Part 3 – Customization
In this installment I will be talking themes, the My Moodle page and a few settings in Moodle you may want to be aware of. So let’s get rolling with themes!
The look of a web site, blog, Moodle site or course makes a difference in my opinion. We can say “it’s all about the content” all we want but that won’t change the fact that a lot of users (students and staff) are used to the slick, web 2.0 look.
If you have to go to a site to do homework (or work) would you rather go to a cool-looking site or a clunky looking, three column page where you instantly know “I’m on a Moodle site”? Let’s face it students are used to slick working sites like many of the social networking sites – so are teachers and staff!
So…we created an awesome looking Moodle theme and everyone loves it! Well, I wish. Easier said than done : )
Unfortunately, we did not have the knowledge of customizing or creating a Moodle theme when we started nor did we have the permissions to access to the necessary files. We started out using the Custom Corners theme as the default for our entire Moodle site. A few months later, maybe even close to a year later, we decided we needed something a little better-looking.
I wasn’t (and still am not) very knowledgeable with customizing a Moodle theme and PHP, however I began experimenting and found some great videos and documentation that helped me modify the Anomaly theme. The most useful resource for learning about customizing Moodle themes was Julian Ridden’s blog post “Creating a custom Moodle Theme – Live!!“. There are also a lot of good links to other resources in that blog post that I used.
I modified the theme by using our district’s colors and logos. I also added a navigation bar with links to “Home”, “My Moodle”, “Help” and “News”. It’s far from a slick, web 2.0 look but at least it was customized to represent our district a bit more. I plan to work a lot more on our themes in the future, but probably after Moodle 2.0 because I would more than likely have to modify a 1.9 theme to work in 2.0 anyways.
Sticking with the ‘theme’ topic but changing from theme editing to theme settings. At first we forced the entire site to use the default theme. Around the same time we customized the default theme we allowed course and user themes. Users could now pick a different theme for their course and a theme for their own account. I know this is a topic of discussion – allow courses to have different themes and look different or keep the entire site consistent. I believe there are points for both sides. We chose to allow different themes because honestly, our theme wasn’t the latest and greatest and knew that teachers would enjoy having their own look based on what they liked. Everyone has different taste and it gave their course some individuality.
We recently surveyed our Moodle users (staff) and of the 59 users who replied 54 liked the ability to choose their own theme and 5 did not. Who knows if in the future this will ever change but until we get a nice-looking, “cool” theme and look I doubt it will change anytime soon. Like I said, there are good and bad things about either way so it depends on the opinions of the decision makers for Moodle. There are a lot of free Moodle themes at Moodle.org. NewSchool Learning, a Moodle Partner, is also a spot for nice paid-for themes started by the talented Patrick Malley. If I were to go back in time I would have looked more into this option (I don’t think it was a Moodle Partner when we started using Moodle).
Onto My Moodle…
I love the “My Moodle” page. It’s a personal dashboard for each user that they can customize and easily get to their courses. At first we “forced” users to be directed to their My Moodle page but had to turn it off when we installed the Moodle-Google SSO plugin which put blocks on the Front Page. We needed users to be able to view the Front page but we still wanted them to use their My Moodle page. That’s why I added the “My Moodle” link to the navigation in our customized theme. I think there are some great possibilities with the My Moodle page.
A few other settings that as worth noting
- Disable self registration (Users | Authentication | Manage Authentication)
- Create custom message for username and password details on login page (Users | Authentication | Manage Authentication)
- Create “Sticky blocks” for Courses and the My Moodle page (Modules | Blocks | Sticky Blocks)
- Turn on and off Activities (Modules | Activities | Manage Activities)
- Play around with the Front Page settings (Front Page | Front Page Settings)
- There are positives and negatives to letting users choose their own theme.
- The My Moodle page is a great tool.
- Explore all admin settings. Each setting gives a description.
- “How we implemented Moodle” Preview
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 1 – Idea to Reality
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 2 – Installation and Modules
Next time on “How we implemented Moodle” – Rollout