I feel 1.9 is a train wreck. I am sad to say I feel that way, but it is true. The major improvement is the gradebook, which is the exact area that wrecked! While we (meaning advanced users and administrators) may only require time and practice at using it, it is wayyyyy to scarey for a majority of my users!
I fielded a test 1.9 system and had a teachers users group meeting to demonstrate the new features. The vote was a unanimous NO against making the transition. While the ability to upload grades and rearrange the items in the gradebook is nice, it pales in comparison to the unruliness of the behemoth that has been created. Plus, I still can't figure out some of it, and that is actually saying something!
While I will always laud the many hours developers put into an open source venture like this (I was once a programmer by trade myself) I think we have lost the form over function war here. If it looks daunting, it is daunting. It there are too many widgets for one screen to display, novice users will simply close the screen. Teachers simply do not have the time for the training sometimes. I sympathize with them. Most teachers have far too mush on their plates already.
We will be staying with 1.84 for the time being. The GBPV2 Mod added enough capability (Thanks Anthony!) that we can do everything we need to. I would like to be able to upload grades (we use a scantron that exports to CSV) I may just have to code that part myself.
One of the problems that we see (K-12) is that in many ways Moodle is not optimized for our environment and several work-arounds are required. I have implemented enough that only a few of my teachers (2 to be exact) still won't play ball. We have all our interim reports (yes we still print them for all students) and a number of additional custom features in our gradebook.
I have wandered into a diatribe. I am genuinely concerned about Moodle if this trend continues. I hope a real effort is made to simplify (and perhaps stipufy) the gradebook for future releases. When I teach my 2-day summer summit courses to technology coordinators this June I will be using 1.84 again.
In the beginning we had a very simple grade system in Moodle. Then Gustav Delius came with a great improvement: the calculated column. I loved it and I implemeted that as a separate set and called these two in the teacher menu: grades I and grades I.
Until today - almost 3 years later - most teachers stick to grade I, BECAUSE THAT LOOKS LIKE THEIR HANDWRITTEN GRADES!! SO, no need for change, dear Obama...
(So I still use TotalCommander and WinSCP, the look alikes of my DosCommander from the 80s.. )
In 1.9 I can no longer add Gustav as grades II. I was considering to have it in that case as the simple version
Another reason for having a very simple gradebook, is when you have a schooladministration package where the complex calculations for grades have their home..
So.. can we add the very very simple gradebook from Moodle 1.08 or so as a starter set?
I disagree with most in the discussion above and some of the examples from Steve are really... Funny?
Make an indiot proof Moodle - something like Learning Gates or Black Beauty - and only the idiots of the school will use it (these two from you?).
The same for beginners view and advanced view. If you want problems, then that is what you must do, we saw it with BSCW in 1997. What you can do here is to extend the choice options for the user: on his personal page, to switch options on/off
If you look better, you will see that lots of the teachers are educational moving when they use Moodle - it may be very little - but the miracle is that they move, I blame Moodle.
- The point is that Moodle (and other VLEs) offer teachers NEW possibilities to EXTEND their teacher behavior/toolset.
- They must rethink, try AND REHEARSE these new possibilities and figure out ways to combine the good things from the past with these new opportunities.
- If you make not this investment, you end up with an iBook, iBoard, iQuiz, iPod and.. iMoodle, your newest, again to expensive gadget.
I'm really pleased that Moodle 1.8.4 is working so well for you and your colleagues. Obviously (with the help of these hacks you mention), you have managed to adopt and adapt really well. Maybe you don't even need the gradebook features of 1.9, although you may find that many of the other features, bug fixes and improvements would greatly help you. You may even find that Moodle 1.9 is better optimized for your environment
You mentioned 1.9 is "train wreck" for you and your teachers. Could you list some specifics? My initial impression was favorable. I am particularly keen on the question engine upgrade. But I would be interested to hear some problems you have discovered.
On an earlier comment, "Finally, the population we really want to learn about are the teachers who decide that Moodle isn't for them...", I have found three different kinds of teachers who dislike Moodle.
- Lone Wolves--teachers who do not want to collaborate, but wish to do their own thing (make their own webpage or just keep to themselves and their own materials)
- Technophobes--teachers who refuse anything technological, even copying handouts.
- Hesitants--teachers who want handholding while they venture into a new, uncomfortable world.
Now that is a big job. But now it is getting easier for us with an internal repository we are building. It is called the Project Course Format & Easy Sharing Cart. This will allow easy exchange of topics/projects/themes because backup/restore is done at the topic level (not course level, not tool level). Teachers think in topics, not tools. So a fast (almost drag-and-drop) interface for exchanging good topics along with accompanying media files, is the number one need for usability in our opinion. We are moving completely to this Project Course Format in vers. 1.9 for all 60 of our courses on April 1st.
You may not realise that the admin can decide defaults for practically every setting, and can also decide which roles can see what reports (via capabilities). So you should be able to customise and trim down the gradebook to be exactly what your teachers require. (And you said you've developed custom grade reports for your sites! - these can now fit cleanly into Moodle as new grade plugins)
By default a lot of stuff is switched on to help people be aware of what's there (because Moodle gets used in all kinds of different ways).
In general, I'm very well aware all interfaces can always be improved, and this will be a major focus for us in 2.0. But developers need help and positive suggestions to work with.
Perhaps it would help to move away from a features based tuition model, where different bits get explained in the docs, towards a tasks based one. e.g. creating a docs page called "How to organise your grades into categories", or "How to make passes show up in green and fails show up in red". I think it can be daunting/demotivating trying to wade through a large semi-technical document with a specific goal in mind.