Navigation Button Plugin for Moodle!

Listen with webreader
This image represents the original home navigation button on, from 2006.

The Original Home Button

I learned Moodle because I had a full curriculum of face-to-face training in Six Sigma Quality Improvement tools and I wanted to put it online. That was 2005.  I built one course and asked for feedback from a group of potential users.  Because everyone I knew professionally at that time was barely able to use email (sorry, guys, but it’s true!), my sample audience was small, biased, and not representative of my target audience.  Oops.  The most frequent comment I received was “I wish it had better navigation because I don’t know how to get to the next page”. So, I built navigation buttons because I THOUGHT that would encourage more people to take my courses. Each page had HTML code added to the end of the content; code that linked tiny images to absolute URLs for the next, previous, and other pages. Each page was manually coded.  Spiffy.    

Instead of having a surge in Six Sigma students, I was swamped with all kinds of questions from people trying to build Moodle.  Questions like “how did you build those navigation buttons?” and “are those buttons part of your theme”…  I also had a lot of other comments about my site being clean and well-put together, but the biggest comment was always about the buttons. That’s when I decided to add moodle content development to my company’s repertoire of services. Those buttons launched my Moodle career…    

As you may have guessed, adding HTML code to the bottom of every page, and editing that code so that the next page image was actually linked to the next activity, was not a sustainable task.  I stopped adding the navigation buttons to content, even on my own site.  I didn’t even dream of including them in the content work I did for others. Two years ago my editor said (quite innocently), “The buttons are missing in this course; can you put them back in?  They really make it a lot easier to navigate”.  Oops, again.    

Fast forward (time does fly) to 2011 and the navigation buttons are now a plugin that you, too, can use!  Davo Smith, Moodle Contributor Extraordinaire, turned my vision into a Third Party module, now available for 1.9x and 2.0, at  Here is a screencast of the buttons at YouTube:   


To view examples of how they can easily be customized to match a theme, check out the courses at  This Purpose-Objectives-Goals page in the demo course Sunny Hospital, shows the old and the new, with customized new buttons. 

Both Davo and I wish to thank the iconic US manufacturer that sponsored the development of this plugin. They’re awesome!

Posted in Moodle Tips, More Good Stuff - Moodle Tips, Computer Tricks, etc. | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is My Sample Representative?

Listen with webreader
targeted sample

Is your sample from your targeted population?

I have performed dozens of jobs.  I delivered phone books (back when everyone had to have one).  I baked cakes (even though I’m not much of a baker).  I roto-tilled garden plots, I sewed in a dress factory, and I sold fancy scarves to very rich ladies.  I like to do things that give me insight; insight that pays extra cash is even better. 

So when my husband passed along an article about “mystery shopping” I carefully chose an organization to sign up with.  More insight…and cash to go shoe shopping with.  Cool

Much to my dismay, although I signed up with just one organization, within hours I began to receive assignment solicitations from several organizations; organizations I never heard of.  I must not have read the fine print on the first one.  Oh well.  The real disappointment came with assignment descriptions (paraphrased and exaggerated just a little):

“Memorize the script we will send you.  You can use a PDA or cell phone recorder, hidden in your purse, to take notes.  Drive 10 miles through some of the worst traffic you’ve ever encountered.  Find a parking spot in one of the most crowded malls in North America. Make your way into the Upscale Shoe Salon and, following the script which may have you being an ornery witch, try on several pairs of shoes.  You must buy a pair (minimum $300), but if you want to keep them, you will not be reimbursed for them.  If you wish to return them, you must do so the same day.  After you’ve driven there, parked, shopped, bought, and returned the shoes, go back home and fill out a report with short essays on your experience.  Scan and email the business card and parking receipt (to prove you were there) to us, along with your report, within 24 hours.  We will pay you $14 for this.  If you choose to receive a paper check, there will be a $3 processing fee.” 

This got me thinking…how representative of the experience of a real shopper at this store is this “shopping assignment”?  What woman who actually has a closet of fine designer shoes is going to do all of this for $14?  Even if she were going to buy the shoes anyway, the time spent on the prep work and reports pays about minimum wage.  If the script calls for her to be a difficult customer or a repeat-returner she’ll be burning her bridges at that store. I began to question what insight the store owner was getting from this data. (Of course, I don’t have enough information to make any judgments about it). 

But it does give one pause, and not just about mystery shopper data.   

Do you know - for sure - that the data collection you do is representative of the population you want to understand?  Are your Facebook friends or your LinkedIn connections representative of the customers you have?  Are they representative of the customers you want?  If you ask patron of your restaurant to fill out a customer satisfaction survey, are the responses you receive representative of all of your customers?  What do they tell you about the people you would like to have as customers, but don’t yet? 

I had a colleague who used to say (he was quoting another colleague so I apologize to whomever actually said it first):

The only thing you know for sure is that the sample you have represents the population you took it from.  This is not to say that the population you sampled was the population you intended to study.

Unfortunately, there is no formula to ensure a representative sample.  The best defense against a bad sample is to take a critical view of a process that you understand very well.  After you think you’ve nailed it, ask another subject matter expert to look at your plan with an even more critical eye.  Then you’ll probably be OK. 

I’ll be posting more on statistical sampling.  Lots more… Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my feed so you won’t miss the answer to the most frequently asked question about statistics:  How big does my sample need to be?

Posted in Statistics Demystified | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment