One of the problems of supporting new Moodle users — is to get them to look at the system pedagogically. I receive requests from teachers who have just started designing their first Moodle courses to install plug-ins that will change the layout of the main course page. They describe this as a technical question of «user experience design». They suggest adding the following:

Collapsed topics

Collapsible topics

Onetopic format

After analysis, it turned out that the problem could be summarised in this way: “the materials accumulate, because students might want to refer back to any activity that has already happened or resources from earlier topics. As the course progresses, more and more topics are open and this produces a long page full of links which disorientates students and makes them feel overloaded.” The main course page of Moodle becomes a metaphor for the time of running of the course.

Before discussing questions of design, it makes sense to ask not only what the problem is that you are trying to solve, but also to answer some basic methodological questions. The choice of format and layout of courses will depend on how we answer these:

1. How far are the students going to learn in parallel as a cohort during the course? Some courses maybe available to each individual to complete without any deadlines, in others, the whole group are required to complete each task at the same strictly defined start and finish time.

2. Have you created a separate place for reference material which will be accessible thoughout the course? This should always be visible, either in the general section of the course page, or in an html “block”. Creating this reference material might well be one of the central tasks of a group of students.

3. Try to imagine, as far as possible, what kind of artefacts the students will create during the course both collectively and individually for themselves. Students may create the reference material (see point 2). But they should also have their own personal notes and journals.

4. Decide on a method of communication by which the teacher will give instructions to students about what to do next. By default, the system creates an “announcements” forum, which does not allow students to reply. However, it will often help to have a two-way communication between students and teachers.