Comparisons and advocacy

Moodle needs to start again

 
Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

"If I had the time and inclination I could list 50 areas that need serious improvement"

Could you spare the time to list a few?

 
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Jim Judges
Re: Moodle needs to start again
 

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.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Said better than anything I put up here.... 

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersTestersTranslators
Re number 3: please see MDL-59514
 
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Jim Judges
Re: Moodle needs to start again
 

Indeed I have been following this issue closely. I understand a colleague from my institution (Russ Boyatt) has been helping with the fix! 


 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

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.


 
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Jim Judges
Re: Moodle needs to start again
 

Hi Colin,

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.

Cheers

Jim

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTestersTranslators

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 smile

 
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Jim Judges
Re: Moodle needs to start again
 

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.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersTestersTranslators

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. 

 
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Jim Judges
Re: Moodle needs to start again
 

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.

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTestersTranslators

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 the $$$ needed to review and maintain core plugins.


It is very sad that even the Completion Progress block, a magnificent plugin, currently INSTALLED in more than

3626 sites and with 4k recent downloads is not in core.

But the previous (old, outdated, no longer maintained) version of this functionality, the Progress Bar, is currently INSTALLED in at least 4934 sites. The number of Moodle servers using the old (outdated) plugin outweights the number of sites using the new, updated plugin. I would guess this is because many people found the old plugin useful and have not realized that there is a new and improved version available.

This plugin was made by Dr Michael de Raadt, who  is Research Director at Moodle HQ. I would think that this plugin is very well coded and maintained to Moodle's high standards, and it should not cost much time nor money  to add it to core and keep maintaining it. 

Wouldn't you think that Moodle HQ should have a look at this plugin and assess how much better Moodle core would be for MANY Moodle users worlwide if all new servers had this new improved plugin available in core ? (With a notice to advise and instructions on  removing the old, outdated plugin).

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersTestersTranslators

Two points: 

  1. 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
  2. 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.)

 
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My mug
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

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. 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

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? 

 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersPlugins guardiansTesters

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.

Mike

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTestersTranslators

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 sad 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.

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTestersTranslators

Re: Incorporating tried and tested plugins into core much sooner and more efficiently would help.


The most recent Moodle integration round had MDL-51177 incorporating the functionality of ATTO HTML+ into Atto HTML.

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.


 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

mmm Perhaps 4.0 Germán..smile 

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.      

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
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@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?

 
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Picture of Emma Richardson
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Documentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

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...

 
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Germán and temudgin
Re: Moodle needs to start again
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"I think it would be great if we had more plugins in core, especially those (that) are used so much..."

Yes

  • 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 ?

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

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


 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle needs to start again
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Who here regularly uses or knows anyone who regularly uses the Colles survey type? (this is relevant to the thread)


 
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