Defeating the scroll of death
In a Moodle course the resources and activities can create a long course home page. If a course has many resources and activities the user will scroll endlessly to find content. This problem is referred to as the “scroll of death.” The scroll of death is inefficient screen navigation leading to user frustration as they have a difficult time finding resources and activities. While a course builder will never be able to get away from using a plethora of resources and activities within a Moodle course there are ways to make finding course content easier. In this post I will show you two tricks to defeat the “scroll of death” making your course easier to navigate more attractive and better organized.
Trick #1 – Using formatting options in course settings
A quick way to stop the scroll of death is to change the formatting options for the course format. The “show one section per page” course layout option creates a minimized view of all course content on the course home page. To view the content in each section the user will click on the section title. The “show one section per page” option also allows the user to move backwards and forwards through the course using before and next buttons without ever having to go back to the home page.
Trick #2 – Graphic-based menu
Another common solution to the “scroll of death” in Moodle is the use of a graphic-based menu. This type of navigation uses images embedded on the summary section of a Topic- or FolderView-based course to link to and jump to content and resources in a Moodle course. A key ingredient to this type of menu is using an “orphaned” topic.
An orphaned topic is a topic that exists but isn’t shown on the course home page. For example if you place resources and activities in the last topic of a 4-topic course and set the number of sections in the course settings to 3 you will only see the three topics but the fourth still exists because it has content within it. This content is still available for use it isn’t hidden. Therefore you can link to it and use it!
- Open your Moodle course and a text editor like Notepad++ or Notepad.
- Go to Settings > Course Administration > Edit settings and scroll down to Formatting Options and set the number of sections to two. Scroll down to the bottom of the settings page and click Save changes.
- Place the content in the second topic.
- Before you create your graphic-based menu you will want to have the URLs you are linking to handy. To do this right click on the title of the resource and/or activity and choose “Copy link location” or “Copy link address”. Paste this address into the text editor. Repeat this with all activities and resources you want to use.
- Create a label in the first topic.
- In the label text area create a table with as many columns for each activity or resource you want to link to. In this example there are three areas I want my students to explore.
- Click inside one of the table cells to place the cursor.
- Click Insert/edit an image from the WYSIWIG editor. From the File picker choose the image you want to use as a button in your graphical navigation. Do this for each cell.
- Now you will link each image to a section.
- Highlight an image and click Insert/edit link from the WYSIWIG editor. Paste a content link from the text document that you want to associate with the image into the Insert/edit link interface. Click Save. Repeat for all images.
- Scroll to the bottom of the settings page and click Save and return to course.
Figure 1: Orphaned section with editing turned on
Figure 2: Orphaned topic with editing turned off
These tricks should help you organize your course so that students can access course resources and activities quickly and easily.