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Modularity in Elearning

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Just a few days ago, a course I worked on went live to an class of 200 online university students. You know how it is when you finish a project; sometimes, you’re just glad to see the back of it so you can move on to the next one. But my supervisor has been keeping us abreast of developments within the course, and even with the bad news, this one has me really excited. If nothing else, this course is serving as a step in a new direction, a proof of concept that we can create an engaging online experience, if only instructors are willing to put in a little bit of work.

It was a milestone for another reason: we finally got a chance to use Moodle (our LMS of choice) as something other than a glorified repository of SCORM packages. This time, we got to use it to its full potential. One of the biggest ways I did this was to make sure that I was using Moodle tools effectively, putting text where it belonged and using Lectora SCORM packages for interactions. This for me, was a kind of unfamiliar modular design. Spoiler alert: it was totally awesome!

A recent A List Apart article on Thoughtful Modularity prompted me to reflect further on why the modularity was working so well. To put it simply, using Moodle as Moodle, I was able to break complex topics—a week’s worth of curriculum content—into smaller, easily consumable (and easily editable) chunks. Previous long-form projects had focused on designing text and images right alongside interactions and stuffing them into thought out but bloated lessons. In contrast, by rejecting the entire idea of designing text and using Moodle resource types like lessons and labels, I was able to concentrate interaction development on lean, targeted, relevant activities. It also greatly freed up our potential toolbox. While I did end up using Lectora Inspire for quite a lot of the interactions because it rocks at being accessible to those with disabilities, I was also able to easily mix in other media, such as an interactive panorama I created using an HTML image map and a JQuery plugin.

The other major benefit to this more modular approach has been revision. Revision is an absolute dream in this project compared to some others. Again, this is because, when I have to revise an interaction, I can go straight to it, with no impact on anything else. In some of my other major projects, I would have to edit a file and, inevitably, 50 other things would go awry once I updated (I’m exaggerating, but only a little). So, in a few months, when the course needs to be shortened for summer term, I won’t have any fears about trying to copy and edit a massive file. I’ll be able to single out the smaller pieces that need changing, making revision much more efficient.

Just as A List Apart related NASA’s thoughtful modularity to web design, I think instructional design can and should take a similarly flexible and future-minded approach.

What do you think? Do you design modularly? Leave a comment!


  1. March 29, 2016 - Reply

    […] to talk about building a course out. So that meant coming down a few levels and talking about my atomic design-type structure that I’d thought about and delivered. That made sense to me. So I was feeling […]

  2. October 3, 2016 - Reply

    Moodle is awesome! Love how you can tie in other activities, not just have an Rapid Authoring Tool Output be your class. Keep on postin’!

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