The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Lessons Learned from a Responsive LMS Redesign with Moodle 3.0

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Current trends continue to show a swell in ownership and usage of tablets and smartphones as primary devices. This case-based educational session will explore how one provider of online learning addressed the surge of this “mobile mind shift” as more consumers (and learners!) expect a mobile-first experience.


Erin Hobbs, MPA, is an Associate Program Director for the Collaborative for Excellence in Behavioral Health Research and Practice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Nursing and Health Studies. Ms. Hobbs primary roles have included serving as the Senior Program Manager for the Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) Network Coordinating Office; Lead of Network Collaboration for the National CPN Resource Center, and Manager, e-Learning portal. In this capacity, Ms. Hobbs is responsible for providing project management and oversight to multiple, high-profile national projects and initiatives. Ms. Hobbs received a Master's in Public Administration from UMKC and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri.
Jennifer Dixey is an instructional technologist with more than 15 years' experience in web development and interactive digital media. She has presented at educational conferences on technical topics including open source software, online learning, remote laboratories, and web design for mobile learners. She has worked with multiple open source content management systems including Drupal and Wordpress, and have experience with many online learning platforms including Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and Instructure Canvas. She believes strongly in the use of the World Wide Web as a vehicle for lifelong learning.

Extended Abstract

The years 2015-2016 saw a surge in the ownership and usage of tablets and smartphones as primary devices. For the first time, a decline in laptop usage relative to such devices occurred at the same time. Current trends reflect this surge. As noted in a Pew Research Center in 2015, the adoption of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets continues to grow and ownership of desktop and laptop computers has been declining.  In addition, roughly 30% of Americans now own a computer, a tablet, AND a smartphone (Pew Research Center, 2015). This “mobile mind shift” means more consumers (and learners!) expect mobile (Forrester Research, 2014). In this environment, it is imperative that online education providers take steps toward achieving a mobile-first approach in the design of both their learning environments and their learning materials.

Background: is a Moodle-based LMS managed by the University of Missouri-Kansas City that serves as one-stop distance learning portal for a variety of health professionals. In 2016, underwent a large-scale redesign in order to ensure an optimized, mobile-friendly educational platform for our 8,000+ active adult learners. During this session, participants will be provided insights and lessons learned from a real-world case study detailing the redesign process from start to finish.

Method: Our mobile-first redesign project included the following elements in our approach: Responsive design with uncluttered layouts; Generous use of white space; Text that is readable on any screen at any size; Site reorganization to enhance discoverability and usability. The redesign began with a new theme called Snap that was developed by Moodlerooms and was the first theme that Moodlerooms released to the Moodle community as open source. The stated goals of the Snap theme development team were to create a fully responsive, mobile-first theme that also takes into consideration the need for accessibility throughout the Moodle interface. This entailed several adaptations of our existing courses as well as changes to our overall systems. We also took advantage of the opportunity to address longstanding needs that our community of users had expressed, including making relevant courses easier to find and making the registration process faster, easier and more efficient.

Result: Analytics show that the bounce rate for mobile users has been reduced by 19% year on year (based on April 2017 vs April 2016). Average number of pages per session and session duration have also increased for our mobile phone and tablet users. registrations continue to grow with an average of 300+ users registering for courses per week.

Conclusion:’s redesign for mobile usability and improved accessibility has improved performance based on analytics and an increase in the average number of registrations. will be implementing further modifications in 2017 including a more streamlined registration system and course overhauls to provide an improved in-course user experience for both mobile and desktop users. Results from a Summer 2017 User Survey will also be shared during this session.

Session Goals: Participants will engage in real-time interactive polls, small group discussions, demonstrations, and audience contributions. By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the case for a Moodle-based LMS responsive redesign, as demonstrated by a real-world case-study,
  • Explain the goals of a responsive LMS redesign,
  • Describe the process and steps undertaken in a successful responsive LMS redesign initiative, and
  • Identify challenges and lessons learned that can be applied to future responsive LMS redesign projects.


Pew Research Center, October 29, 2015. Technology Device Ownership: 2015
Pew Research Center, November 25, 2015. Smartphone, Computer or Tablet? 36% of Americans own all three.
Forrester Research, June 27, 2014 . The Mobile Mind Shift [Infographic]