Improve your Moodle page load times

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Today Bernadette offers advice about a common frustration – Moodle pages that seem to take forever to load.

Are slow page load times driving you nuts?

When you click on a link in Moodle, are some of the pages taking longer than they should to finish loading? Frustrating, isn’t it? And you’re not alone. The speed at which pages load is called the Page Load Time (PLT) and is measured in seconds. There are various extensions you can use to measure this, such as the ‘Page load time’ extension in Chrome. I expect my Moodle pages to load in less than two seconds, and not more than three seconds, and I think this is a reasonable expectation. So how do your PLTs compare, and do you know what to do about it if they are not ‘up to speed’?

What can I do about my pages loading so slowly?

The most common cause of slow page load times is having large images or video on the page.

Images

With images, you could improve your PLT by:

  1. Using image editing software to reduce (compress) the size of the image.
    Many products such as Photoshop enable you to choose the quality of the image. The lower the quality, the smaller the size. 96dpi is a good option.
  2. Resizing the image
    You can reduce the size of the image by specifying a smaller percentage for the image size. This can easily be done using products such as Paint.
  3. Using a screen capturing product such as ScreenHunter
    This will make capturing an image in an optimum size simple. If you have an image that is large, an easy way to reduce the size is to add the image to a Word document, make it the size you want, then use a screen capturing tool to capture it.
  4. Using online products such as Image Optimiser to get the best size and quality of your image.
  5. Using a screen capture tool to capture the image
    These can usually create a copy of the image that is 96dpi which is sufficient quality for online use. With a tool such as this you can easily:

    1. load your course page
    2. capture the slow-loading image with a screen capture product
    3. delete the slow-loading image in the course
    4. replace it with the image you just created.

Video

With video it is a good idea to use the Page resource instead of putting the image into a Label. Labels load when you open the page, whereas you need to click on the Page to see the video. This means the video only loads up when the student wants to see it, so the overall page will load a lot more quickly.

Google Analytics

For more suggestions you might like to use Google Analytics to analyse your Page Load Time (PLT) – Note: some of this is quite technical…:

If you have access to Google Analytics for your site:

  1. Log into Google Analytics
  2. Click on Behaviour > Site speed > Speed suggestions
  3. Next to the pages listed, there is a ‘Page Speed Suggestions’ column for each page
  4. Click on the link in that column
  5. A pop-up will offer suggestions.

You will see that there are many pages analysed!! Fortunately you can use the search box if you know what you are looking for.

Still stuck?

Moodle is our thing. So Let us know if you need a hand.

Video: Competency based education in Moodle

John CollinsJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based eLearning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Part of his interesting job involves keeping up to date with the latest educational technology advancements.

This seven-minute video blog helps us to understand competency based education in Moodle version 3.1 including:

  • The relationship between the SMS, units of competency and Moodle courses
  • Linear and clustered relationships between units of competency and Moodle course
  • Directly linking assessment activities to specific units of competency.

More on Moodle competencies

If you found this blog useful you might also enjoy:

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Moodle Competencies for evidence of learning

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Currently she is excited about the inclusion of competencies and learning plans in Moodle 3.1, and ways that this function can be applied to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

Moodle competencies

For those of you who don’t know already, Moodle 3.1 comes bundled up with competencies and learning plans. This is perfect for the VET sector, where there is such an emphasis on demonstrating skills rather than simply knowledge. If you haven’t started using this feature, now is the time to get started.

What are competencies?

Competencies track what your students have demonstrated that they know or they can do. Instead of simply seeing which courses a student has completed, you can also see which competencies the student demonstrated whilst doing the courses. This is a powerful feature, especially when training students to work in practical fields such as trades.

How do we set up competencies?

Competencies can be set up in Moodle in three, easy steps:

  1. Make sure you already have the scale you require, such as ‘Not Yet Competent’, ‘Competent’. This can be set up by going to Administration> Site administration> Grades> Scales, see Scales.
  2. Set up a framework for a set of competencies – this needs to be done by an administrator in your site. I would suggest that you use a separate framework for each Unit of Competence, and add the year, eg ‘BSB20115 – Cert II in Business 2017’ to the name in case you want to update the framework in the future. This will also help your course creators to find the competencies they need to use. Instructions are available in the manually set up a competency framework video.
  3. Add competencies to this framework. Once again, I’d suggest adding the year to the name, eg ‘BSBWOR204 2017’.

This is a tedious process, and it is suggested that you use the Import competency framework plugin to do this. Instructions to use this plugin are available in the video importing the competency framework. This plugin will be in core Moodle 3.2!

Using competencies

Once the Competencies are set up, you can use them in courses.

  1. Add the appropriate competencies to the course
  2. Apply the appropriate competencies to the activities.

This step will ensure that you can track the competencies that your students have demonstrated by completing courses or activities. Information about doing this is in the applying competencies video.

Further information

Of course assessing competency is a little more complicated than that. Your VET students will need to demonstrate that they can do something more than once, over a time period and so on. To manage this, you may like to restrict access to an activity until the required skill is demonstrated in another activity, then award competency. For example, by completing activities A, B and C, a student demonstrates that they are competent in a competency. The student can’t complete activity C until activities A and B are successfully completed. The student is graded as competent once activity C is successfully completed. Or you may award competency manually. In any case, taking the time to set up competencies correctly, will save you time and effort when tracking whether or not your students are capable of doing what you, and their future employers, need them to be able to do.

Once you have competencies set up, you may like to look at implementing learning plans. More on that in a future blog post, but not until I get back from my imminent holiday to India! See Moodle docs for further information, read my colleague’s blog that introduces competency frameworks, and let me know if you have any queries.

Goodbye Moodle Progress Bar

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support desk services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Today she shares the exciting new features of The Completion Block, which replaces Moodle’s Progress Bar.

Demise of the Progress Bar block

The Progress Bar block in Moodle is a fabulous way to visually track progress through courses. Learners can see how they are progressing through the course, and teachers can see how their students are progressing. This is important, both as a motivational tool for students and a measure of engagement for teachers. The Progress Bar block has been very popular with most of our clients, so it was with dread that I read of its demise! It won’t be supported after Moodle 3.1. But never fear! There is a perfect replacement, with new and improved features – the Completion Progress block.

The Completion Progress block is maintained by Michael de Raadt – who also maintained the Progress Bar. According to the Moodle Progress Bar page, the Completion Progress block is faster, more efficient, easier to use, and more compatible with additional plugins. So this is good news!

Transition from Progress Bar to Completion Progress

As we transition between the Progress Block and Completion Progress Block, you will need to have both plugins installed for some time. First of all, you will need to install the Completion Progress block from https://moodle.org/plugins/block_completion_progress. Once it has been installed, it is recommended that you:

  1. go to Administration> Plugins> Blocks> Manage blocks
  2. find the ‘Progress Bar’
  3. click on the ‘Protect instances’ icon
  4. now you can no longer add a ‘Progress Bar’ block, nor delete any that exist
  5. go to your courses that use the Progress Bar, hide existing Progress Bar blocks, and create a Completion Progress block
  6. when all courses have a replacement Completion Progress block, you are ready to uninstall the Progress Bar block. This process is a great opportunity to do some Moodle housekeeping, such as re-evaluating courses that may be too long (should they be split in two?).

How do the Progress Bar and Completion Progress blocks compare?

It is useful to undertake a quick comparison of the two blocks, especially when at first glance they look very similar.

  1. Look and feel

The Progress Bar and Completion Progress blocks look very similar to the teacher as you can see below:

blog_progress_1  blog_progress_2

2. And the overview of students also looks the same:

blog_progress_3

To the student they look the same:
blog_progress_4

With both Completion Progress and Progress Bar you can select particular activities OR all activities to be included.

3. You may notice in the student view image that the Progress Bar block has an extra blue bar. This is because by default, if you choose to include all activities, the Progress Bar also includes the ‘Announcements’ as an activity by default.

4. With Completion Progress block, you can set it to include all activities that have completion set. This is a significant improvement.

5. If you add an activity to your course after you set up a Completion Progress, then it is automatically added to the Completion Progress (if you selected ‘all activities with completion settings’). A big time saver.

6. If you add an activity after you set up a Progress Bar, then it is NOT automatically added to the Progress Bar block.

Further information

A couple of extra useful tips for you:

  • As with the Progress Bar, if you go to Administration> Site administration> Plugins> Blocks> Completion Progress, then you can customise some of the settings and the colours that appear on the Completion Progress block.
  • When a student completes an activity, the page needs to be refreshed for the Completion Progress block to show the activity as completed (same as for Progress Bar, but easy to forget).

Our advice?

Change over to the Completion Progress block as soon as possible. It is a superior product, and you don’t want a last minute panic when the Progress Bar Block is no longer maintained. Let us know if you need a hand.