09 October 2011

More on Moodle Zen (Compact Design)

During/After the presentation by Jen Hegna today I have some thoughts to add to the discussion:

I think having a reason to design a course like this is important. Not all courses would benefit from this type of layout. Here's why I do it:
  • I have students enrolling all year long so it is necessary to leave an entire semester's course open. It cannot be used synchronously with an entire class.

  • Even though almost everyone will go in order, I want to support users who don't want to.

  • Some people only need access to parts of the course and not the whole thing. I'm way into the "just in time" idea. When someone wants to know something, I want that part of my course accessible to them.
To add to Jen's list of Pro's/Con's:

Visual appeal matters. Like it or not, teachers have to learn some elements of design to sell their content. I had an interesting discussion with an IT person once who asked why I spend so much time on layout/design of content. I could just upload the text/PDF files the old way. He couldn't wrap his head around why someone would not just read what they were supposed to. Even if they did, I would still argue that participants will remember more of the content if they are visually engaged.

There was a question about how much time this adds to the process and how teachers will fit this into their schedules. Once you wrap your head around how it fits together, it really doesn't take much more time. I've written about my design process before, but compacting a course really only adds another couple hours to the process. It's worth it in terms of what you'll make up by engaging learners. In the end, I believe this extra time up front will save students/teachers time, not to mention result in higher participation and completion (an issue that continues to elude much of the online learning community).

Some things break upon restore. This isn't so much of a con for me as they're usually quick fixes, like updating the course number (which is easily accomplished in the HTML version with a Find/Replace or a couple quick edits. The nice thing is that the errors are consistent so once you know where they are then it's easier and easier to fix them when they're restored for others. Another quick way to check for errors is to change the course theme and click on the links. You'll know right away if any are broken since your course will look different.

Shortcuts I've learned:

I've now designed at least 7 courses like this (3 of which are available on MoodleShare), and I can say that I'm still finding ways to speed things up.

  1. Get your unit pages created first even if you leave them blank.
  2. Put commonly used HTML code in a label or text file to have quick access to.
  3. Get a second monitor and use your landscape to have different parts of your course open at once.
  4. To avoid restore errors you can host your media on another server or in places like YouTube or Google Docs.
  5. Use the Resources block to get quick access to different pages in your course. This will be very helpful once you close the extra topics.
Here's a link to a post about my own course design process.

Thanks to Miguel Guhlin for putting this together for the Moodle Mayhem Podcast.

There was a comment in the chat about Picasa links being problematic. I've noticed that when I try to use the "link to this image" link that it doesn't embed, but when I click on the image, then right click on it and copy link location that this will work. I don't know why the URL's are different but I guess they are. There was also concern about Flickr being available and some schools blocking it. There are lots of ways to share files as mentioned in the presentation, I would just add that you would use any number of free spaces to upload/share content, they can't block them all! :)