So… you’ve read all the blogs and articles you can find telling you what you should do when designing Moodle courses, but you’re still not 100% happy with what you’ve developed? Well, welcome to the post that tells you what not to do. Typically, I wouldn’t use negative examples to express how to implement best practices in Moodle course design, but sometimes we all just need a clear and concise ‘what not to do’ list, don’t we?
For today’s blog, I’m going to share with you my personal, top ten “Moodle course design no-no’s”! When designing Moodle courses, I think the key is to keep your students’ experience in mind with every step of development. It’s important not to overwhelm (or underwhelm) your students… especially those who may be new to the Moodle LMS (or online learning in general). Staying away from the following “no-no’s” is your best bet for a fully functional Moodle course, and long-term student success!
- Don’t forget the syllabus! No matter how easy you think your course is, or how well-designed the layout of the course presents itself, you’re always doing your students an injustice if you’re not providing them with a basic syllabus including the course scope and sequence, goals, outcomes, needed materials, and overall expectations. It’s not always necessary to create a page-upon-page Microsoft Word document syllabus; sometimes something short and simple fits the bill. Consider using the Moodle Book module to create a chaptered syllabus covering all of the basics!
- Don’t create a glorified file repository! Uploading necessary content files and support documents is a basic component of online learning; but – don’t turn your Moodle course into a glorified file repository. Moodle can (and should) do so much more than house documents for your students to grab. If documents that need to be uploaded to the course are a large portion of your content, and there’s no way around it – use the appropriate modules to create a seamless user experience for your students (see design no-no #6 for ideas on this).
- Don’t clutter your course with too many blocks! I know, I know… you can barely resist adding those fun little widget-like items called blocks to your Moodle course page. But please, do yourself and your students a favor, and add blocks sparingly. Always choose blocks that give you the biggest bang for your buck, or are necessary to the overall organization and functionality of your course. As an example, the Calendar block is fabulous. It automatically pulls in due dates from assignments and quizzes, and allows users to create their own events – however, if you have a non-facilitated course with no due dates, is it really necessary?
- Don’t flood your Front Page with graphics! The rule of graphics is to always use graphics where they support your content, and increase/support student understanding. While you can add graphics to the Moodle course Front Page (the home/landing page for the course), you should always be aware of how many you’re using, their necessity, and overall size. In order to keep course Front Page load times fast, make sure you size and optimize all of your images before bringing them into Moodle (i.e. – don’t use the Moodle HTML editor to re-size your graphics).
- Don’t use color to draw attention or ‘look pretty’! Remember when your mama asked you, “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” This question should be applied in this scenario. Just because you see courses that employ lots of colors and such in the design doesn’t mean you have to (or should) do it too. For accessibility reasons, don’t use varied font colors to draw attention to things on the course front page (or anywhere else for that matter). Use textual clues that all students can benefit from (i.e. instead of using red or blue text to draw attention to an important statement or set of directions, begin the text with ‘Important!’ or Read me!’).
- Don’t create a “link farm” with files on your course Front Page! In no-no #2 above, I encouraged you not to use Moodle simply as a file repository. However, files are a part of many courses. In order to keep from creating what I call a “link farm” on your Moodle course Front Page, use the Folder module to keep all important course documents in. Folders allow for multiple sub-folders to be created in them, and have several display options. For more information on using the Moodle Folder module, click here.
- Don’t overuse one module type! Yes, the Moodle Assignment module is relatively easy to create and easy to grade… but Moodle has so many other great gradable modules that allow for collaboration and interactivity! Students will quickly grow bored submitting assignment after assignment, or taking quiz after quiz. Consider using some of the other Moodle modules like Feedback, Wiki, and Forum for student contribution to the overall learning community.
- Don’t use modules you don’t understand! If you’re confused about how to set up or grade a module, or don’t understand the process of the student experience, you’re students will most likely be confused as well – especially if you can’t support them when they have questions. Before using modules like Workshop or Lesson, make sure to educate yourself on how to create them, how to build content into them, and how to trouble shoot them should you run into problems down the road.
- Don’t overuse labels! While labels are great for dividing up blocks of content, and providing useful directions for students, avoid creating paragraphs of information (content or directions) directly on the course Front Page. This can distract students from the actual links for content, and take up valuable real estate on the course Front Page. Consider placing long or more complex sets of directions in downloadable format, or in Moodle Page resources.
- Don’t forget to have fun! Moodle was created on the Social Constructivism pedagogy, which centers around all course participants, both teachers and learners, contributing to the learning experience. As I said above, you should always design your courses with the student in mind. Think to yourself, “Would I want to take this course?”.
I hope this short list of what not to do when you begin creating your Moodle course has been helpful for you! For more on designing Moodle courses, consider taking one of our course building series online courses! You can easily enroll here!
- Laura Lea