In case you haven't heard, Moodle 3.5 includes some amazing updates to core Boost and Bootstrap and with these changes it can break many things in themes. Luckily people like Richard, Bas, and Mary, are here to help in the forums. Fordson had some issues with how SCSS is processed with the new Boost updates. These issues have been addressed and we are back up and running with Fordson and Moodle 3.5.
However, the new Boost styling and overall appearance has changed drastically (for the better). What this means for Fordson is that many of the previous work in styling certain elements is now broken.
Here is how I am addressing the update to Moodle 3.5 and if you have concerns please post them here as I will monitor this discussion as I get ready for the Moodle 3.5 release of Fordson. Since this is such a drastic change it has given me pause to see about how we want to move forward and this is what I have so far...
- We got Fordson working with Moodle 3.5 and the default look and feel of Boost. Yes, if you like the simplicity and clean layout of Boost you can now utilize all the great usability features of Fordson and maintain the same exact look of Boost.
- Fordson is now compatible with all the Moodle Boost Presets ( https://github.com/bmbrands/Moodle-presets ) which will open up new opportunities to expand and use the Fordson theme beyond the couple of presets that came packaged with Fordson. This is a good move and one that will help end users further customize and expand the styling of their Moodle site.
- Preset styles are being examined to see how many I want to support and ship with Fordson. I am a one-person developer and this is only a part of my job so I have to be careful about how big the theme gets and how many different looks and styles I have to test against when we add new features.
- Color Choosers will be simplified to change the core elements of Bootstrap such as primary, info, success, etc, etc. I will also include content background, page background, drawer background, and a couple of other elements of the page design. This will offer better compatibility to change the colors of other presets you might upload.
- We want to further enhance the theme but might need to scale back some other elements. The one thing I want to do is explore how to best handle blocks. Do we simply add in a right-side drawer to show and hide the blocks or do we expand upon what they can do and maybe build a 3 column "dashboard" of sorts for blocks within a course.
I am focused right now on getting the basics worked out and will update this post as we make progress.
In regards to blocks - ideally, yes to both being able to quickly hide blocks but also to the thought of another block region across the top of the page. If people truly use blocks, maybe the top of the page is a good location for them - like we now have on the front page...but, I would ask for both this region and the front page region, the ability to have the blocks adjust to the same height...
Since Moodle 3.4 we moved the teacher course management and student dashboard to the pop-up modal box. My initial thought on blocks would be a sliding panel via a button at the top of the course which would slide down to display a 3 column block panel.
Key to this is making it obvious as something to be clicked and viewed from within the course.
You're probably right about the blocks. We've not been fans of blocks as they can clutter up a page but some seem useful.
What I'd really like to see is a teacher dashboard that could be a tab or drop down panel that would show a teacher assignments to be graded and other things teachers need to do in a course. Maybe even show reports etc.
Maybe I shouldn't focus on blocks too much then.
It's an interesting time for Moodle. I really like the focus on usability and user experience.
That has indeed been the direction MoodleHQ has taken - but it isn't necessarily the direction all the users I've spoken to want to take and with recent announcements that MoodleMobile will support blocks from
the new version
https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=350955#p1456685 then there does seem to be an acceptance that blocks are around in some form for the foreseeable future and that HQ have been listening to those user concerns.
I've been asked many times for more choice in where to put blocks - and the functionality that is only available through blocks. That doesn't necessarily equate to using more of them, just providing more choice as to where to put the well-selected blocks that a user feels they need to enhance their pages and the information on it.And TBH, that flat navigation needs a heck of a lot more work and even then there is no way it can replace everything blocks currently provide.
BUT this is a discussion thrashed out many times in many places and this isn't the place for it, except in how it may relate to Chris' work on Fordson, but with nothing on the roadmap to replace blocks, I personally don't see any benefit in current themes turning reducing support for blocks. In fact I see a greater need for the community to provide those options if they are not available from core themes.
As I stated in another thread when you played around with the idea, I really liked the idea of students being able to hide blocks, like the nav drawer. Blocks can serve purposes (completion progress, links, calendars, etc...), but often aren't needed 100% of the time. A student can open the blocks to check something and then close them again to regain that real estate.
Brian, I'd agree about the blocks. Once I get things looking nice and the extra customizations worked out I plan on working on blocks.
Here's my question: do you need a block column at all for books or other activities like that where there is a sidebar element to the activity? Can I safely remove the default block column in favor of some other method to display blocks?
If the answer is yes, I think I can have a super nice, hidden 3 column block panel that is revealed when a button at the top of the page is clicked. This would function much like the teacher and student dashboards did in Moodle 3.3 before we put them in pop-up modal windows.
I use the Fordson E-Learner preset (with background picture teacher can change for mood, holiday, topic, etc...). (As an 8th Grade teacher, visuals are a lot more important for student motivation than for college students.) I have no blocks that are needed 100% of the time. Once "trained", my students would be able to reveal what they need to look at and then close them again. We rely heavily on lesson activities, which act as our textbook. Being able to recover the space that is sometimes used by blocks would lead to a more enjoyable experience, but giving students more real estate for their readings, etc... That is why I was intrigued when you had previously mentioned putting the blocks in a "nav drawer" on the right.
You will be very pleased to know that I've gotten the initial groundwork done for a "Sliding Black Panel". This will have a button at the very top of the course page and when pressed will slide down and reveal a 3 column block layout for teachers to drop in their blocks.
If no blocks are detected you will not see the block slider button unless you turn editing on. Once editing is turned on you can click the Sliding Block Panel button and then it will slide down and allow you to add blocks. Once a block is added the button will be present for all to see.
The other thing I had to do was when you were inside a course you need to have the standard side-pre block present so that things like the Book activity function properly. This is also taken care of.
I'll post a video after I get back from lunch so you can check it out.
If you look at the pic below you can see I have some bare-bones 3 column setup for blocks.
The big gray button toggles the blocks open and close.
I'm looking at this screenshot and I had the idea to move the icon buttons in the upper left of the top navbar and make them fixed on the right side of the page in a column. Kinda like the new GMail layout.
These buttons pertain to the course and teacher/student usage.
In the top navbar they can sometimes cause issues on mobile devices as that navbar realestate runs out. Maybe I'll put in a toggle to select which area to place these course buttons. If they are fixed on the right side of the page I think it would provide more convenient access for teachers and opportunity for us to put additional buttons there that we simple cannot do in the top navbar due to space constraints.
I like the direction this is going. I would, however, prefer having the hidden blocks button at the top, in the navigation area, with the others. That follows the overall idea of keeping all the navigation items together. "One stop shopping" for navigation. It also allows people to access the blocks from anywhere on the screen, since they are locked at the top, even when scrolling down, similar to the way that you had moved the Edit button to the nav bar to allow it to be always accessible.
In terms of navigation buttons vertically along the right side, I would prefer them on the left, rather than the right. That is probably due to familiarity, as most interfaces I have dealt with have important buttons/panes on the left of the screen. I like the idea of options to customize it (horizontal vs vertical positioning). I don't know how much hassle it would be to have right/left option.
I'd love to put all the buttons in the top navbar but it doesn't scale well on mobile. That's partly why we are looking at an alternative location that scales well.
I might release it later today as-is and look to improve it over time after our users have a chance to use it and I get feedback.
If it was moved to the left side then it would go nice with having the nav drawer button too. This would free up the top navbar for sitename/logo, custom menu, and user menu.
You might be onto something here. I'll have to take a look and see how I can improve this.
Thanks for the feedback! It gave me some ideas.
Great insights. While I've made lots of progress towards moodle 3.5 I realize there is much work to do.
This coming week I plan on developing the layout selectors to load the various page layout stylings and header image placement.
Then I'll be developing a section/topic style chooser. This will allow you to pick various stylings/layout for the topics within a course.
Lastly, I need to take a look at Handlebar and see about how to handle blocks. I want the user to be able to hide them or, by design, the blocks are hidden in some type of panel.
Then I need to test and make sure everything works and lastly, get a couple of presets ready to ship to make everything looks pretty.
An idea that came to me early this saturday morning was that the Fordson theme should allow people to pick from about 5 different page layouts for courses.
These mainly deal with how we utilize images within the course pages. If you're familiar with Fordson you know that the different presets determine how a course image is used and whether the page is full-width or floating in the middle of the page. This would allow you to choose to a page layout regardless of what color scheme you want to use. Sometimes you want the header image to be full screen or maybe it just needs to be at the top of the screen. This would allow you to choose how you want the page layout to be and choose a preset to provide color and style to that layout.
The other idea is that we could also have a topic/weekly section style chooser. These would be styling that determines how each of the topics appear in your course. This would allow us to get really creative with how the course content within topics is displayed to the student. There would be a variety to choose from that would be independent of the preset colors.
As you can see we are taking this major update to Moodle 3.5 and trying to rethink the direction we want to go that will set us up for the most flexibility moving forward into the future.
These slight changes could also mean that our earlier page layout of Fordson during Moodle 3.2 can be brought back. Many people loved the Boost layout with a course image in the course title box.
Most of these things have been a part of the Fordson theme for awhile but this would allow more flexibility and site admin control in setting up the best look and feel for your students and faculty. It's a bit more personalized.
Just for ideas and not code itself as its not Boost based, but Flexibase had the concept of multple page layouts being available. So that may be useful. It also had the idea that, rather than fixed page layouts, it had multiple block regions which could be used or ignored to create multiple layout options with several block columns to the right or left of the main content as well as above and below - it was obviously never intended for anyone to use all of them at the same time, but to give options of where people wanted them - like widget areas on some WP themes.
On the other hand, code from Handlebar may be useful in adding additional regions - it has a block region across the top as Emma suggested - at the moment the blocks there stack vertically, but its quite straightforward (and I will be before I make it stable) to make them equal height and 'stacked' horizontally - and with flex to make them wrap into a second row if there are too many
Maybe later today it'll be stable enough to post a version on this forum discussion.
I don't want to push it out and release it until it's looking like I'm beyond a rough draft.
I'll post some screenshots or a video of the progress if it isn't ready. However, I am going to try and have it ready to go within the next two weeks.
I don't anticipate it taking too long.
Thanks for the answer and good luck
Hi Richard and Al
It'll make sense. Okay, I'll be patient.
May 7th Fordson For Moodle 3.5 Update
- Page Layouts is now a thing! We can load different page layouts independent from style presets. Page layouts mainly deals with how and where custom course images are displayed. We plan to enhance this further but for now this provides 5 unique page layouts.
- Course Section Styling Layouts is now a thing! We plan to initially release a few different topic/weekly section styles. These styles enhance how learning content is displayed within a course.
- Utilize any of the Boost or Bootswatch Style Presets. We made Fordson compatible with all the core presets found here: https://github.com/bmbrands/Moodle-presets Just download these presets and use the Fordson preset upload box to use them.
If you have 10 minutes to kill and want to hear me jabber about the initial, very early, still under-developed progress on Fordson and Moodle 3.5 then have a look at the video here:
I'm pretty excited about the new direction and new opportunities in customization that this will open up for users of Fordson. You can get all the cool features of Fordson such as custom login page, teacher dashboard, etc, etc, and still maintain the default look of Boost. Nice, clean, and simple.
Once I get more of these new layout and section options fully implemented I will begin work on bringing back some of the Fordson Style Presets and see if it is worth all the hassle or just better to start with new presets.
Fantastic work Chris, listening to user feedback for sure! sadly not going to 3.5 in September, but when we do, Fordson certainly accomodates our needs as an institution and saves me a bucket load of development time! Love the Moodle Community and the new UX focus, a long time coming!
With the course content styles, is it likely to support the Grid format too or just default course formats?
Also like the work your doing with blocks. something I'd like to look into is making sticky blocks, that may be in the same place as activity sections. e.g. completion progress on the course page would be great to be visible at the top of the page by deafaut, and then dismissed/hidden after.
but again, fantastic work for 1 man!
Thank you for the kind words.
The course content styles focus on just the default moodle course formats and basically weekly and topic. Like you acknowledged, it's just me developing Fordson and while we'd like to accommodate every plugin we just cannot do so.
It is very likely we might introduce Collapsed Topic format this summer on our Moodle site, so it will be very likely that Fordson will have some type of styling options for that.
We will continue to refine how blocks are used and handled on the page based on feedback from here in the forums and from our teachers in the fall after we upgrade.
Here is a screenshot one of 4 section style layouts you can choose from in the upcoming version of Fordson for Moodle 3.5. This one draws inspiration from a clip-board in how it is laid out. There will be about 6 section styles you can choose from and these are independent from the actual presets.
Very excited that we now have an awesome new way for teachers to utilize blocks within courses that is unobtrusive and hidden by default! Fordson for Moodle 3.5 will now have a course block panel which slides down when a button is clicked.
We think this is by far the best way to handle blocks. When using a module such as the Book activity, the normal sidebar block will appear and the user will not have to do anything to show it as it will function just like it is supposed to do.
If a course has no blocks then nothing appears on the page for the student. When a teacher clicks edit they will see the block button but it will be hidden otherwise until a block is used in any one of the 3 columns.
Brian, hopefully this is kinda what you were thinking for blocks.
Check out the brief video.
This is looking promising. The whole table of contents in books needs a look at (IMO) due to the way it scrolls off screen on long pages.
Is the menu in the lesson module handled the same was in Boost 3.5?
Cheers and as always, thanks for your hard work!
Awesome job on the Fordson theme; my users and teachers love it!
On my test Moodle 3.5 system, I just upgraded to the Fordson v3.5 5-30 release today and noticed that the Font Awesome icons have gone from the sidebar sections (not sure they were there in previous Fordson 3.5 versions) . Not a huge issue, but is there a preset or preset adjustment setting that will bring them back. My users are mostly over 40 and any sort of change in the appearance results in lots of emails to me.
Attached an example of the current 3.4 look for the Online Users plugin.
P.S. Thanks for fixing the friont page category icon layout issue!
The block structures all changed and the old code wasn't working anymore. I may put this on the list of things to come back but we dropped it since there were much bigger issues to solve. I was considering creating "block style chooser" much like the other elements of the page and letting you pick from a variety of styles. I'm just not there yet.
I'll be publishing an update to the current Release 1 tomorrow. This will fix some bugs, better default background image, footer color chooser, and a few other goodies like being able to choose between sidebar blocks or Fordson 3 column collapsible block panel.
I am also working on an eBook for Site Admins on how to setup and use the Fordson theme. This is an exciting project using our new Pressbooks setup which will generate all kinds of output options such as PDF, ePub, and others. https://bookshare.dearbornschools.org/fordsontheme/
Sorry, I don't know when I might be able to get to take a look at the blocks but I want to make it a style chooser.
We are currently working at our test 3.5 version with Fordson.
We would like to know how we can get in the front page the same customized footer we have in the course page (with the footnote, organization name, social icons etc.)
Thank you Chris for this theme!
That was a bug I discovered. It is fixed on the github version. I am holding off on updating Moodle.org until Friday with the next release.
Grab a copy here:https://github.com/dbnschools/moodle-theme_fordson or wait until friday when I publish on Moodle.org.
With the new version you will also be able to choose between the new 3 column blocks or boost sidebar.
Great! Thank you for your answer and support.
I'll wait for the publishing on Moodle.org.
I am trying to install the fordson theme on a Moodle 3.5 site, using the "themedir" directive, so that themes can live outside of the main moodle codebase:
$CFG->themedir = $CFG->dataroot . '/theme';
I've used this for many sites with non-standard themes over the years, and it has always worked, and indeed, works on this site with some other themes, but with the fordson theme I get this whenever i try to access it:
Exception - DirectoryIterator::__construct([dirroot]/theme/fordson/scss/preset/): failed to open dir: No such file or directory
That preset directory DOES exist and has the correct ownership and permissions, as do all of the directories above it.
So, does fordson not play nice with themedir?
Any help would be gratefully received.
Not yet. I'll give it a try.
"Can be made to work"? What is needed then, to do this?
Oh, I see what you mean
I'll contact he maintainer and see what's up.
I suspect this could be related to the scss_lib.php file and possibly others where I used $CFG->dirroot? Should I switch this to $CFG->themedir and tidy up the urls? https://github.com/dbnschools/moodle-theme_fordson/blob/master/lib/scss_lib.php
Lines like: $scss .= file_get_contents($CFG->dirroot . '/theme/fordson/scss/preset/Spectrum-Achromatic.scss');
change to: $scss .= file_get_contents($CFG->themedir. '/fordson/scss/preset/Spectrum-Achromatic.scss');
We don't use moodle in a way that would allow me to test this.
The urls will work if you use the core methods. Look in my themes for ideas on how to cope with $CFG->themedir and $CFG->dirroot as they are two separate things and the code needs to deal with them at the same time. You could always have a local test server that would allow you to test this.