Something we been working on for quite a while, in fact from the very beginning, has been customising Moodle and other open source software to work in a way that we wanted to.
We haven’t done any code hacks because we are extra sensitive to the extra work and problems that can necessitate around upgrade time so we focused mostly on template and interface changes.
Our most customised Moodle is definitely the one for kickstart 3-D which is a substantial Certificate III course targeted at 16 and 17-year-old schools students primarily.
Our mission for this project was to create a simple and intuitive course process they could deliver media, text, images and assessments across the full range of devices. Our second priority was that it should look great. It’s taken quite a while but we think the final product functions really well for students and staff and we even think it looks good.
How Did We Do It?
Firstly we started with an excellent theme … Essentials which is based on bootstrap and delivers the core responsive layout that we wanted. Because it’s bootstrap based, we can use all the tricks from that framework in our custom templates as well.
Next we built our module layout using the bootstrap framework and following our educational process which remained consistent across the entire course. We prioritised that repeatable series of steps because we know how confusing many online courses become to navigate. Each learning module or exercise presents a series of media such as videos and audio which students watch and three simple buttons which link to a fact sheet (Moodle page), and activity (quiz, assignment etc) and a single Moodle forum for comments and questions.
Our course page is simply topics format some template code in the description which creates all of the buttons that link to the exercises. The first version of this was built with images and was essentially responsive but the most recent version is entirely CSS driven which makes it very fast and has allowed us to build in the completion tracking to fade exercises as they are done. This was a huge help to students and required some additional coding.
All of the extra code lives in a Moodle field for Additional HTML which means upgrading the theme or even Moodle doesn’t break it.
The last step was to hide all of the Moodle asset links in some topics that were not displayed. We organise them by function so that all the activities are together, exercise pages, document downloads etc. this just makes it easier to find things when you need them with editing on. Students never see anything except the button style interface which makes it very clean and simple for them.
Can We Do It Better?
Absolutely! We are constantly improving this particular course and 2015 will see our fact sheets vastly improved. At the moment they’re pretty rudimentary with text and images on HTML page but our new versions will improve the layout significantly.
We also need to do student feedback better in terms of grades and a few other course specific requirements and we would love eventually to convert our exercise page into an activity style module that is more Wizard driven. At the moment making a new activity is quite manual and you end up in code view more often than the average course administrator would like.
If you like to hear more about this particular set up or to see if we can assist with your own Moodle please contact us.