with and, if well used, includes activities made possible through the internet that are not possible through a textbook, pdf, or word. Moodle ideally harnesses the power of the web - highlighting and promoting interaction - and encouraging engagement in the learning topics. A metaphor is something related but not the same as - and the textbook metaphor is useful for those who are unfamiliar or need inspiration about how to use Moodle (like some of our tutors) or for developers who need to prioritise what is most important on the development plan.

Notifications - yes - social media, blogs, twitter, facebook - tell us about the latest activity - or most active activity - or most relevant activity to your interests. And they are usually the most obvious in your display - at the top of your list. This is how web systems feel dynamic, exciting - the sort of site you want to log on to. This is not like a textbook, no - oh! the contradiction. But that is because you want, and can have, both.

We want our students to log on and engage with their curricula activities - often and with enthusiasm so we want our system to be appealing to use. It does this by feeling dynamic and personal. Large images and faces attract further interaction so if you can put a face next to a forum post, activity or assessment feedback then so much the better.

That's it for now - have a nice weekend

 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

understand.

Paolo, thanks- yes good weekend so far.

Am working with some data at the moment...a pilot with regard to some software students engaged with.  I must say-this is not a plug for advocating the kit....I am not in a position to do that...still getting to grips with the data- however...when you first mentioned the notion of a bespoke textbook...and given the screenshot on the blog that depicts a contents page of a text book...well I thought I would post the link for that software as It does appear similar to those original thoughts on the blog and in the first post of yours...I could be wrong in my reading of things, but the aim here is to be helpful :0)

here it is:

http://www.skills4studycampus.com/Palgrave/Info/Modules

as I say, the modular design-and strands within (not necessarily the content-of course) appear akin to the set-up I perceived in your initial posts here.

cheers,

Dawn

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

 They have the interaction design right (else they would lose their self-selecting massive customer base) 

No they don't, and no they wont. For example would anyone with a functioning brain have designed Facebook chat with its original interface. It has got better since.

I was watching my 89 year old Mother with Facebook on the weekend and for her it was a confusing sequence of apparently random messages. Note she is actually quite good with computers and has been using them since the Amstrad PCW. The Twitter interface is still a bit of a mystery to me and I outgeek most of the worlds population.

This debate can be seen in the world of Office Suites where some folks suggest Open/Libre office should slavishly follow the MS Office interface because people don't want to learn anything that is even slightly different from what they already know. The best interface is the one you know, which does not make it the best possible interface.

It's interesting that Tim Berners Lee used the words web page  not Web Document, or Web File or Web Resource. He leveraged existing familiarity, which was useful, but now it has moved on....

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I have a strong feeling that most installations of Moodle are because the organisation feels it should have a VLE, and then it is used as a way of making PowerPoint and Word Documents available. Anyone agree/disagree?

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Kind of, with our setup some Academics adopted it and really pushed what they could do with it, and continue to.

The bulk uploaded of documents really seemed to take off when academic staff were compelled or felt pressured to use it (Moodle).

I would also add that if its "text books" you want then PDF is probably the best format for that, not a Moodle page, as a lot of presentation issues are removed and you can download it to your tablet and read it on the bus home far more easily than you can a web page.

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I put Twitters success down to it being a meld or two proven formats:

  • blogs
  • sms

The latter had no interface to speak of... and whilst a nice interface no doubt helps I don't think that was that big a part of Twitters success. I think if anything can be learned from twitter its the importance of showing things "now", features like this (also from Sussex):

http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/elearningteam/2011/08/10/recent-activity-in-moodle/



 
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Picture of dawn alderson
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

...trying very hard to keep up...do bear with me-not often the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree!

So, does twitter/FB- social media and the discussion here Marcus and Jez-link with Paolo's reference to 'notifications'...is that the link?...or is this about having FB/Twitter in Moodle for collaboration purposes...as in learning purposes- like :0) or is it both purposes?

I get the instant info thing...and the prettiness about usability and what not...but am struggling to follow the thread sorry.

neh mind, I am sure I will catch up.

Cheers,

Dawn      

 
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Ben talking on the phone beside a monitor
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers

That's pretty neat, Jez. Is it Paolo's doing?

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Well it was from Paulo's team, you would have to ask him who coded it!

I posted about replicating that for Moodle2 here: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=260543 

In there you will see someone posted a screen shot for a block for 2.4 based on what Sussex did.

I was going to take a look at the new events logging in 2.7 to see if that would make it any easier to achieve, its a great feature, one we would like to see released as a plugin.

 
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Picture of Jez H
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I can see how the textbook metaphor is useful when explaining Moodle to new users in an educational setting but doesn't apply to all Moodle courses / sites the most obvious being those used for corporate training which seem to play an increasing role in funding / driving new features.

I am all for improving usability, really like what you have done on your Moodle site and think there is a lot others can learn from it but removing features or making them too difficult to find would inhibit what we do (at our University), or rather inhibit the ability of Tutors to innovate / try new ways of using Moodle.

Somewhere in it all I am sure a balance is possible smile
 
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Picture of Fred Riley
Re: Recommendations for Moodle core developers
 

I'm a newbie to Moodle development, though well-versed in Moodle from a course manager role and with long experience (back to HTML1) in web development/design. A few quick things popped into my mind when I read this useful and provocative post from Sussex (which I believe has a stonking rep in Moodle space):

  • There is too much concentration on user interfaces (or 'UX', to use the jargon) these days, at the expense of content and functionality. I've seen a lot of fads come and go over 20 years of web dev, and I expect that FB and Twitter will go the same way as others (remember Geocities and MySpace?). There's a big danger in developers busting a gut to replicate social networking interfaces in systems such as Moodle where the essences are functionality, features and above all pedagogy. That the Moodle interface should be improved and made more mobile-friendly is fine, but spending weeks or more on wrangling it into a FB clone is the tail wagging the dog, and moreover a tail that'll disappear over time. (Prediction: Facebook will barely exist in 5 years time.) So definitely not (2) - the 'market' changes almost daily, and trying to keep up with it is like being a hamster in a wheel.
  • (3) and (8) I'd agree with, as they're about substance rather than style, and in the end that's what Moodle's all about. 
  • What would a "Moodle Lite" look like and be for?

Just my 2 Euro's worth as a newcomer. Asbestos suit donned...

Fred



 
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