Public sector organisation saves time and engages learners through user-centred Moodle design
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has been using Moodle since 2010. Throughout the years the public sector organisation has developed their Moodle platform from a single use repository to a more structured, essential Learning Management System.
This case study talks through the Moodle development projects that the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has undertaken over the years, and how the implementation of user centred design methodology in its latest project has resulted in crucial time savings and improved user engagement.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (commonly known as HFRS) formed in April 1948 to provide a fire and rescue service for the county of Hampshire.
- Prior to 2010 the Public Sector organisation had been distributing training DVD’s across their fire stations for their operational staff.
- In 2010, following a Moodle demonstration, Hampshire’s Learning and Development (L&D) department implemented the platform for the single use of a repository for their Microsoft Powerpoint training material and other media.
- From this point, HFRS’ Moodle site has grown and developed from the initial repository to a more structured, essential Learning Management System (LMS).
There are now around 3,000 users on the organisation’s Moodle site – the majority of training content is for their 1,200 operational members of staff, along with content for around 300 support staff. HFRS shares its Moodle site with other Fire Services and control centres across the UK who use the Moodle site for their own training. The service is also involved in Animal Rescue training, with HFRS’ animal rescue experts delivering training to partners worldwide.
Project 1: Moving from a repository to an LMS…
To achieve this, they needed to completely redesign the interface and gain expert help to make this a reality.
David Broomfield, Moodle Lead at Hampshire Fire and Rescue commenting on the choice of supplier made by the Service’s Moodle team at the time
“This exercise helped galvanise how good Moodle could be across the service. We started to use it with courses and ensuring the right people were getting to the right content – not just as a place to access files.”
Project 2: Using User Centred Design to make significant time savings…
- Many users were happy with the content on the Moodle site, but felt accessing content could be easier and that the interface was too busy.
- Some of the core station staff only had a few hours allocated for training each week so being able to find their learning materials quickly was paramount.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Moodle design concepts from HowToMoodle
Multi-T feature for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's Moodle theme
“We’ve noticed that since the new changes there has been a distinct drop in people being unable to find what they need, and a lot less negative feedback. There is a real desire to use Moodle. Our first user groups could see the point of it and had a desire to use and they could see the advantage of system, which is really positive feedback from them.”
The project ran for around 10 months and the response was very positive. The new theme provided an easy to use interface that makes getting to the right content a simple and quick process, with clear buttons on the homepage navigating the user to the right section. Users have regularly commented on the nice, clean interface and the enhanced user experience.
- Global search facility is now easier to find. The improvements here have seen a 50% increase in people using the search facility;
- Users are now spending 20% less time on the homepage and there has been a substantial increase in users finding the content they want within their first three clicks. This demonstrates that the new content structure is clear to users and they can move to the right section on the site much more quickly;
- Clearer categories for user content has meant that users are not returning to the homepage as frequently.
Feedback from HFRS’ partners was also extremely positive. The partners had moved from a central shared drive to a full Learning Management System, and have seen real benefits of having Moodle in place.
Following the first round of user sessions we came up with prototypes and from that HowToMoodle came up with the concepts which gave 3 different ways of completing the same thing – which was really really useful to have. Nothing seemed to be too much to ask.”
“Also, we’ve always found that HowToMoodle are there to give good support when we need it. I would just ping off an email and usually they’re very quick to respond especially if it’s a simple fix. I’ve got faith that they will come back to me.
Key Moodle features:
- The Book module and the Stealth option: The Book module enables administrators to create multi-page resources in a ‘book-like’ format. The ﬂexibility of this resource and the ability to customise the pages has been of huge benefit for HFRS. As a lot of the organisation’s training is traditionally based on Microsoft PowerPoint software, HFRS can convert their PowerPoint resources into a ‘Book’ and create the book as the whole of the learning topic. The ‘Stealth’ option, enables HFRS to further simplify the course pages.
- The Quiz module: This activity has enabled HFRS to design and build quizzes using a wide variety of question types that meet their assessment needs. The use of quizzes has created a ﬂexible means to automatically facilitate in-depth checking of understanding of knowledge gained in the training.
- Cohorts. The ability for HFRS to manage bulk enrolments using cohorts is invaluable to efficiently manage 1,500 members of staff. The use of Cohorts has saved HFRS hours in course administration due to only having to enrol one aspect to a course. David explains;“We have hundreds of courses and to plan and create separate bulk upload csv’s for each would take many minutes per course. This coupled with the time to unenrol people from courses, multiplied by the number of courses would again take up hours of someone’s life.Any operational member of staff is enrolled to at least 40 courses as standard. There are 1,200 operational members of staff. This means there are at least 48,000 unique enrolments for just our standard users.Manually enrolling and unenrolling or even using a bulk upload for each of these courses would take a considerable amount of time. Cohorts mean that this can all be done centrally and save hours from our IT team who would undertake this work for me.”
- Completion Tracking. This feature has proved beneficial for HFRS’ own learners as well as their partners. Completion tracking enables course administrators to specify conditions that define when an activity is
considered to be complete so that progress can easily be monitored. Learners can also review their own progress too which boosts engagement!
- Customisable. The ability to customise Moodle has helped HFRS achieve exactly what they needed. As David comments;“With Moodle you can basically find something that works for you. Aside from the core databases, everything else can be changed and tweaked, whether it’s developing something yourself with HTML knowledge or finding a plugin, the customisation really helps.”
- Open Source. David reﬂects on the use of an open source platform like Moodle:
Also the fact that Moodle HQ are still actively developing it and have a roadmap for it – they do listen to feedback and change things. So we may come across challenges, but then they bring out a solution. If we’re patient enough usually they will come round. That’s also where the Moodle forums come into their own – we’re not likely to be the only people experiencing this, and a number of times, if asking on forums, they will suggest solutions and workarounds.
The Book module
The Quiz module
Future plans and advice:
David and his project team at Hampshire Fire and Rescue continue to develop their site. Their policy of continuous improvement and actively seeking user feedback will ensure that the site remains highly engaging, efficient and successful.
In conclusion, David offers the following advice for organisations starting out with Moodle;
Constantly keep in touch with the people that need to access the content and you won’t go too far wrong. Make it easy for them to get to the content and you will get better results and people will be more open in talking to you about where their frustrations lie so you can keep improving it.