Moodle course best practice, part 2

In the first part of this Moodle course best practice series, the eWorks team offered some simple tips to make your Moodle courses more engaging. Have you implemented them yet? Let us know if you need some help. Now it’s time to consider the usability of your course.

Part 2 – Improving usability

Rule #4: Structure your categories and courses

You can’t build a house without a floor plan. Your Moodle is exactly the same—you need to estimate how big your site will be. The more complicated the structure, the more you need to think about management, maintenance and usability.

Specifying categories and subcategories for your courses is like filing—if you take the time to put your courses in the logical place, they will be easier to find later. And Moodle makes it so easy to do this that there’s no excuse not to:

N.B. If administrators or course creators create a course without specifying the category, the course will automatically be moved to the miscellaneous category. This means that your users will have more difficulty finding the course.

Rule #5: Display enrolled courses after login

Many organisations like to use the Moodle home page for public content such as announcements, news and promotions. This makes sense, but once learners have logged in, the focus is on learning—they should not be interrupted with further messages.

Therefore, at this point it makes sense to only display courses in which the student is enrolled. Showing all of the courses may confuse or distract your learner.

This Moodle front page setting is quick and straightforward, but do let us know if you’re having trouble.

N.B. An exception to this rule might be when all courses are available for the public with guest permission. In this case you might decide to display all courses after login.

Source: Australian Childhood Foundation Online Learning Portal

Rule #6: Choose course format wisely

The best course format for your organisation depends on how you structure your content and activities within the course. Most important is how the trainer runs the course, which will of course be influenced by the learners. Each format is different, both in terms of the design and purpose of use. Trainers should therefore choose the format based upon clear course objectives.

Regardless of the format chosen, the following structure should always be included:

  • Course title
  • Course introduction, providing users with the study scope and how to complete the course.
  • Topics
  • Short introduction about each topic
  • Subtopics, if any
  • Short introduction about each subtopic, if any
  • Activities

Still not sure about course format? You might find the Moodle course formats document useful.

Source: TAFE NSW Riverina Institute: Grid Format

Rule #7: Structure your content

It is important to recognise that a good theme does not always produce good looking courses that are user friendly and easy to follow. If the theme were used to design each individual course on a site, it would quickly become bloated and unmaintainable. This is why most themes provide only basic formatting styles for course content, like text colour, heading sizes, and so on.

Unfortunately, Moodle doesn’t provide much option to create advanced styling for courses. The typical solution is to use inline styles inside the HTML editor (TinyMCE) of each course.

However, even though this technique might be very tempting, we recommend that course creators do not use it. Why? Because it can quickly result in inconsistencies across and within courses, and therefore reduce the level of usability of the whole site. This is especially true in organisations with many course creators, as it is neither practical nor effective to force all of them to use the exact same styles.

An example of inconsistent course content.
Source: Illustration for demonstration purpose only.

Source: Moodle’s HTML editor, TinyMCE

eWorks therefore recommends that course creators use the HTML editor only to structure the content rather than design it. This means using HTML tags semantically: <h1> for course title, <h2> for topic title, <h3> for subtopic, <p> for body text in paragraph, <ul> and <li> for unordered lists, and so on.

The design should be left to a specific person or team, who will take care of maintaining consistency, usability and accessibility across the site. If you have an in-house web designer or developer, then look no further! Otherwise, we’re always here to help.

Source: TAFE NSW Riverina Institute course template

That’s it for now from the eWorks team. We hope you have found our Moodle golden rules useful. By now you should be able to easily improve your Moodle courses in at least a couple of ways. Keep in touch with us on Twitter and LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter.