Themes

Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development

 
Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Hello All,

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...

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.  
  5. 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.  

 
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Picture of Emma Richardson
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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...

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.  

 
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It's only an avatar...
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
I am not 100% sure, but my understanding of how Moodle is heading, it appears to be reduceing blocks and to continue to use flat navigation wherever possible.
 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

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.
 
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Picture of Brian Rigwald
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

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.

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.

 
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Picture of Brian Rigwald
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

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.

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Brian,

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.


 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.  

 
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Picture of Brian Rigwald
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

Hi Chris,

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.

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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. 

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Take a look a Handlebar Chris - Block regions are implemented as a modal from a button on the right of the screen - same thing could be easily implemented as you suggest smile

The teacher/student dashboard in Handlebar works the same way, and also has regions for blocks to add them to the dashboard.

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.  

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.  

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Hi Chris,

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 smile

 
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Picture of Jochen Kinsinger
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

Hi Chris,

is it possible to get a copy of fordson theme for moodle 3.5 to test it with our own moodle 3.5 test server.


Regards

Jochen

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.

 
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Picture of Jochen Kinsinger
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

Thanks for the answer and good luck


Regards
JK

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
Hi Jochen,

Worth bearing in mind that Moodle 3.5 and the new version of Boost are not

yet released as stable. So anything Chris produces at this stage will still

be subject to possible change :)



On Mon, 7 May 2018, 11:38 Jochen Kinsinger (via Moodle.org), <
 
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Picture of AL Rachels
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

As  Richard mentioned, Boost for 3.5 is needing some work still. There are multiple failed QA Tests that worked fine with Clean, but do not render correctly when using Boost.

 
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Picture of Jochen Kinsinger
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

Hi Richard and Al


It'll make sense. Okay, I'll be patient.


Regards

JK

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.

 
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Picture of Chris Chapman
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
 

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!

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Hello Chris,

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. 

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle 3.5 & Fordson Theme Updates and Development
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Good Morning,

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.  


 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Brand New Hidden Block Panel for Fordson Theme
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.


 
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Picture of Willian Mano Araújo
Re: Brand New Hidden Block Panel for Fordson Theme
Plugin developers

Very cool this approach to hide the blocks.

Nice job smile

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Brand New Hidden Block Panel for Fordson Theme
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Thanks!  I took some inspiration from Moove in hiding the blocks this way.

 
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Picture of Bob Gilmore
Re: Brand New Hidden Block Panel for Fordson Theme
 

Hey Chris,

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!

Bob

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Brand New Hidden Block Panel for Fordson Theme
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Yes.  Books and Lessons utilize the sidebar for blocks.  I specifically kept the default sidebar just for this scenario.  It only shows up once inside an activity.  Otherwise you can use the homepage Block Panel to put all your blocks.

 
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