MoodleBrighton September roundup

Sept saw the launch of #MoodleBrighton, a monthly meetup for Moodlers in Brighton & Hove.

At last year’s UK and Ireland MoodleMoot in Dublin I met some of the guys from the Sussex University eLearning Team and we hatched a plan to start up a monthly event in Brighton. It took a while but this was the first such one, and is set for the first Thursday of every month at The Skiff in Gloucester Road, Brighton. The Skiff is a freelancer hub and provides space for regular software group meetups, as this is an open source event they donated the space for free every month, for which we are really grateful. Thanks @theskiff!

We did some brief intros and had two attendees from the Sussex University team (they run a pretty amazing Moodle site and elearning blog), three from the Epic team (the learning technologies company where I work) and one from Catalyst IT (a Moodle Partner based in New Zealand and who set up a Brighton office a year or so back).

First on the agenda was Bas Brands who we dialled in on Google+ and did a half-hour presentation and Q&A on theming for Moodle 2. He showed us the great work he did for University of Central London creating a theme for their new Moodle 2 implementation. This raised some interesting discussions around managing clients and a technical discussion around over-riding renderers which allow you to customise Moodle core functions from within the theme itself, removing the need to change core system code. It was a bit developer-y for me personally but I learned a lot about how far Moodle 2 can be pushed without changing core code which was really useful to know about.

Following this we opened up to the floor. I showed a few Moodle 2 themes that Epic had built including one for Reaseheath College with an accessibility settings panel. Stuart then led a discussion around responsive design and whether this could be achieved in Moodle. Not everyone was familiar with the concept (in summary, responsive web pages will change layout when viewed at different browser sizes so the same page can be optimised for desktop, tablet and smartphone screens, for example it may revert from 2 or 3 columns to a single column layout when screen width is 300px or under). We had a look at Twitter’s Bootstrap project which provides a framework for responsive web pages, and some implementations of responsive designs such as the BBC website.

We then looked closely at what David Scotson has done with his moodle-bootstrap project, an adaptation of Twitter’s Bootstrap for Moodle. Interestingly, he has raised a Moodle Tracker issue for every item which he felt did not follow web design best practice, and provided a patch for each one as he went! A highly pedantic approach but one that makes a point about Moodle interface design and usability, an increasingly talked about area.

It was great to get this first event off the ground. I thought it was a bit developer focused so I’d like to try and achieve a more even balance – maybe one Developer topic and one Admin topic per session.

Brighton is unique in being a ‘hub’ of elearning companies so hopefully we can attract more attendees from other companies, the event is about sharing and learning together in an environment where competition can be cast aside for the night. We also have two major universities, one of which runs Moodle, and local schools and colleges running Moodle so there is every reason to think this monthly meetup should go from strength to strength. The next one is Thurs 4th October. For details and sign up pls see the Google+ event page.

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