Opinion: Moodle 2.0 Message Inbox (room for improvement)

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When you received a message in Moodle (versions 1.9.9 and previous) there was a window popup which listed incoming direct messages (user to user).  It wasn’t pretty, but it was succinct and manageable: providing an easy way to respond to users and to see new messages.  With it’s inherent connectivity to email it was less important (since it could be assumed that users with valid emails would be receiving the messages as duplicate), but provided a quick and easy way to manage those quick notes sent through the Moodle system.  Read up on the original message system at docs.moodle.org/en/Messaging_FAQ.

WIRIS

Negatives: I’m really excited for Moodle 2.0’s changes, including the message inbox which provides archives of messages received (something that wasn’t visible to end users in previous versions) in addition to a better contact list and presumably easier message management.  Unfortunately with my exposure to Moodle 2.0 at the new Moodle.org I haven’t found it to be very friendly.

Now when I log into Moodle 2.0 I see that I have messages via my personal block in myMoodle.  Unfortunately none of those are personal messages.  Instead, as Moodle docs tell us, each forum post or email sent by Moodle is now treated as a message [link].  So all the emails I’ve received from the forums on Moodle.org (a lot of emails) are archived in my message center.  In theory this is great: I now have access to archived “messages” in Moodle.  But in functionality it’s a little messy because it makes differentiating between forum posts and direct messages a pain (honestly I haven’t figured out how to tell the difference yet).

Instead of organizing posts by the forums/threads in which they originate, instead they are organized by user which adds a layer of confusion.

So now with the upgrade at Moodle.org, instead of receiving a quick pop-up upon login of new private messages (user to user) I instead see a synopsis of all forum posts as well.

Positives:  I will say though that the organization of the messages overall (including all the forum posts) is pretty simple.  With a quick drop down from your message center you can see easily a list of your contacts, all “unread” messages and can see a full participant list for each course enrollment.  In previous version the contact list was not-so-friendly.

Verdict: Featuring the messaging system more centrally as part of myMoodle is a step in the right direction, providing a nice segue toward a more social experience with Moodle.  Activity streams anyone?  But it falls flat with the clutter created with the new definition of “message” as treated by the system; especially for very active sites.

I’ll be curious to see what direction developers go from here. Certainly a more typical interface to the “inbox” would create some familiarity in usability at the very least.

In addition, for simplicity and easier management, I think it would be better to segment personal messages from forum posts, even if they are displayed on the same page/within the same block.  It would make the inbox (block seen to the right) a lot more manageable for users and would create a much bigger value in the new Message inbox.

A few notes/caveats:

  1. Moodle.org is not indicative of many Moodle sites, so I do believe that there will be an added value out of the box for school-based Moodle sites which are no utilizing the forums as heavily as Moodle.org’s community.  The volume of messages/forum posts I receive daily through community posts (from forums I’m subscribed to) is around 50.
  2. I can turn off the email connection in my profile, which would eliminate the duplication of emails compared to messages in the new inbox (but this would require me to login daily to check for messages which would be a negative in my opinion). One of my favorite Moodle capabilities is how nicely it cooperates with my email, letting me know when a new post has occurred and when someone has connected with me directly.
  3. Building on 1. and 2. for students without email addresses in the system, the messaging inbox is probably much more attractive as a central management destination for messaging.
  4. There are a lot more configuration options as well for Moodle’s new messaging, but it skirts the issue of streamlining inbox management:

Agree/disagree?  Share your opinion in the comments.