Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?


One of the common themes that comes out when people discuss how to use Moodle, is the inevitable scroll of death.

As you start to use Moodle and create a course for the first time., you add a title, add a label describing the course and then you add a link to file, a link to the forum, some quizzes, a wiki, an assignment, then another. Before long you will have a long list of resources, the inevitable “scroll of death”.

From a learner’s perspective this is a long list of links, no context and not really an engaging and interactive learning experience. It will be more challenging to use Moodle, it won’t be intuitive. The end result will be disengaged learners and people saying that Moodle is “boring”, why can’t it be more like Facebook, Twitter or Google+?

If you are reflective and ask learners for feedback, when you next build a Moodle course, hopefully you will think about whole course design and not build merely a list of links. However years of talking to educators I have found that they rarely talk about whole course design, they are more worried about what they are going to teach tomorrow, or at best next week. They may well have a scheme of work, but that doesn’t mean that it’s useful or they stick to it.

This short-term planning often resulted in the resources been posted to Moodle without any thinking about the context or the impact this approach will have over the whole course.

Now at this point we mustn’t dismiss this approach entirely. It’s often seen as a good thing that we see learning on the VLE, however this doesn’t mean that when you find just a list of resources means that there is no learning happening. It may be happening in the classroom, in the workshop, the workplace, the resources are merely a starting point or a catalyst for learning.

An unplanned approach to curriculum design, combined with a interface flaw within Moodle, means that you are more likely to end up with the “scroll of death” than anything else. If you throw into that mix all the resources that are used over a course, there could be lots of them, probably much more so than any kind of interactive activity, then is it any wonder that when used extensively, most Moodle courses have the “scroll of death”. I know that when I was planning lessons I would have many kinds of resources to support the activities, there may anything up to ten resources for any one activity or assignment. This can quite easily lead to a “scroll of death”.

Another aspect to consider is that the VLE in most FE Colleges (and Universities) is used more often to support, enhance and enrich delivery in the classroom or the lecture theatre. It’s more rare for the VLE to be used for the delivery of learning on its own. Support often means resources, as opposed to a series of learning activities.

Having said all that there is no excuse for the “scroll of death” with a little planning, it’s quite easy to not only avoid it, but add context to any resources and activities, so making the VLE an engaging and useful experience for learners.

7 thoughts on “Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?”

  1. Totally agree with everything you say here-though in Moodle 2.453456576853 you can format the aesthetics of the layout / structure and have tabs separating each topic, so no more scroll of death…

    1. Hopefully you can change the default to a different structure, otherwise I still think you will get that scroll..

      1. Course settings I believe…but yeah, you have to have the ability to do this switched on at site settings level beforehand. I’m getting rustier by the day though, as I look after Blackboard now. Blackboard is cool.

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