Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rev up Moodle 2.3 and 2.4.1 usability with Davo Smith's "Drag and Drop Image into labels" improvement

On of the major weaknesses of Moodle over the past few years is usability and ease of use. Compared to what? Well, compared to Facebook or Google Plus. A major archilles heel of Moodle is the sheer number of mouse clicks you need to add an image to your course page. 14 steps to add an image? That's enough to put any harrassed teacher off Moodle initiation. But Moodle's really getting better, ever since Moodle 2.3 came out.
                    Today's post will introduce you to yet another improvement to core Moodle 2.x code that will make your life, as a course teacher, easier. If you liked Davo Smith's or Moodle 2.3's built-in drag and drop file upload, you will love his new, yet-to-be core Drag and Drop Image (DaDI) improvement update. It works on Moodle 2.3 and 2.4.1. I've installed the 5-file-patch on my Moodle 2.4.1 production site. And I'm loving it. It makes my Moodle course administration experience all-the-more enjoyable.

DaDi in action on my brand new Moodle 2.4.1 production site.

Figure 1. Dragging an image file to my coursepage,
Seconds after releasing the mouse button.

Figure 2. The mini-pop up menu appears.
You have a choice of embedding the image as a label,
or creating a link to the image on your course page.

Figure 3. My gif file is being embedded.

Figure 4. My image has finished embedding
and it appears on my course page
- Collapsed Topics format.

Figure 5. Using the Drag and Drop Image as Label improvement,
I can swiftly add images at will. What a feeling!
For me, this gets top marks in usability.
As an administrator, I can be more productive.
Notice that Tux.svg was added as a link.

To enable DaDI, you need to enable (tick) the "Media drag and drop" option in the Label settings window. The settings can be accessed from:

Home | Site adminstration | Plugins | Activity modules | Label

What happens if you drag and drop a large image file? Let's say a 800 pixel by 600 pixel image? Well Davo Smith has added a safety feature in the form of width and height options in the same window. You can constrain (limit) the width and height of the displayed image. In the example below, if an image is wider than 180 pixels, it will be resized and capped to a width of 180 pixels. Similarly, if an image is higher than 135 pixels, it will be resized and capped to a height of 135 pixels. This way, your course page will remain neat and tidy.

Figure 6. Label settings and Height x Width settings
to ensure embedding of images is within control and not
at the mercy of large dimensioned images.

If you noticed  in the image above, the Administrator can enable the setting will prompt the user "to create a label when media (mage) files are dragged and dropped onto a course".

So just how useful is Davo Smith's Moodle 2.x improvement? Very! It makes Moodle 2.x more beautiful and elegant. You save many mouse clicks just to add an image compared to the more usual method. As Bob Puffer rightly put it in this forum, without DaDI it would take you at the most fourteen (!) steps to add an image to a Moodle 2.x label:

  1. Add resource or activity
  2. Scroll down to get to Label
  3. Double-click on Label (one less step)
  4. Wait for TinyMce editor to load (should probably count as three steps)
  5. Click picture button
  6. Click Find or upload an image
  7. Wait for Filepicker to load
  8. Click Upload a file (unnecessary if you this was last selected)
  9. Click Choose file
  10. Click Upload this file (again in the display box – don't quite get why somebody couldn't have designed this without such repetition)
  11. Click Insert
  12. Click OK on the dialog for no image description or type in an image description nobody will ever see except perhaps a screen reader
  13. Click Save and return to course
  14. move the image from the end of the section to where you need it (which is so unlikely NOT to be the end of the section)
Phew. Many thanks to Bob Puffer for compiling that list.

Finally, here are some comments on Davo's Moodle improvement. Source: Moodle Tracker 
This would be an excellent way to address the pernicious "Moodle is Ugly" criticism. I think the 14-step process Bob outlined is why we have a rather lower percentage of faculty who add images to their Moodle page. Plenty of people find it appealing, but the work entailed discourages them. If it were easier to add images, I think we'd have more engaging (and in some cases more readable) Moodle pages (Joe Murphy).
I've had people ask me if this is possible over and over again. It's definitely a desired function from the faculty at my institution. Saves so much time and clicking!! (Carly J Born).
This is an excellent idea (Eric Storm).
I know how popular dragging and dropping files into the course has been. This would be just as popular. I have instructors that would use images more frequently because it would be so much easier to do (Paula Clough).
You may want to dedicate this issue to someone special on this Valentines day (Damyon Wiese).

Are you now convinced that the DaDI is a must-have for your Moodle 2.3/2.4.1 site? If you're still holding on to Moodle 1.9, this is yet another compelling reason to start your new courses on Moodle 2.4 and beyond.

In summary, DaDI is one of the best things to happen to Moodle. I hope it becomes part of core code in the next version of Moodle 2.x. I like it very much because it saves time and encourages more course administrators to add quicky and efficiently add images to their Moodle course pages.

Implement DaDI on your Moodle site and your teachers will be thanking you. They will be able to finish their work faster and thus be able to spend more quality time with their loved ones at home.

Happy Valentine's Day
14th February 2013
Frankie Kam
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia



Disclaimer: I have tried the DaDI improvement only on my Moodle 2.4.1 site. I cannot guarantee that it will work well on other Moodle 2.x sites.  I have yet to test it out on my other Moodle 2.x sites.

To setup DaDI on your Moodle 2.4.1 site, you need to first *backup* and then update these FIVE files:
insert the file settings.php inside the moodle/mod/label folder, like so:

You can download all FIVE Moodle 2.4.1 files from here.

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