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Making Moodle more engaging by rethinking the display of content

As many of our regular readers will know, a common theme in this blog has been how it is hard to create Moodle pages that look like the rest of the internet. Many Moodle pages look lists.

When we are developing we often ask the question “What would Facebook do?” – or more generally “What would other user content systems do?”. Almost everything in Facebook is displayed on the user or group profile page – whether a discussion, a video or an interactive poll. Where the content is long the user clicks on it and the content is displayed more fully on the same page or within a dialog box.

As a result we have tried to do something similar with our Moodle.

Videos, including lecture recordings (further posts about this coming), youtube/vimeo, uploaded recordings, get displayed with a thumbnail image and optionally played within the page.

A reading list module, which we have developed in-house and links with Talis Aspire (further posts about this coming), is displayed in a similar way within the page.

We encourage tutors to put content in the section description or in labels (we now call displayed content). Where the content is too much we encourage users to add a “Page” (we now call click-to-reveal content). We display this content to students as an accordian, nested in the page and shown on the same page when clicked.

Also displayed within the page are uploaded mp3s, images and folder resources.

As much as possible we discourage tutors from putting up resources as files for the students to download, but when they do we call these attachments. Attachments take students away from the VLE site which we consider an “online social nexus of learning” :p.

Further developments might include displaying forums in a similar way – nested within the page – or even quizzes.


We note that for a long time we were criticising Moodle because it encouraged tutors to create “scroll-of-death” learning sites, but developments such as this increase the length of the page. However we argue that there is a difference between scrolling through lists of links to content and scrolling through the content itself. Facebook, Tumblr and GooglePlus have infinite scroll on most devices because each article contains content.

Partitioning sections is still important in a course-based learning system so we oblige tutors to use the page/chapter format. If we are a student in Week 6 of a learning module then navigating passed all the other weeks’ materials requires unnecessary work.

As usual we encourage you to leave us some comments.