We rolled a new feature on the Moodlemoot Theme today, which I expect teachers to fall in love with and have a long-term affair with.

Many thanks to Bas for making this a reality!

It begins with a gradebook, looking as it does..

Gradebook before

Gradebook before

And of course there is a sneaky button on the top right – Zoom. So innocent and quietly waiting… to be pressed.

Zoooooooooooooooom (okay maybe overdoing this bit..)

Gradebook Zoomed

Gradebook Zoomed

 

Yes that is it.  Header, Footer, Blocks gone bye bye, full-screen/reader mode to give the teacher the most space possible for working on the gradebook, or assignment grading, or rubrics, or students looking at content etc…

Zoom out and you have the normal page.

Here is the image of the assignment grading page too:

Assignment Grading Page Full Screen

Assignment Grading Page Full Screen

If you like this feature please go vote on the tracker item -> https://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-45269

Good news for those who have been snowed under the last few weeks and would have missed the deadline for submissions, we now have another two weeks to get that submission drafted.

What is the Moodle Research Conference?

The Moodle Research Conference (MRC) is an annual international event dedicated to research and development (R&D) in learning and teaching carried out with Moodle. The MRC provides an opportunity for researchers, faculty/teachers, technologists, and other experts who either conduct research on the impact of using Moodle on student learning or develop tools increasing capacity to conduct research on Moodle use. Attendees share experiences and exchange research achievements and innovative developments. The aim of the conference is not to promote Moodle, but to bring together the community using Moodle to provide evidence about learning.

I attended the first two research conferences and the content was clearly quite different to the Moodlemoots. I produced a report on the 2nd Moodle Conference which is available on research.moodle.net. The focus of the MRC provides another insight into the use of Moodle in learning in addition to the excellent practitioner based presentations at the Moots.

Location & Dates

The timing of the conference is great this year! It is being held on 19-20 June 2014. After two years in the Med, this year the conference has moved to be USA based – in California State University Chancellor’s Office (Long Beach, California, USA).

Topics for submissions

The range of topics for reporting original unpublished research and recent developments is quite diverse and they suggest the following areas could be touched on although do not restrict the submissions to this list:

  • Experimental research involving methods and tools
  • Case studies on the effectiveness of teaching methods
  • Collaborative learning / social learning
  • Communities of practice
  • Learning analytics
  • Early warning systems
  • Plugins / modules / blocks increasing research capabilities
  • Personalisation and adaptivity
  • Massive Open Online Courses
  • Interoperability with Moodle
  • Accessibility
  • Mobile learning

So if you have been undertaking some research, you now still have time to get that submission in.

Types of submissions

They have three types of submission options for the MRC –  so to quote

Full papers

Paper length: up to 8 pages (including figures and references).
Will be presented individually in full sessions during conference..

Poster papers

Paper length: up to 1000 words in length.
Will be presented in a group poster session.

Demonstrations

Proposal length: 250 word abstract describing the demonstration.
Will be presented individually in short sessions during conference.

For more details

For the full details on the conference and call for proposals, check out the MRC site -> http://research.moodle.net/

 

Martin Dougiamas recently posted about the future of themes in Moodle and for Moodle 2.7.

The first interesting thing is that the Clean theme is going to be the default theme for Moodle. This is the Bootstrap 2 base theme that was added into Moodle 2.6. The development and addition of this theme in core was one of the great outcomes from the Moodle developer hackfest at the Moodlemoot in Dublin last year. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this years hackfest in Edinburgh.

I believe that HQ moving to this theme as the default theme moves Moodle to where it is not just “mobile as well”, but mobile first in interface development which is a great thing for the community. A responsive interface by default means that theme developers and institutions, and plugin developers can take advantage of this in the future. The fact that all code in Moodle  will be tested using this theme now going forward is also a great decision.

He also announced that they will include a new Bootstrap 2 based theme called MORE that contains a lot of settings for customising the theme from within the user interface theme settings.  This means that those without the development skills or even the desire to develop a theme from scratch can just tweak the MORE theme colour settings and so on to get a branded theme. This will help those organisations without the budget to do more complex solutions still get a smart-looking theme. This is going to benefit the majority of smaller Moodle sites out there.

The third point he mentioned is that the standard-based themes are being remove from core and will become plugins in the Moodle plugins directory so that people who use them can still use them. Although I understand the reasoning behind this, it will come as a small roadbump to some who are still using them and are mid-way through projects to upgrade this summer and not planned to go to clean. I foresee a lot of requests to build custom bootstrap2 based themes in the coming months – which isn’t a bad thing either.

One potentially contentious point for some developers is that there is no current plans to put Bootstrap 3 in core Moodle for the time being. I think this is a good move although I love the Bootstrap 3 themes  I have seen. With the migration to a new base theme, what is needed is stability of the base development level.

See here For Martin Dougiamas post on themes

For those who follow the bi-monthly updates of Moodle the new updates were released last week. These updates cover three major versions – 2.6, 2.5 and 2.4.

Why is it important to update?

As with many systems, Moodle issues regular bi-monthly versions which includes bug fixes and which can also include security fixes. So if you can, it is certainly a good idea to update your Moodle sites with the most current minor version release as soon as possible. This will have it performing with the latest fixes included.

Even if you don’t initially plan to update, you should at least read the release notes for your version to see if anything impacts what you are using – a much wanted bug fix for a specific bug that impacts your site may be included.

If you are hosted by a 3rd party company, you should consult with them about when they implement the minor releases.

 

 

I recently gave some introduction sessions on Moodle 2.6 and here are the slides that I used.

Which is your favourite new or improved feature?

This is the first of a three-part review about Iomad – a business and corporate focused enhancement to Moodle. Normally I follow a set pattern in doing reviews, but as this is so much more than just one add-on, I am breaking with that tradition.

But first for some context.

Intro

Many corporates use Moodle in many different ways. Some use it as training platform where training courses are uploaded and delivered to their staff for certification and ongoing continual professional development. Others use it as a social learning platform where the courses are more focused on sharing and collaboration. Many use it as a hybrid of these reasons and other reasons completely.

The reasons why they use Moodle can differ as well; some use it because of the flexibility, some use because it is open source and can be readily customised to do exactly what they need; some use it because it is license free and so a cost-effective solution where you may want to start off small and scale; other use it because it has the specific features they need and some use it because it is what they know.

Obviously there are other reasons but I am just trying to set the scope of diversity in how and why organisations use Moodle.

However, most organisations; be it academic or corporates often want to use Moodle beyond the course management system it excels at, with more learning management features such as

  • High level reporting; curriculum-wide reporting, company wide reporting, hierarchical reports, unit based reporting and so on
  • Advanced user structures: user hierarchical groups based on the organisation’s needs – be it different business units, national groupings or even in academic sectors of faculties and schools.

There has always been a number of ways of approaching these type of requirements, by adding extra products alongside Moodle, or adding plugins or even using enterprise solutions that were developed – such as Remote-Learners ELIS and Totara.

I have used all three, and found each to have some unique features that made them worth investigating. I have reviewed ELIS on this blog before, and was waiting until Totara was fully openly available to download to do so. Totara was recently made available on Github and so it is on my list to review in more detail at some point.

However something new came under my sights this last week, and so having played with it I thought I would put together this review. It is called Iomad, and it was developed and released by the Scottish Moodle Partner E-Learn Design

Approach

When approaching any of these enterprise systems, I have always had a specific type of test in mind and that is:

  • set up a test company structure of a few departments
  • allocate users in the various levels of the company
  • allocate users to a learning track / courses
  • complete some courses
  • view reports available at each level where possible.

So my review will follow this format.

The test cycle

The fictional company I will test with is a simple one. It is a Company with 4 departments: Sales, HR, Development and Support. Each of these has a manager and 2 staff members.

I should note that Iomad has some very useful features that I will cover in part 2 of this review in the coming week they are:

  • Training Event activity
  • Multi-tenancy
  • e-commerce
  • License management

Installation

Iomad is a full installation of Moodle and itself. It is more than plugins as the site explains “there are a few changes to core”. Normally I prefer to just review standalone plugins, but enterprise extensions are not that simple – the problems they solve are not simple either.

So to have a play you can either install from the Github account https://github.com/iomad/iomad , or you can just use the demo site. The site auto-refreshes every 90 minutes so if you are going to play I suggest you try just after one of the resets so you have enough time to go through the different features. The demo site is at http://demo.iomad.org.

Installing Iomad from github was as simple as installing Moodle. The Iomad site has an installation quick start installation guide for those who are unfamiliar.   http://www.iomad.org/installation-quick-start-2/

Creating a Company

Once installed, as admin you are able to access the Iomad dashboard.  You are immediately prompted to create a new company. Apart from giving it a new you can set user defaults for all staff that are created under the company and you can also specify if it should have its own appearance info such as a theme and logo – which I guess is very useful for the multi-tenancy usage.

Iomad Add Company

Iomad Add Company

The Iomad dashboard shows you different options depending on your role. As a Moodle admin I could see more than a company admin, who sees more options than a manager, and so on. The dashboard is both an extension of the Moodle Administration block and an actual dashboard page.

Iomad Admin Tree

Iomad Admin Tree

 

Iomad dashboard for an admin

Iomad dashboard for an admin

The Dashboard breaks the system down into a number of sections:

  • Company management
  • User management
  • course management
  • license management
  • E-Commerce

Below this is the Iomad reports section which offers links to

  • Attendance report by course
  • Users Report
  • Iomad SCORM overview report
  • Completion report by course
  • Iomad Company Overview Report

All these options were also available in the administration block tree for Iomad for easy access. I would however have liked to have this at the top of the administration block rather than the bottom.

So back to the review.

Adding Company Departments

Once logged in as the full admin, I got access to the dashboard.

Company Management has the following options:

  • Edit Company
  • Create Company
  • Manage Departments
  • Assign Department users
  • Optional profiles
  • Assign Users
  • Assign Courses
  • Email Templates

Adding the four departments was very straight forward.

Iomad Add Department

Iomad Add Department

Each department has a long and short name.  So adding them in took less than a minute.

Next onto the staff

Adding the staff into the system

User Management has the following options:

  • Create user
  • Edit users
  • Upload users
  • User bulk download
  • Bulk user actions

Creating the users in the interface is straight forward. You specific the name, email, password and can allocate the user a role in the company. You could also assign them to a course (which I have none created yet so skipping that for now).

Iomad Add User

Iomad Add User

After creating one user in the interface, I chose the upload users approach and added in some users with a spreadsheet. This was the same easy process as standard Moodle, however with just a few options: Adding the file, CSV delimiter, Encoding, Preview rows and Upload type.

Once previewing the user upload you could also select some other options including which department to add the users to and which courses to enrol the users into.

Once added, now came the third task: allocate users to a learning track / courses. This is handled under the Course Management. However with no courses set up I had to do this first.

Creating Courses

Course Management has the following options:

  • Assign to company
  • User Enrolments
  • Create course
  • Manage Iomad course settings
  • Teaching locations

Before I can enrol users I had to create a few test courses first but that was quick – there is a simple form for creating the empty course with just Course full name, short name, summary and enrolment method (self-enrolment or manager enrolling the users).

Iomad Create Course

Iomad Create Course

Adding users to courses

Once I created the courses, enrolling users onto them was as expect straight forward.

The common theme so far is simplicity and just the options needed to do the task and no more. So the page for enrolling users has the department to filter the users shown, a choice of what course to enrol users to, and a user select box.

Iomad Enrol Users

Iomad Enrol Users

So you can either enrol a whole department to a course, or just select which users.

That task over it was down to logging in as some of the end users and finishing a course or two.

For speed, I turned on self-completion for the courses, and added the self-completion block so that the learner can click to complete the course.

Course Self Complete

Course Self Complete

So once a user had completed some courses, I went to look at the reports.

Reports

The first report I wanted to look at was the Completion report by course. This provides an overview of the courses in the company and how many users are enrolled, how many are not started, still in progress and how many are completed as below.

Iomad Coure Completion Report

Iomad Coure Completion Report

With the filter you can see the whole company or just a department.

The completion report by user allows you to select a user from the company or filter by department and then view their report.

Iomad User Completion Report

Iomad User Completion Report

There are other reports for SCORM tracking, Attendance tracking and an overview on the company staff and the total number of users and total number of courses.

End of Part 1.

This review has covered the basics of what a company will do when they start on the system, structure setup, user set up and enrolment and also some of the reports.Throughout the review I have found the system to be simple to use. The options were just enough to do what was needed and no more which mean that the screens did not have extra options which could confuse. I will give my full thoughts on the system at the end of part 2.

The next part in this review will cover the different roles in the system, training event activity, Multi-tenancy, E-commerce and the course license management.

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