Developing a well oiled machine 1

As a system, I think everyone is aware of Moodle and its capabilities. Utilised worldwide, the system provides a great platform to build on, and the work that Epic had done for us in developing the template meant that the Moodle was now a strong representation of our brand and finally we had an online base – a foundation to build on.

I’ve spoken in previous posts about our initial concept. We (UHS) are part of the NHS, and we wanted to buy in to the national agenda. Systems have been provided at a national level to try and achieve benefits, and whilst they do all have their quirks, as a concept – it’s very good. All that said, the concept in theory just didn’t match closely enough to our vision. We want to create a user friendly system which makes education accessible to our staff. I’ve spoken many times about the VLE concept, and my key aim, is that I want learners to be in control of their learning. I don’t mind if it’s the Chief Exec, or the part-time Gardener, in my eyes the concept is the same. Both of these people, and the 8,500 others in between should be able to take responsibility for their own education.

Whilst I’m not expecting 8,500 people to change their practices overnight – I want them to be empowered to do so if they choose. Whether that power is used to self-book a space on a training course, or if they choose to undertake an e-learning course to develop their knowledge – the fact they can control their own activity, rather than relying on other people to control it for them, this remains the aim. Of course it is all supported by developing systems and processes to enable this activity, and this is where the VLE comes in.

Back to the point……Moodle is a superb tool which provides open source flexibility – and it is this which must then be utilised to enable the tool to work. For UHS, this utilising came in the shape of the page layout and the details placed. I spoke previously about our usage of Guest access to enable open access to text information, however this in itself provided additional issues.

The layout of some Moodle resources just wasn’t working for us. As we’ve come from a sole website, we’ve got used to providing large amounts of text information – some of which wasn’t linked to courses. Using the Moodle Blog functionality, we were able to create a News feed to allow displaying of our Monthly Focus. We were also able to add a number of page resources at Front Page level, then by hiding the menu we were able to utilise these throughout the site as appropriate (whether that be menu links on the top menu (such as the help pages), or a page linked elsewhere in the VLE (such as the ‘Cancellation policy’)). As the core menu option was hidden, it ensured that the pages don’t look out of place in random menus.

VLE HTML BlockThe other issue we came across was that the sidebar navigation had two issues. The first of these was that it didn’t consistently display the Courses (it would show only 3 of our 9 categories) – and then had the ‘Site Pages’ option – which could be disabled, but left the page looking untidy. Therefore the decision was made to use the HTML Block to code a menu for the side navigation bar. This allowed us to fix the menu options we required to the front page (and all pages throughout the VLE) without having any of the additional “fluff” which the conventional menu offered us.

All of a sudden, the VLE was looking like a Training and development resource, and was now acting in the way we wanted it to.

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