Teaching with Moodle

Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques

 
Picture of Paul Lande
Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

I have been using the flexpage plugin since 2010 to create a tabbed page display to avoid the Scroll of Death.  A recent migration to a new vendor has had a dramatic negative affect on flexpage since it is not fully supported at the new host causing years worth of work to become no longer usable.

I am aware that using orphaned topics, a once popular technique, is no longer in favor.  I am looking for step-by-step video tutorials on alternative techniques for avoiding the Scroll of Death that do not rely on plugins.

Suggestion such as "have you looked at collapsed topics" or "have you looked at the Grid Format" are not helpful.  I am looking for ways to avoid the Scroll of Death that are not dependent on plugins.  I am also looking to avoid hours worth of work on trial on error.  I am hoping there are people who are using current best practices to avoid the Scroll Death and can point me to a tutorial that will show me how to implement it and what the final result looks like.

We are using Moodle 3.0.

Thank you.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

Hello Paul and thanks for posting here on the forums smile

Orphaned topics does still have many advocates but it requires some understanding of Moodle structure and can potentially cause confusion if a course is taken over by a teacher who doesn't have that understanding.  It doesn't work with the mobile app and that is one of the reasons we don't favour it. There is currently work being done on an alternative known as "stealth mode" which is like an improved version of orphaned activities that might at some point be added to core, but in the meantime, I think one of the best options in standard Moodle with no plugins is to use the "Show only one section per page" feature in Course adminstration>Edit settings. If you still have long topic sections even when only showing one single section then you'd have to ask questions about the actual design of the courses - are they filled with files/could the sections be reorganised into more, shorter sections? You could combine show only one section per page with an HTML block displaying links to each section so the students could see which other sections were available.

To be honest, many of the "avoiding the scroll of death" posts I have read involve, if not orphaned activities, then contributed course formats such as the ones you don't wish to install (There is a variation and updated version of Flexpage format supported by a Moodle partner in France by the way: Page format). However, I've seen some Moodlers combining a lot of their content into Moodle books or lessons, which cuts down on scrolling too.

Anyway, let's see what others have to suggest...

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Thanks for the reply Mary.

To clarify, my aversion to plugins is that, because they are add-ons and not part of the Moodle core system, they have the potential to be orphaned themselves if the institution no longer supports them.  I actually liked the flexpage page display format and had been using it successfully for many years, then without warning, it went poof !  and I was left with a mess on my hands.  I do not wish to repeat that experience.

It would be greatly appreciated if you could point me to specific examples of the techniques you mention, and especially how they were created, i.e. how Moodle was manipulated to give the particular result shown.

Meanwhile, I will watch the forum to see what else is suggested.

Thanks.

 
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Head
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Plugin developersGroup Testers

Hi Paul,

We make use of the "show a single topic" option at our school. This is core Moodle so "should" always be available and quite nicely gets rid of the "scroll of death".

Jon

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Hi Jon,

Thank you for the reply.  I tried the single topic per page as you and Mary suggest.  It does address my complaint about plugins which is a big plus.  It also does put each topic on a separate page . . . sort of.  Unless I'm using it wrong, the main course page, the page students see when they log in, lists all of the topics in the conventional scrolling fashion.  Students can navigate to individual topics which are then shown on a separate page, but I do wonder, if students see the list of topics on the main course page won't they simply scroll down?

When students login I would like them to see one block which has navigation links to the course content areas without those content areas being shown on the main course page.  If there is a way to do that with the setting 'one topic per page' without orphaned topics, please tell me, or better yet, show me how.


Thanks.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

The first time they go to a course using the "show only one section per page" setting they do see all the topics; that's true. However, they can't actually access the resources in a topic unless they click into one of the section headings and after that, they are put into that single section with the option of moving from the next to the previous (or jumping to another altogether) so I don't see it as an issue them scrolling down as before.

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Thank you Mary.

I must be doing something wrong.  I set the course for one topic per page as suggested and created four topics:  Announcements, Documents, Assignments and Quizzes.  Each as a separate topic.  I then logged out as instructor and logged in as "teststudent" which is a "fake" student created by admin for me that has the status of student so I can log-in as a student, not the emulated student created when I change my role to to student.  After logging as teststudent to the course created using a separate page for each topic.  As teststudent I see the list of topics and their contents, and each one is clickable and when I click on the Assignments topic on the main course page I am taken to the separate page for that topic.


I therefore don't see the benefit to one topic per page since all the topics and their contents are visible on the main page and the student will simply scroll to the topic they are looking for.

 
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Picture of Just H
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Don't put anything in  the summary; put everything in a label. This way all they see on the entry page is topic titles.

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

just H,

Thank you! Now we're getting somewhere, the labels become navigation links to the actual content.  I assume there can be more than one label in a topic, maybe even Topic 0, to provide a more compact main page.  I'll experiment with this.  As noted in my previous post simply putting the content in the topic without creating a label and putting the content there, accomplishes little.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

Hi Paul. I think Just H might have a good point about not putting things in the topic summary. Here is an example of a student view of a Show only one section per page course the first time a student goes there:


You see that only the title is in the topic summary and no other information. The student sees in grey what the activities are but cannot access them unless he clicks on the topic title -and from then on he is in the one section per page view. 



 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Mary,

Yes, I think Just H is closer to what I'm looking for.  Your examples are helpful.  I would like to have more compact layout.  As shown in your example, the topics are quite far apart, since they're now acting merely as links to content, is there a way to eliminate some of the white space between them?

 
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Picture of Just H
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Re more compact, a lot will come down to the theme you are using and what functionality you have enabled e.g. in Mary's screenshot you'll notice one line (right hand side) is dealing with completion tracking the line above it is the type and amount of activities in the topic.

If not using activity completion that will save one line but the list activities is always there; that said, both lines can be hidden with custom CSS.

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 


just H,

I have completion tracking disabled and have just one activity, the label, per topic, so it would seem things are as compact as they're going to be.

Your suggestion to put the content in a label is the key to making a separate page for each topic work.  Thank you.

I put this in the category of "best so far" . . . Thank you.

 
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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Paul,

If your theme allows custom css code, you can pack things together a bit more compactly. By hiding the summary section, hiding the activity summary, and reducing the height of the title section.  The code you need depends on your theme.

Floyd


 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Floyd,

Thanks for the suggestion, but we won't be doing any custom programming.  Moodle is labor-intensive enough as it is.  We want to work within the native capabilities of Moodle.

 
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Picture of Just H
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

No worries, you'll find the community here is pretty quick to jump in and help. I'd actually say it's probably the best one I've ever been involved in.



 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

You and others have made it a positive experience so far.

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Core developersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

I've had some really horrible times with orphaned activities. Personally I think it's a nasty bug. 

As Mary says, some (let's say) "advanced" user creates a massively complex course that only they understand and then leave or lose interest. Then, of course, it's somehow my fault that the next person has no clue how it works. It's up there with changing permissions at the course/activity level as a way of spoiling an admin's day tongueout

 
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Picture of Paul Lande
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Howard,

I agree, it's a work-around to solve an inherent problem in Moodle.  Like many work-arounds, they have their own problems.

 
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Me
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

I know this post is getting a bit old now, but does anyone know how hard it would be to 'add an activity or resource' within a book, as opposed to just on the course homepage?

This would cut down on the scroll of death immensely, wouldn't have to rely on orphaned activities and linking to them manually, and would be frickin' awesome!

Could this be a potential development for the future?! I think many a Moodler would love this feature.
(I would take a look at it myself, but my development knowledge could be better and I have a tonne of other things keeping me busy at the moment)

 
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Gareth J Barnard
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Core developersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

RE:  "hard it would be to 'add an activity or resource' within a book" - In my opinion 'extremely' as two completely different entities and would possibly need core API changes to allow it.  Far easier to make a course format that acts like the book with the same features than modify / adapt the book module, but clearly a single book.

That then begs the question "What is it about a book that you think makes it solve the problem?".

 
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Me
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
 

Imagine a course that has 15 topics, with each topic having about 15 resources and activities under it. That creates a lot of scrolling! (yes, we use the collapsed topics format, but it's still a lot). But, more than that, it creates a lot of content on the one page! (and adds significantly to load time in some cases!)

To combat this, we like to add all of those resources and activities to the course home page, but then orphan the section to hide it from students completely. We then link those activities through a book. This keeps the front course page very neat and tidy, and makes the whole course easier to follow—you're not inundated with all of this text and links and icons on the one page, instead, you're taken through it at a leisurely pace without all of that visual distraction, AND you get to click 'next page', instead of having to go back to the course home page in order to progress through the topic (if you open any links on the page in a new window, of course!).

I'm thinking as a student here. Especially one that might get overwhelmed by copious amounts of content on the one page.

The ideal situation would be to have an icon you can click on that would take you to a topic, that would then step you through everything in a logical, well-ordered manner, page by page. How much gets put on the one page in that respect, is up to the teacher, but hopefully, it wouldn't be information overload.

Can you see where I'm coming from?

 
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Picture of Rick Jerz
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Rebecca, yes, I think that I see where you are coming from.  Maybe this need of yours takes us back to Mary's comments above.

I don't have quite as many resources below each of my normal 15 topics per course situation.  My busiest course has 18 topics and an average of 8 or so resources per topic.  I have been using Collapsed Topics for over two years and really like it.  My students have never (yes, "never") complained.  In Moodle 3.3, the topic navigation is on the Drawer, so students might close all topics, then navigate to each topic from the Drawer.  Well, yep, we all like to do things a little differently.

One thing that helps me is that for every topic, I have a "Resources and Activities" (external) webpage that provides a lot of details to the student about the topic.  If I took a different approach, then maybe I too would have more resource links in each Moodle topic.  I will give you a screen shot of what my own Moodle looks like, and here is a link to this week's current (yellow) Resources and Activities webpage. This technique provides an easy way for students to "print" a copy of what is happening on this topic.  You will see many more links and videos built into this webpage. I am giving this to you just to show various ways of doing things, not to say "do this my way."

If any of this makes any sense to you, and you need more information, I can provide it.

(Incidentally, this technique of keeping my Resources webpage external makes it very easy for me to share with others, like you.)


 
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Picture of Rick Jerz
Re: Avoiding the Scroll of Death - Best Practices - Current Techniques
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Rebecca, I avoid the scroll of death by using the "Collapsed Topics" plug-in.  Maybe this is what Gareth was trying to get to.

 
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