I used to think that a good virtual learning environment was the one that was the most flexible. If the technology could enable it, it should enable it. But I could not understand why so few of Sussex tutors ever explored the options that were possible.
In 2009 my new colleague Stuart Lamour introduced me to a fundamental principle of form usability – tutors did not want more options, they wanted less! They did not want to be exposed to the complexity of what was possible, they just wanted a few simple options that would make their lives easier.
Throughout our Moodle we have forms with options that are rarely used. We are slowly going through these and making them simpler to use. In this blog post I illustrate how I have simplified the enrolments settings of the course settings form using user experience design patterns, intelligent defaults and progressive disclosure.
The first thing we did was to split up the course settings form and put the various sections on to different pages. These were all available through another Sussex development – the course administration dashboard.
Many enrolment options were not relevant to courses that were created and populated by the automated course feed. As a result the vast majority of courses only need four enrolment options – does it allow guest access, is it enrollable, and if so, do guests or enrolling users need a key and what role do enrolling users enter with.
Those courses which have been created manually and manage their enrolments in other ways need more enrolment options. These include: is it a meta course, is the enrolment period between a date range, is there an enrolment duration and, if so, are there enrolment expiration notifications.
Many of the options only make sense if another field is set in a certain way, for example if a course is a meta it cannot be enrollable. This means we can enable and disable fields according to other form settings, thus making the form even clearer.
The following video illustrates what we have done, but please note we use some different terms. For example we call Moodle enrolments “subscriptions” to disambiguate from University courses and enrolments to them and we avoid the term “meta course” as we think it will confuse our tutors. Instead we say “take subscriptions from other sites”.