Its gotten really really difficult to use and understand as an administrator and to be honest looks like homers web-page, regardless of what theme is used.
Some of the features in this application such as searching and adding users to courses or undertaking other activities are very confusing and almost counter productive in the way the are designed.
Increasingly, i have found over the last 5 years that teachers and educators want a different, simpler to use platform, that can be used in the mobile world
I honestly believe the developers and designers should split in to two teams, with one half starting to work on a completely new platform, whilst the other half should continue with the current platform until such time as a new completely rebuilt from the ground up can be released.
I am sorry but I have returned to Moodle after 18 months out and all I can say is this platform has got worse in almost every way
1. The developers can not look in to your brain. You need to come up with a prototype.
2. When you say "really really difficult to use and understand", you mean You, right. Unfortunately there are millions of other users of Moodle. Not all of them share your genetic code, you must understand.
The more practical answer is: Moodle is Open Source, so either
a) you modify it to your purpose
b) take another product.
There are always flaws in any program, application, script or whatever. There is always a group of people who are saying "do it better". While I don't disagree entirely with either Albert or Visvanath, yes, some things could be better, and yes, it's Open Source so fix it yourself, consider this, if you will:
Moodle is an incredibly complex web-based application. It tries to do a lot of different things. It is successful in most of them. Could the be prettier? For sure. Could they be simpler? ermm, dunno. Function will, by and large, dictate form, so if anyone comes up with a simpler way of doing some things without drowning Moodle in rapacious, resource hungry "black boxes" of library scripts, requiring complex APIs to work, then they will have my everlasting gratitude. In the meantime, we do what we can.
Welcome back, Albert...
All these things are generally true. But we need to look at them specifically to what Albers is trying to say.
> There are always flaws in any program, application, script or whatever.
I don't think he means a flaw in the sense "wrong", rather Moodle works as advertised but the work flow (of the teacher? administrator?) could be improved, which is always true.
> it's Open Source so fix it yourself, consider this, if you will:
Again true. But easier said than done, because:
> Moodle is an incredibly complex web-based application.
Means, if the changes are small, for that you have to touch (and understand) a huge system. As it is with complex software systems, writing from scratch could be an alternative. Again, relevant to Moodle, see "document re building a Moodle-like platform from scratch?" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=370123.
> Could the be prettier? For sure.
I hope, the whole excitement is not because of the cosmetics!
> Could they be simpler? ermm, dunno.
Didn't you say "Moodle is an incredibly complex web-based application"?
Finally, about other LMSes, read the recent discussions:
- "Moodle V/s OpenEdx" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=364356
- "Canvas vs. Moodle" https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=368215
Like many web applications today, the user interface IS the application for most of us. To that end the look and feel, and indeed some of the functionality can be significantly enhanced by choosing a theme that suits your needs. I agree that the default Boost theme can be somewhat overwhelming and non-intuitive but there are many excellent themes available today.
One theme in particular I've found to be both admin and user friendly is the Fordson theme developed by Chris Kenniburg. It is geared for teachers and he has made it very easy to manage courses and content by providing all the relevant course functions in a single modal dialog box. My users and teachers have given it a big thumbs up in terms of improved ease of use and intuitiveness.
As far as mobile functionality, I use my iPad quite a bit to make changes and add content, via a web browser. The Moodle Mobile app provides a great interface to existing courses and content and adapts very well to mobile phones and tablets. You can even download content and do quizzes offline and have the results automatically synced when you connect again.
Before jumping ship, I'd encourage to try the Fordson theme to see if it better suits your workflow.
Moodle HQ has recognized that Moodle has a somewhat dated interface and have hired a UX developer to address some of the issues you've cited. Moodle is constantly evolving and I know of no other LMS that is so responsive to users.
Using the Fordson Theme myself, and it is a lot different than Boost, and I think much better looking. The comment that the interface becomes the application has always been true, for users. After all, simplistic is what people want, so they don't get too much choice, some but not too much.
@Visvanath, Yes, I didn't put that well, when I said simpler, I meant that it could be a much cleaner interface, cosmetics are useful and while Ancient Egyptian men wore lots of makeup, it kind of fell out of favour until about the 1700-1800s with men then fell out again, only to come back in the 70's, and then gone again, thankfully. I think a similar pattern is happening with app interfaces, start simple, then get cluttered, then become simpler to look at, then get cluttered again, you only have to look at this edit Reply page to see this trending again. Menus, dialogues, small adds, buttons, lines and headings, all add to the perceived clutter. OK, it is arguable for most of these things to be there, but it is certainly not minimalist.
> Like many web applications today, the user interface IS the application for most of us.
Good point. It intrigues me every time, how people perceive the interface as the application. The old saying, "Don't eat the menu!" has something in it!
One observation though: The OP started the discussion saying "Its gotten really really difficult to use and understand as an administrator". We are talking about the User.
Once we say, we need a complex system operated through a simple UX interface, things have become clearer to me. I am not the UX guy, so will pass.
Yes I wrote the book on theming Moodle, a long time ago. But I am talking about usability here. It needs a face-lift of biblical proportions. Start again is my thought. Nothing much to do with a theme or any theme, its just feels very counter intuitive, with buttons on the wrong side and filters that remain active.
I dont know how many times I have searched for a user and not get any results, only to realise that my two previous searches were being added too!
If I had the time and inclination I could list 50 areas that need serious improvement if Moodle is to stay ahead of the game and remain relevant.
I have worked for at least 4 Universities in 3 years that are thinking of moving on, which is a shame but reputation isnt enough to hold on to power
I didn't know that you wrote a book on Moodle Themes. Then you know the subject. As already mentioned UX is not my department. But the realization that "the UX is the (perceived) application" occupies me.
Forget the web applications for a second and look at the Unix/Linux operating systems family. There the OS and the GUI are two completely separate things. So Unix flavours (the kernels) and the GUIs (called Windowing systems) exist separately, and most of them can be combined. What if Moodle follows the same rule. Moodle is an API and a library. People just call them from their GUIs?
Possibly the new theming architecture comes close to that. The only thing missing is to provide the Moodle "core" without a theme! How about that?
BTW, the fact that you worked for "at least 4 Universities in 3 years" tells me that you are in a highly volatile place. In contrast, the institution where I came across Moodle 13 years ago, still uses Moodle and has expanded its Moodle activities in a big way. The point is, examples are not "proofs" one way or the other.
"the fact that you worked for "at least 4 Universities in 3 years" tells me that you are in a highly volatile place"
Yes the UK after Brexit
I am a contractor, so work all over the UK and the Europe
Next i'm of to work for the UN in New York
An ex-Briton after Brexit, that makes sense, who wants to be around where the majority are happy to cut their own collective throat...unbelievable.
As I said earlier, Moodle is quite complex, which is the second stage of technical development. First stage is easy and simple to use, second stage is complex and difficult to use, third stage is complex and easy to use. Most products don't make it through the second stage, but with enough criticisms for knowledgeable users, Moodle just might, if Devs listen, of course. What I have found on other products is the "Look at me, look at what I can do! Aren't I good, I did this really amazing thing that is just so complex." They resent it when you point out that what they did is not user friendly, and turns people away.
I suspect Moodle needs to look at what it's doing and do a lot more consolidating work, instead of rushing headlong into new stuff. Now, that may not be said in the right language, with the right terminology, but in the end, Moodle needs now to move into the third stage, a simpler interface on top of a lot of black boxes, which is what I like about the Fordson Theme, it's still complex, but it is a lot more user friendly than some of its predecessors. For me, there needs to be a much bigger emphasis placed on usability, make things simpler, more ...erm...intuitive (not a term I like using).
BTW, "intuitive" is a nonsense. That idea came from the Dark Side, and you will have seen that across all it's products, they have used the same toolbars, same icons for the same tasks. Others followed suit, obliging the Dark Side's drive for conformity. Web pages too have contributed to this, menu bars across the top or bottom, blue, underlined links, with a hand that appears when hovered on, web forms with labels left and data entry to the right (in English anyway), and so on. The question is only how can Moodle use these communal features to a better advantage?
I will list three areas for improvement as examples - others may want to add to this
1. Lesson - is this still fit for purpose and does it represent a tool that should be found in "a top-tier learning platform"? Compare the look, feel and usability with something like H5P.
2. Survey - A potentially powerful activity that can't be edited or adapted.
3. Currently you can add as many topic sections as you like (no limit!) e.g. 1000 or 10,000 but good luck trying to remove or delete them.
Of course Moodle has to be all things to all users and that is a tough challenge. Greater emphasis on quality control and users (not developers) dictating priorities and usability could steer things back in the right direction. Some popular plugins should become core, some core should be seriously improved or shelved.
It isn't about love it or hate it, for many of us it's a more complex relationship. We have been using Moodle for many years and like any good partnership we have a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses within. We also understand how tools like this can be used to support learning and teaching, as long as they are quick and easy to understand, use and edit. We will do our part where we can to be supportive and provide feedback and provide criticism that is hopefully constructive. Perhaps on some occasions we forgive the problems and quirky behaviour and even help to paper over some of the cracks. However at 16 years old maybe now is a good time to help Moodle grow up, tidy it's room and start to think about where it wants to be in a few year's time.
Indeed I have been following this issue closely. I understand a colleague from my institution (Russ Boyatt) has been helping with the fix!
This comment, Jim, has been bugging me for a few days though:
3. Currently you can add as many topic sections as you like (no limit!) e.g. 1000 or 10,000 but good luck trying to remove or delete them
I learned very early in using Moodle that it's not the section that needs to be deleted, its the material in the section that is the issue. Remove the material, move the now emptied section to the bottom, or just replace the material. Either way, Users don't know there has been a changing of sections, or if they think something is different, they won't put their finger on it. If you have an additional section, then go to Settings and reduce the Number of Topics by 1. This is not an issue at all....as long as you can move, or even hide, that section.
Yes I understand your point although having to hide (or delete) 100 or 1000 or more unused topic sections could be a lengthy process! Let's hope they resolve this matter soon.
Re: 2. Survey - A potentially powerful activity that can't be edited or adapted
Danielle Cordella created a Surveypro module - The Survey module allows teacher to create surveys with rich set of
question types and formats. It allows the creation of custom survey assembling fields and format elements. Survey module can also be used with built in
templates such as ATTLS, COLLES and Critical Incidents
Thanks for this suggestion, however I don't think we should need to rely on external non-standard plugins to get essential functionality. Indeed the SurveyPro module docs state that this module "will hopefully one day be made into core and replace survey and questionnaire". I agree, having these improved tools in core moodle is key.
The current core Moodle survey tool says "Note that these survey tools are pre-populated with questions. Teachers who wish to create their own survey should use the feedback activity module". There was an initiative at some time to combine the best of these tools, as it was recognised some consolidation and improvement was needed. Indeed back in Moodle 2.3 days it was promised that this would happen see here:
https://docs.moodle.org/23/en/Questionnaire_module#See_also However this fell by the wayside.
This is perhaps a good example of the existing software users and developers being able to recognise a gap and a problem but for whatever reason not having the capacity to resolve it. Relying on non-standard plugins is not the answer. Incorporating tried and tested plugins into core much sooner and more efficiently would help.
Just FYI, the Survey Pro module is what became of the plan to combine the best of Moodle's core survey and the contributed Questionnaire module. It didn't make it to core but is available with the planned features.
Thanks Mary and that is good to know. The key question therefore is why something as useful as this (and questionnaire with 6K downloads and used in 10K sites) doesn't end up in core? If we can solve that issue Moodle may be able to improve at a faster rate.
RE: "The key question therefore is why something as useful as this (and questionnaire with 6K downloads and used in 10K sites) doesn't end up in core?":
I think that the official answer has traditionally been theneeded to review and maintain core plugins.
It is very sad that even the Completion Progress block, a magnificent plugin, currently INSTALLED in more than
- Sometimes plugin developers (such as themers) choose not to have their plugins added to core, even when asked, because they are individual developers working for themselves and can make money out of customising the plugin for organisations
- Michael De Raadt is a great developer and I am sure his code is excellent. However he has not worked for Moodle HQ for some time now. (Hopefully he will update his profile at some point.)
Thanks for the reminder to update my profile, Mary. I've done that now.
I wouldn't mind if my plugin became part of core Moodle, but I'm not sure that everyone would agree it should be.
I've been out of the loop for a while now, but I recall the last time there was a significant re-write, which was Moodle 2.0 and the change was so radical that it took many users years to catch up with the latest version. Many simply continued with an old, unsupported version and some walked away. Blackboard is currently in a similar position where they have gone back to scratch and created a new, significantly different product, however its release was delayed and the upgrade path was unclear, so they've effectively redeveloped themselves out of the market. Moodle development has to be backwards compatible and evolutionary. All the changes mentioned can be made over time.
Hi Michael, that is really interesting about BB, the dangers of developing your product into a corner. Sometimes I think that Moodle does need to slow down and let people catch up, but then there has been some really good points about developing some tools to a higher degree for inclusion into core. The risk I suspect is that core gets bigger and bigger, and it too becomes unwieldy.
I suspect that at some point, development of core is going to take a back seat to development of plugins, as long as a stable core can be maintained.
As for alternative developments, I strongly suspect that we have seen the last Windows as we know it. The next release is likely to be in direct competition with Google's chromebooks, an online only Windows. This is going to stress every Open Source development, so what happens then?
I was always willing to allow questionnaire into core. In fact I even suggested it and started the work to do so. However feedback was selected instead, due to a brand new code base that adhered better to Moodle's coding standards.
Since then, I have spent many hundreds of hours maintaining, improving and removing technical debt from questionnaire.
RE: "Relying on non-standard plugins is not the answer. Incorporating tried and tested plugins into core much sooner and more efficiently would help."
As much as I agree 100% on this, I fear Moodle's roadmap does not contemplate the value of the plugin usage data available in the Moodle plugins database page, as there have been very few of these (very used) contributed plugins integrated into Moodle core releases in recent years with the notable exception of the many superb plugins contributed by the Open University (e.g. Tim Hunt's) that are now part of the now much improved and useful Moodle core.
Are you a member of the Moodle Users Association?
Can you get in touch with Emma Richardson?
Maybe they can discuss this idea and devise a way to improve the current situation.
Re: Incorporating tried and tested plugins into core much sooner and more efficiently would help.
I think this is one good step in the right direction, but maybe this was mostly related to the fact that the plugin maintainer Andrew Nicols, is a developer on the Beard team at Moodle HQ in Perth.
Beacause the plugin itself (a very useful one), is reported as installed in 1399 sites with 550 recents downloads. It is not in the list of the 20 most downladed plugins.
Interestingly, I found MDL-50951 (POLICY: Accepting new plugins into Moodle and removing unpopular ones) with a very good suggestion by a very wise moodler:
"What would work is to have a very occasional project on some major
versions (eg for 3.0) where we make a push to identify very popular
plugins for adding and some plugins for removal. We would need to
advertise it widely and actually listen if a lot of people complain
about anything. Additions/removals can not be taken lightly as they
really have the potential to affect a lot of people."
Would you guess who wrote that ? Please remind him in time for 3.7.
mmm Perhaps 4.0 Germán..
Of course, the duds have to be removed otherwise it becomes bloatware. As pointed out though, how do you determine what the duds are? Because a plugin is not "popular", does that make it a dud? How about changes to older plugins. The old progress bar, for example, as opposed the newer Completion Tracking plugins caused some issues for some Users. The old bar was simple to setup and for students to follow, but as our Moodle providers are still "assessing" whether the completion tracking plugin, while removing the older progress bar, is worthwhile having, I can't compare it. (I do understand that this is now a core feature, so the whole point is somewhat moot, but the interim has been some three years I think.)
I would seriously suggest though that while Marina's suggestion has merit, Martin's response is balancing that. Superficially, it would come back to an earlier suggestion of mine which was to have a stronger Moodle core and just provide all the tested plugins for that version with the download. This gives Admins and Users the opportunity to at least trial a plugin knowing, or confident, that it will work as is. OK, the download is likely to be erm... large,,,, but the User gets the opportunity to make their own decisions as they need to. Some work would have to be done around documentation for the plugins in the download files, but it does mean that core can stay relatively small, with the essentials, and the optional plugins can be out there, ready for use if someone wants to use them. I don't think that themes would be included, (a separate download file?), that would make the whole thing far too large.
@Colin "Some work would have to be done around documentation for the plugins in the download files".
I think that the download files should not include documentation for the plugins.
The 'Moodle Docs for this page' at the bottom of the page usually links to the relevant page whenever the user clicks on it while setting up a plugin. Many Moodlers have contributed very friendly Moodle Docs pages, specially when someone asked 'How do I configure/use/fix ... such plugin?' in the forums.
The New features Documentation pages has done a pretty good job of highlighting the features of newly introduced plugins and linking to the relevant Moodle Docs pages.
Maybe your suggestion to 'provide all the tested plugins for that version with the download ' can be streamlined to 'supply all the plugins in the Moodle cloud set with the download', as Moodle HQ has surely tested these 10 plugins before offering them in the Moodle cloud that they sponsor.
Where would be a good place to further discuss the merits of suggesting a tracker issue to request that the Moodle cloud set be included in Moodle 3.7 core ?
Would this be better dealt with by MUA?
Historically MUA has not seen many projects that involve integrating plugins - the reasoning I have heard is that the functionality is available, albeit in a plugin and they want to bring in something new. In fact, this round we are taking out a project that involves Attendance plugin (why is that not in core??? What lms doesn't need Attendance?) because the proposer specifically did not want to suggest putting it in core as he believes core should be simple...I think it would be great if we had more plugins in core, especially those are used so much...I also think it would be great if the installer would ask what you are using Moodle for and maybe suggest a group of plugins that you should install and disable the rest (always can be adjusted after install). This might make it a lot easier for new admins to get up and running quickly...
"I think it would be great if we had more plugins in core, especially those (that) are used so much..."
- There are MANY Moodle sites that can only use core Moodle.
- Almost all free and unexpensive Moodle hosting sites would only have core Moodle.
- Many IT guys in small K-12 and Higher Education institutions are reluctant to install third party plugins.
- I think that most additional plugins were developed because someone thought that they needed a functionality that is not available in Moodle core.
- (I think that) An unused plugin in core does not waste RAM nor CPU cycles, and can be very easily and quicky disabled -closed eye- (if it needed to be disabled, or even un-installed) , but adding an additional plugin can be difficult or impossible for many Moodle sites.
All of these are reasons for a stronger, fuller Moodle core.
Maybe a quick survey of current MUA members would tell us how many can (and do) install additional plugins in their sites.
It would be very interesting to know which plugins MUA people are using nowadays. And, wouldn't MUA members prefer that future Moodle core branches already had the plugins that they deem necessary for their sites ?
This thread has two main themes, usability and what should be included in core. Usability is constantly tweaked with each new Moodle release and HQ employs usability experts. The user experience is getting better
There are enough modules in core Moodle. A fresh install shows about 22 options, 15 activities and 7 resources. Several have non obvious names and some are probably rarely used by typical teachers. I think some should be disabled by default.
Adding new modules to core should be done with caution. It would be useful to know what modules are rarely used.
If you look at https://moodle.net/stats/ you will see that registered sites return some statistics but I think these are limited. It would be possible for HQ to offer sites the option to send more data back.
It would be good if there was more emphasis on pluggability (which is actually very good already) and more promotion of the benefits, features and quality of plugins. People could also be encouraged more to write plugins, it is not rocket surgery.
I think it is a pity that SurveyPro has not made it into core, it seems worthy of inclusion
Here is what I have seen over and over in my experience dealing with Moodle in a K-12 environment. People don't consider what it is they want students and teachers to do and more specifically, how they should/will complete an action.
Take for instance the homepage. Default is a dashboard. If you are not enrolled in a course what are you to do? Where do you go? The link to find courses isn't obvious. Nor is the process defined to make it plainly obvious.
How and where does a teacher go to create a course? Is there a button on the homepage? How do they even get started? Once in a course how does the teacher do things? The default Edit Gear is contextual so depending on what page you are on it will change the menu. That is confusing mainly because it is hidden but also inconsistent!
These are the questions we should be answering. A big part of usability is defining what and how you want someone to complete a task. Moodle largely leaves this up to the school or end user to decide.
If you don't have a list of things a user should do upon logging in then you haven't setup Moodle properly. For our list we want the homepage to do a couple of things:
- Teachers can create courses and access existing courses (added button only course creators/teachers see)
- Students can enroll in courses directly from homepage without searching, access existing courses, and view their dashboard/calendars for upcoming events and assignments (Easy Enrollment Plugin uses codes to instantly enroll from form on homepage)
- A welcome message and ability to instruct a new user on where to go and what to do (custom textbox and other elements)
- A convenient way to market new features or new content teachers can use in classes (marketing spots)
Once in a course we wanted the following for teachers:
- Always visible Turn editing on button
- Always accessible course administration panel (site administration links)
- Ability to quickly jump between courses
- All menus and main links to do things in one area (top navbar)
Our homepage is designed to accomplish these goals via a theme and plugins we developed. It acts as a traffic cop to direct the users to where they want to go. Our course layouts and features also help us achieve our goals.
Moodle is getting much better but if you are using it and don't define a flow of traffic and what you expect the user to do at each set of the way then it will be very confusing for the student and teacher. Moodle doesn't do this out of the box in an intuitive way.
Actually, you have hit the nail on the head here, as I was really talking about the administrative functions of Moodle and not from the perspective of an educator.
I was asked today, if I could test a plugin to see if it worked, something called Kaltura and i had to say no! Its something I have never heard off and something that I have no idea about.
If I was an educator I would hate Moodle, its so complicated, with hundreds of activities, filters, plugins and ways of doing things. I am glad that my head is in Linux and servers more than teaching with this application.
Moodle has all the tools you need for a top-tier learning platform. What it doesn't have is a predefined method of driving the user to where they want to go in an obvious way. It may be something they don't even know they need to do like turn editing on to build your course or to go from the homepage to an actual course that they need to enrol in manually.
We spend a lot of time talking and developing these "pathways" to help the user discover where they need to go to complete predefined tasks.
We have a phrase for our theme which tries to address these issues and we say that the Fordson theme gets the user from "login to learning" as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Getting from login to learning is where Moodle struggles as the pathways are totally up to the end user's institution or they do not exist out of the box. Most schools I've dealt with in K-12 haven't even thought about this. That's why we have developed Fordson and the Easy Enrollment plugin along with a specific way we setup and configure Moodle. It's a recipe that creates a pathway and user experience that helps guide the learner and teacher to the actions they need to perform.
It's not without flaws (like any LMS out there), but it is top of mind for our development initiatives and top focus of our chats and discussions on how to improve our Moodle site.
We also like sharing, so we provide our stuff for free with the awesome Moodle community which has been an invaluable resource of good ideas, suggestions, and support.
At my university, most of the students in our department didn't even realize there was a dashboard on Moodle because the default landing page was/is set to the news feed with numerous other blocks on. It's not ideal but I'm not in charge of their installation, whereas the course dashboard would be a lot more relevant to students in terms of accessing a course, finding resources, activities, etc.. I even had some instructors e-mail me (as a student) asking questions about Moodle since they knew my job was being a Moodle admin. Ironic!
Where I currently work, part of my job is to conduct orientation to all new students (as well as faculty, but this is not frequent), and ongoing support on campus. It's just another way of being the traffic cop and getting students from "login to learning" as you described it earlier. Like you, I was somewhat surprised that my rather small department actually had/has a dedicated position for this. When I worked in K-12, I tried for several years to get one added (I taught and managed the LMS) as it was extremely difficult to do both time wise. Moreover, I couldn't be available for help when I was teaching a full load of classes. They never had thought about this at all, and to some degree later on, just assumed it was relatively easy to do. I was put in a position where I wanted to either teach full time, or do ed-tech admin full time and the school chose the former over the latter. Turned into complete chaos after that but this thinking (or lack thereof) goes back well into the 1990's in the academic literature sadly.
William, at the top of this Comparisons and Advocacy forum is a post from Chris K, that has been pinned to the top. If you go down a few responses, you will find some really interesting observations from Chris, about the points you raise. For me, that one discussion is perhaps the best ever in this forum and one of the best in all forums since I started using them more than a decade ago.
One way to add this "traffic cop" function to Moodle is to create a User Tour for each of your user types so they see directions the first time they log in (and whenever they want to review them later). A lot of the things one needs to do on first login are never done again, or are done rarely (depending on how the institution handles things like creating new courses, new user accounts, etc.) User Tours can be customized per site and can directly address the needs of that site.
I think periodically reviewing the most-used plugins is a great idea. When I was hired at Moodle, one of my first tasks was to review third-party plugins currently in the directory and group them by similarity so we could see what feature areas were receiving the most interest from the developer community. It would be great to combine this with installation and usage data on both core and third-party plugins to help focus future priorities. However, the data is currently incomplete and skewed by the fact that many (possibly most) sites never register with Moodle, so we have no idea what they are doing. We have been putting stronger processes in place to encourage site owners to register their Moodles. I think this situation will improve over the next few releases.
There will always be the challenge that Moodle is open-source and not a commercial product, which limits in-house resources. If a third-party plugin is "adopted" to be part of core, Moodle HQ takes on maintenance costs, including increasingly complex testing with each release. Many plugins are also created in a way that meets the needs of the home institution, but would not work as well across a wide variety of sites.
I personally think the way forward is simplifying Moodle to more generic, configurable features (not requiring PHP code to configure), and providing installation profiles for different site types (similar to what was suggested above). These installation profiles should consist of configuration pre-sets that members of the community can create, share, and evaluate. But we would also need to provide migration tools from the existing plugins to a smaller set of new, more general-purpose plugins.
For example, if we develop a new custom reporting tool, we should probably migrate existing reports in Moodle to the new tool, so that anyone can customize the standard reports for their site, (without destroying the default reports provided with core), and we might need to help creators of existing reporting tools to develop conversion tools from their formats to the new tool. Ultimately this would reduce the "technical debt" of future development, lowering maintenance costs and making regression bugs less likely with new releases. But each initiative like this is expensive. Maybe if MUA gets a lot of new members and can help fund it....
Is this random, Marcus? Should it have been elsewhere? Or is it you expressing some frustration at Admins not bothering to actually learn about the systems they are supposed to be admining?
If someone was to come to me with that question, and I didn't know what Kaltura was, which has happened with another plugin btw, I would go look, then have a look at version numbers, if it fit, I would test it. If the test was successful, I would ask the person who made the request to make a case for using it and then seek permission to use that plugin from the owners of the Moodle. (The only issue I have is in versions. If versions are not maintained, then I am seriously reluctant to do anything.)
I would think that would be responsive admining. I must admit though, the further I move away from core, the more uncomfortable I get, because it means greater possibility of more things going wrong as a result of an upgrade. I think we learned that lesson in the transitions between v1.9 and v2.2 in just how complicated it could all get if non-core, third-party plugins are not properly maintained.
As a side line, we have been using Kaltura for about 4 years now and it integrates well and works along the line of a private YouTube site with some bonuses (e.g. the ability to embed quizzes into recordings, add chapters and additional files to videos, etc.). Our faculty are liking it and use it for both course information and student assignments.
We are migrating to canvas (already mentioned the reason). There are some things that are good about, but mostly I prefer moodle.
And that takes you to the dashboard page by default. And I don't think you can change it.
It also is not intuitive to create courses - however, most staff don't have the rights. Where you manage your courses via an MIS system. only admins should be creating their courses so it ties to back end enrolments etc - whatever your vle.
So, there is how the system operates for the end user AND the logic of why to consider here.
Chris, this are the right questions, but there is not only one answer.
As Moodle partner we see daily client requirements how to handle processes. Lets take the question how a teacher can create a new course
Answer1: teachers should not create new courses. The SIS creates new courses and enroles teachers and students.
Answer2: teachers should not create new courses. Courses are created only by secretaries in the departments.
Answer 3: teachers should reset their couses at the end of the term
Answer 4: teachers get an own course category and create the courses by themself
Answer 5: We create a teacher service room with central support, help documents and a link to the form for requesting a new course
Answer 6: requesting new courses by teachers needs a confirmation by department secretary
Answer 7: teacher should be able to use an existing course and start creating a new course, select a course template and add users by adding the mail address including creating new user accounts
All these processes are reality. All these processes are in use by our clients. In Moodle. What is the one and only process for a LMS now?
The main problem here is that it needs a clear decision about the processes, a proper configuration of the site and a clear internal communication. But this is an internal task in each institution. It depends in the type of educational institution, size, teaching and learning culture, responsibilities for the platform and purpose of use.
Years ago I made a presentation 'Simplify Moodle'. You can find it here: https://de.slideshare.net/ralfh/simplify-moodle-en Its five year old and the original German presentation is one or two years older. You can do a lot of things within Moodle by configuration. But you should do it.
I had lot of discussions with staff in educational institutions. If you ask a group of 40 teachers about the features they need, you get an endless list of functionalities. How will decide? Educational institutions that I know (primarily in Germany) try to reduce conflicts by accepting each wish specially if it doesn't cost anything. At the end they are confused by to much features.
I'm not arguing against change. I'd suggested a discussion about quiz editing UX a few weeks ago here. But I would suggest to discuss it with concrete situations, processes and problems. Moodle handles a lot of things much better and much more flexible than other platforms. A flexible platform will be more complicate than a platform that has only one or two options. What do we want?
User search - yes, this is awful, always has been and who knows if it will ever change. I use quickfindlist for user search (plugin) - I wish it was in core and as such, will probably suggest this as a Moodle User's Association project next round.
Educators want a simpler platform - many have already mentioned Fordson - plus one for that - amazing theme - Chris has done great work. But also remember that as admins, we can make Moodle as simple as possible by disabling features. I just had a client want a Moodle Lite - I disabled so much stuff! But it works for them.
Moodle has got worse? No, it has come leaps and bounds...it still has a ways to go but HQ is really working hard on that looking at UI and features...plus we have the Moodle User's Association - join and propose fixes...
There is simply too much to say "Start again" - that is a throw the baby out with the bath water philosophy ... let's work together to fix what needs fixed.
Regarding plugins in core. I do think a lean core and lots of plugins is the best way. Moodle has done really well with their plugins installer and Plugins directory integration. Trying to maintain, or rely on people outside Moodle HQ to maintain, these plugins is just going in the wrong direction when allocating resources.
As far as promoting the Moodle platform against competitors I think having some more magic out of the box would help for sure. I humbly suggested my own plugin for inclusion in core and got shot down. Ha ha. But I do agree with the reasoning broadly.
One thing I might suggest is to follow the route that Canvas and friends have taken of allowing LTI integrations in more places around Moodle, such as the Atto editor. That would create a gateway for admins to add functionality to Moodle without installing plugins at all. And a lot of the goodness that is being offered as add-on services to Canvas et al, could be brought into Moodle in one easy hit.
Justin, regarding your suggestion about LTI integrations there is already someone working on this MDL-62607 and they are going to try to get the code added to core. I think this functionality would be useful as well.
> I do think a lean core and lots of plugins is the best way.
Same here. Yes, the plug-in architecture supports this well. It is just a matter of reducing the number of core plug-ins to an absolute minimum. So finally there will be four categories of plug-ins: a) core plug-ins b) those in the moodle.org plug-ins directory and maintained by Moodle HQ c) those in the moodle.org plug-ins directory and not maintained by Moodle HQ d) outside plug-ins.
The next question is what is the absolute minimum set of plug-ins. From a minimal user's perspective it is File, Folder, Label and Page!
Side note: Believe it or not, I know more than one department (subject field) who use only these four in all their courses. Sorry, zero interaction with students (through the LMS). So the students don't even register in the course, they are public. Nothing need to be done when a new academic year starts!
And the same thing with the theme. Well, it is already the case since Boost.
As a plugin developer, I would not recommend installation profiles and/or including plugins outside of what is core during initial setup and install. First impressions matter and if your first impression is with an error or non-compatible combination of plugins then you will not have a favorable impression of Moodle.
Moodle is hugely complex with so many options and features that can instantly change a desired result.
When testing compatibility a simple checkbox or switch can return completely different scenarios that might not be desired. Adding 3rd party plugins only increase the chances of something not working properly during a first impression.
With that said, first impressions matter. Pathways and defined methods for interacting and navigating a platform matter. Completing tasks in a defined, consistent, and logical method with the least amount of distractions matters.
A couple of things would greatly benefit Moodle and they are hard to do and take the most time:
- Continue the attention to usability and consistency in how a user interacts with Moodle. This includes making the everyday tasks that force you to interact with Moodle a better experience. Searching, filtering, adding in better ways to sort and find things greatly helps. Streamlining the import/backup processes to be less than 10 clicks is ideal.
- A more robust default theme in terms of functionality. Leave the style plain if that is what Moodle HQ wants, but add in features such as:
- Always visible "Editing button" for teachers
- When editing is turned on the page refreshes to return the user to where they clicked the button
- Possibly just eliminate turning editing on and as teacher you can make changes anytime with always on editing.
- Extend the Dashboard course tiles with images to course listing directory for consistency
- A better way to display course administration beside hiding it in the gear which changes depending on what page you are viewing. This is for consistency. On homepage you get randomly selected course admin links that are not organized by function. On a module page you get module links. Same icon, different links depending on context. Confusing as hell for new users or users that casually want to use Moodle for a few activities or projects.
- Better defined pathways to access important areas of the site from the dashboard/site home.
- Ability to customize what appears in the Nav Drawer
- Better ways to share content with both public and private repositories. Building a course is hard work and time consuming. Allowing organizations and the public to share content internal or external in a "One-Click" import type of repository would be ideal. We have very high hopes for the new Moodle.net and hope that organizations can operate their own moodle hub that is similar to moodle.net when it is relaunched.
Most importantly is the end user/installer - the Moodle admin - must have a firm grasp of what and how the organization wants to access and use the tool. Then that Moodle admin has to know what settings to adjust to make it happen. I completely understand how a new Moodle admin would feel like they are trying to build a house and were just handed a hammer. You have a feeling for how the house should look and out of the box it isn't possible. You need more tools (plugins) to finish the house.
Quite right Chris, and reading your comments, I am thinking I am falling into the same trap as the real experts, I know what I want and others should too, whether they know the product or not. A sound, user friendlier core, with small bundles of plugins an Admin can download and install easily when they are comfortable in doing so, perhaps. Experiment with a group of plugins? And I still think an easy way of installing and removing plugins from within Moodle is a more attractive option than current practice.
Generally when people say they want an "user friendlier" anything it usually means less options and less settings so that it is not so confusing. I am not sure that most people really want that. With Moodle you get to see the big list of features whereas with others you get a few options but cannot really change anything within the system. This has it's pros and cons.
Finding the sweet spot between too many options and not enough is a tough task.
Yes, Chris, I agree, and reading my earlier comments I think I am blurring the ideas of "simplified" and "user friendly", sorry about that.
On one hand, is Moodle really generating a new level of "terror by choice"? We are learning from so many studies now that if we, people, have too much choice, we either don't make a choice or we chose inappropriately. So perhaps are we getting out of hand with the number of plugins and options available?
For me, on the other hand, the concept of simplified is more about using buttons and drop down menus rather than a cluttered block structure. I understand the docking bay is a step in that direction, but most people are now used to having a menu bar across the top of the screen in their working pages, the landing pages are different, but working pages have very little on them. I suggest this is a continuation of the original text editing process, then word processing. They originally informed people's expectations when writing things, basically a blank screen with toolbars across the top. Yes, technology has changed, screens have gotten better, wider, for sure, but people's expectations are not moving as rapidly as the technology.
We expect to see things cluttering up the screen when using Excel, or Photoshop but look at any text editor, and there is not a lot on the screen. I still suggest that Moodle needs to get away from the three column Post-Nuke look. If blocks are to appear onscreen, then why not use the same approach as Adobe and put everything on the right for left-side readers and on the left for right-side readers? The tabbing blocks of Photoshop or dockable, nested menus of Acrobat are a neat, tidy solution, which Moodle is actually using, why not formalise it and make it a Moodle Standard? The only thing is that this would be a long term theme project which would take many versions to get right, I would think.
I have a wide screen monitor, and I set this forum up using the "flat replies and oldest first" option and I can read it in a 2 column approach, just as described above. OK, blocks scroll with the page, but I know enough about HTML5 to know this is only because the right hand column is set to the top of the page, not the screen. Why can't all Moodle's pages, even the landing page be set like that? And right now, I am wishing I had been more creative and really tried to learn how to write themes years ago instead of giving it away when I changed jobs, so I could show you what I really mean. Crystal ball really failed me here....
I just saw some presentation notes from Martin at a Moot and it looks like Moodle 3.7 might see more attention put on Boost. I'm wondering what that will be. Hopefully, these changes address the concerns of using the gear with hidden menus that change depending on what page you are on.
Personally, I am excited for the messaging changes coming in Moodle 3.6. I hope that we can limit messaging to just users within courses.
I hear you on the columns. We initially were fearful of the Nav Drawer but have grown to love it. What we still hate is the block sidebar for Boost. That's why we created the "curtain" style drop down with 3 columns. We think this is better than cluttering up the homepage. However, there are times when you want something on the homepage, so I am not sure how you best handle this for the large masses and how people might or might not want to use Moodle.
I don't think the amount of plugins or options are a problem as much as it is knowing what and how you want to platform to operate and defining how that will occur in the platform. There is a thought process that must occur and the problem is that you might not know what you don't know. That can affect the outcome and/or limit your ability to make Moodle do what you want it to do.
Example: How will a teacher create a new course?
Goal: We want every teacher to login and be able to create as many courses as they want.
Moodle Admin's Dilemma: Are we using LDAP? How does Moodle know who is a teacher? How and where does a teacher go to create a course? How do we organize the courses? There are many steps and pieces that must be in place to reach the goal. Once all the functionality is working then you must look at is it logical and easily discoverable for a teacher to create a course.
For each of these needs/goals there must be a defined way to accomplish the task. You don't just install Moodle and assume people can use the system effectively. There is a thought process that each organization must go through in order to design and implement Moodle in an effective and logical way that meets the needs of their user base.
The good news is that Moodle doesn't shoehorn you into a limited way of doing things. The bad news is that you need to know what levers to pull and buttons to push in order to make Moodle do what you want it to do. It's always a learning experience.
We are using Moodle at our campus. We welcome the functionality as said by Chris Kenniburg
Possibly just eliminate turning editing on and as teacher you can make changes anytime with always on editing.
Our teachers want Moodle to be very simple like Google Classroom.
I'd like to expand on this even further.
Because you are building your own LMS there is nothing that says you have to include every module/activity for Moodle. You can customize the Add Activity menu to include just the modules that you want teachers to use. This makes the tool simpler just because there are less options.
If your teachers want simple then make Moodle simple. Remove (Hide) unused or un-needed learning activities. This will lower the cognitive load when teachers begin building courses. Maybe you just want to include 4 or 5 activities: Glossary, Assignment, Quiz, Lesson, Forum. And also leave in the various resources such as book and files. Then remove all the rest! There is nothing stopping you from doing so. If no one uses the wiki, workshop, or survey, then eliminate them from being an option and distraction for teachers.
Another key area to pay attention to is how teachers use each module. Setting as many defaults to how the majority use the module is key! If everytime they add a quiz they have to switch a bunch of settings you should change the defaults to match how teachers are using the tool.
It's kinda like asking for a fork and being handed a spoon. You have to reach into the drawer and pull out the fork on your own each time you eat. Eventually you grow tired of getting the wrong utensil. It even has a psychological impact of expecting one thing and getting another which makes you slightly upset.
Don't do that to your teachers and students! Help eliminate frustration points.
Yes, we have customize a lot. Your fordson theme and this forum helped in this regard. But, we want to have is as a teacher, they want to have the flexibility of adding resources/activities easier than now. The theme snap has some of these features but they have made coded only for the default course format. If any other course format is used, it gets breakdown. And here there is no separate group of technical people to maintain the LMS.
I'm coming very late to this... but...
I have used Moodle since version 1.4 and I'm still here. There are some parts of Moodle that absolutely infuriate me. There are many examples of stuff like...
* conflicting needs pulling the user interface in several different directions resulting in confusion
* The user interface being driven by the decisions of developers and the underlying APIs rather than the other way around
* Developments being made available way before they are complete - even worse when they replace something else that worked fine.
* and so on...
BUT... we tend to fixate on these things. The vast majority of Moodle just gets on with the job and works. We don't think about that - we just use it. I support thousands of users and I'm always surprised how few moans and complaints I get. The vast majority of users just get on with it - so it can't be all bad.
No Howard, it is certainly not all bad. Like any developing tool, it has a lot of good points and some not so good points, but even at its worst, Moodle has never had anything like a Windows Vista or a Blackboard moment. And I for one would like it to stay that way..
There are individual things we can get fixated on, like how wikis are not as good as they could be, how the desktop is frequently cluttered depending on the page you're on. Chris K had the great idea of a setting to hide the Nav Draw and drop down menus in the Fordson theme, love it! Should be a universal.
The short term future is looking good, but purely from a User's view, I suggest Devs need to seriously consider not displaying their brilliance in such an obvious manner. Too much choice can be a bad thing, so we are learning. LTI is going to blossom, I suspect, with things like Google Apps, Office 365 and Amazon's AWS. For me, it should be made as easy as it can get.
The longer term future is a lot more murky. I don't want Moodle frozen out by the big dollars that these companies can bring to bear, but more and more we are seeing Companies, Colleges, Universities, and others turning to "The Cloud" because it all gets so easy there, they don't have to worry about anything, just their internet. MoodleCloud is not going to compete with that without a massive injection of funding and consistent income.
Aghhh enough complaining.... fortune tellers are like economists, so often wrong but we still believe....
Good insight and I agree on having a better play for Moodle in the cloud. Many institutions want this.
We don't need cloud support but we have resources others do not in K-12. With many other LMS's you are buying a pre-packaged system where you change some logos and colors. It all operates the same. Moodle isn't like that and I hope they don't lose sight of that.
Google has a beta program exploring LTI which brings much of the interactivity of Google Classroom in terms of assignments and drive right into Moodle and other LMS's. We haven't tried this yet but I think we are going to explore this next year. It takes integration with Google beyond what Moodle currently offers with single sign on and repositories.
I'm excited for the future. I think Moodle is progressing and I have such high hopes for the Moodle.net project. Our teachers want integrated, curated, and relevant content for building courses. I just hope they allow for private moodle.net repositories because we sometimes purchase content and cannot share it. Other times we produce stuff based on just what our district is doing and cannot share it. Still, an internal content sharing tool is sorely needed to help teachers and institutions build and share resources used in classes.
In the Netherlands, the SURF foundation for innovation and technology in higher education has developed guidelines for universities and colleges in which they describe a modular, digital learning and working environment. All LMSs in use in Dutch higher education should fit in neatly into this modular landscape of tools and applications, of which Moodle is just one.
Often, institutions have a fully productive SharePoint or intranet environment, combined with various systems for identity and access management and productivity that the LMS has to be integrated with.
On the implementation side, it pays to make choices at the beginning of the process, to only have available those options to teachers and students that they're actually going to use. Less clutter makes for better adoption of the platform.
As for cloud hosting vs. on premise: this is where specialist companies like the Moodle partners come into play. They have the knowledge and skills to help educational organisations transition to a SaaS solution.
Our lessons learned:
- it pays to make choices at the beginning of the implementation (what's enabled, what's disabled)
- it pays to spend time and energy setting up integrations with other relevant applications
- it pays to have a Moodle instance themed to match the 'corporate identity' of the organisation
If set up properly, Moodle can take on any other LMS hands down.
Hi Joost, and I mostly agree, but...
" it pays to make choices at the beginning of the implementation (what's enabled, what's disabled)"
The assumption here is that the people making decisions know what they want, know what's available and understand the technologies involved. Far too often, none of these pre-conditions are true. Most of my time in the last three years has been battling the ignorance of the people who are making decisions. They don't know what they don't know and far too often I get "Can we talk about this later, I have a meeting." or similar excuse, and of course, "later" doesn't happen. They remain unaware of the impact of their decisions so people get frustrated, not at the nitwits making decisions years ago, but at how the tools they are using don't work, or are not fit for purpose, or complicated, or whatever. I wear that, so I'm the bad guy... but I struggle on, "Non illegitimi carborundum."
Having read through this conversation, I can sympathize with both sides. Our two-bits is that up until the 3.5 release, both the Admin and the end users have been fairly happy with Moodle, but the 3.5 release has added extra steps to and redesigned functions that were working very well and in the process making them less user-friendly. While there is always some resistance when there is an upgrade, usually it dies down fairly quickly, with 3.5, the resistance and complaints are actually growing and they are coming from some of our most flexible and adaptable instructors. Updates to functionality that works well are not needed and are often counter-productive.
"...so that it can be improved upon or at least looked at."
Is a nice sentiment, and for a number of Devs like yourself, this is actually important, but it has been my experience that too many Devs, and this is not just Moodle btw, are too busy in self-promotion to worry about if what they do is actually user friendly. I am repeating myself, but the solutions they generate are often demonstrative of how clever they are rather than 'can someone who is not as computer literate as myself be comfortable using this?' I know we have to move past the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality, but I am seriously suggesting here that we should not mix up workable solutions with usefulness. That's really badly said, I know but simple should not be considered simplistic, and it may be that the UI becomes so automated that a single click produces a whole course, or a set of clicks in a course design settings page will produce a five section course with two quizzes, a Book in a grid format. All the user has to do is select the options for each element.
I understand Susan's frustration here, but Moodle does not want to shoot itself in the foot like so many other really good products that evolved out of the user friendly state they began with.
*Sent from my pretentiously large Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Smartphone!