Skip to main content

Moodle: The Start

This semester I am using Moodle for online course content, after six years of Blackboard use (including WebCT, WebVista). I thought I'd chronicle my experiences; I know it helps me refine my thoughts and it might help other instructors.

As I design my course, which starts Jan. 19, 2010, I am finding some things take a bit of extra work with Moodle. This is because the system tends to present every possible variable for an activity, even when only two or three are required. It would be nice to have a "show basic" option for some tasks. I realize some instructors use every option, so those should be easily accessible, but cut the clutter is a good design philosophy.

When I do use an option, such as setting the maximum points for an assignment, the system uses a "pop-up" or "drop-down" list, when I would rather key in the numeric value and tab to the next field. Scrolling through every number, from 1000 to 1, for "points possible" is annoying. I commonly use 10, 20, 25, 50, and 75, and 100, but there are times I use other scales so setting up my own lists would be inefficient.

The sheer number of options and the lack of clear naming forces even the most tech-savvy user to read the help system. Moodle definitely has more options and power than Blackboard platforms, but this flexibility can be overwhelming. The problem with "everything anyone wants" is that the software risks being too many things. The balance between usability and features is tough to manage, I realize.

So far, I do like Moodle much more than Blackboard. It will take me a bit of time to complete the setup and see how students respond.

I am trying to organize the course design my units, instead of weeks. So far, that seems to be working well. I'll post some detailed thoughts on specific features in the weeks ahead.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What I Studied in Graduate School

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superposed onto some guides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Asked to summarize my research projects...

Curiously, beyond the theses and dissertation, all my work is in economics of media and narrative. I ask what works and why when offering stories to audiences. What connects with an audience and can we model what audiences want from narratives? (Yes, you can model data on narratives and what "sells" and what wins awards and what nobody wants.)

Yet, my degree research projects all relate to design of writing spaces, as knowing what works is also key to knowing what could be "sold" to users.

MA: How poor LMS UI/UX design creates online spaces that hinder the writing process and teacher mentoring of students.

Also: The cost of LMS design and compliance with legal mandates for usability.

Ph.D: The experiences of special needs students in online settings, from commercial spaces to games to learning spaces and which spaces are best desig…

Comic Sans Is (Generally) Lousy: Letters and Reading Challenges

Specimen of the typeface Comic Sans. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Personally, I support everyone being able to type and read in whatever typefaces individuals prefer. If you like Comic Sans, then change the font while you type or read online content. If you like Helvetica, use that.

The digital world is not print. You can change typefaces. You can change their sizes. You can change colors. There is no reason to argue over what you use to type or to read as long as I can use typefaces that I like.

Now, as a design researcher? I'll tell you that type matters a lot to both the biological act of reading and the psychological act of constructing meaning. Statistically, there are "better" and "worse" type for conveying messages. There are also typefaces that are more legible and more readable. Sometimes, legibility does not help readability, either, as a type with overly distinct letters (legibility) can hinder word shapes and decoding (readability).

One of the co…

MarsEdit and Blogging

MarsEdit (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Mailing posts to blogs, a practice I adopted in 2005, allows a blogger like me to store copies of draft posts within email. If Blogger, WordPress, or the blogging platform of the moment crashes or for some other reason eats my posts, at least I have the original drafts of most entries. I find having such a nicely organized archive convenient — much easier than remembering to archive posts from Blogger or WordPress to my computer.

With this post, I am testing MarsEdit from Red Sweater Software based on recent reviews, including an overview on 9to5Mac.

Composing posts an email offers a fast way to prepare draft blogs, but the email does not always work well if you want to include basic formatting, images, and links to online resources. Submitting to Blogger via Apple Mail often produced complex HTML with unnecessary font and paragraph formatting styles. Problems with rich text led me to convert blog entries to plaintext in Apple Mail and then format th…