Moodle Top Ten
Moodle is used alongside allied UAL platforms where learning takes place, such as Workflow, Myblogs, and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.
Below are ten suggestions for making Moodle more intuitive and inclusive for students, and lower-maintenance for staff in 2021-22. These suggestions are based upon the inherent features of the Moodle platform, as well as Moodle’s capacity to represent aspects of “course organisation” from a student perspective.
1. Embrace Moodle’s built-in navigation
Staff may be enrolled of many dozens of Moodle sites, but students are members of far fewer. Consequently, the built-in navigational features should be sufficient for students to explore Moodle and locate materials. The key navigation tools to promote to students are: the Navigation Drawer, via which they ‘hop’ between sites or sections; the ‘Breadcrumbs’ showing their ‘depth’ within a site; and the Dashboard, which (by default) displays a hierarchical structure of their course enrolments.
- Watch and share the Moodle for UAL students video (4m)
You can additionally activate Moodle’s ‘Auto-linking’ feature (video) and use this to highlight pertinent items.
2. Favour Moodle-native content.
Moodle can act as a repository of uploaded files, but text, images and media can also be published directly via the ‘Atto’ editor. This Moodle-native content generally has a higher Ally-accessibility-score than uploaded files; and it is more mobile-friendly too. Therefore, where feasible, enter text and images directly into a Moodle Page, rather than uploading a PDF or Word document. Read number ten in this list for more advice on resources.
3. Name items uniquely and self-evidently
Unique names for each section and activity helps with digital accessibility, and also allows us to exploit some of the ‘Auto-linking’ features in Moodle (video). Where possible, encapsulate the intended interaction in the name of each activity, eg “Enter your Private Reflection” rather than “Journal Activity”.
4. Provide context
Assume that even your most engaged student may have lapses of memory, and may need reminding of what each activity or resource is for. You can provide contextual information about each resource in the ‘description’ field. You can optionally display meta-data about attached files, such as size and upload date (giving clues to how current they are). The description field should never be used for the actual content: only a summary or explanation of the content.
- Uploading files to Moodle (YouTube) (2m8s) demonstrating the description field and other appearance options.
5. Maintain your organisational structure
Typically, the uppermost sections of a Moodle site contain materials of long-term relevance, such as assessment information or staff contact details. The sections beneath may be arranged as a numbered, weekly sequence. Alternatively, you could delineate sections by ‘theme’. Whichever scheme is your primary organisational scheme, stick to it, so that the location of new materials can be predicted.
If a solely chronological or a thematic scheme is too limited, it is possible to have a secondary structure by enabled the ‘Auto-linking’ feature (video).
- Additional UAL video guidance on Organising Learning Materials (2m50s)
- LCC Staff Guide to Moodle Unit Sites (PDF)
6. Use images tactically to help organise your Moodle site.
Imagery will distinguish your Moodle site from others, and may inject some character into it. However, images can occupy a great deal of screen-space and bandwidth, especially on mobile devices. So use images selectively and tactically. Images can serve as useful ‘landmarks’ on the page, helping students identify section boundaries as they scroll: simple thumbnail images can accomplish this.
If students’ learning demands that images must be large or high-resolution, publish these on Moodle pages linked from the main site so that Moodle loads more quickly and so that other content is not massively displaced.
- Advice on use of images in Moodle in Making your Moodle images mobile-friendly video (2m42s)
7. Use the Communication tools consistently and predictably
There are a number of channels for communicating with students, both inside and outside Moodle. But the Announcements Forum is the only one which preserves a searchable record of correspondence in a single location. Whereas Quick Mail can be used to message sub-sets of students or individuals, the history of this messaging is visible only to the sender. Quick Mail might be useful for urgent and short-lived alerts, it is likely to result in students being spammed with the same news from different sources if used by default. For enduring messages, use Announcements.
8. Hide what is irrelevant
By managing groups and using ‘selective-release’ rules, only the most pertinent items need ever be presented to each student. Students can also self-assign themselves to a group via a ‘Group-Choice’ activity, unlocking access to only the most relevant items.
9. Demote non-essential material
Help students distinguish between the material that is essential versus the material that is supplementary. Give prominence to the vital content and delegate all supplementary items to a single section or page (or to a dedicated forum), rather than distributing it around the perimeter of the site.
10. Select Resource types which are in harmony with the content.
There are several Resource types available in Moodle, and each ones affords a particular type of interaction. Use the type of Resource that is most in harmony with the respective content. (video)
- A Page is analogous to a ‘fact-sheet’ or ‘handout’. Pages are the principal resource-type in Moodle, and should be used by default unless one of the other types is warranted. Pages can contain rich-text, images, media and links.
- A File is analogous to an attachment that you might send with an email. It is rare that you would place a message in a Word document that you have attached to a blank email; similarly, a File is most useful when it accompanies a contextual description or label. Files are more suitable than Moodle-native Pages if the layout or structure of the document needs to be preserved as rigorously as if it were a printed form, brochure, or
- When the contents of a Page becomes too lengthy to read on a single screen, you may wish to group them as a Book, Tab Display or Folder, explored in this Grouping Course Content video, UAL (2m22s).
- A Label is analogous to the legend that you might write on the outside of a document wallet; or an annotated ‘post-it’ used as a bookmark. Labels are not placeholders for extensive ‘content’; they signal, delineate and categorise the neighbouring content.
11. Do it your way
Okay, so there is an eleventh principle: which is license to selectively modify or re-interpret the suggestions above. We believe the principles above, along with the LCC Staff Guide to Moodle Unit Sites (PDF), will produce a Moodle site that is more extensible, accessible and navigable. But you may have cultivated an alternative -yet inclusive- approach to Moodle which works for you and your students.