What if the Moodle UX was like Netflix?


Having spent the past few days in London with a colleague trying to figure out the future of “digital learning”, I couldn’t stop thinking about what an LMS (such as Moodle) would look like if it adopted a truly simplistic design and setup.  A design that “encourages”, nay… damn right forces you to love it.

Imagine if the image above was your dashboard.  And your courses were nothing more than “covers”, like movie covers on Netflix or Amazon. And the course you last viewed was bigger than the other tiles and highlighted, and when you clicked on it, it resumed where you left off.

When you click on the course, you get one single, simple page.  The course may be just a single activity, whether an H5P Project, a SCORM package or a video. It doesn’t matter.

“But one single activity isn’t enough, I hear you say”.

Well, why not make lots of single activities?  Like a library, whereby each course is in fact just a placeholder for an amazing resource. So we stop building long topic driven courses that look they are trapped in 2009 and actually build courses that offer personalisation where the user can chose what they want to learn.  Like we chose what we want to watch.

Users could simply “add courses” to their library (think self enrolment), they can keep the course (if they like) or un-enrol when they are done.

“But we need to tell learners what to learn, I hear you scream!”

Netflix don’t explicitly tell me what I should watch, but they certainly sway my hand. It’s all in the presentation, and tagging. Something which Moodle can do really well.

No messy course formats, no ugly Moodle hacks, no specialists blocks, just a clever Moodle Theme and a change of culture (a revolution, if you will). We could turn off all the bloat, hide all the settings and have a front-end more akin with the tech we use daily.

I can hear screams of Moodle admins and teachers crying that “this wouldn’t work in our organisation“, but in the same vain, I can hear cheers from learners who don’t give a damn about the backend, the gradebook, the pedagogical workflow of the course, or how clever an API is.  They want to log in and learn. That’s it!

Sometimes, less is more.

I believe this type of approach (although admittedly not suitable for all organisations) would perfectly suit the casual learner. Those who are time precious, who need to dip in and out of content..and who knows.. if done right…may “binge watch” your course resources like a box set of Game of Thrones.  You never know.

I haven’t built this yet, as I’ve been insanely busy, but the more I think about it, the more I can’t stop thinking about it. It could be crazy enough to work.

Moodle and Zapier – Automate your Moodle life

If you are a web nerd and have not heard of Zapier then you need to get out more (or stay in more and spend more time on the web).
Zapier, for those who don’t know, is a service that triggers events and actions based on specific things happening on your website, in your inbox or with the apps and websites you use daily.

Or as Zapier neatly put it, “A web automation app which can automate part of your business or life”. So you can, for example, automatically update a spreadsheet from an email triggered from Moodle, or turn new Moodle users into Mailchimp subscribers. Or post your RSS feeds and course updates to social networks.

This blog post explores some of the things that are possible, please note, these are not ready made zaps, they are just ideas for you to consider when looking at Zapier and Moodle.

Go ahead and read up about Zapier first if you need to: https://zapier.com/

 So how do we use Zapier with Moodle?

There lots of ways to “zap with Zapier.
3 which work well with Moodle are:
  1. Email – when used with Moodle Events Monitoring
  2. Direct MYSQL Triggers- if you can open up your Database
  3. RRS – useful for forums, glossaries etc..

Moodle , as many of you may know, has a neat feature called “Event Monitoring”.  So when something happens within Moodle, it can send you an email which can, in turn, trigger a Zap. If you use Gmail, you can even add further filters for more flexibility.

A note on Event Monitoring: Event Monitoring is awesome.  You can set Moodle to automatically notify you when a resource on a course gets updated, when new content is added or when a new users joins the site, the possibilities seem almost endless.  I urge all readers to brush up on Event Monitoring (https://docs.moodle.org/30/en/Event_monitoring#), it will open up your eyes to what’s possible with Moodle and Zapier.

A Note on MYSQL – This requires the premium version of Zapier, and you also need to open up your firewall so that the 2 services can talk to one another. (Be careful here, perhaps consider using a secondary Moodle database for this, speak to your Moodle admin before doing this).

So what are you waiting for, let’s get cracking.

Here are some Cool Zaps Ideas for your next project.
  • Send an update to Slack when a new course has been created so your team can get building the content.
  • Tweet new RSS feeds that occur in Moodle (post to twitter each time a new glossary enter his added or forum thread).
  • Turn new users into Mailchimp subscribers automatically.
  • Automatically tweet when a new course resource has been added.
Automatically post to Facebook any course updates or new content notifications.
  • Send push notifications of new events via OneSignal.
  • Turn forum subscribers into Mailchimp subscribers.
  • Keep a log of how many items are in the new Moodle recycle bin.
  • Thank a user for doing something in Moodle (via email, SMS or Push Notification Service).
  • Create Google calendar events from rows in MYSQL – calendar entries.
  • Build a custom Geckboard or other online dashboard from events (.i.e total logins, quiz attempts, failed logins, active courses).
  • Receive an SMS Message when receiving a custom Event Notification such as an assignment submission.
You have to be creative and maybe use a combination of Zaps to achieve the above, but I’d love to hear some of the things the community come up with. Tweet them to me @lewiscarr or use the hashtag #moodlezapier
Happy Zapping Moodlers!

Moodle Moot 2016 Day 2 of 3


Day 2 kicked off with the annual keynote by Martin Dougiamas.  It was interesting to see how Moodle Could has been expanded to include ad-free , higher user packages. This makes Moodle Cloud an attractive solution for schools looking for a low-cost SAAS Moodle.  The Moodle Association which was announced this time last year is now fully under way and it was great to see this gaining traction.  We were also taught the valuable lesson of not “Moodling whilst Driving!”.

The roadmap for Moodle 3.1 is exciting.  When Moodle 3.0 was released, it felt more like 2.10, and it was met with little fanfare.  However, 3.1  is really the version to look forward to, and the version I’m sure HQ wanted to release if it wasn’t for versioning numbers getting in the way 🙂

Learning Plans and Competencies (due in 3.1) have been a long time coming but one of the most exciting things coming to core I’ve seen in a long while. The possibilities with this are amazing, I can think of so many use cases.

I spent the rest of the morning watching some fantastic presentations in the “Adoption” strand of the conference followed by “Decision Making”  where we saw how the OU have redesigned Moodle, driven by focus groups and student feedback.

After lunch was the Pecha Kucha (rapid fire presentations), and at 3pm I delivered my talk on Instruction Design and the Moodle Lesson Activity.

The final keynote from the OU showing their last 10 years with Moodle was insightful (and nostalgic) but at the same time demonstrated their commitment to the project, not just for the tremendous efforts over the last decade but their future plans too.

The OU’s continued commitment to Moodle sends out a very powerful message.

And that for me was the theme of day, Moodle isn’t going away.  There are plenty of new LMS platforms on the block, all with their own “whizz bang” and feature set.  But they will never have the community that Moodle has. This is what drives and evolves the platform. Not tools for salesmen but tools for educators.

Many people in the industry tend to judge an LMS by its cover. This year we are finally getting the cover to go with the pages.