Tag Archives: moodle

Moodle Audit

I recently gave a presentation and had a discussion on auditing your VLE installation at the RSC SW VLE Forum.

Gloucestershire College has recently undertaken an external audit of both their current VLE setup and their recent procurement process with outsourcing the VLE to ULCC. The audit process is a useful way of looking at the systems and processes an institution has in place for such a mission critical system like the VLE. This session will go through the key aspects within an external audit and delegates will discuss with colleagues how they would “fare” if they were to undergo an external audit. This may also be an opportunity to think about peer assessment and auditing.  

I love you, but you’re still boring

I have been thinking for a long time about the Moodle issue that is the “scroll of death”. I wrote my first piece on this after the Ireland and UK Moodlemoot 2012.

Quite a few people have provided me with a variety of solutions that means learners do not have to contend with the “scroll of death”. However what these solutions do not solve, is the fundamental problem, which is…

If you use Moodle “out of the box” and create a course; so you add a link to a page, a link to a file, a link to a forum, a link to a quiz and the odd lable or two, the end result will be the “scroll of death” and a long list of links… rather than an engaging and interactive learning experience. The learners will have a more difficult and challenging experience when using Moodle. As a result you will have disengaged learners and the complaint that Moodle is “boring”.

I also know that some of the training at my college in using Moodle has exacerbated these issues. We show people different features of Moodle and of course they then want to add them to their courses. What we don’t do (very well) is get them to think about the whole of their course and not only about how it looks, but also about how the learner experiences and interacts with the course.

Yes of course you can apply solutions, after the result, however why is it that the “out of the box” vanilla experience isn’t right in the first place?

It would be nice if the initial approach to using Moodle got the user thinking not about adding links, but about whole course design.

The problem with this is that most educators I talk to rarely think about whole course design, and are more concerned about planning what they are going to do tomorrow or next week rather than thinking about the course as a whole.

The more I think about it the more I think that this is the real problem and that Moodle is only a symptom of that issue of the lack of whole course planning by some educators. It’s not as though they don’t plan, I am sure they produce schemes of work and have a fair idea of what they are going to do over the course. However what will be missing will be the detail and the “big picture”.

So the question I am asking now, is Moodle the answer to this problem?

In my last blog posting on this, I wrote:

We might need to take a step back and work out what we actually want Moodle to do and start again.

Could we in fact get Moodle to be part of the solution rather than than the face of the problem?

In a future posting I am going to discuss the issues of Moodle UI and Moodle UX and look at some of the points that came out of this discussion on the Moodle Forums that was point out to me by Stuart Lamour, who you may recall got me thinking about all of this at Moodlemoot in the first place.

What are your thoughts?

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?

It’s conditional…

I am both scared and excited by the new conditional activities in Moodle 2. Though we have upgraded to Moodle 2, we haven’t yet turned on conditional activities. In the main we wanted to ensure the stability of our upgraded system and needed to focus support on those staff having problems with core issues such as file uploading and the very different navigation.

Simply put, conditional activities allow you to “stop” learners doing activity B until they have completed activity A. For example get 80% in a quiz before they get the next assignment. Another example, open the resource before they can do the quiz. It’s a very powerful tool and provides a lot more flexibility to teachers on how learners interact with their Moodle courses.

It is my plan to “turn on” conditional activities at the end of June and follow it up with training in July prior to the start of the new year in September.

At the Ireland and UK Moodlemoot 2012, Becky Barrington from South Devon College gave a presentation on how it all works and how staff at her college are using this function.

Becky presenting #mootieuk12

What was clear from the presentation was that you can’t just go in and “play” with conditional activities, you need to stop and think about it, you need to plan how the whole thing will work.

Becky did recommend that you focus on using conditional activities selectively for activities over using them for a whole course.

My training will now focus very much on planning over the technical aspects of conditional activities. This demonstrates the real value of an event such as Moodlemoot in making you think and changing what you are going to do based on the real experiences of others.

Making the move to Moodle

There are a few presentations here at Moodlemoot about moving to Moodle, either from “nothing” or an alternative VLE. Listening as one does at a conference I was struck by how similar the issues that these institutions and organisations faced. They were also then same issues that other places have had moving to Moodle over the years.

The question I have, is how many did some research and found out what others did, or did they ignore the lessons of the past and rediscovered those issues for themselves. There is some value in that or is there?

Ask yourself, when you moved to Moodle did you ask others how they did it? Ask yourself did you find out the problems faced by others?

If you are in the process of upgrading to Moodle 2 have you done something similar? Do you know about the issues that others have had upgrading to Moodle 2?

If you moved sometime ago, or upgraded recentlyu, have you shared the problems and issues you faced?

If there is a to be a true Moodle community, then we need to share our problems and solutions as well as our successes.

Beware of the bling!

MoodleMoot 2012 – Course Creator Best Practice Workshop

Course Creator Best Practice Workshop #mootieuk12

There is a wide choice of workshops available at the pre-conference workshops. I am currently in the Course Creator Best Practice workshop led by Michelle Moore.

We have gone round and made our introductions, it felt (I didn’t count) that a lot of people were corporate or private training providers, though still a fair few people from universities and colleges (as well as schools). There were lots of people who had just migrated to Moodle or were in the process of migrating.

Even though I am an hold hand with Moodle, I’ve been part of Moodle.org since Wednesday, 10 March 2004 at 3.31pm, over eight years. Gloucestershire College were using Moodle before I arrived in November 2006.

I am hoping to get some useful hints and tips from the workshop. Straight off we are talking about design and style.

“Don’t use more than three font styles per page”


“Do maintain consistency”

One of the hardest jobs I find is trying to be diplomatic with staff about the “design” and “look” of their Moodle course.

It can be challenging to let them know that using multiple fonts, Comic Sans, colours doesn’t make their course “look better”

“Do beware the bling”

How do you get your staff to recognise the importance of good design and style?

Moodlemoot 2012

It’s been a while since I attended a Moodlemoot, however this year I am attending Moodlemoot 2012 which takes place in the fair city of Dublin, 2nd-4th April 2012.

Moodlemoots are an opportunity for the Moodle community to gather and share experiences, new things and learn from each other.

I am interested to see what I can learn from others at this Moodlemoot. The technical for us is less important since we decided to outsource our hosting (and maintenance) to ULCC. This doesn’t mean I am not interested in the roadmap of Moodle, I am and really would like to see where Moodle is going over the next few years. I am pleased to see Moodle making the move to mobile and I hope that continues.

The real challenge as far as I am concerned with Moodle, is not the technical nature of the software, but how do you get teachers to use it effectively with learners.

I always find it interesting that some people talk about how easy to use and intuitive Moodle is, whilst some people complain about how complicated and unintuitive Moodle is. You won’t find many of the latter group at a Moodlemoot, but I do think their viewpoint is noted and listened to.

One of the things I want to find out at this Moodlemoot is what strategies are people using to motivate teachers to use Moodle and what things work well and what things have broad appeal. How are people making Moodle more engaging and interactive and encouraging learners to make that move from a passive user of Moodle to a learner that engages and interacts with the platform.

Another aspect of the moot will be the networking and engagement with the community. It will be great to discuss the above with old friends and with new ones.

e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2011

A somewhat quieter year this year with just over 150 blog posts posted to the blog.

As I did in 2010 and 2009 here are the top ten blog posts according to views for this year.

10. Using the VLE more

This posting was very much an opinion piece on how learning technologists could engage teachers in using the VLE more to support learners. The key behind this quite short post was about moving the responsibility of using the VLE to the practitioner, and their continuing personal development in the use of the VLE.

9. Moodle 2 Teacher’s Guide

This post proved popular and it was an opportunity to remember where I had seen this great guide to Moodle 2, but also embed it into the blog using Issuu.

8. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

The eighth most popular post this year was from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet.

It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has made it into the top ten.

7. Paper Camera – iPhone App of the Week

This review of Paper Camera as part of my App of the Week series certainly struck a chord with many who thought the app was excellent.

This really nice image manipulation app creates cartoon or sketch like images from either your photographs, or applies the filter in real time so you can see what your image will look like through the live image from the camera.

The review which included images I had created using the app, demonstrated to readers what the app was capable of, but also some of the limitations. For me I only review apps that I use and think can be of value to my readers (well apart from one or two exceptions where I want to tell people not to buy the app).

6. “The Best Moodle Tools You’ve Never Used”

Tools such as Moodle have a range of functions that I know many of our staff are using, but of course not everyone knows everything. I like this presentation from the Columbian MoodleMoot 2011 by Michelle Moore, in which she explains some of the other functions of Moodle that can be used to enhance and enrich course delivery.

I do like that I can embed presentations such as this into my blog using a service such as Slideshare. It means I can easily share things I have found, but also curate them with other finds for sharing with others.

5. So how are students using mobile phones?

A simple infographic on how US students were using their mobile phones proved popular and demonstrate their is real interest out there about mobile learning and the use of mobile phones for learning.

4. Podcast Workflow

This was probably my favourite post of the year and is also the longest blog post I have ever written at nearly 4000 words! The post outlined how I recorded the e-Learning Stuff podcast and went over the planning, the technical techniques for recording, editing and distribution. It was a post that I had been writing for a year or so, but back in July decided to finish it off and get it published.

3. Tintin – iPhone and iPad App of the Week

So my third most popular post on my e-learning blog is of a review of a game for the iPad… It’s not even a very good review, as at the time of writing that blog post I hadn’t even played the game as I wanted to see the film first! The reason why it is popular is that the blog post had quite a high search engine ranking and people clicked to see what it was about… I expect they were slightly disappointed.

2. Ten ways to use QR Codes

This post was a very reactionary post to all the posts I was seeing at the time about how to use QR Codes.

Sorry, this is not a blog post on ten ways to use QR Codes, but it is a blog post about what you actually can do with QR Codes. There are in fact only five ways to use QR Codes! Once you know what you can do with QR Codes then you can build learning activities round those functions.

Got people thinking.

1. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

So the most viewed post this year was from 2009 and is the video of the VLE is Dead symposium that I was part of at ALT-C 2009. Considering this post was originally published in September 2009, the fact it is my most popular posts demonstrates the enduring substance of that debate. Is the VLE dead? Well the debate isn’t, it’s alive and well.

“The Best Moodle Tools You’ve Never Used”

How do you use Moodle? Document management and broadcast-oriented communication tools . . .comprise 95% of all [LMS] user actions.

Charles Severance and Stephanie D.

I am sure in many educational institutions that most people using the VLE probably only use it in the main as a file repository and occasionally use it to “broadcast” stuff.

Tools such as Moodle have a range of functions that I know many of our staff are using, but of course not everyone knows everything. I like this presentation from the Columbian MoodleMoot 2011 by Michelle Moore, in which she explains some of the other functions of Moodle that can be used to enhance and enrich course delivery.

The Image on the Right

In the most recent posting in 100 ways, a couple of people asked how I got this effect.

How did I get the image to be on the right and all the text or links on the left.

The answer is…

Well there are two answers.

Firstly the image itself is from an excellent collection I bought quite a few years ago. These photo objects allow me to match the background of the image to the background of the page. Most image editors allow you to do this with images, advantage of the collection is I don’t need to do the editing so saves time. Alas the image is no longer available, which is a pity.

Secondly how to get the image on the right? Well you do need to know a bit about HTML.

When you add an image to Moodle (and in this example I am using Moodle 2) to a label or another text field, the default is to have the image embedded into the page.

Find the image.

This then inserts it into the label or other text box.

The end result is the image is to the left and any text added with just an inserted image, the text is at the bottom.

If you are using Moodle 2 you can click the image and click the align right button. However this won’t work in Moodle 1.9 or earlier.

Hit the Edit HTML button.

The code for the image will be something like this.

<p><img src="https://yourmoodle/draftfile.php/13/user/draft/197347461/oldbooks.jpg" width="200" height="169" alt="Old Books" /></p>

What you need to add to the tag is align=”right” or style="float: right;"

<p><img src="https://yourmoodle/draftfile.php/13/user/draft/197347461/oldbooks.jpg" width="200" height="169" alt="Old Books" align=”right” /></p>


<p><img src="https://yourmoodle/draftfile.php/13/user/draft/197347461/oldbooks.jpg" width="200" height="169" alt="Old Books" style="float: right;" /></p>

Of course use “left” if you want your image aligned to the left.

The text with the image aligned to the right now wraps around the image and importantly starts from the top aligned to the top of the image.

Allowing you to have text on one side or content and the image on the right. If you align to the left then the image will be on the left, and the text wraps around the image and importantly starts from the top aligned to the top of the image.

If after the label you have activities or links to resources these will also be wrapped around the image.

You do need to consider the design of the page. By having images on the right you do need to have enough content on the left, otherwise you may have too much white space. Then again some white space can add to the design of the course.