Last month, we gave you a sneak peek of the prototype we’ve been working on for an updated version of the MoodleNet user interface. After further iteration and testing, the team is pleased to share with the community a clickable prototype, upon which we would like your feedback.
Note: a clickable prototype is a series of images with ‘hotspots’ that link them together. Not everything that will be linked in the final version is linked in this prototype. Nevertheless, before committing code, this is a good way of ensuring that this approach resonates with the community.
When we shared the MVP of MoodleNet back in January, Stephen Downes was kind enough to record his first impressions. The team found that kind of feedback so valuable that we’d like to encourage as many people as possible to do likewise this time around! We’re going to offer another rare badge to those who share their thoughts.
How to get involved
Install an app or browser extension that allows you to record your screen. We recommend Loom. Ensure you have the microphone activated!
We’re looking for volunteers (individuals/organisations) for a federation testing programme we’re running next month. There’s a pretty tight turnaround, so initially we’ll require all communication to be in English, although you’re welcome to set up your test instance in another language.
It’s important to note that this is NOT simply a way to be notified of updates to MoodleNet. It is an expression of interest to run a server requiring both technical knowledge and a time commitment. There will be another rare badge available for those who participate in the programme!
What is ‘federation’?
The easiest way to explain federation is to think about email. Anyone can create their own email address via any provider they choose, and they can use any email software they choose. As the whole system is standards-based, anyone can send an email to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. You only need to know their email address, something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
If we extend that idea to social networks, so long as a social network adheres to a particular standard, then anyone can send a message or other content to anyone else knowing that it will ‘just work’. In our case with MoodleNet, the standard is ActivityPub, which is already used by social networks such as Mastodon, Peertube, and Pixelfed.
To begin with, we are interested in federation between servers running MoodleNet. Thanks to ActivityPub, users will be able to join communities, follow collections, and interact with other users, no matter where they created their account. And then, in addition, users of other ActivityPub-compatible social networks (‘the Fediverse’) will be able to follow and interact with MoodleNet users, and vice versa.
Why do we need a testing programme?
The aim of the MoodleNet Federation Testing Programme is to test all aspects of federation, both between MoodleNet instances and the wider Fediverse. The programme will be successful if it:
Demonstrates that users on any MoodleNet instance may follow, join, and interact with communities and collections on any other MoodleNet instance.
Confirms the value proposition of organisations running their own MoodleNet instances
Establishes that search and discovery is possible across MoodleNet instances connected to the Moodle HQ API-as-a-service (‘mothership’)
Shows that Fediverse accounts can follow and interact with MoodleNet users.
We envisage that the testing programme will cover three areas:
Interaction between MoodleNet instances
Join communities, and follow users and collections
Add resources to MoodleNet collections
Discuss, comment, like, and flag content
Search and discovery
Find MoodleNet users, collections, and communities
Locate MoodleNet resources with a specific tag
Browse fresh content from across all mothership-connected instances
Integration with the wider Fediverse
Follow Fediverse users from MoodleNet
Display Fediverse status updates which @mention MoodleNet users or communities
Interact with Fediverse users (e.g. reply to an @mention)
Who should be involved in the programme?
We’re looking for individuals and organisations with both the time and technical knowledge to be able to test MoodleNet effectively. This includes moderating communities, updating their instance to the latest version, and providing regular feedback to the MoodleNet team.
Ideally, we would have a combination of Moodle Partners, educational institutions, organisations, and interested individuals who:
Will accept the MoodleNet federation testing programme agreement (forthcoming)
Have a working knowledge of Linux server administration with Docker containers (MoodleNet’s stack includes Elixir, PostgreSQL, and React)
Can dedicate around 3-5 hours per week to testing MoodleNet over the testing period
When will the programme start?
We will begin the testing programme when MoodleNet federation is ready to test. This should be before the end of August 2019, although it also depends on the corresponding user interface work being completed by that time.
How do interested parties apply?
Please use the following form to express an interest in the federation testing programme. Note that not all applications will be successful, as we are looking for a range and spread of use cases.
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:
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?”
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.
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
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’
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:
Search for specific keywords and topics of interest.
Easily find out when something has changed within a community they’ve joined, or a collection they’re following.
Sort lists of communities and collections by more than ‘most recent’ (e.g. by number of collections or discussion threads)
Tag communities, collections, and profiles, to make it easier to find related content.
Upload resources to MoodleNet instead of just adding via URL.
Indicate ‘resource type’ (e.g. ‘course’, ‘presentation’ or ‘plugin’)
Send resources they discover on MoodleNet to their Moodle Core instance
Add copyright information to resources and collections
Easily rediscover useful resources they’ve discovered in collections they’re not following
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.
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?
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!
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.
We’re a week into the initial testing of MoodleNet and are already getting some fantastic feedback from testers!
While there’s a long way still to go before we can open registrations, things are really starting to come together in terms of the user interface (UI) for MoodleNet.
The above screenshot was taken today. Even in this very initial version, the feedback we have had from testers has been mostly positive. Our anonymous survey to ask for their first impressions included responses such as “nice interface”, “attractive” and “clean and clear”.
Our designer and front end developer, Ivan Minutillo, isn’t content to rest on his laurels, however. The above screenshot is taken from our staging server and shows an iteration of the UI that we will make available to users over the next few days.
As you can see, there are many improvements, including:
Ivan hasn’t stopped there, either, though! Although the above mockup isn’t coded yet, this is the direction we are currently thinking of heading with MoodleNet. As you can see, the sidebar now includes ‘MoodleNet’ at the top, there is search functionality (which we will be doing across federated instances) and the whole experience feels much more refined.
Whether or not you’re part of the initial testing process, we’d love your feedback on this! Do you like what you see?
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.
We’ve a few short updates that don’t necessarily warrant a post in their own right, but which are nevertheless important to communicate as MoodleNet develops.
1. Draft community guidelines
Thanks to those who took the time to comment on this. We perhaps took a wrong turn in calling the whole thing a ‘contributor covenant’ and have separated this out into contribution guidelines and a code of conduct.
Users can now get more quickly into MoodleNet, and have a choice as to when to update their profile (including Emoji ID).
3. Draft testing plan
Our plan for the initial testing of MoodleNet existed in various GitLab issues and wiki pages. We’ve pulled them together into a single wiki page giving an overview of the draft testing plan. While we’ve still a way to go to ensure we’ve got everything in place, hopefully it’s possible to see the plan emerging up to integration with Moodle 3.7!
Finally, we’ve got two pieces of exciting news to announce next week, one relating to our team and one to external recognition of our work so far!
Last week, the MoodleNet team were in Barcelona at Moodle Spain HQ. Much of the work week involved the kind of discussion and implementation that can be difficult to write about, as it mainly involved hooking up the backend and front-end code.
Kayleigh and Sam from Outlandish joined us in the office on Thursday and Friday, which meant that we had an opportunity to reflect on the results of some testing they did with users about the sign-up process for MoodleNet. Their findings are below (or click here).
Based on user feedback, which is always different from what you expect, we’ve decided to take a different approach to the sign-up process. It became clear that there are users who want to get straight in and start using platforms straight away. These are the kind of users who will complete their profile later.
On the other hand, there are users that want to complete their profiles straight away, so that they have a full ‘presence’ on the platform and others can find out more about them.
Our proposed workflow, which will have a knock-on effect on other elements of the user interface, is below (or click here).
What are your thoughts on this? Note that we’re planning to implement a (skippable) user tour for first-time users of MoodleNet. We’ll also be writing a post soon that explains ‘Emoji ID’ and why it’s more than just a cute thing to have on your profile!
Image by José Alejandro Cuffia used under the terms of an open license
Update: sign-ups for this are now closed, and Outlandish will be in touch with those who registered their interest!
Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be doing some online user testing of MoodleNet’s sign-up process. It will be run by Outlandish, with whome we’ve been working on front-end development and UX.
We’re aiming is to remove any barriers to adoption for the beta testing in January. So we need feedback on everything from “that button should be on the left” to “what on earth is that emoji ID thing?!”
It’s not remunerated, but you’d be front of the queue for a MoodleNet beta account (of which there’ll only be 100, initially) next year!
If that sounds like the kind of thing in which you’d be interested, here’s what to do:
Check your availability for the following dates (GMT): Weds 14th (PM), Mon 19th (PM), Tues 20th November
Fill in this form
Thanks in advance! We’re looking forward to making MoodleNet as awesome as possible!
Privacy notice: if you volunteer for testing, your details will be added to a spreadsheet, stored on Moodle HQ’s Google Drive. We’ll keep your information until the end of the testing process and share your details with Outlandish, who are overseeing the testing process. Before testing, you’ll be required to give your consent to ensure GDPR compliance.