What we learned by running a workshop at #MootIEUK19

Last week was MoodleMoot UK & Ireland 2019. At the previous year’s MoodleMoot, our presentation on MoodleNet contained only ideas of what we would build. This year, we had an alpha version to put in front of people at a workshop.

The focus of the session was on past, present, and future, with participants having an opportunity to discuss what they like about the MoodleNet vision, and what they’d like to see included in the future roadmap.

The 1.5 hour session on Day 3 of the Moot was structured in the following way:

  • Welcome, intro and overview
  • Affinity grouping
  • Hands-on testing of MoodleNet
  • Discussion around key questions
  • Feedback and next steps
  • CLOSE

During the Affinity grouping activity, and before participants had a chance to register for MoodleNet, they were asked what problems they envisaged MoodleNet solving for them. The emergent groups were around:

  • Online course design
  • Institutional use
  • Learning and teaching
  • Technology
  • UX

During testing, participants were asked to register, complete a basic profile, and join a community to add resources and comments.

After testing, participants discussed a series of questions which are included with full details of the workshop on this wiki page. Over and above the things on our roadmap, the main things we learned (or found interesting) were:

  1. Confusion between ‘communities’ and ‘collections’
  2. Flagging duplicate content
  3. Per-community hierarchical tags
  4. Grouping of several communities
  5. Reward and recognition for users

It was a very useful session, and the 1.5 hours went by very quickly. We’d like to thank participants, and your rare badge will be on its way soon!

What we learned from testing MoodleNet’s value proposition

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We’ve recently finished testing MoodleNet’s value proposition with two cohorts of users, in both English and Spanish. During each three-week testing period, we sent one survey per week. In this post, we’d like to share some of the insights we’ve gleaned.

It’s important to note the following:

  1. We built the smallest possible version of MoodleNet in an attempt to answer the question, “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?”
  2. During the testing process, we didn’t discuss future functionality in the user interface or in the emails we sent users. We did, however, discuss the roadmap in a tool called Changemap which we’re using to collect and discuss feedback and feature requests.
  3. One of the key features of MoodleNet will be federation (i.e. the ability to have separate instances of MoodleNet that can communicate with one another). This will change the user experience and utility of MoodleNet in significant ways.

The survey data we’ve collected suggests that MoodleNet is indeed something that can sustainably empower communities of educators to share and learn from each other to improve the quality of education.

What follows are three things that we’ve learned from the testing process.

1. We’ve validated the value proposition

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A couple of days after giving each cohort of testers access to MoodleNet, we asked them, “Do you see yourself using something like MoodleNet to curate collections of resources?”. The functionality, especially during that first week for the initial cohort was extremely basic, and the experience sometimes buggy.

Despite this, by the time the second cohort filled in their first survey, it was clear that almost two-thirds of testers agreed that, yes, MoodleNet would be something that they would use.

2. The best tagline for MoodleNet: ‘Share. Curate. Discuss’

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During the testing period we learned that creating taglines that are translatable and impactful in different languages is no easy feat. In fact, many companies and brands simply use English taglines, such as Nike’s ‘Just Do It’. We’ve decided to go ahead and use ‘Share. Curate. Discuss’ for the moment as the tagline for MoodleNet (including on the Spanish version of MoodleNet).

3. Testers are clear on what they want to see next

Through free text boxes in surveys, and from the information coming in via Changemap, it’s clear that users want to be able to:

  1. Search for specific keywords and topics of interest.
  2. Easily find out when something has changed within a community they’ve joined, or a collection they’re following.
  3. Sort lists of communities and collections by more than ‘most recent’ (e.g. by number of collections or discussion threads)
  4. Tag communities, collections, and profiles, to make it easier to find related content.
  5. Upload resources to MoodleNet instead of just adding via URL.
  6. Indicate ‘resource type’ (e.g. ‘course’, ‘presentation’ or ‘plugin’)
  7. Send resources they discover on MoodleNet to their Moodle Core instance
  8. Add copyright information to resources and collections
  9. Easily rediscover useful resources they’ve discovered in collections they’re not following
  10. Access MoodleNet on their mobile devices

Happily, we’ve already got MoodleNet working on mobile devices, although we’re still having some issues with Safari on both iOS and MacOS. We’re also launching ‘timeline views’ for communities and collections this week which will allow users to see what’s changed since they’ve been away.

As for the rest of the suggestions, we’re working on them! The most user-friendly way to see progress is via Changemap at: https://changemap.co/moodle/moodlenet

Conclusion

When developing software products, it’s easy to come up with a plan and start working on it without validating what you’re doing with users. We’ve still got a way to go before MoodleNet is exactly what community participants want from it, but we feel that in this initial testing period we’ve got a mandate to keep on iterating.

A big thank you to our two cohorts of testers, who have provided invaluable feedback. They still have access to MoodleNet beyond the testing period. We’ll be inviting more people to join at next month’s UK & Ireland MoodleMoot in Manchester, so why not join us there?

The second round of MoodleNet initial testing starts next week!

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We’ve learned a lot from the first testing round of MoodleNet, which ends this week. Our focus has been on testing the value proposition, “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” It’s early days, but it would appear that yes, they do!

The wealth of feedback we’ve received during the first testing period really has been invaluable. Our enthusiastic bunch of 100 testers have shown us what they prefer, through their use of MoodleNet, responses to surveys, and suggestions via Changemap. Happily, we’re not ‘wiping’ or ‘resetting’ the HQ instance, so we’re encouraging the 100 testers to use MoodleNet beyond this initial period.

As demonstrated in a previous update, over the last three weeks we’ve added a lot of functionality to MoodleNet, made many improvements to the user interface, and fixed a number of bugs. We’re looking forward to seeing how 150 additional testers respond to MoodleNet when they get started next week.

It’s now two months until our planned beta launch at the UK & Ireland MoodleMoot, so the team has some very important functionality to work on. Soon, MoodleNet will be:

    • Mobile — access MoodleNet on-the-go
    • Searchable — find communities, collections, and people across all of MoodleNet’s federated instances
    • Connected — import resources you discover on MoodleNet into courses in Moodle Core
    • Federated — join any instance of MoodleNet and interact with communities, collections, and other users across all instances

The MoodleNet team would like to thank the Moodle community for the encouragement and feedback we’ve received so far. We’re dedicated to creating an easy-to-use environment where educators can share, curate, and discuss!

MoodleNet testing: Day 13 update

Update: Check out this overview video showing the changes we’ve made!

MoodleNet screenshot - Day 13

Yesterday, we made our first major update to the version of MoodleNet currently undergoing initial testing. Not only did this update alter the look and feel of the interface, but it also added some useful new functionality and fixed some bugs reported by users via Changemap.

Functionality added

  • Gravatars to represent users
  • Community overviews
  • List of members in communities
  • Collections display number of resources they contain
  • Collections indicate number of followers

UI tweaks

  • Button styles and positions improved (e.g. for ‘Create a community’)
  • Increased character limit in text fields
  • Moved language selector to menu and removed flags
  • Added full-width images in communities
  • Sidebar has a darker colour

Bug fixes

  • Improved metadata import when adding resources
  • Users can only add resources & edit collections in communities they’ve joined
  • ‘All collections’ page fixed
  • Switching languages and then back to British English no longer causes an error
  • Word wrapping on community descriptions

Next week, we’re aiming to add collection-level discussions, featured collections, and basic user profiles.


For those interested in our product management processes, we’ve also switched to Moodle Tracker (Jira) for stories and epics while sticking with GitLab for issues. Check out bit.ly/MN-epics 

What are we hoping to get out of testing MoodleNet?

Test pattern

Last week, we put out a call for initial testers of MoodleNet in English and Spanish. We’ve been delighted with the response, and have now closed the sign-up process until the next round.

When developing a new product or service, it’s important to test, test, and test again – which is exactly what we’ve done with MoodleNet so far. The concept of a resource-centric social network came out of talking to a wide range of experts and educators. That led to a design sprint that included user testing of the resulting prototype. We tested the sign-up process to MoodleNet, solicited feedback on our code of conduct, tested out community calls and office hours, how we work as a team, done some internal testing, and will be very soon running a privacy and security testing programme.

The most important test so far, however, starts next week. That’s the time when we’ll be putting MoodleNet in front of users for the first time. We’re testing the value proposition: “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” This doesn’t mention federation. There’s no mention of mobile devices, fancy user interfaces, or machine learning. We’ve tried to create a very simple approach to test this basic value proposition.

It may turn out that users agree with this value proposition. They may think that, yes, joining communities to curate collections of resources is something they want to do. Alternatively, they may indicate that they prefer a different approach. Either way, this test is of vital importance; it makes no sense to continue along this particular path without a mandate from real-world users!

For those interested, but who aren’t part of the initial testing, here’s how it will proceed:

  • Successful applicants will have their email address whitelisted and be invited to sign up to a Moodle HQ-run instance of MoodleNet
  • Feedback from users during the testing process will be collected in two ways: via Changemap and through weekly surveys
  • New features will be rolled out during the testing process, as detailed on this milestone

If you missed the sign-up process this time around, or weren’t available for the first testing period, then don’t worry! You will have an opportunity to put your name forward again in a few weeks’ time.

Sign up to be one of the first testers of MoodleNet!

Update: we’ve closed the sign-up forms for the time being. Thanks to everyone who signed up!


Note: also available en español

Lab

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve begun the process to recruit 100 testers for the first iteration of MoodleNet!

The sign-up form, a link to which can be found below, is available in both English and Spanish. The form should be self-explanatory, but if you do have any questions, please add a comment to this post or ask in the MoodleNet discussion forum.

We’re looking for a diverse range of educators, and you don’t need to be currently using Moodle. Please do consider putting your name forward!

Sign-ups close next Wednesday 23rd January, and we envisage the initial test running for three weeks from Tuesday 29th January.