Mulling over Moodle…


Having recorded a podcast with Craig Taylor last week, it provided me with a chance to talk about what we’ve been doing with Moodle, and what we’re trying to do in the next few months. With this all going round in my mind, it proved quite a good time to look back at where we’ve come from over the past few years. I have talked recently at the UK and Ireland MoodleMoot about our recent wins with simplistic techniques, but I wanted to take a real look back over the way we’ve changed in the past few years.

As I said during Craig’s podcast, the thing I love most about working with Moodle is the limitless options which the system offers. Due to it’s open-source nature, the code base is freely available, and if you possess the skills, or have the money for a developer, there’s nothing you can’t achieve.

Year one:

When we first started with Moodle, we wanted to reflect our initial branding. We had recently launched a new departmental identity, which included curved purple rectangles filling the top right corner of our materials. Alongside this and our departmental colour scheme, our designers were asked to deliver us a site which would meet these styles. The designer came up with this style for us:

Original UHS VLE Theme

Original UHS VLE Theme

At the time, this was perfect for us. As well as meeting our departmental style, our Moodle allowed us to provide a portal for our staff to access our educational offerings. During this first period using Moodle, we needed to allow our staff to easily locate the training options available to them. The modified HTML menu on the left allowed access to the training courses, and from there, the static pages would either link into our HR system (to book a face-to-face course), or access the course (for e-learning courses).

Year two:

Having worked with our Moodle for a year, we had managed to achieve a good buy-in from our staff. Having moved from a non-existent system which was relied on printed certificates which were then manually recorded, the staff valued the change to a system which was capturing e-learning completions automatically. With this in mind, we decided to upgrade our site to Moodle 2.6, which then allowed us to bring in some new features. The first thing we did was change over from our previous theme to a modified version of the Clean theme. This was important for us as it would allow us to be “mobile”. At this time we moved away from our previous curved rectangles, maintaining the colour scheme to allow us to maintain our branding:

Updated UHS VLE on Modified Clean Theme

Updated UHS VLE on Modified Clean Theme

Whereas the normal Clean theme allows simply for a white or black top header, and a logo below in the main area, we had the theme modified to allow for the top banner to match our branding, and encorporate our logo into it. In addition to this, given the successes we had from the usage of the site, we also took the opportunity to move our face-to-face activities into the VLE at the same time. With this, it now meant that all of our staff could access and book any course from our VLE, on any device!

Year three and onwards:

It’s got to that time of the year when we try to push through a few new changes. This year we’re again making some tweaks to the interface itself. The aim this year is to simplify everything (I seem to spend a lot of time talking about simplifying things at the moment). The aim this year is to make access to all parts simple and direct. By removing the additional “fluff” from the homepage, we’re creating a simple and direct way for our learners to get to the educational materials they require. We’ve enhanced the access to the search functionality, but whilst retaining the direct access to our course structure from the top menu.

In addition to this, we’re also now planning our new compliance reporting system which will allow our staff to view their compliance from within the VLE on any device from any location.

We’re just putting the final touches to the interface, and the compliance reporting system (dashboard) are all being developed in the coming weeks. I look forward to sharing the details once it’s all done!

As usual, if you have any comments, please leave them below, or get in touch on Twitter (@n1ckl33)

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