“I’m still Moodling..better than I ever did”


I haven’t blogged in a while, mostly due to being so busy with the day job. I get to work on so many fascinating eLearning projects that it’s difficult to find the time to work on my own personal Moodle projects. But recently, I’ve been burning some midnight oil to work on a project I’ve always wanted to do for years.

A new home school study Moodle platform designed and built from the ground up to work for kids, my own kids to be precise. It’s probably the furthest I’ve ever pushed Moodle, and that’s because this time I’m not building it for a client, I’m not building it for an administrator, nor a teacher, or meddling graphic designer. I’m building it for my own kids and will eventually roll it out to everyone I get to finally do all the things I’ve always wanted to do with Moodle without anything getting in the way. I want to build a fluid LMS that doesn’t even come close to feeling like an LMS.

My goal was to use Moodle as the framework and all the great community plugins (Level Up, Stash) and somehow roll them up into something that offers a truly user-first learning journey. It also boasts a really simple navigation button, everything is controlled from it, no breadcrumbs, no course titles, just a funky little pop-out button.

Check out these actual working screenshots (not mockups, this is where I’m at so far)

An amazing school site built with Moodle

Oh, and H5P is also been pushed and bent into something beautiful. So I’ll strip back the platform UX to something beautifully simplistic but retain the sheer awesomeness and power of the best LMS on the planet.  The whole system uses Moodle tags to display content, it doesn’t use traditional courses. It’s all tags and outcomes, badges, treasure hunts and rewards.  I still have plenty to do, and I’ll keep writing up  the progress here on my blog.



My enthusiasm for Moodle has been ignited again lately.  Imagine my excitement when I heard recently that Moodle HQ has just secured a truck load of funding. Over the past few years I’ve seen people switch to Google Classroom, I’ve watched Canvas penetrate the UK market and I’ve seen Totara capture the corporate market (at the expense of Moodle). So to watch Martin Dougiamas and his team propel the Mobile App, secure $6m in funding, open a new base in Spain and watch the vision unfold, I’m getting pretty excited.  Moodle is still my all time favourite platform to work with.

Which brings me onto my second secret project. Some new interface ideas for the Moodle app. I can’t have an awesome new Kid friendly LMS without an accompanying app.

These are the ideas I’ve been working on. This is the Moodle Mobile app with a new stylesheet, some custom graphics and a little code hacking.


So, what’s next? Well, I need to keep working on the day job, pay the bills and keep the lights on. But feeling all inspired and refreshed, I can’t wait to carry on with this project.  It needs to be ready before summer 2018.

And as Elton once said, “You know I’m still Moodling, better than I ever did.  Moodling like a true survivor, Moodling like a little kid.”

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!