Five features of Moodle 2 that take up most of our support time

This is my second proposal for a Pecha Kucha session at this year’s Moodle Moot.

There are five things in Moodle 2 that take up most of our support time. It’s been over a year for us and they are still polluting our support system.

I realize that I should have engaged on these issues on before but I couldn’t set aside the time until today. I will wait for some feedback here and then will do that.


1. Requesting a new password confuses EVERYONE!

There are 2 things about this feature that confuse even me and my Last Pass contains over 500 sites I’ve signed up on. There are two problems.

  1. Problem: The request page has a field for both the email and the username. But only one of them is permissible. But most users complete both and then don’t understand the error message which simply restates the assignment. Solution: Have separate pages for username and password retrieval. Improve the error message.
  2. Problem: Users are sent a new password. When they login they are asked to change their password first entering the current password. But they don’t consider this brand new password their current password so they try to enter the password they think they had before and enter this new password they were just sent as their new password. Solution: Just send them a temporary link they can use to change their password. (Or at least give better instructions.)

2. Profile links used to be on the profile page and obvious. Now they’re all over the place.

There are several problems here as well.

  1. Problem: On the profile page, there are links to course the user is enrolled in (this was the case in Moodle 1.x, as well). But they don’t actually lead to the course. Or rather they do but they leads to the profile page of that course which makes it look like nothing has happened. Solution: Make these links actually point to the course front page. Give better feedback on what can be done.
  2. Problem: The change edit profile and change password link used to be on the profile page. Now they are under the settings menu where users have no chance of noticing them without being told. Solution: Leave them in the settings menu but add them to the profile page, as well.
  3. Problem: There used to be tabs on the profile menu that displayed the user’s logs. Now they’ve moved to the Navigation menu where the teacher actually has to scroll (this could be quite far down) to access them. Solution: Leave them in the navigation menu but put them on the profile page, as well.

3. Collapsing course view happens by accident a lot! Users don’t know how to get it back. (Will improvements to Navigation change this?)

I actually had a phone call from a user who offered to travel a hundred miles at his own expense if only I could show him how to get out of this jam. But it’s happened to our tutors and once even to me.

The problem? Users click on the collapse icon that collapses all the topic but one. But there is no good visual cue that this has happened and no cue as to how to make it reappear. And it’s very hard to explain to someone on the phone or by email what happened and how to fix it (the icons for this don’t lend themselves to a verbal description). To make matters worse, clicking on the topic link in the Navigation menu does nothing that could be intuitively expected. It simply expands it (I think this is supposed to change in Moodle 2.3).

The solution? Make the icons more prominent. Display a pop up message asking users if they want to do this. Make the navigation links jump to the actual topic whether collapsed or not (this was the behaviour of the the course overview block in Moodle 1.x).

But there really should be a more systematic solution to the Moodle scroll of death, than this. Not being able to organize the course better is probably Moodle’s greatest weakness.

4. My course area seems to be limited to 20 courses. There’s no feedback on how to get them back.

Problem: We have lots of users with more than 20 courses. But the my course area only shows 20. I couldn’t find any documentation on this, so I assume that this is a feature rather than a bug.

Solution: Indicate this limit and allow the user to choose which courses are shown.

5. Uploading files requires upload and save and gives option to give file a name without extension.

This has probably caused the most aggravation to our users. The technology behind file uploads has improved but made life more difficult for users. Here are some of the problems.

  1. Problem: Users need to click Save after upload. This means that they often abandon the upload and don’t realize it hasn’t been properly saved. Solution: Perform an autosave as soon as the file is uploaded.
  2. Problem: The ajax uploader sometimes gets stuck or doesn’t work on some browsers. Solution: Give a fall back option to pure browser upload.
  3. Problem: Some users give the file a name in the upload area. But they don’t include an extension which means the file is not recognized as belonging to the right software. Solution: Always infer the extension from the file name. Allow admins to specify a default program to open the file (ideally per assignment) – such as PDF or Word.
  4. Problem: The context menu icon is not very prominent or its options is not clear. Solution: Replace the icon with text that says something like “File options”