Best thing since…

Bread

The best thing that I did recently on our Moodle installation to was have the Grid format installed.

If you’ve not seen it, what it does is change the format of a Moodle course from a long list of topics to a grid of icons that link to the topics.

Or to put it more simply it kills the scroll of death.

Moodle Grid Format

I have written a fair bit about the inevitable scroll of death that seems to naturally occur in Moodle once you start using it “properly” to support learning.

The grid format means that learners click the icon for the topic they want to view and the content pops up on the screen.

This means that the learner doesn’t need to scroll down to get to the content or activities they want to engage with.

In addition it makes Moodle courses look neater and tidier. It makes it easier to find the right topic. Initial reaction from learners and staff was very positive and they liked the new format.

There are a few things that I would like to see changed.

You can’t change the default size of the icons, the standard size of 210 x 136 is quite large and on a “normal” sized screen means that you really shouldn’t use more than 12 icons. If you were using a weekly schedule for your Moodle course you might have 36 or more topics. In this type of scenario then the grid format means you have a scroll of large icons instead. In that example a much smaller icon would make more sense.

You do need to have the ability (or the service of others) to create the icons you need. Though you can use any image as an icon, and Moodle will automatically resize the image, this from a design perspective doesn’t quite work. The resizing is quite crude and if your image doesn’t have the same ratio as the default icon size then you will have gaps. I use Fireworks for creating my icons, though you could use Photoshop. For staff I have been recommending CoolText.com which is an online tool for creating logos and with a little tweaking can be used to create a series of icons for the grid format for Moodle. It would be nice though if there was a way that this kind of tool could be built into Moodle.

A minor point is that the grid format is only really usable with 2.4 or later. Using it with earlier versions of Moodle is not to be recommended as there are stability issues. A key issue is that the grid format will break the backup and restore process in earlier versions of Moodle, and you wouldn’t want that.

So if you are running Moodle 2.4 I would certainly recommend that you have a look at the grid format and see how it can change the way Moodle looks, but also the way that staff and learners engage with it.

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