14. January 2012 · Comments Off on Prepping for a new Moodle and the Grid Format · Categories: Moodle, Moodle 1.9, My personal learning journey
The organisation I’m working for will be upgrading to Moodle 2.1 from Moodle 1.9x on Monday and part of that preparation involved an audit to identify potential problem areas.

Knowing the issues

There have been several issues that have needed resolution, including:
  • site documents and site resources and activities opening in new windows. 
  • site files being shared by pages full of manual links to them 
  • YouTube videos embedded using embed code instead of the media filter settings. 
  • messy code resulting from content pasted in from MS Word and other sources (the Word clean in the editor does NOT clean this code)
  • manually formatted text (not as bad as some web sitesI’ve seen in past where 4 different fonts and 3 different styles appeared on one page)
  • lack of link titles for accessibility
  • images manually sized via attributes
All of this has resulted in me seeing angle brackets and source code in my sleep.  The other result is that I utterly HATE the code view of the Moodle text editor. It is so bloody messy and snaps everything together instead of allow you to set nice, clean, lines of code that are easy to see.

Fortunately, we have NOT hacked into core Moodle nor have we got any non-standards compliant plug-ins to muck about with. For that I am insanely grateful.

Dismantling manual links

In the current Moodle site, there is one course in particular that’s taken a lot of work because we’re not only prepping it for the move to Moodle 2 but we’re also moving away from a manually linked menu structure that has multiple layers to making it compatible with Moodle course formats that are easily applied and CSS-based.

The course in question is a large course with three main modules of study. The first is 10 weeks long, the second 5 and the third 7 weeks long. To make navigation easy, the original course creator went with manually linked HTML pages and hiding the topic blocks.  Navigation goes like this:
  • On the main course outline and you see four big buttons – one for each module and then the course resources. All very tidy.
  • You then click a Module and see the buttons that lead you to each week.
  • You then click on a week and see the resources and tasks for that week. 
Four clicks in to get to content. I inherited it and am doing a happy dance that I’m giving it the boot.

Unfortunately all the links on the resource pages created within this structure are fixed as well. So at the start of any given week there is  a web page resource loaded with hard-coded links off to other Moodle resources and activities as well as Moodle files.  This poses several problems.

1) Course duplication for iterations of the course.  If you wish to create iterations of a course and keep the original version intact, when you do a restore you have a helluva lot of links to re-do.
2) Course duplication to copy structure/common descriptions, etc. If you wish to use a course as a template, you have the same problem as above. A helluva lot of links to fiddle around with.
3) Style changes. Should your site theme change drastically – you have to replace all the buttons and icons. 
4) Moodle 2 handles files quite differently than Moodle 1.9x – files don’t get a fixed URL. All of those very tidy little links are going to break.

Hooking up to the Grid

Re-working the content of this course has become a bigger than Ben Hur job – especially since I want to use the new Grid course format. This format auto-magically creates a grid of blank image buttons (you replace with your own files), one for each topic. Click on a button and the related topic block appears over the top. Click to get to content. Two clicks replacing 4 clicks.

While I still see issues in the Grid Format in terms of navigation and having to train the uninitiated to use Moodle bread crumbs, that was an issue with the manually linked one as well. I think there is a real need for a course-only navigation block (the navigation blocks out there that display all courses are a bit much IMHO) within Moodle to make this easy for web n00bs, but for now we’ll have to solve this problem with education.

Display directory/folder for individual files to save space

Perhaps the stickiest wicket I’ve come up against is that of being able to describe files in a bit of detail before asking learners to click on them without overloading the topic areas. Sure, I could do this in a label in the topic area and then add a file resource – but that can contribute to major cognitive overload and scrolling, even when viewing a topic on its own. I found an unlikely ally in the Display Directory/Folder resource.  If I put a single file in its own folder and then create a Display Directory/Folder resource – I can describe the file all I like on its own page and the link is right there.

Watch this space

We did a test upgrade already and are feeling fairly confident that all will go reasonably smoothly when we do our upgrade on the 16th (eek, two days away!). We’ve chosen a quiet period to do this and have advised learners and facilitators the site might be offline for the week while we test, tweak and review.  I’ll write a post once we’re on the other side of the upgrade.

For now, I’m back to breaking resource links out of manually linked pages… 

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