Moodle 2.3 in production: course design and tutor feedback

Now staff are coming back in and getting resources ready for their new classes I’m often asked to do short impromptu training sessions to help tutors find their way around the new site, or in the case of some of the lucky start from scratch. Why do I say lucky… mainly because they’ve been spared the pain of Moodle 1.9’s file upload process, more on the joys of drag and drop in a moment. I’ll go through a couple of highlights from the sessions and what I found needed adding \ sorting out…

First things first, the browser… very simple, use Google Chrome, Firefox if you really must but definitely not IE unless you want to miss out on the AJAX drag and drop goodness that makes 2.3 such a breeze to work with. Why IE doesn’t work is known only to Microsoft and their standards implementations but for now use Google Chrome if you want the easy life. For network admins out there get Chrome for Business and lock down what you need to with GPO.

Drag and drop file upload

The biggest usability update for me, although Moodle is at its best with interactive activities you still need learning resources and this makes getting them online so much easier. Also helps with the battle for hearts and minds, coupled with general AJAX drag and drop within courses life becomes a lot easier for tutors and saves oodles of time compared with previous versions

One section per page

I wasn’t familiar with the phrase “scroll of death” aka SOD but I know the problem all too well, nothing says “Moodle” more than a massive page chock full of links and labels that’s an assault on the eyes. Worry no more; change the setting below and users now see a clean and tidy contents page for the course then click to their preferred section and view a more compact and relevant set of resources 🙂

Proper section names

One of those features I’d always wanted when on 1.9… being able to set the title of each topic \ week and have it automatically formatted as part of the theme (also then shows up in navigation \ course menu). Previously tutors had to do this manually and remember that the first line of the topic appeared as the title and anything underneath as the description; another ambiguity sorted. I find it also helps tutors to visualise the layout of their course.

Embedding media

Flickr repository, Wikimedia repository, automatic YouTube embed after pasting in the URL (OK the last one isn’t particularly new but works out the box in 2.3) all help to make courses look prettier in a quick, slick way. If you haven’t got Flickr etc set up hop into Site Administration > Plugins > Repositories and do it now!

What did I miss?

During the day a few questions cropped up that had me scratching my head for a few minutes, most solved now…

  • tutor needs a simple survey activity
    Nice and easy, that’s the feedback activity… but where’s it gone as it’s not in the list?
    Turns out Moodle disables it by default, turn it back on from Plugins > Activity Modules
  • tutor needs to make a list for students to check off as they complete activities
    We wanted something better than highlighter pens, this is one of those moments where I’m so glad I go to JISC show and tell events, check out DavoDev’s Checklist module, fully updated for Moodle 2.3
  • quick access to topics
    one feature I’m not that impressed with in 2.x is the navigation block, for me it shows too much of what you don’t need to see all the time and not enough of what you do; in fact I’ve disabled it across the site. To replace it I’m using the Course Menu block, again updated for 2.3 and does what it needs to i.e. provides a block with quick links to each topic in the course. Ideal when used in conjunction with the one section per page setting.
  • download multiple files at once
    not had much joy with this yet 😦 In our case the tutor has a batch of workbook files that students need to download, edit and submit as assignments during the course. Initially you think to put them in a folder, however this doesn’t give you much control over how the files behave when clicked (usually going straight into the Downloads folder on your PC). As a result it seemed better to have them in a topic and control behaviour via Moodle (force either open or save dialog). However I can’t find a way to download a batch of them in one go e.g. if 5 files were needed as part of a single assignment. Would prefer to avoid ZIP files if possible but can’t think of another way to do it… answers in the comments box below please!

Overall tutors have been rather impressed with the new site thus far and it seems to be overcoming the most common complaints of the previous version, which even as Moodle admins I doubt anyone could really defend! Onwards and upwards I think…

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