I love you, but you’re boring

Probably the session that has made the biggest impact on me here at Moodlemoot 2012 was Stuart Lamour’s presentation from Sussex University on Fine-Tuning the Moodle Experience.

What the presentation was actually about was how awful the user interface and user experience is in a standard Moodle installation.

It made me realise that for too long, Moodle development has had a technical focus and has forgotten how important the user experience is.

Can we really be surprised by this, as over the three days here at Moodlemoot we have heard speaker after speaker, delegate after delegate talk about the “scroll of death” and that teachers and learners call Moodle “boring”.

As most people who use Moodle know, the “scroll of death” is a feature of Moodle that arises when you actually use Moodle for anything more than showing people how to use Moodle. If you create a Moodle course with real students, then it slowly fills up with links and resources to the point where if the learner is to get anywhere on the course they have to scroll, scroll and scroll again. Yes there are “solutions”, use the Book module, pages, collapsable topics for example, however I think these “solutions” miss the point which is the problem is that there is a fundamental design flaw in Moodle in how information is presented to the end user. The reason that learners and staff call Moodle “boring” is partly the look, but again it’s linked to that design flaw, presenting the user with links to content.

The problem with “solutions” and these are well known, is that they don’t really solve the problem. We might need to take a step back and work out what we actually want Moodle to do and start again.

I had hoped that Moodle 2 was going to be a revolution in course delivery, the reality was that from the front end perspective, it was merely an evolution of 1.9. There may have been a revolution in the back end of the system, but from the user perspective there was no real revolution.

Is it time we start thinking, not about Moodle 2.3 or 2.4 but start thinking about what Moodle 3.0 will be like? Do we need to start getting some heavyweight designers and importantly UI and UX experts into redesigning Moodle? What do you think?

10 thoughts on “I love you, but you’re boring”

  1. Agree – Stuart’s talk was probably the “talk of the conference” for me. And I will have to up my Moodle Tracker use/vote/submit.

  2. Yes, there needs to be a revolution in how courses (and aggregated cross-course content) are represented and navigated in Moodle.
    For a constructivist LMS, Moodle sure supports teacher-led instruction. And part of this is the emphasis on the home page of showing static content. Even if you have great activities, they are hidden away behind a link – you have to GO there to see if anything is happening. Bring student contributed content front and centre.

  3. I completely agree with James and Stuart about the user experience both in terms of staff and students. However I don’t think Moodle is boring . . . more bewildering, intimidating and complicated.

    Moodle is an educational tool but the experience that new educational staff have with Moodle has no reference to pedagogy. Where is the scaffolded learning for the educators? How many times have you tried to show someone how to add something in Moodle, a new quiz for example, and told the person “just use the default settings” and scroll past all this stuff? The wealth of settings is what makes Moodle such a powerful tool for education but it prevents new users from being able to carry out simple tasks.

    Trying to get technophobic teachers to use Moodle is like trying to get a non-chemist to understand nuclear magnetic resonance splitting constants between non-equivalent hydrogen atoms before they understand what an atom actually is (I seriously hope I lost most people in that reference – that’s the point!!).

    Technically savvy people can enter the world of Moodle and find a wealth of educational tools at their fingertips as long as they keep scrolling. But where is the entry level use of quick, easy and simple functions that can get people hooked? The layers of complexity need to be settings that become available by clicking on a button. As well as “turn editing on” should we also have “turn advanced functions on”?

    I also find it strange and interesting that a moodle site that is capable of handling so much information cannot gather it all together and put a dash board with notifications on the users front page. Wasn’t that the point of moodle?

    I realised during the MoodleMoot that I can post about these frustrations even though I’m not an expert – I’m a self taught Moodle user so I might just be completely unaware of the solutions. But that was James’s point, and now mine, where’s the intuitive design? Why is each individual Moodle user having to find their own solution to the problem and reinvent the wheel in each installation.

    Right, I’m now off to try to find which trackers I need to vote on. I expect frustration which is not a promising sign . . . .

  4. Hi James,
    I agree with you that Moodle’s user interface is very lacking, and probably about 5 years behind current web standards and other open source platforms such as WordPress and Drupal.
    I do not think you need to wait to wait to future version to fix it, however.
    In projects we do for clients, mostly in business environments (where look and feel and user interface is much more important), we design very engaging and user-responsive themes that deliver the various content types to the users in much more attractive and effective ways.
    This usually requires high quality and creative art design, coupled with good theming skills. Still it is doable.

  5. I suspect Moodle will slowly be replaced by Edmodo. Not only does Edmodo look better, it has a social networking component for teachers. Schoology is also taking a run at them.

    Moodle will truly need to think “Outside of the Box” going forward.

    Janet | expateducator.com

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