Quickmail block

The Quickmail module for Moodle has been on the list of plugins to test and implement on the Moodle instance I worry about for a while.

I have now had a chance to play with it a little more and to understand what it is meant to do. As a result, I don’t think that it does what we want it to do.

I believe that the initial reason why the Quickmail module was brought up to look at was that Moodle does not have a built in (fake) mail system as WebCT did. In WebCT (CE 4.1), a tool called eMail (which doesn’t have anything to do with real e-mail – the WebCT eMail messages did not get sent to students’ email addresses as far as I am aware) allowed teachers and students to send messages to each other within the confines of a course. Each WebCT course contained a sent box and an inbox for each user.

Unfortunately, Moodle has no such tool. The messaging system that comes with Moodle allows students and teachers to send messages to each other, but it is not very aware of courses and as such does not place any boundaries on who can contact whom (can be set up, though). This means, that if a student or teacher wants to message someone in their class, they have to go to the course participants list and send them a message there. However, the recipient of a message will not know which course the message came from. There also is no easy way to see the message history (I believe that some of these shortcomings will be addressed in Moodle 2).

The Quickmail module allows teachers to add a block to their course which allows teachers, and with some modification of the permissions, students, to compose messages to members of their course. This means that the tool is aware of the boundaries of a course. It also keeps a list of sent messages. The downside however is that any message sent will be sent to recipients (students) email address, and the only way anyone can see messages they have received is by checking their (real) email. There is no ‘inbox’-like function within the Quickmail module. There also is no way for a student to reply to a message.

As I see it, the Quickmail module pretends to be a course-specific messaging tool, but in reality is just a front-end to an email system (similar to online feedback forms used for many public websites). To me, the Quickmail tool seems to be written to allow a teacher to push one-way messages at the students via email, but that can be done via the Moodle messaging already, or via News forums – both these tools are able to copy messages to students email accounts.

I believe that the Dialogue module which we already have is a much better equivalent to the WebCT eMail. It allows teacher to student and student to student communication within the confines of the course, it allows students to reply, and it does not pretend to be real email. The only downside is that a teacher has to set up a Dialogue activity before the students can use it.

So unless I have missed anything, I will recommend against the implementation of the Quickmail module on the Moodle instance I work with, and instead encourage people to use the Dialogue activity for course-specific private communication, and the Moodle messaging for user to user communication across the entire system.

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