Moodle 4.0 – All new
Just another update?
We’re all resigned to the perpetual requirements for updates from the products we’re locked into using, and more than a little jaded by the demand for yet more financial outlay for what is mostly cosmetic and often irritating. So it’s truly refreshing when an update really improves user experience and is quite obviously motivated by a desire to give users exactly what they need.
One thing you can always be sure of with Moodle, any changes or updates they make are with the best motives. The most recent update, Moodle 4.0 is just such a case.
Giving the users what they need
Why do we say that Moodle developers have the best motives? Well, they have the two advantages of being committed to open-source development and to best practice in online education. Their focus is on a calling rather than a profit margin and it shows. Moodle 4.0 has been conceived with the end users in mind, both educators and students. Where before the emphasis was on creating needed tools and features, now it is on making Moodle easy to use. A fundamental principal underlying the ‘new’ approach is that ease of use, access and user experience is as important for the learner as it is for the administrator/educator. While it is certainly part of the ‘zeitgeist’ to simplify and declutter for general well-being, we’ve also fairly recently begun to understand how much impact this has on the ability of the learning brain to absorb information efficiently and effectively.
To quote the artist Hans Hofmann, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Online learning has of necessity become firmly established and widely used. LMS’s have developed rapidly, and much attention has been given to creating tools that present and control content or enable administration.
However, it has taken a bit more time for educators to catch up with adapting to the cognitive and physical demands created by electronically based learning tools. We’re recognizing that we can’t apply the same principles to on-screen content presentation that were previously used in a classroom or textbook context. We’re being bombarded by advice on eliminating the distractions of social media, the internet and other media sources, and it has immediate bearing on teaching for the best outcomes. Essentially, eliminating the unnecessary to allow the necessary to speak requires that what appears on the user’s screen is only what they absolutely need. Too much clutter, too many buttons, icons, navigation options, and the audience is distracted from the main goal – learning.
Streamlined User Interface
With this in mind, combined with increasing requests from the greater Moodle user community, the Moodle team have worked tirelessly to create a streamlined, intuitive user experience, that cuts out the clutter and is easy to use and to navigate. The team went to great lengths to identify and address the most critical friction points with previous Moodle iterations. They consulted with the Moodle community through a user experience benchmark study and workshops, and a concerted programme of testing and refining.
Navigation has been simplified through the use of tabs at the top of the page when you log in. Most of us are used to this kind of configuration, since it’s very similar to the ubiquitous format seen in almost all menu interfaces out there.
Here’s an example taken from a demo site showing what a student could expect to see when logging in (drag the slider to view the differences between Moodle 4.0 and 3.11):
The course page shows exactly what the learner needs to see regarding their progress through the courses they are taking as shown here.
The dashboard gives you an overview of your courses, required actions and activities, and the timelines related to them. For instance, you can see that there is an activity that is overdue in this timeline. You can also see very clearly what needs to be done in each course instance.
As you can see – very simple and clean
The critical factor in all this is the absence of distracting clutter. The learner’s eye goes straight to the information. They don’t have three or four reference points on different parts of the screen that diffuse their attention. Only relevant information appears. There is also a collapse and expand function that allows the viewer to hide material that they have covered and view the next piece of content without interference. Every one of these options has been carefully designed to reduce cognitive load and enhance the learning experience.
It’s marvellously straightforward, once again providing exactly what you need to do the job without having to scramble through extra irrelevant content. You can find what you need, when and where you need it. The best part is that you don’t have to go through a huge re-learning process to use the new interface. Everything works the same as it always did. It’s just simpler to find.
Other new features
As great as the new UI is, there have been other updates that are equally exciting:
The Assignment feature now includes activity instructions – guidance for the students as they progress through the assignment. It has a timer for time-sensitive activities and new activity completion criteria controlling a passing grade requirement.
BigBlueButton, the virtual classroom and web-conferencing platform has now been integrated as part of the initial Moodle installation. This means that it is no longer a separate plugin, but comes with the main package.
The Question bank feature backing up the Quiz has been made more flexible, allowing collaboration on questions among colleagues. A team can see the history of changes to a question and make comments. You can see where questions have been used and how often they have been attempted. The structure of the Question Bank itself has also been improved with options to add custom fields and reposition them as you prefer.
The new Report Builder is a feature that administrators and managers alike have been eagerly awaiting. Now you can create system-level and customised reports that can be configured to your requirements, for a specific audience, scheduled release and more.
There are a number of other updates, added features and adjustments including improved security features, which you can explore at Moodle.com. Alternatively, you can talk to us about what you need to take your training to the next level – we’re excited to tell you all about Moodle 4.0 and what it can do for you! It’s easy to be enthusiastic about a platform and the creative team behind it who are so focused on providing the best possible product in the best possible way!