Moodle tips of the week

I hear that, day by day, the popularity of Moodle is spreading further. In Paraguay, doodling schoolchildren are building custom analogue model Moodles (think pulleys, index cards and paperclips) and there are rumours that in Poland the first Moodle-for-monks is being developed (on a completely silent server).

For enterprise Moodlers, the challenge remains to avoid being outshone by the creations of ordinary Joe Public-Sector. You can dominate your youngest son’s maths homework, so why should his teacher be able to build a more engaging Moodle than you can? Business high flyers know that, as alpha males and females, our role is to hoot the loudest, jump up and down the most and sport the shiniest fur. After all, if projects for enterprise don’t beat non-profit projects in every sense, what’s the point of capitalism?

This week, Saffron provide two tips about using language to ensure your enterprise Moodle isn’t left scratching itself in some forgotten part of the jungle.

1. Context my boy, context!

In conversation one rarely omits important contextual information, such as who said what or in what circumstances. If I announce that last week my brother muttered something about murdering my great aunt at the dinner table, it’s probably important that I mention that he is a bachelor and great hearted great aunt Bessy had set him up with yet another dowdy young lady as a potential spouse. Otherwise you’d probably assume it was something sinister to do with hospital beds, inheritances and frequently rewritten wills.

Likewise, you don’t feed a baby her babymush without murmuring things like “Here comes the aewopwane, here it cooomes!” (admittedly, this is a less popular metaphor post 9/11). Babies in the West have now come to expect this parent talk as a matter of course. Without it they’d be confused and upset. They’d probably think that Mummy was threatening them with some kind of tiny, soggy mace or club.

These contextual details make a vital difference to the way information is received, and the same applies to custom Moodles. Without decent amounts of contextual information outlining the story behind the content you are uploading, the reason for its existence, your enterprise Moodle will be a hard edged, unhappy place. Think about what you need to tell the learner to prepare him or her to begin an activity or use a resource and then create some customised html labels to include this information on the course pages.

With a little planning, adding context in this way is also a useful way to make sure that your enterprise Moodle speaks with the well honed, univocal diction of your brand. If your own tongue is prone to errant blabber and flannelling when it comes to this kind of thing, you should involve a colleague on the project who knows how to excel in written communication.

2. Customise your emails

Continuing the subject of language, an untamed Moodle can be worryingly informal when it comes to automated communiqués. As a default setting it sends messages that open with “Hi” and close with “cheers” – as if it were advertising some kind of pathetic suburban fox rehabilitation club at a church hall on Tuesday evenings.

The default emails say things like “Someone (hopefully you) has requested a new account” when this kind of dismal subjunctivity just doesn’t exist in the private sector. There’s no “hopefully” this or “hopefully” that. Powerful global brands don’t “hopefully” conquer this market or “hopefully” deliver improved performance in an entire division. They just conquer. They just deliver.

The problem is that uncustomised Moodles come into the world with a silly, naïve grin and an uncertain gait. Building a successful custom Moodle for enterprise means shearing off that grin and re-engineering it into a smooth, inscrutable smile; it means beating that foalish stumble into a leonine stride.

And it isn’t difficult. Moodles actually allow you to edit all language templates, including emails, without fiddling about on the server. From the home page admin menu, just select Language > Language editing > Edit words and phrases. Then choose moodle.php from the drop down menu and use find within page to track down any offending amateurish jibber jabber and edit it. Simply searching for “email” is a good way to run through all the possible emails that Moodle might send out.

Wondering how much more of this stuff there is that you don’t know yet? Don’t Moodle in the dark, try the Saffron touch today.

About the author

Toby Harris - Consultant
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