By Rich Lewis, Training Specialist
Having been a Moodle™ administrator in some way, shape or form since 2006, I am constantly amazed at how the platform has grown and evolved to meet the needs of both learners and instructors. I joined the Remote Learner Training team exactly one year ago today, and one of the wonderful things about it is that I get to immerse myself in the new features of each new Moodle release. One of the recent updates that really struck me was the overhaul of the course overview block in the user dashboard.
Purpose of a Dashboard
The idea of a dashboard is pretty universal, and when we hear the term most people probably think about automobiles. A modern vehicle dashboard gives you all sorts of information at a glance: your speed, warnings about potential engine issues, time and distance to destinations, etc. In addition, modern dashboards offer customization options such as changing the display, the temperature, and the music. In a way, it’s a great analogy for the updated Moodle™ user dashboard.
Since the user dashboard was introduced back in 2006 (remember My Moodle?), it has provided users with a dynamic, customizable resource page that helps learners keep track of all upcoming due dates and recent activity across all their courses. While the existing dashboard had served learners well for several years, May of 2017 brought significant change to the dashboard in the form of a completely redesigned course overview block.
Now learners are able to see an aggregated timeline of upcoming due dates across all courses, or filter the view to segregate the upcoming events by course. All notifications are active hyperlinks that can take the user directly to the activity in question for easy access. In addition, course completion progress is displayed in an easy to read graphical format, so users get an “at-a-glance” sense of their progress in a course. Finally, users can customize their dashboard with a variety of utility blocks and designing a layout that best suits them.
Of course, instructors are users too, and this most recent update ensures that instructors can benefit from the user dashboard. Now it is possible for the timeline to include reminders of assignments that require grading. This is really handy for instructors who are teaching several courses at once!
User Dashboard Best Practices
The dashboard inherently supports persuasive design strategy by allowing learners to self-monitor their progress in their courses. This is powerful for student motivation, and comes out-of-the-box if using activity completion tracking in your courses. Still, there are some best practice recommendation to maximize the value of the dashboard for your users:
While the value of the dashboard is inherent, there are some best practices to consider:
- Did you know that it’s possible to set a user’s dashboard page as their “homepage” so that it will automatically display after signing in? This approach isn’t suitable for every site. For example some sites may have front page content that users should see and have access to before referencing their dashboard, but the option should be considered.
- Use HTML blocks added to the site default dashboard page to convey customized content for users. This works great with the Remote-Learner Personalization filter and custom user profile fields.
- Encourage busy instructors to use the new Remind Me to Grade By field in assignment activities, so that the user dashboard can provide them with the same type of value that their learners receive. Instructors may also appreciate adding blocks such as online users and private files to their dashboard so they have a useful homepage available within the LMS.
- Also encourage instructors to actively use activity completion within their courses so the dashboard can give learners an accurate sense of their overall course progress.
While users can create a personalized dashboard page by adding/removing blocks and designing the layout, that’s only the beginning of the possibilities. The real beauty of the LMS is in its ability to be customized. This is where Remote Learner’s Custom Solutions group shines. We have assisted many organizations in creating a dashboard design that includes features such as:
- A tabbed interface to provide quick reference and easy access to information.
- Icons and block theming that matches the look and feel of their overall site.
- A design that increases the ease of access and use.
Take a look at our Dashboard Designs module in Learning Spaces for several examples of custom dashboards.
The user dashboard can be tremendously helpful to learners and instructors. As such, site administrators should evaluate how it could best be used on their site to ensure that it provides the maximum value for their user base.