Fear, what is ‘fear’? Fear of:
- Understanding what is on the screen?
- Not knowing what to do?
- Panicking when you’re under pressure?
- Being embarrassed when you don’t know the answer to a Moodle ‘how do I do this’ question from a student?
- Thinking you can’t find a technical solution to a problem for a client?
- Change – will I be able to use the next version to do the same things as before?
Everybody using Moodle experiences some sort of ‘fear’ every now and then. It is the same with anything in life that is important to a purpose, be that your job, your education or peer feedback.
So what can we do to address these fears and regain our confidence? Especially as Moodle changes all the time and every situation is different. In my experience the keys to this are:
- Preparation – ensure you have enough time to practice.
- Knowing that you don’t and never will know everything, therefore understanding that you need to ask someone for help.
- Adapting – see patterns in the problem that relate to past solutions.
- Investigation – look at the problem and investigate what is really going on.
- Understanding – understanding the problem and working out the elements it relates to.
So how does this really relate to Moodle and how you use its user interface in the first place? Because Moodle’s great advantage is its adaptability and does not enforce a certain workflow it can be complex and overwhelming. This links to the ‘fear’ I have been writing about. You look at the screen with its user interface (and oh so many options!) and have those fears. Therefore here are some possible solutions:
- Preparation – Install a local copy of Moodle on your own computer and make time to explore. There are lots of ways to do this, Moodle.org provides stand-alone installation packages for Mac (download.moodle.org/macosx/) and Windows (download.moodle.org/windows/). Bitnami provides stand-alone packages for Linux, Mac and Windows (bitnami.com/stack/moodle). There are others too, but I’ve not looked in a while to see what is out there as I run a completely bespoke install that works well for me. Having a local install reduces risk and fear because if it goes wrong you just uninstall and start again. Also being a ‘full’ install you can prepare courses and modules, back them up (as ‘mbz’ files) and restore them to your main Moodle.
- Knowing – The Moodle.org forums (moodle.org/course/view.php?id=5) are a great place to get help. The key is to ask on the most appropriate forum. So consider what your question is about and explore the forums available. A good place to start is to read ‘Moodle.org forums help‘. Another good thing to do in an organisation is to establish a ‘Moodle support group’ and appoint ‘Moodle champions’ who will be the first port of call for a given department. Don’t worry that it might be taking you ages to learn something that on the face of it looks easy, sometimes it is not, you scratch the surface and find there is more to it.
- Adapting – Learn about what you have learnt. When following examples ask ‘why’, ‘why does it work this way?’ and at the same time ‘does this relate to a problem I had in the past?’. A list of instructions is just a list, without explanation it is just a sequence of robotic orders. Challenge your Moodle educators to explain and transfer their underlying knowledge to you.
- Investigation – Find out what the problem is really about and critically ensure that you can write down the steps to replicate the problem. This will not only help you for the future in confirming that the problem has been solved but additionally provide a means for somebody helping you replicate it too – such as on the forums and ‘Moodle tracker‘. It is really important to note down the versions of Moodle and any plug-in(s) involved, as you could be using an older version where the problem has been fixed and it establishes the correct environment state where you are certain that the problem will occur. When it comes to the styles on a page, then the ‘Browser development tools’ (press F12 on your browser) are great at investigating the web page and seeing the effect of changes without actually changing the stored code.
- Understanding – Gain knowledge to know what you are looking at. Understand what ‘part’ of Moodle it relates to, so the ‘course’, the ‘course format’ or ‘quiz’. From a themes forum moderators on Moodle.org perspective I often find that the problem is not actually the theme but something else like the course format. This is because the theme appears to be the creator of the content on the screen when in fact it just styles and organises it but only to a certain extent. So think, is this style / organisation related or is to do with the actual content? If the former then mostly the theme but can be some other plug-in as they provide styles. So think what specific thing it relates to. If the latter then more than likely, not the theme (unless a slider or for the most part elements on the front-page on custom themes). Don’t think of a Moodle page as just ‘Moodle’ but as a collection of components working together, just like a car has many components that work together to get you from ‘A’ to ‘B’ but the paint is not responsible for or has an effect on the steering (unless it has peeled off so badly and acting as a sail!).
So now will you ‘freeze’ like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ when you look at a Moodle screen or do you think ‘yes, I can do this’? And what is your greatest ‘Moodle’ fear and how will you overcome it?