Moodle Gives Me a Headache

Not pictured: broken window, pavement rushing to meet me.
Some rights reserved by Zitona

If you’ve ever tried to send a message to a student or class on Moodle, then you know that the effort is liable to induce stabbing pains and an intense desire to throw yourself out of the nearest window.

I was grading some projects tonight and wanted to send quick notes to two or three students with some immediate feedback. Now, if this was one of my friends I was trying to get in touch with, I would:

  1. Open GMail
  2. Select friend from buddy list
  3. Type message and hit “Send”

Here’s what the process is like in Moodle:

  1. Go to Course
  2. Go to Participants
  3. Select class from “Separate Groups” menu, since 190 students are enrolled in my Moodle course
  4. “Show all students” because only first 20 are listed by default, and listed by Last Access date rather than something logical, like last name
  5. Select relevant students
  6. With selected users…Send a message
  7. Type message and Preview – there is no option to send directly (because having a preview of a one-sentence message is critical)
  8. Send message


Is Moodle being designed by anyone who actually teaches and uses the darn thing? Here’s what the Moodle interface SHOULD look like:

  1. Messaging window in left column. All enrolled students are grouped according to Moodle’s built-in Groups function.
  2. Select student from list
  3. Type message and hit “Send”
  4. BONUS: Right-clicking on student brings up options to send message via Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and/or email. Students could opt in to these options by putting them in corresponding fields in their profile. This way students have the choice of how close to, or far from, they want to be from their teachers – they can delineate their own school/home boundaries. This brings me to my next question:

Why are we still so far apart from our students?

As I alluded to above, I realize there’s the issue of boundaries here. But I don’t see why we aren’t making it easier for students to opt in to being more connected to school. After all, a young person’s only responsibility for which they are tangibly accountable is to do well at school (yes, I said it. Social and emotional development is taking a back seat, at least in this post!). I use a Facebook group to keep in touch with my swimmers; some of my students send me questions on Twitter. I find this far more convenient than email or making announcements during class – it frees up time for instruction. Moodle is what many, many schools use to structure their virtual classroom extensions… but Moodle is not at all doing a good job of bringing us together in an online community.

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