Moodle ‘Fordson’ Theme Obliterates Expectations With ‘Spectrum-Automatic’

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The “Fordson” theme is a magnificent gift for the Moodleverse. As always, it’s never afraid to defy user’s expectations. Chris Kenniburg and the Dearborn School District’s IT crowd have not only built the best Moodle theme to date, they are giving us a mesmerizing look, unbelievably easy to navigate and customize until you take it for a ride, and a technological achievement that deftly unlocks the potential of Moodle and open source learning technology whole. Every aspect of this theme has been touched by brilliance. Install it on your testing or production site; it is all you need to realize how “Fordson” is utterly ingenious.

Disinterested of just joining the fight and making up for the very little missing functionality, “Fordson” thrusts forward with original ways to approach Moodle and course layouts. “You’re just not going to see [these] features in other themes,” claims Kenniburg with legitimate bragging rights. The latest release does away with mental roadblocks right from the home page, which for Dearborn’s Moodle (rechristened “iLearn”) is customized with exquisite simplicity and a nod to business decor. Log in to find a “clean” yet bold interface that embraces every new feature made available by the latest Moodle 3.5. From the fully responsive Bootstrap 4 base, to visually rich course profile image covers, interactive course pie charts and attentive styling demonstrate attentiveness towards the student.

White space is the sworn enemy of “waste” in this perfectly breathable theme. Whatever visual cues that are relevant at a student’s given point of their learning gain prominence and everything else recedes into a misty background. Color is a key factor that conveys focus.

Supporting blocks no longer clutter the theme, nor do they fade into oblivion. An unremarkable “Course Blocks” link on the top right corner triggers an HUD of sorts that displays course and student vitals in a fully arrangeable layout that never compromises student’s location along courses and activities.

The customization of “Fordson,” already among the easiest available, becomes dead simple with “Spectrum-Automatic,” a method of combining 5 layouts, 8 section styles, and 10 title styles for an endless supply of reshuffling fun. In-situ customization is a matter of one click on the header buttons, be it for the page elements, the “Course Blocks” menu, or even the teacher course management dashboard, reconstituted as an overlay menu.

The collective achievement in Moodle usability that is “Fordson” is available for download or install from the Moodle Plugin Directory page, where you will find documentation, a link to the theme’s forum, more videos, and special thanks to fellow Moodlers.

And if you want to get the latest refinements and Kenniburg’s experiments, follow Dearborn’s GitHub page.■

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