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.
Hello Paul and thanks for posting here on the forums
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
I agree, it's a work-around to solve an inherent problem in Moodle. Like many work-arounds, they have their own problems.
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)
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?".
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?
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.)
This is a message after my own heart. I also use books with links to orphaned files to get around the scroll of death and endless clicking. I'm really keen on students being able to do low stakes (i.e. not for a grade) comment/discussions or complete self-test quizzes as they read or listen to content without having to click into another resource. At the moment, I do this by embedding texts, padlet discussions and quizzes made in xerte into the book. This isn't ideal and if anyone has a better solution, I would be enormously interested in hearing about it.
I like that idea!
It reminds me of courses I've done in teamtreehouse.com, where you watch an instructive video and then the very next page is a little quiz or code challenge that reinforces what you've learnt, before moving on to the next video.
FutureLearn.com also has a pretty good learning format...
Any chance of getting that kind of progressive learning structure happening in Moodle? Not without a lot of effort, I'm sure!
You can do that "progressive learning structure" with a Lesson activity. And, if you want students to be able give feedback and make comments on each page of instruction along with questions and videos, that can be done with the Content Pages plugin.
Yes, the Lesson activity looks good, but it's not quite what I'm after.
Sure, I could use it for what I'm thinking, but it's not quite the right tool for my purpose since the reporting for it doesn't match what I'd want it to show (I don't want question/answer, etc. since they wouldn't be questions and answers all the way through!) Semantics, possibly, but I believe in using the right tool for the job.
Having said that, I could probably use the Lesson activity as the basis of a plugin I'm thinking of developing (if I ever get the time!). A plugin much like the Lesson activity, but you would be able to add not just 'content' pages and 'quiz' questions, but easily add any of the Moodle activities/resources that you can add on the front course page.
In my dreams, adding 'video' pages would be a snap (just add the link and it will embed).
Adding nicely formatted text, maybe with an icon to the left to show that it's super-important information would also be a snap: just use a select box to say you want to add an icon (that you pick from a list, and is also Font Awesome), use another select box to say you want that info to appear in a 'well', etc, etc.
And, editing your pages would also be a snap: no need to fool around with HTML—that's all in the back-end; just change your select options and you're away!
Ah, if only I had a clone... and more PHP knowledge... sigh.
If I correctly understand what you want, I think you can do all that by using a combination of Content Pages, the Generico filter, and the Snippet tool for Atto. You can do it with Lesson too, but I think it takes more time and effort with the Lesson activity, than it does compared to the Content pages activity.
"Ah, if only I had a clone... and more PHP knowledge... sigh." - my feelings exactly. If I had a clone, I could build some examples, while still getting all my development projects done.
I've had a brief look at the Generico filter and the Snippet/Template tool for Atto: don't they all require you to fiddle with HTML if you want to edit it later?
That won't fly with the teachers here. I'm perfectly comfortable with it, but it gets absolutely ruined by our staff
What I need is something where teachers don't have to deal with that side of things: all they'd have to deal in is plain text. All the work gets done in the background by the plugin.
It has been my experience that if the Generico filter and the Snippet/Template tool for Atto at set up well, there is no real need to do any fiddling with HTML. The only exception might be when trying to use the tabs and tab item bundles in Generico filter, and even then you do not have to enter HTML mode in the editor.
Atto and Tabs and Generico has never worked well for me. See https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=347847
The problems: Paste in a piece of plain text (for example a URL) and Atto strips out HTML aggressively, destroying the tabs. I made a short vidoe of the problem.
I reported this in the tracker, https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-58084 and it was closed. "Atto is not designed for this". They have decided not to change the level of code stripping in Atto.
- If you have generico tabs set up, can you add another tab without using HTML?
- Have you solved the problem with tabs of deep linking: ie yo want to tall a student to go to a particular tab - I have not found a way to make this work?
What specifically do you do as a workflow AL?? Scenario: say you have 10 video clips, 8 forum responses required, three quizzes, 14 documents over say 6 topics. How does your workflow deal with this?
What exactly do you mean "set up well"? Is there a set of particularly powerful snippets you use? And do they pass the test of the OP: easy to use for basic skilled tutors? I think my question is: how can you do anything decent without tabs?
Full disclosure - I am retired and spend most of my "free" time working on MooTyper and HotQuestion, but here is some of the things I was doing/using my last year of teaching. I taught computer applications to 11 to 13 year old, 7th and 8th graders. Lots of lessons and projects on how to do things in your typical office software. (LibreOffice so they could use it at home for free.)
Some of the ways I did things.
- Database activity with PoodLL Video Recording Field and Textarea field. This could be used just to group a set of videos for the students to watch, or to have students submit a video. Each video with title and notes were separate records and easily searched for using the database activity search capability. Using various types of tablets, desktop computers with usb camera, smart phones, iPads, etc., it was possible to make recordings directly into the database, from almost any location. Using OBS, Open Broadcast Studio, on a desktop computer, you could make really "slick" videos.
- Book with text and video on each page. I used a LOT of books for "how to" tutorials, but preferred to use pictures instead of videos. Since office software changes frequently, I could usually update a lesson by changing a word or two and one or two pictures. Videos would have to be completely redone. (I still have the first "Blender" training video I made, Took about 20 hours from start to finished video. Was obsolete two weeks later. Switched to written text and pictures.
- Forums - In the description, use a Generico filter, Formatted Toggle or Formatted Gradient button to hide instructions, comments, directions, and video to help cut down "scrolling" until you want to see the content. Set Ratings to, Count of ratings, then also do a lot of reading to make sure students are following the rules. Used to use Marginala (SP?) that let me do markup right on forum entries. Dropped as it is no longer supported.
- RTMP filter and video player combination that let me build lists of videos. Dropped as it no longer works with current Moodle.
- Podcast plugin used for both audio and videos created by me and by students. Great for year long "School New Clips" archive that was searchable.
Usually, there would be one assignment with file submission. All instructions, need files, and links to directions would be in the description, with the description only visible when in the activity. Any needed files and all the "instruction" books were in a common "repository" course with labeled links back and forth for access.
Along with the assignment, there would be MooTyper assignments as fill in work to help them transition from 2 finger typing to touch typing.
Each week would have a quiz of about 25 to 30 questions covering the particular office software of the week. When I first started teaching, quiz day would take just about the whole classroom period. I fixed that by turning it into a competition, best grade could use any computer in the lab, except mine, and I fixed up four that were REALLY good. And since books and help would be available in a real "work" environment, I had practice quizzes that would give them 10 questions at a time so they could cram for the quiz. Practice quiz course access turned off at midnight the night before actual quiz day. Grades improved so much we had to use time as a tie breaker. Students were so intent on getting a "good" computer, testing went from taking nearly the whole class period, to less than 10 minutes each week.
What exactly do you mean "set up well"? - A Generico filter is "set up well" if I don't have to do anything extra once I click it's Insert button.
Is there a set of particularly powerful snippets you use? And do they pass the test of the OP: easy to use for basic skilled tutors? - Since most everyone has made slide shows (they tend to call the Power Points) I have a bunch of Sippet that mimic typical slide layouts. Couple of clicks then replace the boiler plate filler. I use the Atto, Toggle preview tool to make sure things are going to look the way I want them to.
I think my question is: how can you do anything decent without tabs? - I DO use tabs. Generico filter tabs that in a label during set up appear as just plain text. I add my content between a start and a stop entry. If I want to paste in a URL, I always do it by using the Atto Link tool. If I want to paste content from a text file, line in your video, I paste it into Notepad first, then copy from there and paste into Moodle.
Fascinating AL, a useful post.
You are the first person I've seen who was using marginalia (a wonderful tool). http://webmarginalia.net/ Sad it doesn't work with recent versions.
Your comments about Tabs I cannot understand. Does this Generico item come built in with Generico?
You say: "Formatted Toggle or Formatted Gradient button to hide instructions, comments, directions, and video to help cut down "scrolling" until you want to see the content: Great idea!!
I also like OBS, I think is quite cool for some things. https://obsproject.com/ and it's free.
"I fixed that by turning it into a competition, best grade could use any computer in the lab, except mine, and I fixed up four that were REALLY good" BF Skinner would be pleased.
Marginalia - I've spent a little time trying to get it updated to work on newer versions of Moodle, but keep getting sidetracked by work on MooTyper and HotQuestion. (Just today got asked to develop keyboard layouts for four new languages for MooTyper.)
Tab and tabitems are filter bundles included with the Generico filter plugin. I use a Topic Summary or a Label resource to hold my tabs. When editing the label, I enter a Generico filter, Tab. In plain text it adds a start and end marker and creates the container for the tabs. Then, in between the start and end markers, I add Generico filter, Tabitems. Again, this enters a start and end marker that will create an actual tab and then I put contents between it's start and stop marker. I can add additional tabitems, which adds another tab. In the included photo, there is one tab filter and five tabitems filters. Note: This was just a quick example I created fro someone a year or two ago.
The above picture is from tabs added to a topic summary and the following is the actual text after adding another tabitem for Links.
Here is a quote from the notes in the Book documentation:
Why only two levels?
Two levels are generally enough for all books, three levels may lead to poorly structured documents. The Book module is designed for the creation of short multi-page study materials. Consider uploading a file in PDF format for longer documents.
This is a philosophical statement about the book: "Two levels is enough, and if it is not enough, the problem is bad design"
So it is with sections. The section is the basic unit of Moodle. Inside this we put activities and resources. Considering an average course, too many sections and we get the Moodle Menu scroll of death. Too few sections and we get the Moodle section scroll of death; unless you have a very small course with not a lot of entities. In my opinion, one way to deal with this is to code to allow sections and subsections. Average course: 10 sections, 4 subsections per section, 5 bits per subsection. From this scenario, course design considerations could solve every problem.
The documentation for such a suggestion would read like this:
Moodle 5.4 2022: release notes.
Die Scroll of death Die.
Announcing our latest attempt to improve the Moodle scroll of death. From the next version on we have a new course format. The simplest view of this has sections in the new Boost menu version 5.0. The menu is totally customisable, but is built around the sections in your course.
Each section functions as sections did in the past; by default you get one piece of screen real estate to add content and activities.
However you can add a subsection. If you add a subsection, in the basic view you immediately have to tabs at the top of the screen to access two pieces of real estate. You then have a default name for tab 1 ('Overview') but you have the ability to name each subsection; short names are better since they are tabs . .
ie Boost menu to access sections; tabs across the top to access subsections.
This architecture is very flexible in it's coding, and other course formats are possible to build the course>section>subsection UI in creative and smooth ways. There can be various ways developed to navigate section to section and subsection to subsection; for now it is two levels side and top (on large screens) and a cool new mobile responsive UI.
We are making some assumptions here: that the number of subsections per section is small, so that the tabs solution works; that to keep this number down is a matter for quality course design. And no-one should need sub-sub-sections.
In a further magnificent feat of coding, we have a course overview page where all the subsections are listed, and may be re-ordered by drag and drop, renamed with inline editing, and various other parameters set.
Terminology: We may change the terms to TOPICS (sections) and SECTIONS (subsections). So your design consists of creating a course flow using two levels of content, and usually a students will engage in one TOPIC and then switch back and forward through the SECTIONS in their learning. No more Scroll of death.
I've made the rather whimsical piece above as simple as I can, but I don't have time to really make it clear.
As of today, I do not know of an elegant solution to the scroll of death. IMO. The 'nearly elegant' solutions require either complex coding or plugins, new course themes or course formats.
My 2c. No more time to try to think clearer, but feedback and comment is invited.
There are a lot of great suggestions and good discussions in this thread. My suggestion might not fall into that category... but - if a course lends itself to it, you can drag the current topic to the top of the page. Removes the necessity of scrolling down. Or try the "Highlight topic" option - it does really make it easier to find a specific topic while scrolling up and down the course.