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  1. Moodle
  2. MDL-66562

Make Moodle group messaging practical for teachers and students







      For Moodle 3.6, Moodle HQ worked hard to improve the messaging system and introduced group messages. They did a great job with group messages as a new feature, however there are still several aspects that are too complicated / that feel not smooth enough / that work unexpected in comparison with instant messenger systems everyone knows and uses today.

      With this proposal, we would like to propose to finally make Moodle group messaging practical for teachers and students and at the same time competitive with freely available commercial messengers.


      • Project size: big
      • Audience: primary schools, universities, work places
      • Target users: students, teachers

      Goals / Background

      Studying and teaching within a university and with Moodle means that there is a huge need for communication between teaching staff and students as well as among student groups and cohorts. Traditionally, Moodle has served this need with the forum activity for 1:n and n:m communication and with the messaging system for 1:1 communication.

      Today, institutions running Moodle have to face two facts:

      1. With the introduction of group messaging, Moodle core changed the game. Group messaging is breaking up the 1:1 limitation of the messaging system and promises to let users now also communicate quickly in groups over Moodle. However, as users are exploring the group messaging feature in Moodle, they encounter unexpected obstacles which impede the adoption of group messaging and which trigger considerable amounts of frustration and support work.

      2. With members of generation Y working as teaching staff in university and with members of generation Z studying in university, the demand for digital workflows and digitalized university life is bigger than ever. Students are equipped with smartphones and fully familiar with market-leading and easy-to-use commercial communication apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and so on. As these communication apps are so easy to use, it is nearly impossible for university management to dictate Moodle as main communication channel for group communication and to prevent that students are simply building their peer groups in their preferred commercial messenger app.

      Using Moodle not only as a learning management platform but also for simple, quick and contemporary and at the same time reliable and mandatory group conversation channel is an aim of university managements. This goal can only be achieved if Moodle group messaging is raised to eye level with commercial messenger solutions.

      As a side note: As soon we have achieved to make Moodle the most relevant group communication channel on campus, we will also have achieved that every student has the Moodle mobile app in his pocket which is a desirable win-win situation.

      User Stories 

      Get rid of obstacles which prevent group messaging to be used at all

      User story 1:
      As a teacher, I can create groups in my course and enable the group messaging for these groups manually in the group settings. I can also auto-create multiple groups and can enable the group messaging for all of these groups during the auto-creation process.
      However, if I have created multiple groups in my course before and did not enable group messaging for whatever reason (especially because I forgot to do it or because the need for group messaging just arose after creating the groups or simply because the groups were created before group messaging was available in Moodle), I have a hard time to change the group messaging setting manually for each group one by one as there is no bulk management available. As a teacher, I want to be able to have a one-stop screen where I can decide which groups are available for group messaging in my course.

      User story 2:
      As a teacher, I have created some groups in my course and have enabled group messaging for these groups. Now I want to write a message to the members of one of these groups to tell them that an appointment must be delayed. However, I am pretty confused now that I cannot message the group directly because I am not a member of the group myself. I have to add myself to the group first. This is not feasible for me because the groups are also used for assignment submissions and other activities and it would be counterproductive that I show up as a member of all groups. As a teacher, I want to be able to send messages to all groups in my course which have group messaging enabled without being a member of the group myself.

      Get rid of obstacles which prevent group messaging to be used effectively

      User story 3:
      As a teacher, I would like to use group messaging for sending announcements to my whole course instead of using the classic announcement forum. To do this, I go to the participants page, check all users and send them a message. As a result, I have messaged all participants individually which clutters my messaging drawer now. I would like to have a messaging group for my whole course automatically created and I would like to decide on the participants page if I want to message the whole course messaging group or all participants individually.

      User story 4:
      As a teacher, I go to the participants page, check some (but not all) users and send them a message. As a result, I have messaged all participants individually which clutters my messaging drawer now and makes it impossible to send follow-up messages to the same list of participants or to answer follow-up questions by single participants to the whole group. When messaging the participants on the participants page, I would like to be asked if I want to create a messaging group on-the-fly and to message this messaging group instead of messaging them individually.

      Decouple group messaging from courses

      User story 5:
      As a student, I have noted our Moodle admin's upgrade announcement which said that group messaging is now available in Moodle. However, I had to see / was told by support staff that group messaging is a teacher-lead feature only. Groups for group messaging have to be created and activated by a teacher in a particular course. As I am a student, I can't use Moodle for organizing messaging groups with my peers. So group messaging seems useless for me, I turn back to commercial messengers again and am also not really interested to participate in the messaging groups which are created by my teachers on Moodle.

      User story 6:
      As university management, we have an interest that our users connect freely with each other on campus and we would like to see Moodle to be their main messenger application on campus. To achieve this, we would like to allow any Moodle user to create messaging groups and invite other Moodle users to their messaging groups. These user-created messaging groups should especially be located in system context and not in any course context.

      Add basic privacy features to group messaging

      User story 7:
      As a user who has created a messaging group in system context, I would like to be sure that this group is private by default so that nobody in Moodle can find and join this group.

      User story 8:
      As another user who has created a messaging group in system context, I would like to be able to mark this group as public so that every other user in Moodle can find and join this group.

      Support ad-hoc mentioning of users and ad-hoc creating of group conversations

      User story 9:
      As a user writing a forum post within a forum activity, I would like to be able to @mention any other user participating in that forum (i.e. users with the ability to post or reply in that same forum). To achieve this, I would like to type an "@" sign, then be presented a list of users to be mentioned within this forum and select one of these users to be mentioned. After I submit my post, the mentioned user(s) will get a notification through the messaging system that they have been mentioned in the particular discussion.

      User story 10:
      As a user writing a message to another user in the messaging system, I would like to be able to @add other users on-the-fly. To achieve this, I would like to type an "@" sign, then be presented a list of users to be added to the discussion and select one of these users to be added. After I submit my post, a new group conversation with the original recipient and all added users will be initiated.

      Let administrators control group messaging to fulfill local needs

      User story 11:
      As admin, I've been using Moodle cohorts to manage cohorts for several aspects in Moodle, especially for students which share the same course of study or the same first lecture term, for a long time now. Regarding group messaging, it would now feel natural for me to have a possibility to automatically create group messaging groups for cohorts so that all students of a particular cohort can communicate reliably with each other over Moodle without any management overhead.

      User story 12:
      As admin, I want to configure the user profile fields used to lookup the user list for mentioning and adding for the whole Moodle instance and have the ability to choose whether to include the user display name or user login name depending on the demands of my institution.
      I would also want to cover additional privacy concerns having further administrative settings to disable the @mention from user story 10 and the @add feature from user story 11 or impose limits on who users are able to message (those on courses, across the platform etc.).

      Going forward

      On the one hand, the given user stories already are a long list of improvements to and refinements of the existing group messaging feature. On the other hand, these all come from working with the existing group messaging feature and would be necessary for the group messaging feature to succeed on campus.

      This proposal does not provide real solution proposals / mockups / specifications for the issues raised with the user stories yet. These solutions have to be discussed in the proposal refinement phase as well as within the project realization phase itself.

      It should be self-evident that all changes to the group messaging system which are done within this project will be accompanied and approved by UX studies.

      Links to existing tracker issues

      Some of the user stories are already covered in the MDL-63676 epic.


        Issue Links



              Unassigned Unassigned
              abias Alexander Bias
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