By Apurva Mhatre
Moodle is the base of technology-aided learning across schools and universities worldwide. As a result, a large number of developers have flocked to this platform, to contribute their ideas and become a part of the community. The “Moodleverse” today has tons of developers contributing themes and plugins on a regular basis.
Have you ever wondered how these developments could be affecting your end users, the instructors, and enrolled students? As the face of the interaction, choosing a Moodle theme is a task that demands extreme care.
Let us discuss the impact of Moodle themes on learning.
Themes add an attractive, even captivating, look to an LMS. They better the user experience, differentiating it from the otherwise-boring interface of any management system.
Moodle is no different. A good theme will engage your students and help them stay focused, as you will learn in this article.
There are two main factors that affect a theme’s impact on the audience:
- User Interface (UI)
- User eXperience (UX)
User Interface consists of everything you see on the page. It ranges from the icons being used to the color of text that you see.
A good interface will provide a good user experience, although there are other factors at play.
“If you build it right, users will barely notice it is there”
Oftentimes, the user interface of a website is so good that you barely notice it. I know that’s barely an appreciation to all the hard work put into a design, but UI does its job best when it does not overpower the content. It is there to guide users through your course, so it should not attract attention to itself. (Unless, of course, they are learning about User Interface.)
“Colors can play with your emotions”
Did you know that colors can affect the way you think?
Themes should be in such a way that they balance focus and intrigue. Different colors can have different effects on people. Although they are not universal, but subjective and varying from person to person, there is some amount of research literature that correlates colors with emotions.
Here is a common rule of thumb:
- Red, Orange, Yellow: Warm, Happy, Optimism, Energy.
- Green, Blue, Purple: Calm, Soothing, Health, Wealth.
These studies further our claim that the color palettes used in Moodle themes affect learners.
Take for example the Edwiser “RemUI” theme:
Here they have used purple on their dashboard, which is calming and soothing to learners. Going through their course listings and options, you notice that certain key points get highlighted in red, which demands attention.
“RemUI” has simple option to change color schemes. This helps you “play” with the UI until you are comfortable with what you see.
Wikipedia defines User eXperience like so:
“User experience (UX) refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.”
In the learning domain, UX can be the key to make or break a student’s experience with your course. An LMS should be simple and easy to use.
“50% of visitors leave your page if it takes over 3 seconds to load”
The speed of your website is an important factor when it comes to UX. An average web user will not wait longer than 3 seconds for your page to load.
Stuffed with code, style sheets, and images, your theme can add up to 70% of your page load. To shave down on those extra bytes, make your theme as light as possible. A faster loading theme also helps you rank better in Google, even in today’s mobile-first indexing. The search giant takes UX very seriously.
“Are you ready to go mobile?”
Everyone is on mobile these days, even your students. So, it is necessary that your theme is responsive. A responsive theme adjusts itself to present well on any kind of screen, be it a desktop or your smartphone. Responsive themes eliminate the need to have a dedicated mobile website. (Which also saves you big bucks.)
“Removing clutter will bring focus to content”
Content should have the main focus. Always.
Especially on a learning website, where students need to focus on the content, distractions such as advertisements, banners, or sidebars should be removed (or at least downplayed).
Take for example “Boost Theme” by Moodle:
The theme has really focused on user interaction, making every feature available within a click.
The collapsible sidebar (aka the “NavBar”) helps prevent distractions when viewing a course and brings focus to your content. There are quick access menus that help users find frequently used options. This keeps most shortcuts at hand.
All these little features make a huge difference as a whole when it comes to UX.
A good theme will have a positive impact on students. Good color choice and a well-developed UX will help keep students engaged in a course.
If you are looking to improve your current theme, the first thing you could do is ask your students for feedback. You’ll likely be impressed by the input your users can give.
Similarly, share your views on the topic and let us know in the comments.