Friday, May 7

Join the #moodlewish Twitter Stream!

Click image to view the visualized #moodlewish story clearly

Do you feel that Moodle needs improvement in some areas? Or perhaps don't like some of its features? Then why not make your voice heard in 14o characters, using the #moodlewish hashtag.

Trust me, Moodlers (or developers) around the world will be following this one with hawk eyes as we Moodle users voice our thoughts, ideas, suggestions and frustrations.

If you are a real Moodle die-hard fan, perhaps you should use the Moodle Tracker to give more detailed and constructive suggestions (including screenshots) for improvement. But let's face it, 99% of the suggestions and frustrations will never bother going there, but if you are interested, why not.

So, having a dedicated hashtag in #moodlewish will hopefully provide a more convenient venue for all Moodle users to share ideas and suggestions (or those that use Twitter!), and for developers to make these sparks of ideas become a reality.

I have to admit I have a Love-Hate relationship with Moodle. For sure Moodle has given me a lot of great learning memories over the years, but it has also given me nightmares and headaches, too. But sadly, over the last couple of years, I have felt that Moodle in a way has lost a bit of focus on especially its core features such as the file(s) upload, sharing links, chat, forum, quiz, assignment, course page editing, etc.

I suppose it has been difficult to keep up with all the innovations going on in purpose-built tools out there such as Facebook, Scribd, Ning (become commercial! Annoying!), SlideShare, Elgg, Youtube, and Blackboard (Just kidding about the last one :)). For example, wouldn't it be great if Moodle enabled us to share resource links (URLs) and videos as efficiently and smoothly as what the Facebook Wall allows us to (watch screencast below).

Or be able to upload files as dynamically as what Scribd enables us to do. Or create dynamic online learning networks and communities as Elgg and Ning enables us to.

You might argue that we could always integrate all these tools with Moodle using widgets or integration modules. True! But, if even Moodle's core features are becoming a frustration and burden, then why bother using Moodle at all. Anyway, I have written a post about Moodle being an Airport, so I will leave it at that.

In short, we are using Moodle at our University and would love to continue to use it for another decade if possible. Hopefully, the #moodlewish tag will provide an additional value added stream to Moodle developers and users around the world.

Lets' close this post with a short true story:

I met a Moodle certified trainer the other day, and I told him about how easy it was to share links on Facebook, and guess what he replied (summarized)?

"Can Facebook do this and that, and this and that. Facebook is new! Moodle is free and open source... (and became very defensive)."

It is great to be a fan, supporter and promoter, but should we get emotional about that? Instead, we should learn from them, and do better!

Moodle is the Apple of Open Source, and we simply want to be better than any other learning tools out there. No excuses, especially with the core learning features. There are too many amazing people working on Moodle to let that happen. Let's hope Moodle 2.0 delivers, but I am still not too convinced (I suppose I set a bit high standards!).

Why not have a couple of Moodle professionals dedicated to tracking down all valuable feedback and suggestions appearing in blogs, tweets, wikis, YouTube, etc....hashtags... and adding the filtered juice (not censored!) to the tracker proactively. I hope this is already happening...

Read All About It!

'Facebook Vs Moodle - Sharing Links'
Screencast Featured on Screenr Homepage (from 13th to 27th May, 2010)

Thanks for the suggestion, but instead of creating a new post, I will post it here (below)! Here is the comment (full discussion) that Joseph Thibault is referring to:

"Dear Tomaz Lasic,

Thanks for reminding me how Moodle gives a ‘DAMN’ about that.

I do understand that we need to consider any changes in context of the whole project, and that we need to take care of the disabled (accessibility) and security. No disagreement whatsoever there.

I can also sense that some might be thinking, “This guy is so ungrateful and annoying! Moodle is open source and free, who the….”.
Yes, I am a devil’s advocate, and perhaps being a bit provocative (in a Tom & Jerry way) too. But, having said that, I am simply being honest and sharing some of things that I think Moodle should improve.

Of course, some of the things that I am emphasizing is hard to swallow, as Moodle is (could be argued) and has (always) been known for being user-friendly and very easy to learn and implement (with a strong foundation in constructive mambo-jumbo).
Yes, I also have strong interest (and passion) for Moodle to work really well, as the University I am working in now, is using it a lot for e-learning activities.

But, as I said earlier (using different words), Moodle needs to wake up to the new world order of innovation, usability, and free learning tools (including hosting).
Let me share with you all some interesting Moodle observations and experiences.

Earlier this year, I visited 8 Universities in Saudi Arabia, and many of them had explored Moodle, but over time they had lost interest due to terrible experiences piloting it, especially with managing the server(s), database, and back-end (looking for Moodle services opportunity, then that is a potential goldmine). Interestingly (or sadly), more and more Universities in Saudi Arabia are adopting Blackboard.

Yes, Moodle is easy to install, but very difficult to manage when the concurrent usage increases (above say 100). Moodle experts and developers would argue against this (No, it is easy!), but that is not the case when you communicate with the grass roots.
Since, I have struggled dealing with all the back-end issues myself (or my staff, since I am not really the technical guy!), too I can testify that managing Moodle back-end is not as easy and straight-forward as some might say. So, having a reliable wizard to guide on managing Moodle back-end and concurrent users would do miracles on that front.

However, what has really troubled me the last few years is the lack usability improvements of the core features that say 90% of all users would use or explore in Moodle (editing course page, uploading files, Linking, forum, chat, quizzes, assignments, etc).

Earlier today, I had a discussion with a faculty representative about how complicated it was developing quizzes in Moodle’s online quiz editor (forever scrolling, clicking and too many boxes!).
He insisted that I teach them only how to use notepad (Aiken format) to get the job done. But then again, what about images, symbols, feedback and the other stuff you need to include (medical university!). Yeah, create all the questions in notepad, and then upload, and then add images and symbols were necessary. But…

I tried once an Excel template version, but it was unusable. What if there was a Word quiz template, which could extract images and symbols on-the-fly (XML) during upload. Any such feature or option?

I also get complaints about scrolling and click wars to upload notes, links, create assignments, etc. In a way, the current version we are using (1.9 something), is disabling especially older faculty staff (45+ years) to get on board (easily), because too many steps are needed to getting basic stuff done (e.g. uploading notes).

All this might sound new and strange to some Moodle fans and developers out there. But if it does, perhaps you should spend some more time exploring and reflecting learning tools beyond the LMSs (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Blogger, Google Docs, etc), and pick up some great ideas.

Having said that, we don’t expect all our wishes to happen overnight, but we do expect them at least to be considered, or know that Moodle developers are aware of them and working towards finding a solution. If Ajax does not work (accessibility and security), I am sure there are other ways to simplify the processes of doing things. The golden rule in usability ‘Less is more’ (just made that golden rule up, but it makes sense).

We live in a tough and complicated world today. Even for things that are free, people can blast, be demanding, and expect miracles. It is not easy, and for that fact I admire all of you.

Just remember to pinch your egos when criticism hurts (be receptive and welcome them with open arms in creative ways). It is tough, especially for me, as I am always pinching myself.

Not easy :(

But then again, life without a struggle would be really boring :)



I remember in 2004, I was in shock-and-awe after exploring Moodle for the first time. Let's together bring back that feeling soon :)


Alja Isaković said...

Excellent post, I often feel the same way. I do love Moodle, have Moodle course for teachers, but I often wish Moodle could provide a more Facebook-like experience. Certainly, Moodle is much more powerful in features, but there is so much more that could be done to improve the user experience.

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Alja Sulčič,

Thanks for your feedback.

I totally agree :)

Have you seen this post:

(Check out the slidecast or Articulate version if time permits)

I believe I make some suggestions on using Facebook with Moodle, which might be useful.

Though, it would of course be great if Moodle was improved a bit as discussed in the post.

I believe the #moodlewish stream will provide some honest feedback and suggestions over the next few days :)

Thanks again for dropping by to share some thoughts and reflections.

Highly appreciated and cheers!

Tomaz Lasic said...

Hi Zaid

Sheesh, what have we done :D ???!

It's really nice to see the suggestions flowing in, isn't it.

This could also be a great opportunity to point people to Moodle TRacker

That's where the real work and suggestions 'stick' the best and makes it much easier for developers to see, decide and prioritise what to work on next.

I know you say that most people don't use Tracker but ... THAT is where Moodle grows and improves. You want to see it happen - take five minutes and write it in the Tracker for a much better chance.

Also, a number if things people wish for in #moodlewish may already be worked on anyway.

Having said that, I think the hashtag is a good idea and it has clearly struck a chord with moodlers worlwide - we are a community after all! Making it easy for people to contribute? Oh yes!



PS And Facebook - OMG, I for one don't want Moodle to ever look like that awful fishmarket of a thing (while of course we can learn lessons from it, right ;-).

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Tomaz Lasic,

Yes, we make a good team (at least on Twitter!) :)

I suppose we can rock the boat without spending too much money :)

Just say it nicely in a positive way :)

I agree Moodle Tracker is a great thing and more appropriate, but as I said earlier most people will not share their deep or short bursts of ideas or frustrations there (90-09-01 principle).

As for Facebook, I agree I would not want Moodle to look like Facebook, but I would surely like to have a 'Wall' kind of Moodle plugin, and be able to share stuff as easily as in Facebook.

Anyway, whatever happens, let's hope this #moodlewish provides some valuable feedback to the developers.

Actually, it has already :)

I think this weekend is going to be a lot of fun on my IPhone and TweetDeck.

Yes, that is much thanks to you for coining it #moodlewish :)

It is certainly better than crap :)

Have a great day, and let's enjoy and learn as Moodle dreamers wish for a better Moodle world :)


stufire said...

Gee, Facebook, I hope not..Facebook is Facebook and Moodle is Moodle. One a social networking site at it's worse (at times) and an online learning site (sometimes at it's best).

Yes, Moodle can do better, it is trying with every new Moodle release, but hey, it's all done by programmers for free, in their own time, for nicks, nothing. Give them a break.

If you want different things in Moodle it is very much possible, just look on in the Downloads, Standard Moodle Packages, and if you can't find something there to please your fussy tastes, then help them make it for Moodle.

ZaidLearn said...

Hi Stufire (code name?),

I am not sure where you get your facts from, but I doubt that the core Moodle programmers are developing Moodle for free. Surely, they are getting funding from here and there. Please correct me if I am wrong!

Why should we give them a break? They should thank us that we provide feedback and suggestions, besides us being just grateful for everything that comes along.

Also, we have to keep in mind that Moodle is now a million dollar(s) global business today, where many companies are using Moodle to make big bucks through installation, hosting, training, support and consultancy.

I suppose any company making bucks of Moodle, should give back some of its profits to the Moodle development community (Agree there!).

Finally, it has nothing to do with being fussy, but about creating sizzling online learning environments (efficient and effective), and being able to do that in Moodle :)

Yep, by sharing thoughts and suggestions through Moodle Tracker and for example #moodlewish things can hopefully get better.

However, Moodle developers should also look for suggestions and feedback beyond Moodle Tracker. I am beginning to feel that based on all the wish tweets flowing through #moodlewish, is that why didn't they develop all these wishes earlier, because many of them are quite basic, if we compare to other web 2.0 tools out there.

In short, there is no harm in multiple streams of great ideas and suggestions, just need some Moodle dude to capture them and make them part of the roadmap.

Seriously, one person could handle the flow. That is all that is needed :)

Anyway, thanks for your feedback and reflections.

Highly appreciated! :)

Joseph Thibault said...

Zaid, probably my favorite Moodle post of the year to date.

I agree that the community needs to push and pull in order to enact change, nice to see that there are more people out there with a keen eye for simplifying Moodle a little bit.

I also love Moodle; but it's usability could take some cues from the leading web.

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Joseph Thibault,

Thanks for your feedback.

"Zaid, probably my favorite Moodle post of the year to date..."

If that is the case, why is it not a Moodle Buzz yet?

Until it is a Moodle Buzz, I will not take you seriously.

Kidding, but serious :)

Your reflections regarding simplifying Moodle and usability are spot on.

Moodle was really easy-to-use a few years back, but now it is not.

Innovations in other learning tools since then changes perceptions, and hopefully Moodle can learn from these innovations to once again become top-of-the-pops and super user-friendly :)

Anything is possible :)


stufire said...

Core development of Moodle was originally free, is still free for those educational institutions like schools etc. They need to charge now days for coroprations so they can pay rent for the space needed and pay for Moodle experts to come out and give their services to institutions that need help on how to use and utilise it, that doesn't come for free, people have to make a living.

As for making Moodle anything else other than an online learning site it not what is was intended to be, if that is what is wanted then go elsewhere to get social networking rubbish on a learning platform.

I make no appologies for being so staunch in my beliefs of what Moodle is, as I've been using in my senior class rooms for 5 years now with great success, and trying to keep their attention with such silly things as social networking on it would be the end of a very useful learning platform.

I think you can see what got my goat up, was the utterance of bring social networking to such as system.

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Stufire,

Thanks for your feedback.

It is good to have a strong opinion sometimes :)

Just wondering what is really an online learning site anyway (any standard definition)? And Isn't learning social (too)?

There is nothing wrong in exploring possibilities. Have you explored combining Moodle with other possible learning sites/tools (besides Facebook).

Here is an interesting exploration of learning tools:

Thanks for participating in the discussion.

Warm Regards,


Joseph Thibault said...

Thinking further about this last night. I think there's room to create a similar usability feature by using the Social format. That's a very simple (and functional) way to string together discussions posts, links and other resources on one page (without a huge burden of configuration).

What if that was the foundation for a simpler approach to a course format? (I think that's what was originally intended when that format was created)...thoughts?

ZaidLearn said...

Dear Joseph,

that sounds like a great idea to revamp the social format. However, I would argue even more disruptively that courses should be allowed to have multiple formats, which is possible through tabs. Meaning educators can enjoy the topic/week (formal) and social (informal) formats smooshed into one learning space. Also, the resources shared in the social format is organized dynamically into the topic format through tagging (if wanted).

In short, the learning space can infuse multiple formats through tabs to enable sizzling learning environments.

Now can Moodle do that?

If can, Wow!

Thanks again for sharing your ideas.


Joseph Thibault said...

now that sounds like a #moodlewish.

Frankie Kam said...

Hi Zaid!

Perhaps this blogpost of mine brings Moodle closer to what you have envisaged back in 2010?

Well, here we are two years later, but better late than never eh? hehe.
Frankie Kam
Melaka, Malaysia

ZaidLearn said...

Thanks Frankie... Will check it out :)

Frankie Kam said...

Better late than never. Maybe too little, too late to save Moodle, 5 years down the road. Still, here's houw you can ad your own Wall on your Moodle 1.x and 2.x coursepage. LOL!

ZaidLearn said...


Great to see a local making it happen :)