Comparisons and advocacy

Moodle needs to start again

Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Particularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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.

Average of ratings: Useful (2)
Picture of William Stewart
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Particularly helpful Moodlers
I just wanted to add/share this is also more broadly a problem/difficulty with educational technology. There are numerous tools available, but often what teachers do not receive is training and ongoing support. One off workshops really are ineffective for the vast majority of users. A lot of schools/departments for some reason feel like it isn't worth investing in despite it being necessary to more effectively leverage the potential and power of the tool at hand, whether it is Moodle, another LMS, some app, or some specific piece of hardware. This also applies to students as well since they often are assumed to easily understand and navigate websites but that is contextually very different from using a different complex tool for learning. 

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.

Average of ratings: Useful (2)
moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersTesters

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. 

Average of ratings: -
Picture of Elizabeth Dalton
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

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.... smile

Average of ratings: Useful (2)
Picture of Emma Richardson
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Nice plug for MUA and the reporting tool that is an MUA project this round!!!  Everyone should join and vote - how awesome would it be to have reporting in core???

Average of ratings: -