Improve your Moodle user experience

Jeanette Swain, eWorks ConsultantJeanette has worked in education and training for over 20 years as an environmental educator, e-learning leader and in quality and compliance. She is also a member of the talented team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks. In Jeanette’s first blog post she offered advice about how to take an e-learning check-up. Now Jeanette focuses on your learners, and considers how Moodle’s functions can ensure a positive experience for them.

What is user experience?

In my last Blog I talked about the user experience and asked the questions:

  • How consistent are your courses?
  • When trainers are course developers there are countless approaches to course development. Does this confuse your learners?
  • What are the organisational strategies you can use to ensure consistency of user experience?

So what is user experience? Wikipedia defines user experience or UX as involving a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.

What does user experience look like at your organisation?

How do we begin designing the online learning experience with the end user, our learners, in mind? What functions does Moodle have to ensure a positive user experience?.

I have based the following Moodle User Experience Hierarchy of needs upon Maslow, Growth engineering and also Stephen Anderson’s user experience hierarchies of needs. I have tampered a little to get my point across but let’s explore the particular attributes of each:

moodle user experience hierarchy of needs

Moodle’s User Experience Hierarchy of Needs

1. Functionality – it does what it is supposed to do.

There are two aspects to this. The first one involves the service and the other the design.

  • Firstly, Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) that provides learning content to students. Yes it does that job and does it well at a system level, and eWorks ensures that the system runs well and without bugs.
  • Secondly, when it comes to course design various approaches can be used and this has an impact on the user experience. Complex courses using hidden and orphaned activities can render a Moodle course non-functional! If a link to an activity is hidden in a Moodle page or a Moodle book and the learner cannot find it again without searching madly, is that functional?

2. Reliable – it is stable and there when I need it.

This brings to mind several aspects of organisational practice:

  • Locating the link to the learning management system (LMS) on the organisation’s website. Is this different on site versus offsite?
  • Have you utilised the Moodle mobile? Can learners access what they want, where and how they want to?
  • How easy is the password reset? If you are using a single sign on system are the students aware of this?
  • Are all assessments and important course materials available to your learners?

3. Useable – it is intuitive and I can use it.

What type of material do you give your learners to assist them in using the system?

  • If each course is designed in a different way, then each course will require individual help guides or leave the learner in the lurch.
  • Can instructional materials be produced once for all courses, therefore saving time and money? Plus, your learners will not need to re-learn how to use the next course based upon trainer design.

Poor course design can take away the useability of Moodle. For example, if you think about visiting an online shopping website, there will be a call to action such as add to cart or checkout. Moodle activities such as assignments or forums or quizzes are quite obvious calls to action for a learner; they know they need to do something. Think about how you utilise these in your course. Adding blocks such as the activities block to a course can assist learners in locating and prioritising these activities across the course duration.

4. Pleasurable – it doesn’t detract from my learning.

Lack of consistency in course design can cause learners to be distracted. Good practice examples include:

  • Ensuring course documents are named the same name and not added in multiple places.
  • The use of consistent fonts, headings, layout, and colours.
  • Using white space – rather than cramming text into a page.
  • Using conditional release for activities and learning content, to ensure that the learning follows a structured pathway.

5. Personal – I feel like I am learning with friends.

This is part of course design and embraces connectivism as a learning theory or pedagogical view. How can learners have fun and learn from each other? Moodle gives you the tools to make learning a more personalised experience.

  • Moodle profile. Does each student add a profile picture? Can this be integrated with the student card process when users are created?
  • Messaging. Are learners encouraged to contact each other?
  • Have you added a participant’s block to the course to show when other learners are online? Adding the block with chat as activity to the course can encourage learners to seek answers to others and add to a sense of community.
  • Workshop. The workshop activity enables learners to review and peer assess the work of others.
  • Databases. Consider a bank of learner material curated by learners for learners.

The moral of the story?

Let the tool do the work. Put your creativity into how you use the tools from an educational perspective. A consistent user experience for learners will make learning more pleasurable and personal and allow them to concentrate on the learning. An easy way to get a consistent look and feel is to invest in a more design focused theme at an organisational level and a consistent minimum standard for all courses. Contact Jeanette to focus on user experience as part of your eLearning check-up.

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