Chris Kenniburg Takes Moodle Camping, Brings A ‘Pathway’ For Moodle Navigation

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Chris Kenniburg Takes Moodle Camping, Brings A ‘Pathway’ For Moodle Navigation
Chris Kenniburg and son — michiganmoodle.dearbornschools.org

Moodler Chris Kenniburg from the Dearborn School District shares some of his breakthroughs on the Moodle user experience, after a few days of camping with his sons. In so doing, he revives the folk-like tradition of using colorful tales and metaphors to share a vision about Moodle’s potential. In the past, we’ve had Lewis Carr pitch a “reboot” to the Moodle cinematic universe, or show what Moodle would be like if it followed Netflix UX data cues. More recently, we covered the “Moodle Creation Saga” by Lambda Solutions, and more ideas about applying storytelling devices to enhance learning. The list goes on.

It is common for users with some experience with Moodle to get used to unintuitive navigation routes, which for armchair critics of legacy systems it is tantamount to “drinking the kool-aid.” Nevertheless, there is a point to be made about avoiding students reaching “dead ends” and resorting to the back button too often.

In Kenniburg’s view, the solution lies in one word: Pathway. The design of a Moodle site, down to how students access activities, is supposed to be intentional and efficient. It should take students towards actual learning as soon as possible. Kenniburg does not see enough educators concerned about this, which could be due in part to the complexity and coordination it would require. Don’t get him wrong, Moodle is the best available tool to develop these meaningful pathways. No other LMS would allow the Dearborn team the painstaking customization they put the system through, let alone share it for others to add to their own. But users should not release the pressure on Moodle HQ to invest in ongoing user experience and usability research. The disregard for the well-being of users from other systems cannot be an excuse.

While he is not the only one concerned about this, Kenniburg deserves credit for being an active voice, and of course, a doer. The “Fordson” theme (as well as Dearborn’s Easy Enrolment plugin) is an exemplary effort in terms of perspective and a sense of purpose sewn into the Moodle experience, deserving of its runner-up place in this summer’s MoodleWorldCup with the most “goals” (readers’ votes) scored throughout the tournament.


To be sure, there is pedagogic value in the feeling of being lost. Pathways need not be linear nor untangled. Chris himself is aware of it; why else would he mislead his son on a “snipe hunt”? Resourcefulness, problem-solving, even dealing with your own frustration are vital soft skills across disciplines. Rather than deciding for the learner the way from A to B, solutions like “Fordson” are evolving towards “navigators,” letting students apply their skills as soon as they learn them for their own exploration, in efficient, perhaps minimalistic, ways. In the age of digital natives, learners have no business memorizing information and, simultaneously, they need to know how to find it and use it faster than any previous generation.

The key here is intent. There must be a point behind having an unclear way around the LMS. And how can we make sure we are not pretending bugs are features? I’ll be hard pressed to find a better answer than LMS data. Conscientious analytics should bring a much welcome objectivity to the value of any and all of our actions in learning.

A bonus, implicit lesson to be learned may have to do with the importance for educators and instructional designers to “go outside,” be it camping on the great outdoors, or in any way enriching their “radars” of experiences for the benefit of learners.

Read “Pathways to a Better Moodle Experience” at michiganmoodle.dearbornschools.org/blogs. ■