Moodle User Guide

Moodle User Guide
Using Moodle, 2nd Edition
SECOND EDITION
Using Moodle, 2nd Edition
Jason Cole and Helen Foster
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Using Moodle, 2nd Edition, Second Edition
by Jason Cole and Helen Foster
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Table of Contents
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
1.
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
What Is a Course Management System?
What Makes Moodle Special?
2.
Moodle Basics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Getting Started
Creating an Account
A First Look at a Course
Adding Content to a Course
Summary
3.
29
40
43
48
Managing Your Class . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Understanding and Using Roles
Student Groups
Backups
Restoring and Copying Courses
Reports
5.
7
9
14
26
27
Creating and Managing Content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Adding Content to Moodle
Managing and Updating Your Content
Effective Content Practices
Summary
4.
1
4
49
57
61
62
64
Forums, Chats, and Messaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Forums
Chats
Messaging
Summary
69
84
89
93
v
6.
Quizzes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
How to Create a Quiz
Managing Quizzes
Quiz Capabilities
Effective Quiz Practices
7.
Assignments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Assignment Types
Creating Assignments
Assignment Capabilities
Managing Assignment Submissions
Effective Assignment Practices
Summary
8.
123
124
126
126
128
130
Glossaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Creating Glossaries
Using Glossaries
Glossary Capabilities
Effective Glossary Practices
Summary
9.
95
115
116
118
131
134
139
140
142
Lessons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143
Creating a Lesson
Managing Lessons
Lesson Capabilities
Effective Lesson Practices
144
151
151
151
10. Wikis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157
Creating Wikis
Managing Wikis
Wiki Capabilities
Effective Wiki Practices
157
159
164
164
11. Blogs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
Using Blogs
Blog Capabilities
Effective Blog Practices
167
171
172
12. Databases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175
Creating Databases
Managing Databases
Database Capabilities
vi | Table of Contents
175
185
188
Effective Database Practices
190
13. Grades and Scales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193
Using Grades
Creating Scales
Effective Grade and Scale Practices
193
198
200
14. Surveys and Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
Surveys
Choices
Using Surveys and Choices
203
206
209
15. Putting It All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
What Is a Learning Environment?
Course Design Patterns
211
212
16. Moodle Administration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
Notifications
Users
Courses
Location
Language
Modules
Security
Appearance
Front Page
Server
Networking
Reports
Miscellaneous
Moodle Support
221
222
229
233
233
235
240
242
246
247
252
252
253
253
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255
Table of Contents | vii
Preface
What Is Moodle?
Moodle is an open source Course Management System (CMS) that universities, community colleges, K–12 schools, businesses, and even individual instructors use to add
web technology to their courses. More than 30,000 educational organizations around
the world currently use Moodle to deliver online courses and to supplement traditional
face-to-face courses. Moodle is available for free on the Web (http://www.moodle.org),
so anyone can download and install it. More on that later in this preface.
The name Moodle has two meanings. First, it’s an acronym (what isn’t these days?) for
Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Moodle is also a verb that
describes the process of lazily meandering through something, doing things as it occurs
to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity.
Moodle was created by Martin Dougiamas, a computer scientist and educator who
spent time supporting a CMS at a university in Perth, Australia. He grew frustrated
with the system and learned that engineers, not educators, had built it. Martin realized
that a system built by someone who started with the educational process, rather than
an engineering process, would be infinitely better than what he had to work with. He
put his postgraduate degrees in Education and Computer Science to work and started
developing Moodle as an alternative. Martin now works on Moodle full-time. A community of dedicated open source developers from around the world works with him in
a collaborative effort to make Moodle the best CMS available. Martin lives in Australia
with his wife, daughter, and son.
Who Is This Book For?
This book is for people who want to teach a course using Moodle. You can use Moodle
to teach a fully online course or to supplement a face-to-face course in a traditional
setting. It doesn’t matter if you teach at a primary school, a secondary school, in higher
education, or in a corporate setting; you can use the tools and features available in
Moodle to create an effective class.
ix
The first edition of this book was written for Moodle 1.4. This second edition has been
updated to cover all the features in Moodle 1.8, such as the new roles and permissions
system, blogs, messaging, and the database module.
Also included in this second edition are references to the Moodle Teacher Certificate
(MTC) skills. The Moodle Teacher Certificate is a way for people to demonstrate their
skills in using Moodle as a teacher through a course project, a narrative document, and
an online exam. The content of the certification is designed by the Moodle community,
and the certification process is administered worldwide by Moodle Partners. Further
details of the MTC can be found in the MTC area on Moodle.org: http://moodle.org/
course/view.php?id=48.
Prerequisites—What Do You Need Before You Start?
To use this book, you will need the following:
• Moodle installed and configured on a server. You can download Moodle via http://
download.moodle.org/ and can find installation instructions in the Moodle documentation at http://docs.moodle.org/en/Installing_Moodle.
• A computer with Internet access.
• A web browser such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or Opera.
• Teacher access to a course on Moodle, or administrator access to the Moodle site.
About Us
Jason: Since we’re going to be spending some time together, I’d better introduce myself.
I’ve been working in the field of educational technology for 10 years. I’ve been a school
district technology administrator, developed commercial web-based training, and written supplemental CDs for inclusion with textbooks. I have been involved in San
Francisco State University and the Open University UK’s moves to Moodle. I currently
have my own instructional design and e-learning consultancy, The eLearning Hub.
I’ve spent a lot of time working with teachers to incorporate technology into their
classes. I’ve seen what works, what doesn’t, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.
I’m an education geek at heart. I love living at the intersection of technology and learning theory. There are so many new and exciting opportunities in this area that I can see
myself doing this for at least another 10 years.
Helen: Ten years ago I was teaching mathematics in Botswana, in a village school with
hardly any educational technology!
I discovered Moodle in December 2004, when researching virtual learning environments for Alton College in the UK. I gained a great deal from the forums on
Moodle.org, learning from other Moodle users’ experiences, and increasing my under-
x | Preface
standing by explaining things for others. I went on to implement Moodle at Alton
College and also supported local schools’ use of Moodle.
I’m now Moodle documentation steward and facilitator for the Using Moodle course
on Moodle.org. It’s great being a member of the worldwide Moodle community and
being able to contribute to the development of such powerful educational technology.
How to Use This Book
This book is written for instructors learning how to use Moodle. It’s not just a how-to
manual, however. Every chapter includes suggestions, case studies, and best practices
for using Moodle effectively. Using Moodle won’t make your course better by itself.
Only by applying effective educational practices can you truly leverage the power of
Moodle.
The Moodle interface can be customized a great deal. The descriptions and screenshots
in this book illustrate the default interface without any customization. If you have
changed the order of the blocks in your course or if the system administrator has
changed the look and feel of the main interface, your system will look different from
the screenshots here.
Chapter 1 discusses what Course Management Systems have to offer and what makes
Moodle special.
Chapter 2 gets us started using Moodle. We’ll sign up for an account, review the basic
interface, get used to some of the conventions, and start a course.
Chapter 3 covers how to add content to your course.
Chapter 4 delves into course management, including understanding and using roles,
arranging students into groups, and how to obtain reports of student activity.
Chapters 5 to 14 cover individual tools in the basic Moodle package. We’ll discuss how
and when to use forums, hold chat sessions, send messages, give quizzes, set assignments, develop shared glossaries and databases, create pathed lessons, collaboratively
develop web pages, create blogs, set up surveys and polls, and record student grades.
Each chapter covers how to add the tool to your course, discusses the options available,
and gives you some creative ideas for effectively using the tool in your class.
Chapter 15 pools all the disparate tools into a comprehensive whole and shows some
of the creative ways teachers have used Moodle.
Chapter 16 covers how to administer an entire Moodle site. A system administrator
usually handles these functions, but if you’re on your own, there’s a lot of power behind
the curtain.
You can use this book in a couple of different ways. First, you can read it cover to cover.
Hopefully, you’ll find it so compelling that you won’t be able to put it down until you’ve
finished it. Or you can use it like a reference manual. The beginning of each tool chapter
Preface | xi
covers the how-tos and the options. If you get lost, flip to the appropriate chapter and
take it from the beginning. If you’re looking for inspiration, Chapters 3 and 15 and the
end of each tool chapter should fuel the creative fire. Happy Moodling!
Conventions Used in This Book
The following typographical conventions are used in this book:
Italic
Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.
Constant width
Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements
such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables,
statements, and keywords.
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Acknowledgments
Jason: I am indebted to several people in the writing of this book: first, my wife Jeanne
for her constant love and support—this book would not be possible without her; Bryan
Williams and Michelle Moore at Remote Learner for promoting the first edition in their
Moodle workshops; Jon Allen and Jim Farmer at Instructional Media and Magic have
been instrumental in promoting the book to a wide audience; Martin Dougiamas for
xii | Preface
creating Moodle and becoming a good friend and support; Kevin Kelly for doing yeoman’s work at SFSU while I gallivanted around the world.
Helen: I would like to thank the following people: Martin Dougiamas and Moodle’s
“Knight in Shining Armor,” Eloy Lafuente, for their friendship and support; members
of the worldwide Moodle user community for their discussion and documentation
contributions, many of which have been included in this book; colleagues and students
at Alton College, in particular Andrew Walker, from whom I learnt a great deal; and a
special thanks to my partner, Koen, for being wonderful.
Preface | xiii
CHAPTER 1
Introduction
If you teach, you’ve probably heard for years about the revolution the Internet was
supposed to bring to teaching and learning. As with so many promises of revolution,
the changes haven’t materialized. Instead, there has been a slow evolution toward using
the Web to enhance teaching and learning. A suite of tools called Course Management
Systems (CMSs) supports this new practice. You can use CMSs to enhance your teaching by taking advantage of the Internet without replacing the need for a teacher.
What Is a Course Management System?
CMSs are web applications, meaning that they run on a server and are accessed by using
a web browser. Your Moodle server is probably located in your university or department, but it can be anywhere in the world. You and your students can access the system
from any place with an Internet connection.
At their most basic, CMSs give educators tools to create a course web site and provide
access control so only enrolled students can view it. CMSs also offer a wide variety of
tools that can make your course more effective. They provide an easy way to upload
and share materials, hold online discussions and chats, give quizzes and surveys, gather
and review assignments, and record grades. Let’s take a quick look at each of these
features and how they might be useful:
Uploading and sharing materials
Most CMSs provide tools to easily publish content. Instead of using an HTML
editor and then sending your documents to a server via FTP, you simply use a web
form to store your syllabus on the server. Many instructors upload their syllabus,
lecture notes, reading assignments, and articles for students to access whenever
they want.
Forums and chats
Online forums and chats provide a means of communication outside of classroom
meetings. Forums give your students more time to generate their responses and
can lead to more thoughtful discussions. Chats, on the other hand, give you a way
1
to quickly and easily communicate with remote students. They can be used for
project discussions between groups of students or for last-minute questions the
day before an exam.
Quizzes
Online quizzes can be graded instantaneously. They are a great tool for giving
students rapid feedback on their performance and for gauging their comprehension
of materials. Many publishers now provide banks of test questions tied to book
chapters. A professor teaching a marketing class at San Francisco State uses weekly
mini-tests to keep students engaged with the lectures and reading. He then uses
proctored online testing to give the final exam using the same question banks.
Gathering and reviewing assignments
Online assignment submissions are an easy way to track and grade student assignments. In addition to grading student assignments yourself, research indicates that
using an online environment for student peer reviews increases student motivation
and performance.
Recording grades
An online gradebook can give your students up-to-date information about their
performances in your course. Online grades can also help you comply with new
privacy rules that prohibit posting grades with personal identifiers in public places.
CMS gradebooks allow students to see only their own grades, never another student’s. You can also download the grades into Excel for advanced calculations.
While you could find or write programs to do all of these things on your own site, a
CMS combines all of these features in one integrated package. Once you’ve learned
how to use a CMS, you’ll be free to concentrate on teaching and learning instead of
writing and maintaining your own software.
Over the past eight years, CMS systems have matured rapidly and are now considered
critical software for many colleges and universities. The CMS market is now a multimillion dollar market and is growing quickly.
Why Should You Use a CMS?
Good question. After all, we’ve run classes for thousands of years without the use of
computers and the Web. “Chalk and talk” is still the predominant method of delivering
instruction. While traditional face-to-face meetings can still be effective, applying the
tools listed above opens up new possibilities for learning that weren’t possible twenty
years ago. Currently, there is a lot of research into how to effectively combine online
learning and face-to-face meetings in what are called “hybrid” courses or “blended
learning.”
Hybrid courses combine the best of both worlds. Imagine moving most of your content
delivery to an online environment and saving your course time for discussion, questions, and problem solving. Many instructors have found they can save time and
2 | Chapter 1: Introduction
increase student learning by allowing students to engage in the material outside of class.
This allows them to use face-to-face time for troubleshooting.
Online discussions give many students the opportunity to express themselves in ways
they couldn’t in a regular class. Many students are reluctant to speak in class because
of shyness, uncertainty, or language issues. It’s a boon to many students to have the
ability to take their time to compose questions and answers in an online discussion,
and instructors report much higher participation levels online than in class.
There are a number of other reasons to think about using a CMS in your courses:
Student demand
Students are becoming more technically savvy, and they want to get many of their
course materials off the Web. Once online, they can access the latest information
at any time and make as many copies of the materials as they need. Having grown
up with instant messaging and other Internet communication tools, many students
find that online communication is second nature.
Student schedules
With rising tuition, many students are working more hours to make ends meet
while they are in school. About half of all students now work at least 20 hours a
week to meet school expenses. With a CMS, they can communicate with the instructor or their peers whenever their schedules permit. They can also take quizzes
or read course material during their lunch breaks. Working students need flexible
access to courses, and a CMS is a powerful way to give them what they need.
Better courses
If used well, CMSs can make your classes more effective and efficient. By moving
some parts of your course online, you can more effectively take advantage of
scheduled face-to-face time to engage students’ questions and ideas. For example,
if you move your content delivery from an in-class lecture to an online document,
you can then use lecture time to ask students about what they didn’t understand.
If you also use an online forum, you can bring the best ideas and questions from
the forum into your classroom. We’ll discuss lots of strategies and case studies for
effective practice throughout the book.
You probably heard all of this in the early ‘90s. So, what’s changed? Today, CMSs are
more mature and easier to use than they’ve been at any time in the past. The underlying
technology is becoming more robust, and programmers are writing good web applications. In the past, most systems were built as departmental or even personal projects
and then commercialized. The leading commercial package, Blackboard, started out
as a small college project and has since grown to be a market leader.
However, market leadership does not automatically mean that a given application is
the best or most reliable piece of software. Driven by the need for increased profitability,
the market leader has struggled to manage its growth, and some would argue that
product quality has suffered as a result.
What Is a Course Management System? | 3
What Makes Moodle Special?
We’ve both spent time researching different CMSs, and we have become fans of Moodle
because it is open source, is built on a sound educational philosophy, and has a huge
community that supports and develops it. It can compete with the big commercial
systems in terms of feature sets and is easy to extend. Let’s take a closer look at some
of these advantages and why they are important to you and your institution.
Free and Open Source
The phrase “open source” has become a loaded term in some circles. For those who
are outside of the techie culture, it’s hard to understand how powerful this idea has
become, and how it has forever changed the world of software development. The idea
itself is simple: open source simply means that users have access to the source code of
the software. You can look under the hood, see how the software works, tinker with
it, share it with others, or use parts of it in your own product.
So why is this important? For one, open source software is aligned with the academic
community’s values of freedom, peer review, and knowledge sharing. Just as anyone
can download and use Moodle for free, users can write new features, fix bugs, improve
performance, or simply learn by seeing how other people solved a programming
problem.
Secondly, unlike expensive proprietary CMSs that require license fees and maintenance
contracts, Moodle costs nothing to download and you can install it on as many servers
as you want. No one can take it away from you, increase the license cost, or make you
pay for upgrades. No one can force you to upgrade, adopt features you don’t want, or
tell you how many users you can have. They can’t take the source code back from users,
and if Martin Dougiamas decides to stop developing Moodle, there is a dedicated community of developers who will keep the project going.
Educational Philosophy
Martin’s background in education led him to adopt social constructionism as a core
theory behind Moodle. This is revolutionary, as most CMS systems have been built
around tool sets, not pedagogy. Most commercial CMS systems are tool-centered,
whereas Moodle is learning-centered.
Social constructionism is based on the idea that people learn best when they are engaged
in a social process of constructing knowledge through the act of constructing an artifact
for others. That’s a packed sentence, so let’s break it down a bit. The term “social
process” indicates that learning is something we do in groups. From this point of view,
learning is a process of negotiating meaning in a culture of shared artifacts and symbols.
The process of negotiating meaning and utilizing shared artifacts is a process of constructing knowledge. We are not blank slates when we enter the learning process. We
4 | Chapter 1: Introduction
need to test new learning against our old beliefs and incorporate it into our existing
knowledge structures. Part of the process of testing and negotiating involves creating
artifacts and symbols for others to interact with. We create artifacts and in turn negotiate with others to define the meaning of those artifacts in terms of a shared culture of
understanding.
So how does that relate to Moodle? The first indication is in the interface. While toolcentric CMSs give you a list of tools as the interface, Moodle builds the tools into an
interface that makes the learning task central. You can organize your Moodle course
by week, topic, or social arrangement. Additionally, while other CMSs support a content model that encourages instructors to upload a lot of static content, Moodle focuses
on tools for discussion and sharing artifacts. The focus isn’t on delivering information;
it’s on sharing ideas and engaging in the construction of knowledge.
Moodle’s design philosophy makes this a uniquely teacher-friendly package that represents the first generation of educational tools that are truly useful.
Community
Moodle has a very large, active community of people who are using the system and
developing new features and enhancements. You can access this community at http://
moodle.org/ and enroll in the Using Moodle course. There you’ll find people who are
more than willing to help new users get up and running, troubleshoot, and use Moodle
effectively. As of this writing, there are over 300,000 people registered on Moodle.org
and over 30,000 Moodle sites in 195 countries. The global community has also translated Moodle into over 70 languages.
The Moodle community has been indispensable to the success of the system. With so
many global users, there is always someone who can answer a question or give advice.
At the same time, the Moodle developers and users work together to ensure quality,
add new modules and features, and suggest new ideas for development. Martin and his
core team are responsible for deciding what features are mature enough for official
releases and where to go next. Because users are free to experiment, many people use
and test new features, acting as a large quality control department.
These three advantages—open source, educational philosophy, and community—
make Moodle unique in the CMS space.
In the rest of the book, we’ll discuss how you can use Moodle’s many features to enhance your teaching and provide your students with a powerful learning environment.
What Makes Moodle Special? | 5
CHAPTER 2
Moodle Basics
In this chapter, we’ll cover the basics of the Moodle interface and some of the options
you have when setting up your course. Then we’ll start adding some content to your
first Moodle course.
Getting Started
As mentioned in Chapter 1, Moodle is a web-based tool you can access through a web
browser. This means that in order to use Moodle, you need a computer with a web
browser installed and an Internet connection. You also need to have the web address
(called a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL) of a server running Moodle. If your institution supports Moodle, it will have a server with Moodle up and running. You can
then get the server address from the system administrator. If you don’t have access to
a server with Moodle installed, and you’d like to set up your own, you can download
a Moodle package from http://moodle.org/.
The Moodle Interface
When you first visit your Moodle site, you’ll see the front page with the site news and
the courses you are teaching or taking (see Figure 2-1).
Take a moment and familiarize yourself with the interface. Moodle uses a number of
interface conventions throughout the system. Important information is usually presented in the middle of the screen. On the lefthand side of the screen you’ll see several
blocks that list available courses and site news. There are a number of useful blocks
installed by default on a Moodle server. Your system administrator may install additional optional blocks to add different functionality.
Languages
In the upper-right corner, you may see a drop-down menu with language options. As
of September 2007, Moodle has been translated into over 70 languages by the developer
7
Figure 2-1. Moodle front page
community. The number of languages is now so large that Moodle only loads one
language by default. Your system administrator can download additional language
packs to provide support for new languages. Moodle also supports UTF-8, a standard
for the display of non-Latin character sets, like Chinese or Arabic characters. The language features can be useful for learning foreign languages or supporting students from
different countries.
Anyone who uses Moodle can select the language in which Moodle’s labels and instructions will appear. For example, if you choose to view the site in Norwegian, the
labels and help files will be translated into that language. Moodle does not translate
user-generated content—such as forum posts—automatically, though it’s possible to
create multilanguage content (see Chapter 3).
You can choose the language settings for the front page and for each course you visit.
As an instructor, you can also force students to use a given language. This is a useful
feature if you’re teaching a language course and want the entire course to be in that
language. Or you can simply confuse the heck out of your students by choosing some
really obscure language and have them guess what everything means.
The system administrator can decide not to display the language drop-down menu on
the front page. If you want to change the language and find that you cannot, contact
your system administrator.
Moodle’s Help System and Documentation
Throughout Moodle, you will see a question mark in a yellow circle. This is a link to
Moodle’s very extensive help system. Although you shouldn’t need it very frequently
after you read this book, the community has worked hard to provide you with a help
system that is tied to what you are doing at that moment.
When you click the question mark icon, a new window pops up with the help file for
the item you are asking about (see Figure 2-2). After you read the help file, you can
8 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-2. A help file
close the window with the “Close this window” button or look at other help files by
clicking on the “Index of all help files” link. You can then select any help file from
anywhere in the help system.
In addition to the help system, if you are logged in as a teacher or an administrator,
you’ll find a “Moodle Docs for this page” link at the bottom of each page. Clicking this
link will take you to the corresponding page on http://docs.moodle.org/. Moodle Docs
is the documentation for Moodle, written by the Moodle community.
Creating an Account
Right above the language selection list, you’ll find a hyperlink that says “Login.” Click
the link and Moodle will present you with the login to the site page, as shown in
Figure 2-3. Your username and password will depend on how your system administrator set up the system. Moodle has a number of options for user authentication,
including email-based self-registration, where you create your own account. If you are
logging in to a server run by your university or department, check with the Moodle
administrator to see if you need to create an account. As use of Moodle grows, more
institutions are automatically creating accounts for all of their users, so you may already
have a login.
If you need to create your own account:
1. Click the “Create new account” button.
2. Fill in the new account form by creating a username and password for yourself (see
Figure 2-4).
3. Enter a valid email address. The system will send you an email to confirm your
account. You won’t be able to log in again until you confirm your account.
4. Click “Create my new account.”
5. Within a few minutes, you should receive an email at the account you specified on
the form.
Creating an Account | 9
Figure 2-3. Login to the site
Figure 2-4. New account
6. Click the link in the email (or copy and paste it into the address window in your
browser) to confirm your account.
You now have a verified account. Your account isn’t automatically associated with the
courses you’re teaching. Most likely, your system administrator will assign you the role
of teacher in the courses you’re teaching.
Editing Your User Profile
This section covers the following MTC (Moodle Teacher Certificate) skills: 7.2 Profiles
Once you have successfully confirmed your account and logged in, you will find yourself back at the main page. If you look at the upper-right corner, you’ll see that the
10 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-5. A profile
Login link has changed. It now says “You are logged in as” and whatever your name
is, highlighted as a clickable word. Click on your name.
Moodle will then present you with your personal profile page, like the one shown in
Figure 2-5. You’ll see your profile summary and the last time you logged in. Across the
top of your profile summary you will see a number of tabs. If this is a new account,
you’ll see three tabs: Profile, Edit profile, and Blog. As you begin to participate in forums
and other activities, other tabs will appear here that will give you access to your contributions on the site.
Below your profile summary are buttons to change your password and to open the
messages window. (We’ll cover messaging in Chapter 5.)
Let’s take a moment and edit your profile to customize the page and help other people
get to know you.
To edit your profile:
1. Select the “Edit profile” tab in your personal profile page. The edit profile page will
look like Figure 2-6. The profile options with a red star next to them are required
fields; they must contain some data in order for you to submit the form.
On the right side of the profile form, you’ll see a Show Advanced button. There
are a number of profile options that are hidden by default. These are not changed
very often and can be a bit confusing for a new user. In the description of the options
below, we’ve marked the advanced options with an asterisk.
2. If you wish, you can change the first name and surname the system has stored for
you.
3. You can edit any of the following fields:
Email address
Make sure this is an address you check frequently and that it is correct. Moodle
has a lot of important email features, and you wouldn’t want to miss out because your email address has a typo or is not an address you check frequently.
Creating an Account | 11
Figure 2-6. Editing a profile
Email display
You can choose who can see your email address. Your choices are to hide your
email from everyone, allow only the people in your courses to see it, or display
it to everyone who logs in to the site. If you choose to hide your email from
other people, they will not be able to send you email directly from Moodle.
Email activated
This toggle will disable or enable Moodle’s ability to send email to the address
in your profile. If you never want to receive email from Moodle, disable your
email address here.
Email format*
Here you can select whether mail sent from Moodle is formatted using
HTML or is sent in plain text. Most modern email clients can receive and
properly display HTML mail, although this may be a setting you have to enable
in your email preferences. If you have a slow connection, or you simply prefer
your email plain and simple, the plain-text option is probably a good choice.
12 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Forum auto-subscribe*
Moodle forums are a powerful communication tool for classes. We will discuss
forums in detail in Chapter 5. For now, it’s enough just to mention that you
have the option of “subscribing” to forums, which means that new forum posts
will be sent to you via email. This is a great way of keeping current with your
course discussions without having to log in and look at the forums every day.
Of course, if your discussions really get cooking, you’ll end up with a lot of
email, but at least it won’t be spam.
Forum tracking*
If you choose to enable forum tracking, Moodle will highlight posts added
since the last time you read the forum. This is a useful way of quickly identifying new content in a forum.
When editing text*
This option lets you choose whether to use Moodle’s native HTML editor to
enter text or to use plain text. Moodle’s HTML editor is an easy way to enter
formatted text into your course site. We’ll cover the specifics of how it works
in Chapter 3.
Ajax and JavaScript*
Ajax is the set of programming tools that enables dynamic web interfaces.
Moodle developers are beginning to experiment with new interface techniques
to make Moodle easier to use. If options are not available here, your system
administrator has not yet enabled the experimental Ajax interface.
Screen reader*
Selecting this option lets Moodle know you are using a screen reader. In the
near future, this will change the layout of Moodle pages to make it easier for
the screen reader to interact with Moodle.
Time zone
The time zone setting can be very important, especially if you’re working with
an international audience or if you will be traveling. Be sure to set the time
zone to your local time, not the server’s local time.
Jason: I almost missed a meeting because I didn’t set my time zone. The Moodle
server we were using was in another country and I had left my profile setting
on the default server’s local time. The meeting was set for 11 p.m., which
seemed odd to me. Then I realized I had the wrong time zone. When I changed
the setting, I realized the meeting was scheduled for 8 a.m. my time!
Preferred language
Setting your language here makes it your default language for all pages.
Description
The description box gives you a place to tell your Moodle community a little
about yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable writing a description, just put a
space in here so you’re allowed to submit the form.
Creating an Account | 13
Figure 2-7. My Courses block
4. The remaining optional fields allow you to include personal details about yourself,
including your photo or a representative image and contact information. Your picture will appear by your postings in the forums, in your profile, and on the
Participants page.
5. When you’re done, click the “Update profile” button at the bottom of the page.
To upload a new picture:
1. Prepare the picture you want to use by converting it to a JPG or PNG if you haven’t
already. It should be smaller than the maximum upload size.
2. Click the Browse button and locate your prepared picture. Then click Choose in
the dialogue box.
3. Click the “Update profile” button at the bottom of the page. Moodle will crop your
picture into a square and shrink it to 100×100 pixels.
4. Enter a description of your picture for the benefit of anyone using a screen reader.
Moodle provides you with a number of ways to personalize your experience and share
information about yourself with other people. Your profile will be linked to your forum
posts and other contributions around the site. The picture from your profile will be
your icon, so pick something that represents who you are on the Moodle site or a shot
of your good side.
Now let’s take a look at a course, the main organizing feature of Moodle.
A First Look at a Course
On the left side of the front page, you’ll see the My Courses block, which includes a
list of all the courses you are teaching or taking as a student, as shown in Figure 2-7.
You can access your courses by clicking on the course name in the block.
Let’s start with the upper-left corner of the course page, as shown in Figure 2-8. There
you’ll see the name of your course as entered when the course was created. Your system
administrator either entered your course name by hand or she got it from your institution’s course database. (Read the “Course Settings” section later in this chapter if
you need to change the name.)
Below the course name is a navigation bar that fills with the hyperlinked names of pages
as you navigate from one page to another. Frequently, the best way to return to your
14 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-8. Course page
course page is to click on the course short name in the navigation bar. For example, in
Figure 2-8, you would click on Features to go back to the course page from another
page in the course.
Below the navigation bar are three columns. The far-left and far-right columns contain
tool blocks, while the center column contains your course content and activities. The
topmost tool block on the left is the People block. From here, you and your students
can view the individual profiles of other participants in the course and check who is a
member of student workgroups.
Beneath the People block is the Activities block. As you add forums, quizzes, assignments, and other activities to your course, the activity types will be listed here. By
clicking on the activity type, students can view all activities of that type that are currently
available to them. For example, if you gave a quiz every week, each content section
would list a quiz, and if you clicked the Quizzes link in the Activities block, it would
list all of the quizzes in the course.
Next in the left column is the Search Forums block, which we’ll cover in Chapter 5. At
the time of this writing, a site search is under development.
Below the Search Forums block is the Administration block. Assuming you’ve been
assigned the role of teacher, you’ll find links to set your course options, assign roles,
perform backups of the course, and manage student grades in the Administration block
(see Figure 2-9). In this chapter, we’ll cover the first two tools, “Turn editing on” and
“Settings,” and we’ll cover the rest in detail as they arise throughout the book.
The far-right column includes three blocks that report on activity in the course. The
Latest News block lists the latest items added to the News forum, such as important
news stories that pertain to the subject you’re teaching. The Upcoming Events block
A First Look at a Course | 15
Figure 2-9. Administration block
lists events you’ve created in the calendar, such as exams and holidays, together with
assignment and quiz deadlines. At the bottom of the block are links to view the calendar
and add new events. Also, there’s the Recent Activity block, which lists recent course
activity, such as forum postings and uploads.
The middle column is where the action is. This is where you add all of your content
and activities, such as forums, quizzes, and lessons for students to access. Before we
get to that, however, you need to make a choice about the format in which to present
your course.
Course Formats
This section covers the following MTC skills: 2.2 Course format
Unlike some CMSs that force you into one format, Moodle provides you with a number
of options for the general format of your course. You can choose to order your course
chronologically by week, conceptually by topic, or socially with a big forum as the
central organizing principle.
The course formats you can choose are:
LAMS format
The Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) is an open source Learning
Management System (LMS) that allows teachers to use a Flash-based authoring
environment for developing learning sequences. LAMS has been integrated with
Moodle to allow teachers to develop LAMS activities within a Moodle course. This
course format makes LAMS central to the course, only displaying the LAMS interface. If you are interested in using LAMS, check with your system administrator
to see if he has installed and configured LAMS. Very few institutions use LAMS,
as it duplicates much of the Moodle functionality.
16 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-10. Course page in social format
SCORM format
The Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a content packaging
standard. SCORM packages are self-contained bundles of content and JavaScript
activities that can send data to Moodle about the students’ scores and current
locations. Moodle can use SCORM packages as an activity type or as a course
format. If you have a large SCORM object you want to use as an entire course, you
can select this course format.
Social format
The social format is based on a single forum for the whole course, as shown in
Figure 2-10. It’s useful for less formal courses or for noncourse uses such as maintaining departmental sites.
Topics format
When you create a course using the topics format, you start by choosing the number of topics you will cover. Moodle creates a section for each topic, as shown
previously in Figure 2-8. You can add content, forums, quizzes, and other activities
to each topic section. If your course design is concept-oriented, and students will
be working through a range of concepts but not necessarily according to a fixed
schedule, this is a good choice.
Weekly format and CSS/no tables
With this format, you specify a course start date and the number of weeks the
course is to run. Moodle will create a section for each week of your course, as shown
in Figure 2-11. The current week is highlighted. You can add content, forums,
quizzes, and so on in the section for each week. If you want all your students to
work on the same materials at the same time, this is a good format to choose.
The CSS/no tables variant of the weekly format displays the weekly course format
without using tables for layout. This improves the accessibility of the format, but
older browsers may have trouble displaying it correctly.
To set the course format:
1. Click Settings in the Administration block.
A First Look at a Course | 17
Figure 2-11. Course page in weekly format
2. Select the course format from the drop-down list just below the course summary
(see Figure 2-12).
3. Enter the parameters for your course:
• For the weekly format, set the start date and the number of weeks.
• For the topic format, set the number of topics.
• For the social format, set the course start date. You don’t need to worry about
the number of weeks or topics.
Moodle allows you to switch between formats if you find that a given format isn’t
working for you. Simply follow the preceding instructions and select a different format.
You can also add or remove topics or weeks at any time. So you don’t have to worry
too much about locking yourself into a format before you really understand the system.
Course Settings
This section covers the following MTC skills: 2.1 Course settings
The settings page, as shown in Figure 2-12, where you set the course format, also gives
you access to a number of important course options. You’ll find it is important to take
a moment to review the settings for your course to ensure that it behaves the way you
want it to.
To change your course settings:
1. Click Settings in the Administration block on your course page.
2. Review each of the general options to ensure they are correct for your course:
Category
Your system administrator may have created course categories, such as department or college labels, to help students and teachers find their courses.
18 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-12. Editing the course settings
Depending on how your system is set up, you may be able to categorize your
course by department, subject, or other organizational principle.
You will only have the option to change the category if you
have been assigned the appropriate capability. (We’ll cover
roles and capabilities in Chapter 4.)
Full name
This is the name that is displayed on the top header of every page in your course
and also in the course listings page. The name should be descriptive enough
so students can easily identify the course in which they are working, but it
A First Look at a Course | 19
shouldn’t be too long. For example, use “English 400—Beowulf” and not
“ENG400—Beowulf and the heroic poems of the ancient world.”
Short name
Enter the institutional shorthand for your course. Many students recognize
“Eng101,” but not “Introduction to Composition.” The short name also
appears in the navigation bar at the top of the page.
Course ID number
The course ID number is used to provide a link between Moodle and your
institution’s backend data systems. Most Student Information Systems (SIS)
have a unique identifier for each course. Moodle has its own unique identifier,
which is different from the SIS ID. This field is used by Moodle to store the
SIS unique ID so Moodle will know which course the SIS is talking about when
synchronizing courses and enrollments.
Summary
The summary appears in the course listings page. A good one-paragraph summary will help communicate the essence of your course to your students.
Format
This is where you can set the course format as discussed previously.
Number of weeks/topics
Use this to set the number of sections your course will have. If you need to
change this later, you can. Increasing the number results in sections being
added to the bottom of your course page; reducing the number results in sections being removed from the bottom of your course page, and any content in
them hidden.
Course start date
The start date is the day the course is first active. If you are using a weekly
course format, the first week will start on the date you set here. The start date
is also used in course reports as the earliest possible date for which you can
obtain logs, activity, and participation reports. In general, if your course does
have a real starting date, then it makes sense to set this date to that, no matter
what course format you are using.
Hidden sections
When you hide an upcoming topic section to prevent your students from
jumping ahead, you can choose to display the title as a collapsed section or
simply hide the topic altogether. Displaying the collapsed sections gives your
students a road map of the upcoming topics or weeks, so it’s probably a good
idea to leave this on the default setting.
News items to show
Use this setting to determine the number of course news items displayed on
the course page.
20 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Show grades
This setting allows you to select whether students can see the gradebook. If
set to No, it doesn’t stop instructors from recording grades, but simply
prevents the students from seeing them.
Show activity reports
This setting allows students to view their activity history in your course. This
is useful if you want students to reflect on their level of participation.
Maximum upload size
This setting limits the size of files you or your students upload to the course.
Your system administrator sets the maximum size for the system, but you can
choose to make the limit smaller than the system maximum. You can also
further limit the size of files that your students upload as assignment submissions and for other activities. (We’ll cover them as they come up later in the
book.)
Is this a meta course?
A meta course automatically enrolls participants from other “child” courses.
Meta courses take their enrollments from other courses. This feature can populate many courses from one enrollment or one course from many enrollments.
For example, a course is part of a program (meta course). Each time a student
enrolls in (or unenrolls from) this course, they are enrolled/unenrolled from
any meta course(s) associated with it.
You cannot designate a course as a meta course if you have
already enrolled students. If you want to change a course into
a meta course, you will need to unenroll all the students first,
then set the course as a meta course and choose the child
courses from which the meta course will draw its enrollments.
Default role
The default role is assigned to everyone who enrolls in your course, unless they
are specifically granted another role. We’ll cover roles in Chapter 4.
3. Select the enrollments options:
Enrollment plug-ins
Moodle has a number of methods of managing course enrollments, called
enrollment plug-ins, which we’ll cover in Chapter 16. This setting allows you
to choose an interactive enrollment plug-in, such as internal enrollment or
PayPal. Your system may well use a noninteractive enrollment plug-in, in
which case this setting has no effect. We recommend you leave this setting as
default and leave the choice of enrollment plug-ins to your system administrator.
A First Look at a Course | 21
Course enrollable
This setting determines whether a user can self-enroll in your course. You can
also limit enrollments to a certain date range.
Enrollment duration
This setting specifies the number of days a student is enrolled in the course,
starting from the day she enrolls. If set, students are automatically unenrolled
after the specified time has elapsed. This setting is useful for rolling courses
without a specific start or end date.
Be very careful when using the enrollment duration setting.
Jason: When I first started using Moodle, I thought the enrollment duration was how long a student had to enroll in a
course, not how long she would stay enrolled. After 14 days,
hundreds of students were suddenly unenrolled from their
courses, causing headaches for weeks.
4. Select the enrollment expiry notification options to determine whether users are
notified that their enrollment is about to expire and how much notice they should
be given.
5. Select the groups options:
Group mode
Moodle can create student workgroups. We will cover groups extensively in
Chapter 4. For now, you need to decide whether your students will be organized into groups and, if so, whether the groups will work independently or will
be able to view each other’s work.
Force groups
You can set the group mode separately for many activities or force group mode
to be set at the course level. If everything in the course is done as part of a
group, or you are running cohorts of students through a course at different
times, you’ll probably want to force group mode to make management easier.
Forcing the course group mode overrides the individual activity group settings.
If you have forced group mode, every activity in the course will have that group
mode set.
6. Select the availability options:
Availability
Use this setting to control student access to your course. You can make a course
available or unavailable to students without affecting your own access. This is
a good way to hide courses that aren’t ready for public consumption or hide
them at the end of the semester while you calculate your final grades.
Enrollment key
A course enrollment key is a code each student must enter in order to selfenroll in a course. The key prevents students who aren’t in your class from
accessing your Moodle course. Create the key here and give it to your students
22 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-13. Course page with editing turned on
when you want them to enroll in your Moodle course. They will need to use
the key only once when they enroll.
Guest access
You can choose to allow guests to access your course, either with an enrollment
key or without it. Guests can only view your course and course materials; they
can’t post to the forums, take quizzes, or submit assignments.
Cost
If you are using an interactive enrollment method such as PayPal, you can enter
a course cost. Students will then be required to make a payment before enrolling in the course.
7. Choose whether to force the language. If you do so, your students cannot change
languages within the course.
8. Once you’ve made all your selections, click the “Save changes” button.
Editing Mode
This section covers the following MTC skills: 3.1 Managing blocks
Now that you’ve decided on a format and settings for your course, we’ll look at how
to add content. To start the process, you’ll first need to turn editing on (see Figure 2-13), which will allow you to add resources and activities to your course. At the
top right of the page of any course you are teaching, you’ll see a button labeled, surprisingly enough, “Turn editing on.” Clicking on this button will present you with a
new array of options.
Starting at the top of the screen, let’s look at what turning editing on enables you to
do. At the top of each section, you’ll see an icon of a hand holding a pencil. When you
click it, you are presented with a Summary text area. You can use this to label and
summarize each topic or weekly section in your course. You should keep the summary
to a sentence or two for each block to avoid making the main page too long. Click “Save
A First Look at a Course | 23
Figure 2-14. “Add a resource” menu
changes” when you’ve added your summary. You can go back and change it later by
clicking the hand-and-pencil icon again.
Underneath each block title and adjacent to the News Forum link you’ll see the icons
described in Table 2-1.
Table 2-1. Icons
Icon
Function
Show or hide item. If you want to keep an item in your course, but don’t want your students to
see it, you can use this to hide it from them.
Delete item. Removes the item or block from your course. Resources and activities will be
permanently removed; blocks can be added again using the Blocks menu.
Move item. Clicking this will allow you to move an item to another section in the middle column.
Move right or left. You can move blocks to the left- or righthand columns. You can also use this
to indent items in the middle column.
Move up or down. Moves items up or down in their respective columns.
Use these icons throughout Moodle to customize the interface for your needs.
In addition to the icons for manipulating blocks and activities, each section in the
middle column has two drop-down menus. On the left, the menu labeled “Add a
resource” gives you tools for adding content such as web pages and links to web sites.
On the right, the “Add an activity” menu gives you tools to add activities such as forums,
quizzes, lessons, and assignments.
The “Add a resource” menu, as shown in Figure 2-14, gives you access to tools for
adding content. There are a number of ways you can create content directly within
Moodle or link to content you’ve uploaded. We’ll describe each of these tools briefly
now, and cover them in depth in the next chapter:
Insert a label
You can use labels to organize the sections in your course page. The only thing
they do is provide a label within the topic or weekly section.
Compose a text page
From here, you can create a simple page of text. It doesn’t have many formatting
options, but it is the simplest tool.
24 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-15. “Add an activity” menu
Compose a web page
If you want more formatting options, you can compose a web page. If you elected
to use the HTML editor in your personal profile, you can simply create a page as
you would using a word processor. Otherwise, you’ll need to know some HTML
for most formatting.
Link to a file or web site
If you want to upload your course documents in another format, you can save them
in Moodle and provide easy access for your students. You can also easily create
links to other web sites outside your Moodle course.
Display a directory
If you upload a lot of content, you may want to organize it in directories. Then you
can display the contents of the entire folder instead of creating individual links to
each item.
Add an IMS Content Package
IMS Content Packages are resources packaged to an agreed specification, often
with internal navigation.
The “Add an activity” menu, as shown in Figure 2-15, allows you to add interactive
tools to your course. The bulk of this book is dedicated to describing how each of these
tools works and how to apply them in your course.
Table 2-2 explains each tool very briefly. We’ll learn more about these tools as they
come up later in the book.
Table 2-2. Activity types
Activity type
Description
Assignments
A tool for collecting student work, either uploaded files or assignments created on- and offline
Chat
A chat room where people can meet at the same time and send text messages
Choice
A simple poll
A First Look at a Course | 25
Activity type
Description
Database
A tool for creating shared collections of data
Forum
Threaded discussion boards—a powerful communication tool
Glossary
Dictionaries of terms that you can create for each week, topic, or course
Lesson
A set of ordered materials that uses questions to determine what content the student sees next
Quiz
A web-based quiz with a variety of question types, such as multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and matching
SCORM/AICC
A tool for enabling SCORM or AICC (Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee) packages to be
included in the course
Survey
Gathers feedback from students using prepackaged questionnaires
Wiki
A collaboratively edited web page
Adding Content to a Course
By now, you’re probably wondering, “When the heck do I get to add stuff to my
course?” We’ve provided a lot of background so you’ll understand some of the available
options. But now’s the time to start building your course.
Let’s start with a news item to announce to everyone that your online materials are
coming soon. The News Forum is a special type of forum (for a full description of
forums, see Chapter 5). It is automatically created when the course is first generated.
Everyone in the course can read the postings and the news is automatically emailed to
them. It’s a good tool for making general announcements and sending reminders to
students about upcoming assignments.
To add a news item:
1. Click the News Forum link near the top of your course page.
2. Click the “Add a new topic” button. You’ll see the page to add a new topic, as
shown in Figure 2-16.
3. Type your new message to your class.
4. Click the “Save changes” button. You will be returned to the News Forum page.
5. Click on your course name in the navigation bar at the top to return to your course
page.
26 | Chapter 2: Moodle Basics
Figure 2-16. Add a new discussion topic
Summary
In this chapter, we’ve looked at how to create an account and personalize your profile.
We’ve become acquainted with Moodle’s user interface and tools, and we’ve chosen a
course format. In the next chapter, we’ll start adding different types of content to your
new Moodle course.
Summary | 27
CHAPTER 3
Creating and Managing Content
Adding Content to Moodle
This section covers the following MTC skills: 4.1 Resources
The first thing most people want to do when they create a course in Moodle is add
some content, such as a syllabus or a course outline. As we explained in Chapter 2, you
can add content to your course using the “Add a resource” drop-down menu in the
center sections of your course (see Figure 2-14). In this chapter, we’ll use all of the tools
in the resource menu. Future chapters will cover the tools in the “Add an activity” menu.
Remember that you need to turn editing on to see the “Add a resource”
and “Add an activity” menus.
The first tool, “Insert a label,” creates a label directly on your course page. The next
two tools, “Compose a text page” and “Compose a web page,” can be used to develop
content directly in Moodle. The following two, “Link to a file or web site” and “Display
a directory,” are used to manage content developed in other programs, such as Word
or PowerPoint. You can also add content from other web sites and take advantage of
the rich library of information available on the Web. Finally, “Add an IMS Content
Package” enables you to add prepackaged content from sites around the Web.
Let’s begin by creating a simple label for your course.
Adding a Label
This section covers the following MTC skills: 4.6.1 Labels
Labels enable you to add additional text or graphics to your course page. Labels can
be used to add banners to courses, label sections of resources and activities, or provide
quick instructions on the front page of your course. To add a label:
29
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select “Insert a label” from the “Add a resource” menu.
3. Create your label using the HTML editor (see the following section “Composing
a Web Page” for more details on this).
4. Select whether to make your label visible by selecting Show or Hide from the Visible
menu.
5. After you have created your label, click the “Save changes” button.
Once you have created a label, the full text of the label will appear in the section where
you created it.
You can use a hidden label to provide information only for other
teachers on your course, since students are unable to see hidden items.
If you want to use a label to identify a grouping of resources and activities
within a section, you can indent the links under the label using the
arrows adjacent to each resource or activity link. This will give your
grouping some visual separation from the rest of the content.
Composing a Text Page
This section covers the following MTC skills: 4.2 Compose a text page
A text page is a simple plain-text page with little formatting. You can add paragraphs
and whitespace, but that’s about it.
Text pages are very easy to create:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. From the “Add a resource” menu select “Compose a text page.” Moodle will then
display the page to compose a text page like the one in Figure 3-1.
3. Enter a name for the text page.
The name you give the page will be displayed in the content section on
your course page. Students will access your page by clicking on the
name. Be sure to give the page a descriptive name so students will know
what they are accessing.
4. Write a summary of the page in the Summary field.
5. Add your text in the Full Text field.
6. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button.
30 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-1. Compose a text page
That’s all there is to it.
Window options
You can choose whether text pages and web pages that you create are displayed in the
same window or in a new window.
To display a resource in the same window:
1. Click the Show Advanced button in the Window area.
2. Select “Same window” from the Window drop-down menu.
3. Select the option:
Show the course blocks
This will display the blocks from your course page on either side of the resource
you have created.
To display a resource in a new window:
1. Click the Show Advanced button in the Window area.
2. Select “New window” from the Window drop-down menu.
3. Select the options for the window:
Allow the window to be resized
Checking this will allow the user to change the size of the window after it has
opened. Unless you have a specific reason for not allowing the user to resize,
you should leave this checked.
Adding Content to Moodle | 31
Allow the window to be scrolled
You can prevent the user from scrolling the new window. Again, unless you
have a specific reason to prevent the user from scrolling, leave this checked.
Show the directory links
This will display the user’s bookmark or favorites bar in his browser.
Show the location bar
You can hide the address bar, and thus the site’s URL, in the pop up by
unchecking this box.
Show the menu bar
The menu bar is the browser menu that allows the user to set bookmarks,
print, view the page source, and perform other browser functions.
Show the toolbar
The browser toolbar has the back and forward buttons, as well as the reload
and stop buttons.
Show the status bar
The status bar is the lower area of the browser that shows how much of the
page has loaded and the target of a link.
Default window width and height
You can set the size of the new window to match the size of the linked page.
Common module settings
Any resource may be hidden by selecting Hide from the Visible drop-down menu. This
has the same effect as clicking on the Hide icon (an eye) adjacent to the resource link
on the course page. Other teachers on your course can always view hidden items,
whereas students cannot.
You can hide particular resources, then allow students to see them after
your lesson. Teacher resources can be kept hidden permanently.
Composing a Web Page
This section covers the following MTC skills: 2.3 Editor; 4.3 Compose a web page
Adding a plain-text page to Moodle isn’t the only way to add content. With Moodle,
you can easily use the HTML editor to create sophisticated pages that can be displayed
in any web browser. The HTML editor works like a word-processing application right
in your browser, as you can see in Figure 3-2. Simply type directly into the text area
and use the formatting tools to customize it.
To compose a web page:
32 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-2. HTML editor
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Click the “Turn editing on” button.
From the “Add a resource” menu select “Compose a web page.”
Enter a name for the web page and write a summary.
Create your web page using the HTML editor.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button.
Using the HTML editor
The HTML editor doesn’t work in all browsers.
The HTML editor provides the tools displayed in Table 3-1.
Table 3-1. HTML editor icons
Icon
Function
Font
Font size
Style
Bold, italic, underline, strikethrough
Subscript or superscript
Clean Word HTML
Undo or redo your last action
Left, center, right, or full justify
Direction from left to right or from right to left
Numbered or bullet list, decrease or increase indent
Change font or background color
Horizontal rule, create anchor
Insert web link, remove link, prevent automatic linking
Insert image, table, or smiley
Adding Content to Moodle | 33
Icon
Function
Insert special character, search and replace
Toggle text and WYSIWYG mode, enlarge editor
The Clean Word HTML tool is useful when copying and pasting content
from a Word document, as it removes unnecessary HTML tags.
Linking to a File or Web Site
This section covers the following MTC skills: 4.4 Link to a file or web site
You don’t have to create all of your content directly in Moodle. You can also upload
and store any digital content that you have created in other applications. Documents
you create in a word processor or presentation package can be shared with students in
your course. You can also easily add links to other web sites to give your students access
to important web resources.
Uploading files
Although it’s easy to generate content directly in Moodle, you can also upload any type
of electronic file you like. All you need to do is make sure your students can access it
with the appropriate software on their computers.
Once you’ve added a file to your files area, you can add it as a resource for your students
in two ways—by creating a link to a file, or by creating a link to a directory within the
files area.
To add a link to a file:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. From the “Add a resource” menu select “Link to a file or web site.”
3. On the Edit page (see Figure 3-3), enter a name for the resource and write a summary.
4. Click the “Choose or upload a file” button. A new window will pop up with the
files area directory structure.
5. Find the file you want to add in the files area. Alternatively, you can upload a new
file here.
6. On the right of each file listed, you will see a Choose link in bold (see Figure 3-4).
Click the link opposite the file you want to add. The files window will close and
the location of the file will be entered automatically into the page.
7. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button. The
name of the resource will now be a link in the course section.
34 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-3. Link to a file or web site
Figure 3-4. Choose a file
Creating links to other web sites
To add a link to another web site:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click the “Turn editing on” button.
From the “Add a resource” menu select “Link to a file or web site.”
Enter a name for the link and write a summary (see Figure 3-3).
In the location field, enter the address of the page you want to link to. If you need
to look for the address, click the “Search for web page” button, and Moodle will
open a new window containing Google.
5. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button.
Adding Content to Moodle | 35
Window options
As for text pages and web pages that you create, you can choose whether files and web
sites that you link to are displayed in the same window or in a new window.
To display a resource in the same window:
1. Click the Show Advanced button in the Window area.
2. Select “Same window” from the Window drop-down menu.
3. Select the option:
Keep page navigation visible on the same page
This will display the file in a frame, so that the Moodle navigation remains on
the page in an upper frame. Otherwise, your students may not be able to return
to the course page easily.
This option is not normally necessary for media content such
as movies, audio files and Flash files, as they will automatically
be embedded within a navigable page.
The options for displaying a resource in a new window are the same as for text pages
and web pages.
Parameters
When you create a link to another web site, you can also easily send data about the
student and the course to the receiving site. For example, if you want to create a link
to another site in your university that uses the same usernames as your Moodle site,
you can send students’ usernames to the other server. This makes it easier to utilize
other dynamic web sites that share data with your Moodle site.
To send data to another server using parameters:
1. Click the “Show Advanced” button in the parameters area.
2. Select the data you want to send from the drop-down list shown in Figure 3-5.
3. The variable name is the name of the variable that the receiving server is expecting.
For example, if you’re sending the student’s username and the server wants a variable called userID, select username in the parameter list and put userID in the
“Variable name” field.
Displaying a Directory
This section covers the following MTC skills: 4.5 Displaying directories
The other option for displaying files is to create a link to a directory within the files
area. To display a directory:
36 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-5. Parameter list
1. In editing mode, select “Display a directory” from the “Add a resource” menu in
the course section where you want to add the directory.
2. On the Edit page (see Figure 3-6), enter a name for the resource and write a summary.
3. Select the folder you want the students to be able to browse from the “Display a
directory” drop-down. If you leave the default—Main files directory—selected,
students will be able to browse the entire course files area.
4. Click the “Save changes” button.
5. When a student clicks on the resulting directory link, she will see a list of all the
files in that folder. If the folder contains subfolders, she will also be able to browse
these.
Adding an IMS Content Package
IMS Content Packages are resources packaged to an agreed specification, making it
possible for a package to be reused in different systems without needing to convert it
to a different format. Content-authoring software often provides the option of packaging as an IMS Content Package. You may have IMS Content Packages from a different
CMS system or have purchased some IMS Content Packages as course content.
To add an IMS Content Package:
1. In editing mode, select “Add an IMS Content Package” from the “Add a resource”
menu in the course section where you want to add the package.
2. On the Edit page (see Figure 3-7), enter a name for the resource and write a summary.
3. Click the “Choose or upload a file” button. A new window will pop up with the
files area directory structure.
Adding Content to Moodle | 37
Figure 3-6. Display a directory
4. Upload the zipped IMS Content Package and click the Choose link opposite to it.
5. Select appropriate display parameters, depending upon the package navigation
structure. If you’re not sure, leave the parameters as default.
6. Click the “Save changes” button.
7. Click the Deploy button. (This unzips the package and loads it for viewing.)
8. The name of the IMS Content Package will now be a link in the course section.
Adding Media Content
This section covers the following MTC skills: 6.4.1 Embedding .swf files; 6.7.1 Linking to
external resources on CD
Adding media content can help you communicate some ideas and processes more easily
than text alone. Imagine trying to teach a language if the students aren’t able to hear it
spoken. Or how much easier it would be to learn how volcanoes work if you could see
a video or an animation. Fortunately, Moodle makes it easy to add rich media content
to your course. The Moodle media filters automatically recognize your media type and
put the right sort of link into your web page so students can access it easily.
38 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-7. Add an IMS Content Package
If these instructions don’t work, contact your system administrator and
ask if the multimedia plug-ins are enabled in the filters settings.
Media content may be added using the same steps as for the earlier section
“Uploading files”:
1. In editing mode, select “Link to a file or web site” from the “Add a resource”
menu in the course section where you want to add the link to the media file.
2. Enter a name for the resource and write a summary.
3. Click the “Choose or upload a file” button. A new window will pop up with the
files area directory structure.
4. Either upload the media file or, if you uploaded it previously, find the file you want
to add in the files area.
5. Click the Choose link opposite the media file. The files window will close and the
location of the file will be entered automatically into the page.
6. The name of the resource will now be an active link in the content block.
Adding Content to Moodle | 39
MP3 files are automatically embedded in a streaming player made with Flash.
If your media content files are very large, an alternative to uploading them to Moodle
is linking to them on CD or on a particular network drive.
If these instructions don’t work, contact your system administrator and
ask if local files are allowed in the Resource module. Using this feature
may require changes to your browser’s security settings.
Linking to resources on CD is very similar to linking to a file:
1. In editing mode, select “Link to a file or web site” from the “Add a resource” menu
in the content section where you want to add the link.
2. On the Edit page, click the “Choose a local file” button.
3. Browse for the local file, then click the “Choose this file path” button.
4. The location of the local file will be entered.
5. The name of the resource will now be a link in the course section.
Adding Multilanguage Content
If you want the content of your course to be displayed in more than one language, you
can create content in multiple languages and the multilanguage content filter will ensure
the language displayed is the one selected by the user.
Your system administrator needs to enable the multilanguage content
filter for these instructions to work.
To add multilanguage content:
1. Create your content in multiple languages.
2. Click [<>] in the HTML editor to change to code-editing mode.
3. Enclose each language block in the following tags, where xx and yy are two-letter
language codes (as shown in the languages drop-down menu on the front page of
your Moodle site):
<span lang="xx" class="multilang">your content in lang xx here</span>
<span lang="yy" class="multilang">your content in lang yy here</span>
Managing and Updating Your Content
Uploading content is only half the battle of content management in Moodle. You’ll
need to ensure that your uploaded content is current, and you’ll occasionally want to
40 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
Figure 3-8. Course Administration block
replace or delete files. Fortunately, Moodle has some useful features to help you manage
your content once it’s on the server.
File Area Tools
This section covers the following MTC skills: 8.4 Files
Once you’ve uploaded your files, they are stored in the files area. When you create a
link to a file, you store the file in the files area and create a link for your students to
access it.
To access the files area, click the Files link in the course Administration block, as shown
in Figure 3-8.
The files area, as shown in Figure 3-9, has a checkbox beside each uploaded file and
folder. You can select one or more files and then move or archive them using the tools
in the “With chosen files” drop-down menu on the lower-left side of the file list. If you
click on the menu, you’ll see three things you can do with your chosen files:
Move to another folder
To move uploaded content to another folder in the files area:
1. Select the file(s) you want to move.
2. Select “Move to another folder.”
3. Navigate to the folder where you want to move the selected files.
4. You’ll see a new button at the bottom of the screen that says “Move files to
here.” Click the button, and the files will move to the new location.
Delete completely
This option removes all trace of the file from your Moodle site.
Managing and Updating Your Content | 41
Figure 3-9. Files area
Create ZIP archive
A ZIP archive is a compressed file that holds the files you’ve selected. It’s an easy
way to create an archive of older files or an easy-to-download collection of documents, such as all of the images for a lecture. Once the archive has been created
and moved to the target computer, you’ll need to unzip it to access the content
inside. If you want students to download the archive, they will need an unzipping
utility such as WinZip, MacZip, or StuffIt Expander to unpack the archive. Modern
versions of Windows and Macintosh have built-in ZIP utilities. Moodle has a builtin ZIP utility as well that will allow you to unzip the archive directly into your files
area. As Figure 3-9 shows, there are a few new options that come with a ZIP archive.
These include:
Unzip
Unpacks your archive into your files area.
List
Clicking this displays a list of files stored in the archive. You cannot access files
through this list.
Restore
If you’ve backed up your Moodle class and uploaded the ZIP archive of the
backup, you can restore your content using this link. We’ll cover this in more
detail in Chapter 4.
Tracking Versions
One of the biggest challenges you will face in keeping your content organized is dealing
with versioning. As the semester progresses, you may have multiple versions of your
syllabus that reflect changes to the calendar. Or you may have multiple versions of a
presentation that has evolved over the years. There are a couple of strategies you can
use to track versions and ensure that your students are accessing the correct version.
The easiest way is to develop a naming scheme for your files. While many people will
attach a version number, we recommend using a date stamp. A date stamp lets people
know just how recent the version is, and you don’t have to track the current version
42 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
number. To add a date stamp, simply add the date on which you saved the version to
the end of the filename. For example, the first version of a syllabus for your fall course
may be called Syllabus_8_30.rtf. Later in the semester, you may post a revised version
named Syllabus_9_21.rtf. Date versioning helps you keep track of the version on the
server and the latest version on your computer.
There are also a number of tools in Moodle to help you deal with versioning. We
recommend creating a folder in your course to archive older versions of documents. To
create an archive folder:
1. Click on the Files link.
2. Click the “Make a folder” button.
3. Name the folder “Course archives” and click the “Save changes” button.
Later, you can use the file tools to move old versions of a file into the archives area,
which enables you to keep a record of older versions while keeping only the latest
version in the active area.
Effective Content Practices
There are a few effective practices that can make life easier for you and your students.
First, there are file format tricks to ensure your students can download and use your
content. Second, make sure the bit size of your files is as small as it can be, so your
students won’t grow old waiting to download tomorrow’s lecture notes. Third, there
are creative ways to use static content in your courses to help you and your students
succeed.
File Formats
This section covers the following MTC skills: 6.2 Audio and video; 6.3 Documents and
resources; 6.6 Other multimedia formats
Every file you create and save on your computer has a specific file format. For example,
Word files are saved in Word format, and can be opened only in a compatible version
of Word. However, this can cause problems if your students don’t have the same version
of Word you do. A solution is to continue to create your documents in Word but save
them as Rich Text Format, or RTF, a format that a wide variety of word-processing
programs can open. In most versions of Word, you can save a file as RTF by following
these steps:
1. Select “Save As” from the file menu.
2. Choose RTF from the file type drop-down.
3. Save the RTF copy of your document.
Effective Content Practices | 43
There are a number of file formats for displaying text and images that almost everyone
can open, regardless of their computing platform, and you should strive to use these
whenever possible. These formats include RTF, Hypertext Markup Language
(HTML), Portable Display Format (PDF), and picture formats, including PICT, TIFF,
JPEG, GIF, and PNG.
Table 3-2 describes some common file formats.
Table 3-2. File types
File type
Description
Software needed to use the file
RTF
A word-processor format that is readable by a wide range of applications. You can save Word and PowerPoint documents as RTF.
Most modernword processors will read
RTF, including OpenOffice.org Writer.
HTML
The language of the Web. Every web page displayed in a browser is
created in HTML. Moodle has a built-in HTML editor you can use to
create documents directly in Moodle.
Any web browser. Some word processors will also read HTML documents.
PDF
PDF is a file format created by Adobe Systems for document exchange.
Acrobat Reader is a free download from
Adobe.
PDF files may be created with Acrobat (not the reader but the professional package) or the OpenOffice.org suite.
PowerPoint
(ppt)
As the most widely used presentation-creation software, PowerPoint
files are natural candidates for upload. The presentations are easy to
share, but be careful about file size and access.
PowerPoint, PowerPoint viewer, or
OpenOffice.org Impress.
Pictures
(PICT, TIFF,
JPEG, GIF,
PNG)
There are a lot of graphic file formats. Generally, only GIF, JPEG, and
PNG are viewable directly in a browser.
GIF, JPEG, and PNG require a browser.
Other formats require appropriate external viewers.
Audio files
(WAV, MP3,
RAM, MOV)
Audio files can be large, depending on your bit rate and compression
format. Be sure the file size is smaller than the maximum file upload
size for Moodle. Check with your system administrator.
Your students will need media player
software. Many students will be able
to play audio in MP3 format.
Video files
(MOV,
WMV, RV)
Your Moodle server may not accept a large video file. Before you
attempt to upload a large video file, ask your system administrator
about file size limits.
To view a video, your students will need
a media player that can play the appropriate format. Know whether your
movies can play in Quicktime, Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer.
Your students will need to download the entire video, which may be
a problem with a slow dial-up connection.
Reducing File Sizes
As important as creating files your students can open is making sure those files are a
manageable size. Graphics are usually the biggest offenders, and they crop up in some
unlikely places. There are three strategies that will give you the best results for the effort.
Strategy 1: Save your PowerPoint presentations as PDF
Big PowerPoint files are often the worst file-size offenders. It’s too easy to add cool
transitions, clip art, and images that expand a simple hour-long presentation into a
44 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
multimegabyte behemoth that takes an hour to download. Not a good use of time for
something that students will simply print out and bring to class.
We recommend exporting your presentation as PDF using OpenOffice.org. Students
will get the benefits of the outline of the lecture, including graphics, and be able to print
copies of the presentation slides, and the file will be quick and easy to download.
Strategy 2: Scan articles as text, not images
There are many good articles that just aren’t available in electronic format. If you want
to avoid printing an entire reader, scanning articles is an easy way to give your students
access to important resources. Many libraries now have electronic reserve services that
will scan them for you.
Scanning articles can result in very large files because most scanner software, by default,
scans everything as a graphic. So when you scan a page, you’re really creating a picture
of the page that is much larger than a text version. The computer has to store information about every dot on the page, not just information about the characters and their
placement.
The solution is to use a software tool called Optical Character Recognition, or OCR.
This great tool recognizes the shape of the letters and gives you a text version of the
article. You can then manipulate the text version in the same way you’d edit any other
text document. It has the added advantage of being accessible to screen readers for
students with visual disabilities.
OCR software is probably available somewhere on your campus. OmniPage Pro is
currently the most popular OCR package. It’s come a long way in the last few years
and is now very powerful. If you have a relatively clean photocopy of the articles you
want to share, scanning them will be a very fast process.
Strategy 3: Reduce your image size and use compression
Finally, if you have digital images, it’s very important to optimize their size and resolution for sharing over the Web. Modern digital cameras and scanners can produce
amazing, crystal-clear images, but at a price of very large file sizes. A full-resolution
photograph in a modern camera can be 4 megabytes, which will take more than 5
minutes to download on a 56k modem.
Most cameras and scanners come with free utilities that enable you to manipulate images. Other programs such as Photoshop are fully featured, professional packages with
lots of tools. To reduce your file size, you only need some very simple tools, provided
by most image-manipulation software.
The key to getting manageable images is to first reduce the size of the image. If your
image will be primarily viewed on the screen, you can make it 72 dpi and it will still be
viewable. If you plan to have your students print the image, then it will need to be higher
Effective Content Practices | 45
resolution. Experiment with some different sizes and resolutions to get a result you’re
happy with.
When your image is the right size, save it at the minimum quality as a web-compatible
format such as JPG or GIF. These formats make your file size even smaller by eliminating unnecessary and redundant data.
By reducing the size of your files, you’ll make life easier for yourself and your students.
But the smallest, most portable files in the world don’t mean much if your students
can’t use them successfully in your class. Next, we’ll discuss some interesting ways you
can use content to make your Moodle class a valuable resource for your students.
Creative Content
Moodle allows you to upload just about any file that resides on your computer. However, the key to a successful content strategy is knowing what content helps your
students be successful and what is unnecessary or confusing. Below are two best practices for adding content to your course. These practices work well in a range of course
designs, but there are others that might work just as well for your particular course.
Uploading lecture notes
One of the easiest ways to use Moodle to increase student learning is to upload your
lecture notes before the lecture. Providing access to your lecture outlines before a class
meeting gives your students a tool to help prepare for class and structure their class
notes. If students know which topics you consider important enough to include in your
lecture, they are more likely to pay attention to those areas in any assigned readings.
During class, they can use the lecture notes as a basic outline and concentrate on elaborating the main ideas with examples. Lecture notes are also a useful tool for students
whose first language is different from that of the speaker. If they get lost during a lecture,
they can refer to the notes to get back on track.
If you use PowerPoint in your lectures, a simple way to create and upload lecture notes
is to save your slides as an RTF file. The RTF file eliminates graphics and other extras
and provides the students with a plain-text outline. It will be easy to download and
print for class.
External web sites
Effectively using the Web means you don’t have to create or photocopy everything you
want to use in your class. There is a lot of quality content available on the Web, if you
know where to look and how to evaluate it. A full discussion about vetting online
resources is beyond the scope of this book, but your institution’s librarian can recommend some sources to get you started.
Most newspapers and news magazines have online versions you can bring into your
class for discussions of current events. Universities, schools, and nonprofit
46 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
organizations publish huge amounts of content available for you to use free of charge.
In addition, there is a growing open content movement, which publishes content available for anyone to use.
Most open content is published under a Creative Commons license, which allows users
to choose the type of public license they want to use (http://creativecommons.org). Authors can use the CC licenses to license their work for use through any combination of
attribution (their name stays attached), with a share-alike license (you can share any
derivative works as long as you use the same license), or noncommercial use (you can’t
use the materials for commercial purposes). The Creative Commons site also has a
search engine for content that has been licensed using a CC license.
This book has been licensed for use under the Creative Commons
attribution and share-alike license. You are free to make and distribute
copies or works based on this book as long as you attribute the content
to us, and allow other people to do the same with your works.
In addition to the general content released by people under the Creative Commons
licenses, some universities have begun publishing course materials for use by the general
public. These collections are known as OpenCourseWare (OCW) repositories. MIT
has the most well-known collection, but other universities are following suit. Some of
the bigger collections are:
MIT (http://ocw.mit.edu)
MIT offers a comprehensive collection of courses from accounting to zoology.
Some of their courses have video lectures available in addition to the syllabus,
lecture notes, and problem sets.
Utah State University (http://ocw.usu.edu)
Utah State offers a good collection of basic courses with an emphasis on biological
and irrigation engineering and instructional technology.
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (http://ocw.jhsph.edu)
This is a collection of public health courses from one of the world’s leading medical
schools.
UK Open University (http://openlearn.open.ac.uk)
The OU offers full-text versions of their content, instead of just course outlines and
notes.
In addition to the institutional collections, there are a growing number of user-created
content sites available on the Web. These sites allow anyone to create, change, remix,
and catalog content. While the quality of the content can vary wildly, there is a large
and growing body of excellent content available for you to use.
Effective Content Practices | 47
Some of these sites are:
Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org)
An online encyclopedia developed by thousands of volunteers. Anyone can create
and edit documents.
Wikibooks (http://en.wikibooks.org)
A sister project of Wikipedia. It aims to create open textbooks that are freely available to the whole world.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Simply using Google as a tool in your class vastly
expands the amount and variety of content available to your students.
Summary
Ultimately, the content you develop and share in your Moodle course is up to you.
Static Moodle content provides resources for students as they engage in the learning
process. In this chapter, we’ve looked at how to upload and create content for your
Moodle course. In the following chapters, we’ll discuss some of the dynamic activities
you can add to your class to make it truly compelling.
48 | Chapter 3: Creating and Managing Content
CHAPTER 4
Managing Your Class
Now that we have covered the basics of setting up a course and adding content, we
need to take a look at some of Moodle’s underlying capabilities. At first glance, this
may seem like administrivia, but understanding roles and groups is one of the keys to
unlocking Moodle’s full potential as a learning environment. A person’s role in a course
determines what he can do—in other words, what capabilities he has. It’s a very powerful system, but it does have a bit of underlying complexity. You can use groups to
create student workgroups, recitation sections, or any other arbitrary grouping you
need to realize your learning design.
We will start by discussing roles, since anyone who wants to do something in your
course needs to be assigned a role.
Understanding and Using Roles
This section covers the following MTC skills: 7.1 Enrolling participants; 7.5 Roles
The new roles and permissions system in Moodle provides you with a huge amount of
flexibility for managing how students and other people interact with your course. In
older versions of Moodle (prior to 1.7), there were only six roles possible: guest, student,
non-editing teacher, editing teacher, course creator, and administrator. Whilst the new
system supports these roles out of the box, it also allows you to create and customize
roles, and to change what a given role can do in each activity. For example, you can
now create permissions in individual forums, which allows you to let students act as
moderators in one forum while you retain the moderator role in all of the other forums
in your course.
If it seems a bit daunting, don’t worry. Using roles and permissions is something you
can take slowly. You can start the usual way, assigning people as students, teachers,
and other roles specified by your institution. Later, when your course design grows
more elaborate, you can begin to experiment with overrides and assigning specific roles
in specific contexts.
49
We’ll start simply, by assigning users to predefined roles in your course. Then we’ll
take a look at the roles and capabilities system and later discuss how to use the advanced
features.
Assigning Roles in Your Course
Most of the time, students will enroll themselves or be added automatically by your
university’s enrollment system, so there shouldn’t be much need for you to manually
enroll students. However, if you need to add a teaching assistant, an outside guest, or
a student who is having a problem with financial aid, you must manually enroll them,
i.e., assign them a role in your Moodle course.
By default, teachers are only allowed to assign the roles of non-editing
teacher, student, and guest. If you want to assign the role of teacher,
you will need to ask your system administrator for this to be allowed.
To assign a user the role of student:
1. Click “Assign roles” in the Administration block.
2. Choose the type of role you wish to assign, e.g., student
3. On the “Assign roles” page, there are two columns, as shown in Figure 4-1. The
left column lists users who currently have that role, and the right column lists users
who don’t.
Users must have an account on your Moodle site before you can
assign them a role in your course. If they don’t appear in either the
existing or potential users list, they will need to create an account
before they can be assigned a role.
Between the two columns is a hidden assignment checkbox next to an eye icon,
for hiding which role a user is assigned to so that the user doesn’t appear in the list
of course participants. Click the checkbox before assigning a role if required.
Role assignments are not hidden from admins or teachers. They
can always see who is assigned a role in a course.
Hidden assignments are also useful if you don’t want everyone with
teacher rights to be listed in the course description on the front
page of your Moodle site.
50 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-1. Assigning a role
4. Find the student you want to add to your course in the righthand column. You can
limit the list by searching for the student’s name or email in the Search box below
the righthand column.
5. Select the student’s name from the list and use the left-facing arrow button to add
the student to the list in the lefthand column.
You can add multiple students by holding down the Shift key to
select a number of students in a row. If you want to select multiple
students who aren’t listed next to each other, hold down the Ctrl
key (or Apple key on a Mac) and click each name you want to add.
Students will have access to your course as soon as you assign them a role. They won’t
need to have an enrollment key or to confirm the enrollment.
Removing Students
If a student drops your class, you’ll want to remove the student from your Moodle
course as well. Leaving a student enrolled in your Moodle course when she is not on
the official roster makes grading and class management much more difficult. When
Understanding and Using Roles | 51
you record grades or look for student assignments, extra students on the roll gets confusing. The nonparticipating student will also have access to your discussion boards
and other potentially sensitive information.
Fortunately, removing students is easy. Simply reverse the above procedure.
Managing Enrollment
If your university doesn’t have an automatic enrollment system, then ensuring that only
students who are officially enrolled in your course have access to your Moodle course
can be tricky.
Jason: At my university, students used to be able to drop and add courses at will for
the first three weeks of the semester. Many instructors found it difficult to track the
constant movement in the roster.
To minimize the amount of work you need to invest in this administrative detail, we
recommend a three-pronged strategy.
First, use the course enrollment settings to limit who can enroll in the course and when.
Set an enrollment period for the length of your drop/add time. Be sure to set an enrollment key as well. Only students who know the key will be able to enroll in your
course, so you won’t need to worry about students enrolling without permission. For
more information on these settings, see Chapter 2.
Second, closely monitor your official course roster during the drop/add period. Be
consistent about dropping and adding students on a regular basis so you don’t have a
big mess at the end of registration.
Third, encourage students who are enrolled to create an account and join your Moodle
course as quickly as possible. Many instructors make logging in and joining their Moodle course a small, mandatory assignment. This helps students by forcing them to access
your online resources early in the semester, and it makes enrollment management easier
for you, since you won’t have to add as many students manually.
Capabilities and Permissions
The new roles system introduces some new terminology that is important to understand
before you dive in.
This may be confusing at first, but it’s worth taking some time to understand the power of the new system.
Jason: I was part of the design team for this system and even I had to
look up a few details!
There are four primary concepts to understand:
52 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Role
A role is an identifier of the user’s status in some context (e.g., teacher, student,
forum moderator).
Capability
A capability is a description of a particular Moodle feature (e.g.,
moodle/blog:create). Capabilities are associated with roles. There are over 150
capabilities within Moodle.
Permission
A permission is a value that is assigned to a capability for a particular role.
Context
A context is the scope within which a role assignment is valid. Contexts are organized in a hierarchy, where lower (more specific) contexts inherit capabilities
from higher (less specific) contexts. The contexts in Moodle in order of inheritance
are:
System
All contexts in the site, including site settings and user administration
Site
The site front page course and its activities
Course category
All courses in a category
Course
A single Moodle course
Module
A module instance within a course (a specific forum, quiz, wiki, etc.)
Block
A specific block instance within a course (at the time of this writing this feature
is not fully implemented)
User
A user’s profile or personal activities
Roles are made up of a matrix of capabilities and permissions that determine what a
user can do within a given context. For example, a user may have course creator privileges at the site level but be unable to post to a particular forum in a certain course.
The permissions determine whether someone can use a capability. Permissions may be
set to one of four values:
Inherit
The default setting. If a capability is set to inherit, the user’s permissions remain
the same as they are in a less specific context, or another role where the capability
is defined. For example, if a student is allowed to attempt quiz questions at the
course level, his role in a specific quiz will inherit this setting.
Understanding and Using Roles | 53
Allow
This enables a user to use a capability in a given context. This permission applies
for the context that the role gets assigned plus all lower contexts. For example, if
a user is assigned the role of student in a course, she will be able to start new
discussions in all forums in that course (unless a forum contains an override with
a prevent or prohibit value for the capability).
Prevent
Prevent disables a capability for a user in a given context but does not disallow it
in a more specific context. You can prevent students from adding attachments to
forum posts in your course, but allow them to do so in one particular forum.
Prohibit
Prohibit is rarely needed, but occasionally you might want to completely deny
permissions to a role in a way that cannot be overridden in any lower context.
Keep in mind that permissions are set within a role, and then people are assigned to
roles in a given context. A person can be assigned to more than one role, depending on
the context, or even multiple roles within the same context.
Role Overrides
The capabilities within a given role can also be overridden within a specific context.
Let’s say you want to create a forum in which students can rate each other’s forum
posts. (By default, only teachers can rate forum posts.)
The way to achieve this is through a role override. As long as the capabilities you want
to allow your students to have in your course (or within a module in your course) aren’t
prohibited at a higher level, you can override the permissions. Within your course, for
example, you can override roles at the course level or in a particular activity. If you
want to change what students can do anywhere in your course, override the role at the
course level. If you want to create a different set of permissions for a given activity,
override the role in the activity itself.
Overriding roles is itself a permission. By default, teachers are unable to
override roles so this ability must first be granted by your system administrator for the course or site as appropriate. They must also set
which roles can be overridden by the teacher role. If you don’t see the
“Override roles” link in the Roles tab, ask your system administrator.
The override interface will only show you the capabilities for the context you are overriding. So if you want to allow students to rate forum posts, you can override the student
role in a particular forum. You will only see the forum capabilities in the interface, as
shown in Figure 4-2.
To set a role override for an activity:
54 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-2. A role override
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click the Update button for the activity for which you want to create the override.
Click the Roles tab and then click the “Override roles” link just below the tabs.
Choose the role you want to override, e.g., student.
Modify the permissions for the override on this activity. (The permissions the role
currently has are highlighted in white.)
Be sure to read the security risks (indicated by the yellow triangle
on the right side of the permissions list) for each capability. Some
capabilities can present severe risks to student data if you are not
careful.
5. Click the “Save changes” button. Anyone with the role you have just overridden
will now have those capabilities in this activity when they next log in to Moodle.
To set a role override at course level:
1. Click “Assign roles” in the Administration block.
2. Click the “Override roles” link.
Understanding and Using Roles | 55
The remaining steps are the same as for setting a role override for an activity.
Overrides allow you to create a lot of variation in the way students interact with an
activity. However, before digging into the overrides system itself, be sure you have a
clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve educationally with the override.
Assigning Roles in Activities
In addition to assigning roles in your course, you can also assign roles in activities. Let’s
say you want to create a forum and allow particular students to moderate the discussions. To moderate, they will need to be able to delete posts, edit posts, and move
threads. But the normal student role doesn’t allow them to do these things, nor do you
want them to be able to moderate other forums in your course, or all students to be
able to moderate.
The way to achieve this is by assigning a role in the activity module context. If you
assign the role of non-editing teacher to the students you want to moderate forum
discussions, then the students will have non-editing teacher capabilities in that forum
only.
The method of assigning a role in the activity module context is very similar to assigning
a role in your course.
To assign a user a role in an activity module context:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click the Update button for the activity in which you want to assign a role.
Click the Roles tab.
Choose the role you want to assign, e.g., non-editing teacher.
On the “Assign roles” page, find the user you want to assign the role to in the
righthand column.
5. Select the user’s name from the list and use the left-facing arrow button to add the
user to the list in the lefthand column. The user will now have the role you have
just assigned in the activity when he next logs in to Moodle.
Depending on the capabilities you want to allow, there may not be a
suitable role you can assign. You may need to contact your system administrator and ask for a new role to be created.
56 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-3. Visible groups in a forum
Student Groups
This section covers the following MTC skills: 8.1 Using and managing groups
Moodle has an unusual but effective way of managing small student workgroups within
your course. You can define groups at the course level, then set each activity to a group
mode or leave it available to everyone. The group mode you choose may also determine
the behavior of the module. Think of groups as a filter. If you are a member of a group
within a course, and an activity is set to group mode, Moodle will filter out any work
from anyone who is not part of your group. You are all looking at the same activity,
but you can’t interact with anyone who is not in your group.
There are three group mode options:
No groups
Everyone participates as part of the class. Groups are not used.
Separate groups
Each group can see only their own work. They can’t see the work of other groups.
Visible groups
Each group does their own work, but they can see the work of the other groups as
well, as shown in Figure 4-3.
Once the group mode is set for the course or activity, students will interact with your
Moodle course as they normally would. The only difference will be the people they
meet in certain activities, such as forums. For example, if you set the group mode of a
forum to separate groups, Moodle will create a forum for each group. Each student will
see the same link to the forum, but she will be able to access only the discussions for
her particular group. You need to create the forum only once; Moodle takes care of
creating the individual group forums.
To utilize the group mode, you first need to create the student groups:
1. Click Groups in the Administration block.
2. On the Groups page, there are two columns, as shown in Figure 4-4. The left
column lists the groups you have created. Initially, this list is empty, as there are
Student Groups | 57
no groups created by default. The right column lists the students assigned to the
selected group.
3. To create a new group, click the “Create group” button at the bottom of the page.
4. On the “Create groups” page, as shown in Figure 4-5, set the options for your
group:
Group name
This is the name of the group displayed in various places throughout your
course.
Group description
Write a brief description of the group and its purpose. The description is displayed above the list of group members on the Participants page.
Enrollment key
Enrollment keys allow users to enroll themselves in a course. You can set an
enrollment key in your course settings, as we covered in Chapter 2. If you set
a group enrollment key too, then anyone who enrolls in the course using that
key will also automatically be made a member of the group.
You need to set an enrollment key in your course settings, as
well as set a group enrollment key, otherwise students will not
be prompted to enter a key when they attempt to enroll. Students only need to enter the group enrollment key and do not
need to know the course settings enrollment key.
Make sure that the first letter for each group enrollment key
is the same as the course settings enrollment key. If a student
makes a mistake typing in the enrollment key, he is provided
with the first letter of the course settings enrollment key as a
hint.
Hide picture
Hiding the picture for the group prevents the group picture from being displayed in various activities throughout your course.
New picture
You can upload a profile picture for the group or replace an old picture with
a new one.
5. Click the “Create group” button.
6. The name of the group will now appear in the groups list. Select the group you just
created.
7. On the “Add/remove users” page, there are two columns, as shown in Figure 4-6. The left column lists the existing members of the group, and the right
column lists the potential members. To add a student to the group, select the
58 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-4. Groups
student’s name from the potential members list and use the left-facing arrow button
to add the student to the list in the lefthand column.
As for assigning users the role of student in your course, you can
add multiple students by holding down the Shift key to select a
number of students in a row. If you want to select multiple students
who aren’t listed next to each other, hold down the Control key
(or Apple key on a Mac) and click each name you want to add.
8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 for each group you need.
It’s possible to assign students to more than one group. If you do
so, it can be confusing for both you and the students. You will need
to carefully watch the number of students assigned to each group
to make sure you haven’t left someone out. Students will need to
be careful about interacting with the right group in the right place.
If you have set a module to separate groups mode, students will
need to select between the groups where they are members.
Student Groups | 59
Figure 4-5. Creating a group
If you have a lot of students to organize into groups, you might like to
try the “batch upload of groups” facility. Click “Import” in the Administration block, then follow the instructions in the “upload groups” help
file.
If you’ve not forced the group mode in your course settings, you can set it for each
activity, either when adding the activity (in the common module settings), or by clicking
the group mode icon opposite the activity name when editing is turned on for your
course page. The group mode icon toggles between the three possible group modes
shown in Table 4-1.
Table 4-1. Group mode icons
Icon
Group mode
No groups mode
Visible groups mode
Separate groups mode
60 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-6. Adding/removing users
If you’ve forced the group mode in your course settings, then you will not be able to
toggle between group modes on your course page.
Backups
This section covers the following MTC skills: 8.6.1 Backup
After spending a lot of time setting up your course and delivering it to your students,
you’ll want to make sure you don’t lose your work. Fortunately, Moodle gives you a
backup tool to create archives of your courses. Backups can also be used to copy course
resources and activities from one course to another.
To make a backup:
1. Click Backup in the Administration block.
2. The “Course backup” page, as shown in Figure 4-7, lists all the modules and
activities in your course.
Choose which activities you want to include in the backup, and whether to include
user data, by using the Include All/None links at the top of the page and/or by
selecting the checkboxes next to each module or activity name. User data consists
of all student files, submissions, forum postings, glossary entries, etc.
3. Select the following backup options:
Meta course
If your course is a meta course, this option will preserve the setting in the
restored course.
Backups | 61
Users
This backs up the user accounts for everyone in the course. If you select None,
then no user data will be backed up.
Logs
This backs up all course activity logs.
User files
This backs up all student submissions for assignments and other file uploads.
Course files
This backs up any file stored in the files area for the course.
4. When you have selected your options, click the Continue button to start the backup process.
5. On the next page, you can preview the files and users that Moodle will include in
the backup and, if you wish, change the suggested backup filename, which is
backup-COURSESHORTNAME-DATE-TIME.zip.
If you change your mind about what to include in the backup, you
can use your browser’s back button to return to the previous page.
6. Click the Continue button.
7. On the next page, the progress of the backup is displayed together with a report if
it was successful. You should see the message “Backup completed successfully” at
the bottom of the page. Click the Continue button.
8. You will then be taken to the backupdata directory in the files area for your course,
as shown in Figure 4-8. Click the filename of the backup file to download it to your
desktop.
Some browsers or operating systems will automatically try to decompress a ZIP archive. If the browser or operating system unpacks the
archive, you can simply delete the decompressed file. If you need to
upload a backup to restore or copy a course, be sure to use the ZIP
archive file.
Restoring and Copying Courses
This section covers the following MTC skills: 8.7.1 Restore
Your backup ZIP file can be restored to create a new course or to copy activities into
an existing course.
62 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-7. Backing up a course
Figure 4-8. The backupdata directory
You will only be allowed to restore to a new course if you have been
given appropriate permission at the course category or site level.
Contact your system administrator if necessary.
To restore a course:
1. Either upload a backup ZIP file to your course files area (as covered in Chapter 3)
or click Restore in the Administration block to access the backupdata directory, as
shown in Figure 4-8.
2. Click the Restore link opposite the file you want to restore.
Restoring and Copying Courses | 63
3. On the next page, click Yes to the question “Do you want to continue?” to start
the restore process.
4. Click the Continue button at the bottom of the next page, listing details of the
backup.
5. On the next page, as shown in Figure 4-9, select whether you want to restore to
the existing course, adding data to it or deleting it first.
If you have permission to restore to a new course, the restore page will contain
additional options for setting the new course category, short name, full name, and
start date.
Restoring a course without user data and changing the short name
and start date is a good way to roll forward a class you want to use
in another semester. An alternative method is to reset the course
using the Reset link in your course Administration block.
6. Choose which activities you want to restore and whether to include user data.
7. Select course users if you are including user data.
8. Select appropriate role mappings. The options depend upon the roles you are allowed to assign. By default, teachers are only allowed to assign the roles of nonediting teacher, student, and guest.
9. Click the Continue button.
10. On the next page, click the “Restore this course now!” button.
11. On the next page, the progress of the restore is displayed with a report if it was
successful. Click the Continue button.
Reports
This section covers the following MTC skills: 8.3.1 Logs
Once your course is up and students are working, Moodle provides you with detailed
logs and participation reports of student activity.
To access course reports:
1. Click Reports in the Administration block.
2. On the Reports page, choose from the following:
Logs
Select any combination of group, student, date, activity, and actions, then click
the “Get these logs” button.
You can see what pages the student accessed, the time and date she accessed
it, the IP address she came from, and her actions (view, add, update, delete),
as shown in Figure 4-10.
64 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-9. Restoring a course
You can choose to display the logs on a page (as shown in Figure 4-10) or
download them in text, ODS, or Excel format.
The Logs page contains active links enabling you to access the
student’s profile page or a particular page that the student was
viewing. The IP address link provides an estimate of the student’s location.
Current activity
The “Live logs from the past hour” link in the middle of the Reports page opens
a pop-up window listing all course activity in the past hour, which refreshes
every minute.
Activity report
This lists how many times each course activity has been viewed and the last
time it was viewed.
Reports | 65
Figure 4-10. Viewing logs of student activity
Participation reports
To generate a participation report:
a. Select an activity module, the time period to look back over, to show only
student reports, and the actions you are interested in (views, posts, or all
actions), then click the Go button.
b. A list of all instances of the selected activity module in the course will be
generated. Select one, then click the Go button.
The participation report, as shown in Figure 4-11, lists the number of times
each student has done the action selected.
If you wish, you can select particular users and send them a message. Select
“Add/send message” from the drop-down menu and click the OK button.
Statistics
If your system administrator has enabled site statistics, you can also get more
detailed summary reports from the statistics menu.
The logs and participation reports are useful for tracking students’ activity in a class.
If a student doesn’t spend time with the material, he will have difficulty succeeding in
the course. Frequently, students who don’t do well simply haven’t spent the time
working with the material.
If you analyze your course reports on a regular basis, you can monitor when your students engage with the course material. You won’t be able to tell exactly how long they
spent with a certain activity or resource because the logs report only the time of access.
66 | Chapter 4: Managing Your Class
Figure 4-11. Viewing a participation report
Of course, you can guess how long a student spent with a resource by noting the time
when the student began the next activity.
Logs and participation reports can also tell you which resources and activities students
find most valuable. For example, if you upload all your PowerPoint slides for students
to take notes on in class, but no one accesses them, you might want to find out why.
Reports | 67
CHAPTER 5
Forums, Chats, and Messaging
Forums
This section covers the following MTC skills: 5.4 Forums
Forums are a powerful communication tool within a Moodle course. Think of them as
online message boards where you and your students can post messages to each other
while easily keeping track of individual conversations. Forums are the primary tool for
online discussion and are the central organizing feature in the social course format.
You’ve already posted your first message to a forum back in Chapter 2. When you
posted your news item, you were posting to a special forum used in every course for
announcements and news.
Forums allow you and your students to communicate with each other at any time, from
anywhere with an Internet connection. Students don’t have to be logged in at the same
time you are to communicate with you or their classmates. Figure 5-1 demonstrates
how conversations are tracked through time, and readers can review the history of a
conversation simply by reading the page. The technical term for this type of communication is asynchronous, meaning “not at the same time.” Asynchronous communications are contrasted with synchronous forms such as chat rooms, instant messaging,
or face-to-face conversations.
Because forums are asynchronous, students can take their time composing replies. They
can draft and rewrite until they are happy with the results instead of feeling under
pressure to respond immediately. A lot of research indicates that more students are
willing to participate in an asynchronous forum than are willing to speak up in class.
For students whose primary language is not that of the course, people with communicative disabilities, and the just plain shy, forums offer a chance to take as much time
as they need to formulate a reasonable reply. Other students, who might be afraid of
embarrassing themselves by making a mistake when they speak up in class, can doublecheck their responses before they send them in.
The asynchronous nature of the forums creates many opportunities for you not only
to replicate the conversations you have in class, but also to create entirely new activities
that are difficult in a classroom setting.
69
Figure 5-1. A forum discussion
Before we start creating a forum, it is important to make sure we’re using the same
vocabulary. It might be useful to think of the forum module as a party. Each forum is
a room at the party: there’s a living room, a kitchen, and a dining room. In each room,
there are groups of people having discussions. Each discussion has a thread with
everyone replying to each other about the topic. Without people having discussions, a
forum is an empty, quiet space. Each forum can contain one or more discussions, which
are comprised of one or more posts and replies.
Moodle forums also allow subscriptions. When a user subscribes to a forum, all new
posts are automatically sent to the email address stored in the user’s profile. This makes
it easy to keep track of what’s happening in the forums without constantly logging in.
Creating a Forum
Creating a forum is relatively easy. The key to success is choosing the right options for
the type of forum you want to create. In addition to the news forum, Moodle has four
basic forum types:
A single, simple discussion
You can create only one discussion in this forum. This will keep the conversation
focused on one particular topic.
Each person posts one discussion
Each person on the class can start only one discussion. This would be useful when
each person needs to post an assignment or a question. Each discussion can then
have multiple replies.
Q & A forum
This forum requires students to post their perspectives before viewing other students’ postings. After the initial posting, students can view and respond to others’
postings.
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Standard forum for general use
There can be one or more discussions in this forum, and anyone with permission
can post multiple discussions.
To add a forum to your class:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Forum from the activity menu in the course section where you would like
to add the forum.
3. On the “Adding a new forum” page, as shown in Figure 5-2, give the forum a
descriptive name.
4. Select the forum type you want to use.
5. Write a descriptive forum introduction.
6. Select the general options:
Force everyone to be subscribed?
If you select Yes, everyone in your course will automatically receive emails of
new posts. Otherwise, people can choose whether to subscribe.
Read tracking for this forum?
Read tracking highlights unread forum posts.
Maximum attachment size
When students attach files to their posts, you’ll want to limit the maximum
size of their posts so you don’t use up all your server space. This is especially
important if you are paying a commercial hosting company for your Moodle
site.
7. Select the grade options:
Allow posts to be rated
Forum posts can be rated using either a numerical scale or a scale made up of
words. By default, only teachers can rate forum posts, though you can use a
role override to allow students to rate each others’ posts. This is a useful tool
for giving students participation grades. Any ratings given in the forum are
recorded in the gradebook (which we’ll cover in Chapter 13).
Grade
If you allow posts to be rated, you can choose a scale rating using the Grade
drop-down menu. You can create your own scale (which we’ll cover in Chapter 13), but for now, just pick the default “Separate and Connected ways of
knowing” scale or a number between 1 and 100. The points you choose are
the total for the entire forum.
Restrict ratings to posts with dates in this range
You can allow only posts within a certain date range to be rated. This is useful
if you want to keep students focused on the most recent content.
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Figure 5-2. Adding a new forum
8. Select the post threshold for blocking options, if appropriate. Students can be
blocked from posting a certain number of times in a given period and warned when
they are approaching the threshold.
9. Select the common module options:
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings, then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
10. Click the “Save changes” button. The forum name will now be a link in the course
section where you added it. If you want to go back to change any of the options,
you can click on the hand icon to return to the editing forum page.
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Figure 5-3. Viewing a forum
Using Forums
If you click on the forum name on the course page, you’ll see the main forum page, as
shown in Figure 5-3.
There are some interesting features on this page. At the top right of the page is the text
“This forum allows everyone to choose whether to subscribe or not” or “This forum
forces everyone to be subscribed,” depending on whether you are forcing everyone to
subscribe or not. Subscribing to a forum will send the user an email when there are new
postings in the forum. The users can choose how they receive their emails in their
profile. An alternative way of receiving forum posts is via an RSS feed. RSS feeds need
to be enabled across the site and for the forum module by a system administrator.
If you click on the “Force everyone to be subscribed” link, you can flip back and forth
between forcing subscription or not. If you aren’t forcing users to subscribe, the next
link will read “Show/edit current subscribers,” which will give you an interface for
seeing who’s subscribed and changing who is and isn’t receiving email. The last link
will read “Subscribe to this forum,” which will subscribe you when you click it.
Below the subscription links, you’ll find the forum introduction you wrote when you
created the forum. Below the introduction, you’ll see a button labeled “Add a new
discussion topic.” You can use this to create the first discussion in the forum. If you’ve
prohibited students from creating discussions, you’ll need to create one to allow anyone
to use the forum.
To create a new discussion:
1. Click the “Add a new discussion topic” button.
2. On the new discussion topic page, shown in Figure 5-4, give your new discussion
a subject.
3. Write your message in the space provided. If you don’t have the HTML editor
enabled, you can choose the formatting type you used in your message. Most of
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Figure 5-4. Adding a new discussion topic
the time, you’ll want to leave it on Moodle Auto-Format, which will try to automatically recognize the format you used in the post.
4. You can choose to subscribe to the forum if subscriptions were enabled when the
forum was created.
5. If you want to attach a file, such as an RTF document or a picture, click the Browse
button, find the file on your computer, and click Open. Be sure your document is
smaller than the maximum attachment size for the forum.
6. Click the “Save changes” button.
Once you submit your discussion topic, you’ll see a screen telling you the post was
successfully saved and how long you have to make changes to your post. The time you
have to make changes is set by your system administrator for everyone on the Moodle
site. The default is 30 minutes, so most of the time you’ll have half an hour to go back
and edit your post before it’s mailed to the subscribers. After it’s been sent, you can’t
edit it unless you have the privilege set for your role.
Unless you have checked the “Mail now” box, your post won’t be mailed
to subscribers until the editing time has passed. Unless your system
administrator has changed the default, your forum posts won’t be sent
out for at least 30 minutes.
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Figure 5-5. An emailed forum post
The success screen should automatically send you back to the main forum page. You’ll
see the discussion you just created. If you click on the discussion name, you’ll see the
post you wrote with any attachments in the upper-right corner of the message body.
If you can still edit the post, you’ll see an Edit link at the bottom of the message body.
After the editing time has passed, your post will be emailed to all subscribers. If a student
or instructor has opted to receive HTML-formatted email, she will receive an email that
looks just like the posting in the browser. Otherwise, she will receive the plain-text
version. As Figure 5-5 illustrates, the email will have links labeled Reply and “See this
post in context,” which will bring the user right to the forum post so she can post a reply.
If you’ve enabled ratings, you’ll also see a drop-down menu at the lower-right side of
other users’ posts with the scale you’ve chosen. At the bottom of the page, below all
the posts in the discussion, you’ll see a button labeled “Send in my latest ratings.” If
you select a rating for the post and click the button, you’ll submit your scores for the
posts. The scores are then stored in the gradebook.
Once you’ve submitted a rating, it will appear next to the rating menu. If you click on
the rating, you’ll see everyone’s ratings for that post.
Searching Forums
This section covers the following MTC skills: 3.14 Search Forums
All of the forums within a course are searchable as well as browsable. Performing a
forum search can find useful information easily. All forums within the course are
searched simultaneously.
The Search Forums block on your course page enables you to quickly search for a
particular word within a forum post. If you obtain more than one page of results, you
may wish to try an advanced search.
An advanced search enables you to refine your search in any/all of the following ways:
Forums | 75
These words can appear anywhere in the post
One or more words you type in here will be found in all the places in the post they
appear.
This exact phrase must appear in the post
The phrase you enter must appear exactly as you enter it.
These words should NOT be included
Identifying words you don’t want can help narrow down the resulting list of messages.
These words should appear as whole words
The search engine will return posts that contain your words as part of a larger word.
For example, if you search for “cat,” posts with the word “catalog” will be returned.
Selecting whole words will look for a space before and after the words you have
entered.
Posts must be newer/older than this
This narrows down the number of posts according to time limits.
Choose which forums to search
This enables searching within one forum only.
These words should be in the subject
If you know the subject line of the posts you want, you can limit your searches by
the subject line.
This name should match the author
If you only want posts from certain authors, enter their names here.
Managing Forums
Once you’ve created forums for your students, you will need to manage them during
your course. As we discussed earlier, forums are great tools for getting people who don’t
usually talk in class to participate. If you make your discussions an important part of
your class, you can really get people talking.
Of course, a lot of people talking in a forum means there’s more to manage. Forums
can quickly sprout and spread like an unruly weed, unless you do some management
and pruning.
Managing expectations
The first key to managing a forum is managing student expectations. In your syllabus,
let students know how often you intend to respond to questions and posts. Let them
know if you will be checking in once a day or once a week. If you don’t set expectations,
some students will expect you to be on call 24 hours a day.
Jason: A professor I used to work with received a series of emails starting at 1:30 in the
morning. The student wrote a question at 1:30 a.m., asked again at 2:00 a.m., and sent
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an annoyed message at 2:30 a.m.. Finally, at 3:00 a.m., the student sent an email saying
he was going to bed and was very upset the instructor had not answered his question
in time to complete the assignment. Needless to say, the professor was very surprised
to find the entire series of emails when she awoke the next morning.
Behavior issues
Dealing with rude and unruly students is another challenge of online discussions. Some
students may say things in an online discussion they would never say in person. Rude
or hurtful remarks can shut down a discussion or completely divert the thread of the
conversation.
To avoid these situations, make your expectations for student conduct clear in your
syllabus and elsewhere in the site. The use of rating scales can also moderate students’
behavior if their grade depends on getting good ratings from you or their peers. Of
course, if the situation gets out of control, your ultimate recourse is to simply delete
the students’ posts from the forum and then deal with it as you would any other disciplinary issue.
Archiving forums
When forum threads get very long, you may want to archive them and start up the
conversation again with a good summary. Discussions can be archived one by one or
by backing up the complete forum with user data, then restoring it.
To archive a discussion:
1. Create a forum named “Archive forum” somewhere in your course (the first or last
course section is a good idea).
2. Go to the forum containing the discussions you want to archive.
3. Enter the discussion by clicking on the discussion name. At the top-right corner of
the screen, you’ll see a drop-down menu labeled “Move this discussion to” (see
Figure 5-6).
4. Select “Archive forum” from the list.
5. You’ll now see the discussion in the archive forum. Click the Forums link in the
navigation bar and select the original forum from the list.
6. Post a summary of the archived discussion in the original forum to restart the
discussion.
Using an archive forum allows you to keep the discussions manageable, while retaining
all of the detail of the original. It’s also an easy way to move good discussions from
class to class or semester to semester.
Managing discussions is also easier with some help. A number of studies have reported
the benefits of assigning groups of students to moderate duties for discussions around
given topics. If a group of students knows they are responsible for being able to discuss
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Figure 5-6. Moving a discussion
an issue intelligently with their classmates, they are much more likely to be sure they’ve
done the reading and really understand the topic. They can be responsible for moving
the conversation along, answering basic questions, and archiving and summarizing a
discussion.
To create student moderator groups, assign a small team of students to each forum or
discussion. Be sure to enable ratings for everyone, in order to allow the student group
to use ratings.
Forum Capabilities
Forum capabilities are more fine-grained than any other module, giving you the ability
to create a wide range of roles:
View discussions
The basic capability allows a user to view forum discussions but not reply or start
new ones.
View hidden timed posts
This allows a user to set a display start and end date for new discussions.
Timed posts need to be enabled by your system administrator in
order to make use of this capability.
Start new discussions
This allows a user to create a new discussion if the forum allows multiple discussions.
Reply to posts
This allows a user to reply to posts within a discussion. You’ll probably want to
override this capability, as well as the capability to start new discussions, for an
archive forum.
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Add news
A user with this capability can post news to the course news forum. By default,
only teachers can add news.
Reply to news
This allows a user to reply to news postings in the news forum. By default, only
teachers can reply to news postings.
View ratings
This allows a user to view his own forum ratings.
View any ratings
This allows a user to see forum ratings of other users.
Rate posts
This allows a user to rate forum posts if rating is allowed in the forum. By default,
only teachers can rate forum posts.
Create attachments
This allows a user to attach a file to her forum post.
Delete own posts (within deadline)
This allows a user to delete his own forum posts within a certain time, usually 30
minutes.
Delete any posts (anytime)
This allows a user to delete any forum post at any time.
Split discussions
This allows a user to split discussions to create new discussions. By default, only
teachers can split discussions.
Move discussions
A user with this capability can move discussions to other forums in the course.
Edit any post
This very powerful capability allows a user to edit any forum post at any time. By
default, only teachers can edit any post.
Always see Q & A posts
This allows a user to view Q & A forum posts without first posting.
View subscribers
This allows a user to view the list of subscribers to a forum.
Manage subscriptions
This allows a user to edit and delete forum subscriptions.
Initial subscription
This allows a user to be subscribed initially to forums. By default, all roles have
this capability, apart from administrators and course creators, so they don’t receive
a lot of forum subscription emails.
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Throttling applies
This allows a user to be blocked from posting in a forum, according to the blocking
options in the forum.
Effective Forum Practices
Forums are an important tool in your Moodle toolbox. They are the primary method
for students to communicate with you and each other. Social constructivism is all about
discussion and negotiated meaning.
Jason: I would argue that good moderation and intelligent deployment of discussion
opportunities are more important to the success of a course than the static content.
MIT has said the same thing. It is posting many of its course syllabi,
problem sets, and lecture notes through its OpenCourseWare initiative
(http://ocw.mit.edu). Anyone can download course materials from over
700 courses for free. MIT does this because the value of an MIT education is not in the content, but in the interaction between students and
the instructor. Moodle’s forums are a key tool for you to add the same
value to your course.
Getting students to participate in online forums can be a challenge. If you simply create
a forum and expect students to communicate online, you will be sadly disappointed.
Many times instructors create a forum, give some vague instructions, and then complain that the students aren’t spontaneously communicating with each other.
Starting the discussion
For many students and instructors, starting the discussion is the hardest part. Once
people start talking, at least a few will probably continue the discussion. As you start
your class, it would be useful to have some icebreakers to help students get to know
one another and to get used to discussing issues online.
The most effective icebreakers have a strong prompt to get people started. Ask specific
questions like, “If you could speak to any person, living or dead, who would it be and
what three questions would you ask them?” or, “What is your favorite comfort food
and why?” You could also prompt people to tell stories about themselves. For example,
you could ask students to tell a story starting with “On my last trip the funniest thing
I saw or did was...” or “My favorite story about an animal is....” Whatever you use,
make it concrete, compelling, and open-ended.
Encouraging participation
The primary key to student participation in online forums is tight integration with your
course goals. Your forums should give students a chance to practice a skill, to
80 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
collaborate on a project, or to act as resources for each other. Of course, it is important
to distinguish between the types of forums and the reasons for using them in your class.
Let’s take an example to help make this clearer. Suppose you have a weekly reading
you want students to discuss online before meeting face-to-face. There are two possibilities for this forum. If you want students to use the forum as a practice exercise, you’ll
want to create a place where students can practice applying the new ideas they encountered in the reading. So you may want to make each week a discussion of a case
study. If you want the forum to be a resource, you may want each student to post a
question about the reading. You can then use the questions as a basis for discussion in
class.
The final strategy for encouraging participation is to engage with the forums yourself.
If your class meets face-to-face, bring up important postings and discussions in class.
By merging the online environment with the face-to-face environment, you show your
students that you value their participation. One of the best examples of merging online
discussions with a course happened in a management course of 400+ students. The
instructor assigned groups of students to small discussion groups. She and her teaching
assistants randomly read a subset of the discussions each week for assessment. The
instructor would also bring the best questions and discussions to class, frequently devoting half of her lecture to talking about what was happening online.
Grading forums
Of course, being clear about the goal of the forum is only one step. As we discussed
earlier, your goals for the class may be very different from your students’ goals. You
may want them to engage with the material because of its intrinsic value. Most students,
however, are overworked, concerned about their grades, and doing only what is required in a large majority of their classes.
To help encourage alignment between your goals and your students’ goals, you will
need to have a grading strategy for student participation. Moodle has some great tools
to help you create and manage graded forums. To be successful, you must clearly define
your grading criteria. You will need to grade on quality, not just quantity. A student
logging in to say “I agree” once a day is not adding to the discussion. Someone who
posts a thoughtful reply once a week is adding more to the course. Of course, you will
need to balance between grading for quality and allowing a discussion where everyone
is trying to be more clever to get a grade.
Many students need scaffolding to be able to participate effectively in an academic
discussion. A quick glance at the discussion forums on MySpace reveals a great many
posts that would not be acceptable in an academic environment. Help your students
understand the difference between social forums and academic forums. Do you want
them to support their argument with citations? Do you want them to acknowledge the
other person’s point of view and then offer a critique? Do they need to support their
own arguments with facts, figures, or appeals to a higher authority?
Forums | 81
Once you have established expectations, you can begin to score according to the quality
of their interactions. It is good practice to give students some credit just for participating, but full points can only be achieved with a high-quality answer.
Creative Forum Uses
There are many creative uses of forums, so we can only present a few of the most
common here. Moodle forums are so flexible, there’s really no limit to the types of
activities you can develop to take advantage of the technology.
Peer assessment
Forums are an often-overlooked tool for peer assessment. Andy Diament, from West
Cornwall in the UK, has used forums for peer assessment. His students were learning
database design by developing a project over multiple weeks. Each week they would
work in pairs to complete a lesson on a new topic. They would then use their new skills
to complete a little more of their project and upload it to the forums for review. Each
pair had their work critiqued and the best work of the week was used as a starting point
for the next section of the project. Not only did the students learn from the peer review
process, but they were able to develop their own project using the best work of the class.
Q & A forums for problem solving
John Rodgers, from Ontario, Canada, uses the Q & A forum type to good effect in
teaching mathematics. The Q & A forum allows a single question post that the students
must answer before they can see other responses. A lesson starts with the instructor
asking the students to solve a math problem, identify and correct a misconception,
decode the meaning of symbols from context, or engage in some other sort of exercise.
The students usually spend 20–40 minutes working together in small groups to formulate a response. After the students post their answers, the Q & A forum allows them
to see how others in the class have solved the problem. When that is complete, the
students usually are given a series of questions to answer (using the quiz module) to
see if their approach to solving the problem is robust enough. John reports, “Students
are more engaged both in terms of depth (the problems force them to generate a deep
understanding) and breadth within the class (the bottom of the class now engages the
content at a far higher level). The time I can spend as an instructor providing quality
mentoring has increased by an order of magnitude and the use of time has dramatically
improved.”
This is a great example not only of using the forums but of using the power of technology
to shift the role of the instructor from delivering information to mentoring students.
Interviews
Bringing outside experts into your class can be difficult. You have to coordinate schedules, tear them away from their busy lives, and then hope your students are prepared
82 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
enough to ask interesting questions. You can eliminate many of these problems by using
the forums for communication between students and experts. The easiest strategy is to
invite the expert into your forums as a regular participant. Simply give her an account
and enroll her in your class. She can then participate in the forum and elsewhere in the
course.
However, some people will be reluctant to participate in such an open-ended discussion. As an alternative strategy, create a forum in which students can submit questions
for an interview with an expert. They can then vote on the best questions. You select
the top 10 questions and send them via email to the interviewee. Your expert can then
respond, via email, when it is convenient for her. If you post her responses to a new
forum, your students can respond to her answers and even prepare a second round of
questions, if your expert is up for it.
Debates
While many instructors frequently hope some level of debate will spontaneously break
out between students around controversial issues or new concepts, it’s sometimes difficult to get the ball rolling. Try assigning your students to groups on different sides of
an issue. Each post must be a reasoned argument for their side of the issue, supported
by evidence. They can be graded on how well they reason and support their argument.
Role-playing and storytelling
Tisha Bender, in her book Discussion-Based Online Teaching, discusses the advantages
of using asynchronous discussions for role-playing and storytelling. In one course, she
has students adopt a character from a story or novel and then play out a scene in character using the forum. The rest of the class watches the new drama unfold in front of
them. Students have time to think about their responses and refine their contributions
to better reflect the voice of the character rather than their own voices. Students are
also less reluctant to fully respond as the character in an online forum, as they avoid
the embarrassment of a face-to-face encounter.
Frequently asked questions
How many times do you answer the same question from three different students?
Frequently, many students have the same questions about assignments, difficult concepts, or grades. If everyone is meeting face-to-face, you can answer the question out
loud, but other students may not be listening to the answer. A fully online environment
is harder to manage when the questions from students arrive via email. Many teachers
of fully online courses complain about the constant barrage of repetitious questions.
We recommend you create a forum in which students can ask questions about the
administration of the course, and separate forums for questions about the subject matter. Have them consult the forums and the responses before sending you yet another
email about the date of the final exam.
Forums | 83
This feature is also useful in a business environment.
Reading study groups
A strategy to encourage students to do their assigned reading is to create reading study
group forums. This strategy works well with groups of three to five students who are
collectively responsible for discussing a reading before class. Each student asks one
question about the reading, and the group must answer all the questions before the
start of the class session. This encourages students not only to read the assignment but
to think more deeply about it through the question-and-answer process.
This strategy of having groups of students asking each other questions
about course material supposedly originated with a group of engineers
who were taking a class together. They were all transferred as a group
midway through the semester but didn’t want to drop the class. The
instructor agreed to videotape the lectures and mail them to the students. Very quickly, the instructor noticed the engineers’ performance
in the class was getting worse, so he insisted they watch the videotape
together. He told them they had to stop the tape every 15 minutes, and
each person was to ask a question about what they had just seen. They
couldn’t continue until every question was answered. By the end of the
class, the remote group of engineers performed a third of a letter grade
higher than the rest of the class.
Social forum
Although the majority of your forums will focus on the course material, it’s important
for your students to have an informal way to get to know each other, especially if the
course is completely online. A social forum gives people a place to talk without worrying
about being graded or having to appear really smart. It’s a good idea to start your social
forum with some fun questions. Ask everyone to post an introduction telling the class
where they are from; what they hope to get out of the class; and their favorite food,
favorite movie, or something interesting. The more interesting the introductory post,
the more likely people will respond to it and get a real discussion going.
Chats
This section covers the following MTC skills: 5.2 Chat
The Moodle chat module is a simple synchronous communication tool allowing you
and your students to communicate in real time. If you’ve ever used an instant messaging
system like AOL, MSN, or iChat, you’ve used a system similar to the Moodle chat. In
84 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
the forums, you and your students don’t have to be logged in at the same time. In a
chat, everyone needs to be logged in at the same time in order to communicate.
Creating a Chat
To use the chat tool, you will need to create a chat room for you and your students and
set a time when everyone will log in and meet. You can create one session for the entire
course or set up repeating sessions for multiple meetings.
To create a chat session:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Chat from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the course section
where you would like to add the chat.
3. In the resulting page, shown in Figure 5-7, give the chat room a name and provide
directions on how to use the room in “Introduction text.”
4. Set the time for the first chat session in “Next chat time.”
5. Select the general options for the chat room:
Repeat sessions
There are four options here:
Don’t publish any chat times
Creates a chat room that is always open and has no specified meeting times
No repeats
Creates a one-time chat room that will meet only during the time specified
in step 4
At the same time every day
Creates an entry in the course calendar for a daily chat at the time specified
in step 4
At the same time every week
Creates a weekly entry in the course calendar
Save past sessions
When a chat is complete, the transcript will be available for the amount of
time specified here.
Everyone can view past sessions
This determines whether transcripts are available to students or just the
teacher.
6. Select the common module options:
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings, then this setting will be ignored.
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Figure 5-7. Adding a new chat
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
7. Click the “Save changes” button. The name of the chat room will now be a link in
the course section where you added it.
Using Chats
Even if you’ve set chat times, the chat is always open to students. Moodle does not
restrict access to the chat based on the times you set when you created it. Instead, it
creates entries in the course calendar that remind people to log in for the chat at certain
times. If a student wants to wander into the chat at another time, he could talk to himself
or anyone else who wanders by.
There are two versions of the chat room, an ordinary one and a version without frames
and JavaScript, as shown in Figure 5-8.
In the ordinary version you can type messages in the text field at the bottom of the
screen and/or beep other users. You may want to remind students to keep the beeping
to a minimum, as it can be annoying.
Once you type a message in the text area, hit Enter and your message will be broadcast
to everyone logged in to the chat. The Moodle chat works by refreshing the screen every
five seconds, so you may not see your message right away.
86 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
Figure 5-8. An ongoing chat
On the right side of the screen, Moodle lists the chat participants and how long they
have been idle.
In the version without frames and JavaScript, you can send messages by typing in the
text field and then clicking the Submit button. Clicking the Refresh button displays all
recent messages.
A few larger sites have learned from hard experience that the current
chat room in Moodle is not scalable to large numbers of simultaneous
conversations. In fact, most servers can’t handle more than three or four
simultaneous chats. If you want to use chat a lot, your system administrator should consider using a chat server daemon to reduce server
load.
Chat Capabilities
When compared to the forum capabilities, chat capabilities are very constrained. The
three capabilities available in the chat module are:
Talk in a chat
This allows a user to chat.
Read chat logs
This allows a user to read the logs of a chat and review what was said by whom.
Delete chat logs
This allows a user to delete the logs of a chat. By default, only teachers can delete
chat logs.
Chats | 87
Effective Chat Practices
While the chat module may not be very feature-rich at this point, it can still be an
effective learning tool.
Jason: I know of one professor who couldn’t speak for a semester due to throat surgery.
He posted his lecture notes to his course web site, and held class meetings in the chat
room instead of on campus. The students were expected to come to the chat meeting
having already read the materials. The chat was set up as a question-and-answer session
in which students typed their questions and the professor typed his responses. The
entire process was recorded in the archives. I was able to review the archives and was
amazed at the quality of the interaction. The chat room was an ideal tool for this type
of discussion.
The key to a successful chat is good moderation. The nature of the chat room makes
it difficult to track different conversations. If everyone in the class is talking at the same
time, the conversation will go by too quickly. It’s important to set some ground rules
to make the chat useful for everyone. Try to keep everyone on the same track of the
conversation. If the conversation starts to get out of control, gently try to bring people
back to the main flow.
Creative Chat Practices
Online office hours
Many students may not be able to come to your office hours, particularly working
students, who have arranged their schedules to make it to class. The chat room is an
easy way to allow your students to contact you during a scheduled time to ask a quick
question about an assignment or a lecture.
Group chats
If you’ve set up student groups, each group can have its own chat. Set up a chat room
and set the group mode to separate or visible groups. Each group can then use its chat
room for communication between group members.
Last-minute exam preparation
You could set up a chat room a week or even a night before an examination for students
to discuss any study questions. Students who are working at the last minute will appreciate the opportunity to ask each other questions about the material.
88 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
Figure 5-9. Messages window
Figure 5-10. Messages block
Messaging
This section covers the following MTC skills: 3.7 Messages
Messaging is a private communication tool between student and teacher or between
two students.
Using Messaging
If these instructions don’t work, contact your system administrator and
ask if messaging between site users is enabled.
Unlike forums and chats, messaging is not course-specific; users may send messages to
each other regardless of whether they are enrolled in the same course. Your profile page
contains a Messages button for opening the Messages window (see Figure 5-9).
To encourage the use of messaging in your course, you may wish to add a Messages
block (see Figure 5-10) and/or an Online Users block to your course page.
To add a Messages block to your course page:
Messaging | 89
Figure 5-11. Sending a message
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Messages from the “Add blocks” menu.
3. If appropriate, move the Messages block up and/or left, using the arrow icons under
the block title.
The Messages link in the Messages block provides another way of opening the Messages
window.
Sending messages
To send a message:
1. Open the Messages window, either using the button in your profile page or via the
link in the Messages block.
2. In the Messages window, click on the Search tab to search for the person. If appropriate, check the box “Only in my courses,” then click on the person’s name.
3. Type the message in the text field in the pop-up box (see Figure 5-11), then click
the “Send message” button. A copy of your message will appear above the text field.
Reading and replying to messages
When you are sent a message, the Messages window will pop up. Also, the Messages
block will display the name of the person sending the message with a link to read the
90 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
message. If you have chosen to receive copies of messages via email (see “Message
settings), you will get a copy of the message in your email after the time you have
specified if you are not logged in.
After reading a message, you may type a reply, then click on the “Send message” button.
Searching messages
In addition to searching for people, the Search tab in the Messages window provides
the option to search for keywords, for only messages to or from you, and to include in
the search people you have previously blocked from contacting you.
Managing contacts
You can add people to your list of contacts by clicking the “Add contact” icon (a face)
opposite their names in the Messages window. Similarly, you can block or remove
contacts added previously.
Message history
You can obtain a record of messages sent to/from a person by clicking the “Message
history” icon (a few lines) opposite her name in the Messages window.
Message settings
You can change the message settings via the Settings tab in the Messages window.
Message settings include:
Automatically show Message window when I get new messages
Your browser needs to be set so that it doesn’t block pop ups for your Moodle site.
Block all new messages from people who are not on my contact list
This is a way of preventing unwanted messages.
Use HTML editor
This feature is only for browsers that support the HTML editor.
Version without frames and JavaScript
This is a more accessible version for screen reader users.
Email messages when I am offline
You can receive copies of messages via email without the need to log in to your
Moodle site. It’s possible to set a different email address than the one in your
profile.
Messaging Capabilities
Unlike forums and chat, messaging capabilities can only be set at the course or site
level. These are:
Messaging | 91
Read all messages
This allows a user to read all messages in the given context.
Send a message to many people
This allows a user to send messages to selected users via the Participants list. By
default, only teachers can send messages to many people.
To allow a user to send a message to many people, you must also
allow the user to read all messages.
Effective Messaging Practices
Messaging aids private communication with students. It is a useful alternative to email
because you can track all correspondence in one place and avoid clogging your email
inbox.
Jason: Whilst it’s true the messaging system can be set not to clog your
inbox, I find email forwarding to be very useful. I’m logged in to my
email more than I am logged in to all of the Moodle sites where I have
an account. (At last count, I have accounts on six Moodle installations.)
So I use email forwarding to make sure I get messages from people on
various sites (especially Moodle.org).
Add contacts
The best way to manage your messages is to add as contacts people with whom you
will communicate on a regular basis. The only way to access a message history with a
person is through the contacts list, or by searching for the person in the search tab. It
is much more convenient to have regular communication with people who are in your
contacts list than to search for them constantly.
Use the participants list
One of the little-known additions to Moodle 1.6 was the ability to send messages to
multiple students directly from the participants list.
To send a message to selected students:
1. Click on the Participants link in the People bock on the course page.
2. Select participants from the list or use the “Select all” button at the bottom of the
list.
3. Choose “Add/send message” from the “With selected users...” drop-down menu
at the bottom of the page.
4. Type the message, then click the Preview button.
92 | Chapter 5: Forums, Chats, and Messaging
5. When you’re satisfied with the message, click the Send button.
Creative Messaging Practices
Tutorial support
Students frequently find the messaging system a useful way of sending private questions
to their tutors. There are times when a student doesn’t want to ask a question in a
public forum. Messaging provides students with a private communication channel.
Tutors can also use the messaging system to send messages to one or more of their
students. If the students for each tutor are in a group, the tutor can use the Groups filter
on the participants list to find all of his students and send them a private message.
Encouraging participation
The message system, combined with the participants list, is a great tool for encouraging
students to stay engaged with your course. On the participants list you can easily filter
students based on how long they have been inactive. At the top of the page, one of the
options is to select students who have been inactive for any length of time from a day
to five months. In a normal class of 10–15 weeks, if once a week you send a message
to students who have been inactive for a week, you can remind them to participate in
the course. This will keep them more engaged and improve their performance and
retention.
Summary
Moodle provides various channels of communication for you and your students.
Forums are an asynchronous, public method for sharing ideas. Chats are a great way
to have simultaneous conversations online with a group of people. Messaging provides
a private channel for you to communicate directly with your students. Communication
is key to success for any class, and it’s even more important in an online environment.
Summary | 93
CHAPTER 6
Quizzes
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.7 Quiz
Feedback on performance is a critical part of a learning environment, and assessment
is one of the most important activities in education. As educators, we can’t tell what’s
going on inside students’ heads, so we need a way for them to demonstrate what they
understand and what they don’t. A well-designed test, even a multiple-choice test, can
give you valuable information about students’ misconceptions. If the feedback is rapid
enough, it can also be a critical tool for students to gauge their own performance and
help them become more successful.
Moodle’s quiz module is one of the most complex pieces of the system. The community
has added a large number of options and tools to the quiz engine, making it extremely
flexible. You can create quizzes with different question types, randomly generate quizzes from pools of questions, allow students to re-take quizzes multiple times, and have
the computer score everything.
These features open up a number of strategies that usually aren’t practical with paperbased testing. It’s hard enough to score one batch of quizzes, and nearly impossible to
score it 10 times for each student. When the computer does the work for you, it’s easy
to give students a chance to practice taking a test or give frequent small quizzes. We’ll
explore how to apply these advantages later in the chapter. For now, let’s get started
building your first Moodle quiz.
How to Create a Quiz
Moodle quizzes have two major components: the quiz body and the question pools.
Think of the quiz bodies as containers for various types of questions from the question
pools. The body is what students see when they take the assessment. It also defines
how the students interact with the quiz. The questions in a quiz body can be of any
type, chosen manually or at random, and displayed in a set or random order. The
question pools can contain questions arranged in a manner that makes sense to you.
You can create pools based on chapters in the textbook, weeks in the semester,
95
important concepts, or any other organizational scheme. Pools can be reused in multiple quizzes, shared between classes and courses, and even moved between systems.
To start, we need to create a body for our first quiz.
Creating the Quiz Body
When you create the quiz body, you are creating a container for the questions and
setting the rules for interacting with the quiz.
To create a quiz body:
1. Click “Turn editing on.”
2. Select Quiz from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the course section
where you would like to add the quiz.
3. In the “Adding a new quiz” page, as shown in Figure 6-1, give the quiz a descriptive
name.
4. Write an introduction for the quiz. Be sure to include any special instructions for
taking the quiz, such as the number of attempts allowed or scoring rules.
5. Select the timing options:
Open the quiz; Quiz closes
Choose opening and closing dates for the quiz.
Time limit
Determine how long students have to complete the quiz. At the end of the
allotted time, the quiz is automatically submitted with the current answers.
Time delay between attempts
You can force a delay between multiple attempts of a quiz in order to prevent
students from gaming the system by immediately answering the same
questions.
6. Select the display options:
Questions per page
This sets the number of questions the students will see at once. If you have
more questions than the number of questions per page, the students will see
a navigation button at the bottom of the page where they can view the
questions on other pages.
Shuffle questions
Set this to Yes to randomly order the quiz questions when they are displayed
to the students.
Shuffle within questions
Set this to Yes to randomly order the parts making up individual multiplechoice or matching questions.
7. Select the attempts options:
96 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Attempts allowed
Use this option to set the number of times a student can take a quiz. You can
set it to unlimited times or to a number from 1 to 6.
Each attempt builds on the last
If you allow multiple attempts, you can choose to let students build their
answers over time. If you set this to Yes, the student’s responses from the last
attempt will be visible the next time she tries to take the quiz.
Adaptive mode
In adaptive mode an additional Submit button is shown for each question. If
the student presses this button, then the response to that particular question
is submitted to be scored and the mark achieved is displayed to the student.
The quiz will then allow the student to try again immediately, but a penalty
will be applied to the score. The penalty is set in the Apply Penalties option.
8. Select the grades options:
Grading method
If you allow multiple attempts, you can choose which score is recorded. Your
choices are highest grade, average grade, first attempt, and last attempt.
Apply penalties
This only applies if the quiz is run in adaptive mode.
Decimal digits in grades
Use this to set the number of decimal places in the grade for the quiz.
9. Select the options for students to review the quiz. You may choose whether to show
students their responses together with their scores, the correct answers, and general
and/or specific feedback:
Feedback
This is question response-specific text.
General feedback
This is text shown after attempting a question regardless of response given. It
may be used to provide background information or perhaps a link to further
information.
10. Select the security options:
Show quiz in a secure window
Selecting this option will open the quiz in a new window without the forward
and back buttons, address bar, or other navigational features. This will prevent
students from navigating to other sites during the quiz.
Require password
You can set a password for the quiz that students will need to enter before they
can take the quiz. You can use this to restrict who takes a quiz and when they
take it.
How to Create a Quiz | 97
Require network address
This option restricts access to the test to certain IP address ranges. If you want
to require students to take a test from a certain lab on campus, set the network
address range to cover the networks in the lab. For example, if you want to
require access from computers with an IP range of 10.10.10.0 to
10.10.10.50, you would enter 10.10.10.0/50. To allow access from all computers in a subnet (say, on the campus), enter the partial address you want to
use.
11. Select the common module options:
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
12. Add overall feedback, i.e., text that is shown to a student after he has completed
an attempt at the quiz. The text varies depending upon the quiz grade.
13. Click the “Save changes” button.
If you can’t find some of the above options, try clicking the Show
Advanced button. Your system administrator may have hidden certain
options in order to simplify the page.
Once you have saved your changes, you’ll see the second editing screen where you will
write and select questions to include in the quiz body.
Creating Questions for a Quiz
You can create your quiz questions on the “Editing quiz” page. Here, you’ll also categorize your quiz questions and add them to the quiz body you just created.
On the left of the page, as shown in Figure 6-2, you’ll see a block displaying the questions you’ve added to the current quiz. Since this is a new quiz, there are no questions
there, and Moodle tells us this.
On the right of the page you’ll see a category selection menu labeled Category and a
button labeled “Edit categories.” Categories are used to organize your quiz questions
for your course, and they can be containers for sharing questions between courses. By
default, there is one category, called Default. If you click on the category menu, you’ll
see it as an option.
98 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Figure 6-1. Adding a new quiz
It’s good practice to create categories to organize your questions.
Jason: The level of detail in the categories is up to you, but I tend to lean
toward more detailed categories that I can combine into larger groups
later if I want to. For example, I’ll break down questions related to a
reading into a couple of concepts. It’s easier to clump questions together
later than it is to pull them apart.
Let’s start out by making a category to hold the questions for our quiz:
1. From the “Editing quiz” page, click on the “Edit categories” button.
2. Above the list of current categories, as shown in Figure 6-3, you will see a space to
add a new category.
3. Choose which category to place your new category in. If no other categories have
been created, only Top will be available.
How to Create a Quiz | 99
Figure 6-2. Adding questions
Figure 6-3. Edit categories
4. Type the name of your new question category in the text box.
5. Add a meaningful description in the “Category info” area.
6. If you’d like to share your question with teachers of other courses on your Moodle
site, select Yes in the Publish column.
7. Click the Add button. Your new question category will appear in the list of current
categories.
8. When you are done adding categories, click on the Quiz link below the tabs to
return to the “Editing quiz” page.
Once you’ve created your categories, it’s time to add some questions:
1. From the “Editing quiz” page, select a category to which you want to add a question. The area below the category will display the question-creation block.
100 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
2. Select the question type you want to create from the “Create new question” dropdown menu:
Multiple choice
Both single- and multiple-answer multiple-choice questions are possible.
True/false
This is a simple multiple-choice question with only two possible answers.
Short answer
Students answer this question by typing a word or phrase. You need to provide
a list of acceptable answers.
Numerical
This is a short-answer question that accepts a numerical value instead of a
word.
Matching
This is a standard two-column matching question.
Random short-answer matching
The subquestions for the matching exercise are randomly drawn from shortanswer questions in the category.
Description
This is for embedding some text in the quiz. (It’s not a question type.) It can
be used to give mid-quiz instructions.
Calculated
This is a mathematical equation with placeholders for values that will be pulled
randomly from a dataset when a student takes the quiz.
Essay
This is a question requiring a paragraph or two of text. Students are not assigned a grade until you have reviewed and manually graded the question.
Embedded answers (Cloze)
This is a question with multiple question types embedded within it, such as
multiple choice, short answers, and numerical.
3. Fill in the form for the question type you are creating.
4. Click the “Save changes” button at the bottom of the form.
Each question type has its own form and options. We’ll spend the next few pages
detailing the options for each question type.
Multiple-choice questions
Moodle provides you with a lot of flexibility when creating this common question type.
Figure 6-4 shows an example question. You can create single- and multiple-answer
questions, display pictures in the question, and give relative grading weights to individual answers.
How to Create a Quiz | 101
Figure 6-4. A multiple-choice question
To create a multiple-choice question:
1. Select “Multiple choice” from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
2. On the multiple-choice question-editing page, start by giving the question a descriptive name. You’ll use the name to track your questions later, so “Question 1”
isn’t a good idea.
3. Create the question text. If you’re using the HTML editor, you can format the
question just like a word-processing document.
If you want to add an image to the question, you have two options:
• If you’ve already uploaded an image to your files area (see Chapter 3 for details),
it will be available to add to the question stem in a drop-down menu under the
Question text area.
• If you’re using the HTML editor, you can click the image icon. This will pop up
the Insert Image window. You can choose to upload an image into your files
area from this window or add the URL of an image on the Web. If you add a
file to your files area, click the name of the file after you upload it to insert the
link into the URL text entry at the top of the screen. Then click OK.
4. Set the default question grade.
5. If you are intending to run the quiz in adaptive mode, set the penalty factor for
each wrong response. The penalty factor should be a number between 0 and 1. A
penalty factor of 1 means that the student has to get the answer right in her first
response to get any credit for it at all. A penalty factor of 0 means the student can
try as often as she likes and still get the full marks.
6. If you wish, add general feedback, i.e., text shown after attempting a question
regardless of response given. General feedback will be displayed only if selected in
the options for students to review the quiz.
7. Choose whether students can select only one answer or multiple answers.
8. Choose whether answers should be shuffled.
9. Write your first response in the Choice 1 answer field, as shown in Figure 6-5.
102 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Figure 6-5. A choice answer field
10. Select a grade percentage for the answer. This is the percentage of the total points
possible for the question, selecting a given answer is worth. You can select negative
percentages as well as positive percentages. So if a question is worth 10 points,
selecting one correct response out of two in a multiple-choice question may give
you 50 percent of the possible points (i.e., 5 points). Selecting a wrong answer may
take away 10 percent (i.e., 2.5 points).
11. If you wish, you can add feedback for each response. Feedback will be displayed
only if selected in the options for students to review the quiz.
It may be a bit more work, but it’s good practice to tell the students
why each answer is right or wrong using the feedback area. If students know why an answer is right or wrong, they can analyze their
own thinking and begin to understand the question.
12. Fill in the response choices in the rest of the form. Any unused areas will be ignored.
13. If you wish, you can add overall feedback for any correct/partially correct/incorrect
answer. This is especially useful for multiple-answer questions where it is difficult
to control what feedback students receive just using the answer-specific feedback.
14. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
How to Create a Quiz | 103
Figure 6-6. A short-answer question
Short-answer questions
Short-answer questions require the student to type an answer to a question, as shown
in Figure 6-6. The answer could be a word or a phrase, but it must match one of your
acceptable answers exactly. It’s a good idea to keep the required answer as short as
possible to avoid missing a correct answer that’s phrased differently.
You may find it helpful to prototype your short-answer questions to
catch common acceptable answers you hadn’t thought of. To do this,
start by creating a few acceptable answers and include the question in
a quiz for no points. Be sure to tell students you are testing a new question. Once the quiz is over, review students’ answers and add their
acceptable answers to the list.
To create a short-answer question:
1. Select “Short answer” from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
2. Give your question a descriptive name.
3. Create the question text. If you want students to fill in a blank, use the underscore
to indicate where the blank is.
4. Select an image to display if you want to add a picture to the question (see step 4
in the previous section for more details).
5. If you wish, add general feedback.
6. Choose whether capitalization is important. Case-sensitivity can be tricky. Will
you accept “george Washington” as well as “George Washington” as an answer?
7. Fill in the answers you will accept. Give each answer a percentage of the grade if
required. You could give common misspellings partial credit with this option.
8. Add feedback for each acceptable answer.
You can provide feedback for all wrong answers by using a wildcard
—the asterisk character (*)—as an answer with a grade of “none.”
9. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
104 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Figure 6-7. A numerical question
Numerical questions
Numerical questions are a lot like short-answer questions for equations, such as the
one shown in Figure 6-7. You can create a question with an equation, and your students
type in a numerical answer. Students will get credit for answers within the range of
answers you specify.
To create a numerical question:
1. Select Numerical from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
2. Give the question a descriptive name.
3. Type the equation or numerical question for your students to solve. Moodle has a
couple of text filters, called Algebra and TeX, that allow you to type an equation
and have it properly typeset when displayed. You may need to ask your system
administrator to enable the filters.
4. Select an image to display if you want to add a picture to the question (see step 4
in the section “Multiple-choice questions” for more details).
5. If you wish, add general feedback.
6. Enter the correct answer and grade. You may choose to add a number of correct
answers with different levels of accuracy and corresponding different levels of
credit.
7. Enter the accepted error, i.e., the range above or below the correct answer. For
example, if the correct answer is 5, but you will accept 4 or 6 as answers, your
accepted error is 1.
8. Add feedback for each acceptable answer.
As for short-answer questions, wrong-answer feedback may be
provided using a wildcard.
9. If you want to accept answers in multiple units (e.g., metric or imperial units),
specify the unit multiplier and the unit label in the areas.
10. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
How to Create a Quiz | 105
Figure 6-8. A matching question
Matching questions
Matching questions ask students to match multiple question stems to multiple possible
answers (see Figure 6-8). They are useful for testing students’ understanding of
vocabulary and their ability to match examples to concepts. Setting up a matching
question in Moodle is a bit different from setting up other types of questions.
To create a matching question:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
Select Matching from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
Give the question a descriptive name.
Enter the question text to tell the students what they are matching.
Select an image to display if you want to add a picture to the question (see step 4
in the section “Multiple-choice questions” for more details).
If you wish, add general feedback.
For the first matching item, enter the question and a matching answer.
Fill in at least three questions and answers. You can enter as many as 10 items. You
can provide extra wrong answers by giving an answer with a blank question.
Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
Moodle will display the question in two columns. The first will contain the questions.
The second will display a drop-down menu for each question with all possible matching
answers as options.
Matching questions look better on screen if you put the longer piece of
text in the question rather than the matching answer. For example,
when vocabulary-matching, put the single word in the answer and the
definition sentence in the question. Otherwise, the drop-down menu
for long questions will be awkward to use and difficult to read.
106 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Random short-answer matching questions
This is an interesting question type. You take random multiple short-answer questions
and their correct answers and create a matching question out of them. It’s an interesting
way to reuse your short-answer questions in a new format.
To create a random short-answer matching question:
1. Select “Random short-answer matching” from the “Create new question” dropdown menu.
2. Give the question a descriptive name.
3. Enter the question text to tell the students what they are matching, or use the
default text.
4. If you wish, add general feedback.
5. Select the number of questions you want to add to the matching question.
6. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
Calculated questions
A calculated question is a mathematical equation with placeholders for values that will
be pulled randomly from a dataset when a student takes the quiz. For example, if you
wanted to create a large number of multiplication problems to drill your students, you
could create a question with two placeholders and a multiplication sign such as {a} *
{b}. When a student takes the test, Moodle will randomly select values for a and b.
The test will very rarely appear the same way twice.
To create a calculated question:
1. Select Calculated from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
2. Give the question a descriptive name.
3. Enter your question into the question field. All variables you want Moodle to replace with generated values must be placed in curly braces.
4. If you wish, add general feedback.
5. Enter the formula for the answer (see Figure 6-9). Be sure to use the same placeholders so Moodle can substitute the same values.
6. Determine the tolerance for error that you will accept in the answer. The tolerance
and tolerance type combine to give a range of acceptable scores.
7. Select the number of significant figures or decimal places you want in the correct
answer.
8. Add correct answer feedback.
9. Enter the units for the answer (e.g., meters, kg, etc.). Moodle will look for the
correct units. If you want to enter other acceptable units, such as metric versus
imperial distances, enter them along with a conversion factor.
How to Create a Quiz | 107
Figure 6-9. A calculated question answer field
10. Click the “Next page” button.
11. On the next page, choose whether to create substitution values for each placeholder
only for this question, or for other questions in the same category.
12. Click the “Next page” button.
13. Create a dataset for the question or questions in the category. For each placeholder,
generate a series of acceptable values. The more values you generate, the more a
question can be used without repeating values. Figure 6-10 illustrates the interface
for datasets for calculated questions.
14. Click the “Save changes” button.
Calculated questions can use more than simple arithmetic operators. The full list of
operators includes abs, acos, acosh, asin, asinh, atan, atanh, ceil, cos, cosh, deg2rad,
exp, expm1, floor, log, log10, log1p, rad2deg, round, sin, sinh, sprt, tan, tanh, atan2,
pow, min, max, and pi. Each function’s placeholders and other arguments are in parentheses. For example, if you want students to calculate the sine of one angle and two
times the cosine of another, you would enter sin({a}) + cos({b}*2).
Essay questions
An essay question is a free-response text area where students can enter larger blocks of
text in response to your question, as shown in Figure 6-11. These questions are not
scored by the computer, and you will need to grade each answer manually.
108 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Figure 6-10. Editing calculated question datasets
To create an essay question:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Select Essay from the “Create new question” drop-down menu.
Give the question a descriptive name.
Enter the question text.
Select an image to display if you want to add a picture to the question (see step 3
in the section “Multiple-choice questions” for more details).
5. If you wish, add general feedback and/or specific feedback.
6. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
Embedded answers (Cloze)
Embedded answer (Cloze) questions consist of a passage of text (in Moodle format)
that has various answers embedded within it, including multiple choice, short answers,
and numerical answers.
There is currently no graphical interface to create these questions—you need to specify
the question format using the text box or by importing it from external files.
How to Create a Quiz | 109
Figure 6-11. An essay question
The Embedded Answers (Cloze) Moodle documentation page describes the syntax required to embed answers.
To create a Cloze question:
1. Select “Embedded answers (Cloze)” from the “Create new question” drop-down
menu.
2. Type the question text with embedded answers.
3. Continue to add text and embed questions until complete.
4. Click the “Save changes” button to add the question to the category.
5. Add the question to the quiz, then preview it, using the edit icon next to the question number to make additional edits if required.
Importing Questions
If you have questions from a textbook question bank, or if you don’t want to use the
web interface to create your questions, you can import them from a text file. Moodle
supports a range of formats and provides an easy way to create new importers if you
know a little PHP.
Once you get to know a format, it may be easier to type the questions into a text file
than to use the web interface. You can just keep typing instead of waiting for new web
pages to load for each question.
The default formats include:
GIFT
With GIFT format, you can write multiple-choice, true/false, short-answer, matching, and numerical questions.
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Missing word
If you’re going to write a lot of missing-word multiple-choice questions, the
missing-word format is an easy way to create them.
Blackboard
If you’re converting from Blackboard to Moodle, you can export your course and
import the question pools into Moodle using the Blackboard format.
WebCT
Currently, the WebCT format supports only the importing of multiple-choice and
short-answer questions.
Course Test Manager
This format enables you to import questions from the Course Test Manager from
Course Technology.
Embedded answers (Cloze)
The Cloze format is a multiple-answer question with embedded answers. These
questions can be a bit tricky to develop, but they provide a unique approach.
Moodle XML
This Moodle-specific format imports quiz questions that have previously been exported in the same format. It allows you to import image files used in the questions.
To import questions:
1. From the Question-editing page, click the Import link just below the tabs in the
middle of the page.
2. In the “Importing questions” page, as shown in Figure 6-12, select a category into
which the imported questions will go.
3. Select a file format. The help pop up next to the file format drop-down menu
contains further details of each format.
4. Choose “Nearest grade if not listed” from the “Match grades” drop-down menu.
Otherwise, a question will not be imported if its grade is not included in the list of
accepted grades found in the help pop up.
5. Either browse for an import file on your computer and click the “Upload this file”
button, or use the “Choose a file” button to browse for a file in your course files
area and then click the “Import from this file” button.
Exporting Questions
You can share questions you have created by exporting them to a text file. Possible
export formats are to GIFT, IMS QTI 2.0, Moodle XML, and XHTML.
To export questions:
1. From the “Editing question” page, click the Export link just below the tabs in the
middle of the page.
How to Create a Quiz | 111
Figure 6-12. Importing questions
2. Select a category from which the exported questions will be taken.
3. Select a file format. The export questions page in the Moodle documentation contains links to further information on each export format.
4. Click the “Export questions to file” button.
The export file will be saved in your course files area in the backupdata folder.
Adding Questions to a Quiz
Once you’ve created your questions, you need to add them to the quiz.
On the “Editing quiz” page, as shown in Figure 6-13, click on the “Add to quiz” icons
(<<) to add individual questions, or select a number of questions using the checkboxes
and then click the “Add to quiz” button below the question list.
If you want to add all of the questions you created to the quiz, click the “Select all” link
and then click the “Add to quiz” button.
Once you’ve added a question to the quiz, it appears on the left side of the page in the
quiz question list. The question is still selectable on the right, but you can add it to the
quiz only once. If you select the question in the category list again and add it to the
quiz, nothing will happen.
If you have created a lot of questions, you may want to sort the question list by type
and name or by age. You can also choose to display the question text below each
112 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Figure 6-13. Editing a quiz
question name by checking the box “Show question text in the question list” above the
question list.
Once you’ve added the questions to the quiz, you can change the order of the questions
by clicking the arrow buttons in the Order column on the left side of the list of quiz
questions.
If you have more than just a few questions, it’s a good idea to limit the number of
questions displayed per page. Check the box “Show page breaks,” then set how many
questions should be displayed per page and click the Go button.
You will also need to set the grade for each question. You can set the number of points
for each question in the Grade column. You may want to make certain questions or
question types worth more than others. Remember, the questions will be weighted to
match the total points possible for the quiz you set in the quiz body. You should also
set the “Maximum grade” for the whole quiz. This does not have to be equal to the
sum of the grades for the individual questions. The grades achieved by the students
will be rescaled to be out of this maximum grade. When you’re done, click the “Save
changes” button.
You can preview the quiz by clicking on the Preview tab at the top of the page. If you
answer the questions, you can submit the quiz by clicking the “Submit all and finish”
button and see the feedback and responses your students will see, as shown in Figure 6-14. Your students will see two scores at the top of the page. The first is the raw
score representing the total points they scored out of the maximum possible points
from each question. The second score is the weighted score representing the number
of points out of the maximum possible points for the quiz.
If you’ve enabled feedback after answering, each question will be displayed below the
scores with the answers marked correct or incorrect. If you’ve enabled the display of
correct answers, they will appear highlighted.
In the next section, we’ll discuss how to manage your quizzes.
How to Create a Quiz | 113
Figure 6-14. Quiz preview
Random questions
A random question is a placeholder for a randomly selected question. One of the advantages of a computer-generated quiz is the ability to generate a quiz from questions
randomly selected from a category. Each random question will pull a question randomly from the question category and insert it into the quiz. This means that different
students are likely to get a different selection of questions. When a quiz allows multiple
attempts for each student then each attempt is likely to contain a new selection of
questions. The same question will never appear twice in an attempt. If you include
several random questions then different questions will always appear for each of them.
If you mix random questions with nonrandom questions then the random questions
will be chosen so that they do not duplicate one of the nonrandom questions. This
means that you need to provide enough questions in the category from which the random questions are chosen, otherwise the student will receive a friendly error message.
The more questions you provide the more likely it will be that students get different
questions on each attempt.
To add random questions to the quiz:
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Figure 6-15. Quiz results
1. Select the number of random questions you wish to add from the drop-down menu
below the question list.
2. Click the Add button.
Managing Quizzes
Once students start to take the quizzes, you’ll have a lot of data available. If you click
on the quiz link in the middle column of your course page, you’ll immediately see the
number of quizzes that your students have completed. If you click on the Results tab,
you’ll see the quiz results overview page, as shown in Figure 6-15. From here, you can
see every quiz attempt and drill down into the individual responses. Clicking on the
date and time of the attempt provides each question and answer.
If you want to delete an attempt, click on the checkbox next to the student’s name and
then select Delete from the drop-down menu below the attempts list.
If you decide to add additional questions to the quiz, you will need to
delete all attempts before being allowed to do so.
There is a choice of three formats for downloading the table of results: Open Document
Spreadsheet, Excel, or text.
If you want to see the marks for each question, check the “Show mark details” box,
then click the Go button.
Managing Quizzes | 115
Above the attempts list, there are four links. The first link, Overview, shows the list of
completed attempts you saw when you first clicked on the completed quiz link.
The next link, Regrade, is for recalculating quiz grades if you have changed the possible
number of points for the quiz or a question.
If your students come up with a correct answer to a short-answer question that you had not previously thought of, you can edit the shortanswer question, then regrade the quiz.
The third link, “Manual grading,” is for grading essay questions. In addition to giving
each essay question attempt a grade, you can also provide feedback by writing a
comment.
The fourth link is “Item analysis,” as shown in Figure 6-16. This is a great tool for
evaluating the reliability of your questions. You can see the three most common answers
to each question, the percentage of students who got each question correct, the standard deviation, the discrimination index, and the discrimination coefficient. The discrimination index correlates students’ overall performance on the quiz to their
performance on each item; stronger students should have a better chance of getting
each individual question correct, and weaker students should have a lower chance of
getting each item correct. If the distribution of correct and incorrect responses is flat
(everyone has an equal chance of being correct), then everyone is guessing. If everyone
is getting it right (or wrong), then the question is too easy (or too hard). The higher the
discrimination index, the better the question is at providing useful data about student
performance.
Below the item analysis table are various analysis options, such as restricting the
analysis to students’ first attempts. Low scores, perhaps for trial attempts, may be rejected by setting a low limit for the score of the attempts to analyze.
Again, there is a choice of formats for downloading the item analysis table for further
analysis.
Quiz Capabilities
The quiz module has a range of capabilities that allow you to create a number of student
roles:
View quiz information
This allows a user to view the quiz introduction but not attempt the quiz itself.
Attempt quizzes
This allows a user to attempt the quiz as well as view the quiz introduction.
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Figure 6-16. Item analysis
Manage quizzes
This allows a user to edit and delete quizzes. Editing quizzes allows the user to add
and subtract questions and change the quiz settings.
Preview quizzes
This allows a user to preview the quiz as part of the editing process.
Grade quizzes manually
This allows a user to change the scores on a quiz, and manually grade quiz essay
questions.
View quiz reports
This allows a user to see the reports detailing user responses and question statistics.
Delete quiz attempts
This allows a user to delete both their own and other users’ quiz attempts.
Ignores time limit on quizzes
A user with this capability can take as long as he wants to complete a quiz.
You may wish to allow the capability “Ignores time limit on
quizzes” for students with learning disabilities that require they be
given additional time to take assessments.
Quiz Capabilities | 117
Effective Quiz Practices
As we’ve seen, the Moodle quiz engine is a powerful, flexible tool for monitoring and
diagnosing a student’s understanding of certain types of knowledge. Using this tool
effectively can boost your course’s effectiveness and promote student performance.
While a computer-scored quiz is a different evaluation than more open-ended assessments, it does give valuable insight into student thinking, especially when you use good
strategies and a little creativity.
Quiz Strategies
Of course, using the quiz engine effectively takes some work and practice. The first
thing to do is use effective question-design strategies. If you ask good questions, you’ll
get useful data about your students’ performance and understanding of the material.
Of course, the converse is also true. There is a ton of literature about effective assessment design available. We’ll just highlight a few of the most important ideas:
• Tie each question to a course goal. After all, you want to know whether your students are achieving the goals of the course, so why not ask them directly?
• Try to ask multiple questions about each important idea in the class. This gives
you more data points about a student’s understanding.
• When writing a multiple-choice question, be sure each wrong answer represents a
common misconception. This will help you diagnose student thinking and eliminate easy guessing.
• Write questions requiring your students to think at different levels. Include recall
questions, comprehension questions, and application and analysis questions. You
can determine where students are having problems in their thinking. Can they
recall the material but not apply it?
• Test your questions. After you’ve established an initial question bank, use item
analysis to determine which questions are useful and which aren’t. As you write
new questions, give them a lower point value and throw in a few to establish their
reliability.
Once you have a few well-written test banks, be sure to use the quiz reports and statistics
to monitor your classes’ performance. The detailed reports and statistics are valuable
tools for measuring your students’ understanding of the material.
Creative Quiz Uses
With the Moodle quiz engine, it’s easier to utilize educationally sound assessment
strategies that would be too difficult to implement with paper and pencil. Most people
think of tests as an infrequent, high-stakes activity, such as midterms and finals. Better
118 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
strategies involve frequent, low-stakes assessments you and your students can use to
guide student performance during the course of the semester.
Creating a series of mini-tests gives you a very flexible system for gauging performance
and keeping students engaged in the class. Here are a few ideas for quick quizzes you
can use as part of a larger assessment strategy.
Chapter checks
Getting students to complete reading assignments has to be one of the hardest motivational tasks in education. Reading is critical to understanding most material and
fundamental to success in many classes. The problem for most students is that there is
no immediate punishment for procrastinating on a reading assignment. If they haven’t
done the reading for a class discussion, they can either keep quiet or skim-read it in
class. There’s almost no need to do the reading for a lecture course, since the lecturer
usually covers most of the material in class anyway.
Creating a mini-test for each reading assignment solves a number of problems. First, it
encourages students to do the reading so they can do well on the quiz. Second, it gives
the students feedback on how well they understood the reading assignment. Third, it
gives you data about which aspects of the reading students found confusing, and which
they have already mastered, so you can refocus your class activities.
For a reading mini-test, setting a limited-time quiz that students can take only once is
recommended. Because it’s a low-stakes activity that students should use for self-assessment, you could also display feedback and correct answers. If you’re concerned
about students sharing answers after they’ve taken the quiz, randomize the question
and answer order. If you have a test bank, make some of the questions random as well.
As an additional assignment, you could ask students to write down one question about
a question they got wrong and bring it to class.
Test practice
They key to effective practice is to have a realistic practice environment. Many students
worry about tests, especially high-stakes tests, because they have no idea what to expect. What question format will you use? How detailed will the questions be? What
should students study?
You can help alleviate test anxiety by creating a practice test students can take to help
answer these questions. These tests are usually based on old questions similar to the
upcoming test questions. Using last year’s final as an example test will force you to
write new questions every year. This is a good idea anyway, since you can be sure
someone has a copy of last year’s test and is sharing it with others.
To set up a practice test, you could create a zero-point test with questions from the year
before in random order with random answers. You could also allow students to take
Effective Quiz Practices | 119
the test as many times as they like so they can test themselves as much as they need.
Display feedback, but not correct answers, so the test presents more of a challenge.
Data gathering
As an expert, you know a lot about your field. Your challenge as a teacher is to translate
your knowledge for a novice who doesn’t share your conceptual understanding or experience. An example or lecture you think is brilliant may leave your students completely confused. It can be hard to tell what students really understand and what’s
leaving them baffled.
A data-gathering quiz is similar to a chapter check, but it takes place after a class meeting
or lecture. Your goal is to quickly get some feedback on your students’ understanding
of a lecture. What did they really understand? What do you need to spend more time
on? It can be difficult to gauge what students find difficult and what they find so easy
that it bores them.
Setting up a post-class data-gathering quiz is similar to creating a chapter check. Set
the quiz for a limited time, such as a day or two before the next meeting. Allow your
students to take it once and display feedback and correct answers.
Progressive testing
A very nice example of using the new feedback system with other options is the idea of
progressive testing. To implement this, you need to create a series of increasingly difficult quizzes. The first quiz should be open to anyone, with the later quizzes protected
by a password. In the feedback for each quiz, decide a cutoff percentage which you feel
represents mastery of the skills tested. If the students’ score is greater than the cutoff
score, the feedback message includes a link to the next quiz with the appropriate password.
In this way, students gradually have access to increasingly difficult tests, and it allows
them to concretely demonstrate their progress. But they don’t become frustrated with
questions that are too difficult.
Quiz Security and Cheating
Of course, online testing also presents another chance for the cheaters in your classes
to try to game the system. Most online quizzes are meant to be taken at home, or at
least outside of class. Students can download the questions and print them out. They
can take the tests with other students or while reading their textbooks.
Fortunately, you can counter many of these strategies, making them more trouble than
they are worth. Let’s look at a few strategies for countering most cheating schemes:
120 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
Printing and sharing questions
If you display feedback and correct answers, students can print the results page
and share it with their friends. Or they can simply print the questions themselves
directly from the quiz. The key to discouraging this behavior is to randomize the
question order and answer order. It makes the printouts a lot less useful. Creating
larger question banks and giving tests with random subsets is also an effective
strategy. If students can print only a small number of questions at a time, they will
need to view the test again and again, and then sort the questions to eliminate
duplicates.
Using the textbook
Students will frequently look up the answer to questions in the textbook or a reading. If you are giving a chapter-check quiz, then this is what you want them to do.
Otherwise, you need to come up with creative ways to make the textbook less
directly useful. Timed quizzes are the single most effective tool for eliminating this
strategy. If you include enough questions and make the time to take the quiz short
enough, students won’t have time to look up all the answers.
Jason: I usually allot about 30 seconds per multiple-choice question. If they answer
them faster and have time to look up some answers afterward, I figure they knew
enough to deserve the option of looking up an answer or two.
Assume there will be printed copies of your questions available to
students who want them. Most instructors don’t realize students
frequently have copies of old paper-based tests, and delivering a
test electronically is another way for students to get copies of the
questions.
Jason: I know one professor who had over 1,100 questions in his
online test bank. At the end of the semester, he confiscated a printout from a student. It had every question with the correct answer,
neatly formatted and divided by textbook chapter. We decided if
students wanted to memorize 1,100 questions to the level where
they could answer a small number of them displayed at random,
then they would have learned more than if they had just studied.
Of course, we used timed quizzes and other strategies to minimize
using the printout as a reference manual.
Asking students to apply their knowledge to novel situations can also make a difference. Synthesis and application questions can’t be looked up. Students have to
understand the material and apply it creatively to answer the questions. So while
they may take the time to review the text, they will still need to understand what
they’ve read to successfully answer the question.
Working with friends
If your students are on the same campus, they may meet in a lab and try to take
the quiz together. This strategy is easily thwarted with random question order,
random answer order, and random questions pulled from a test bank. If my screen
Effective Quiz Practices | 121
doesn’t look like yours, then it’s harder for us to quickly answer all of the questions.
A timed quiz also makes it harder for the two of us to cheat if we have different
questions and only a short amount of time to answer.
Have someone else take the test
The old adage goes, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” And no one
knows who is actually taking the test. Students will sometimes pay classmates, or
others who have taken the course in the past, to take online quizzes for them. There
are two ways to counter this strategy. One, have an occasional proctored exam
where students need to show ID. If they haven’t taken the quizzes or done the work
until then, they will do poorly on the proctored exam. Second, to eliminate current
classmates from taking each other’s quizzes, make them available only for a short
time. You could require everyone to take the test within a two- to four-hour block.
If the test is properly randomized, it will be very difficult to take it more than once
during the testing period. The test-taker will worry about her own grade first, then
about her employer’s grade.
Obviously, there are many strategies students can use to cheat. While it would be naïve
to assume there isn’t cheating, the vast majority of your students want to succeed on
their own merits. The anonymity of the online environment may open up new avenues
for the cheaters, but it’s not really much different from your face-to-face classes. A few
people will go to great lengths to cheat, but most will be honest as long as it’s not too
easy to get away with it. A few precautions will eliminate most of the cheaters, and the
classic strategies will work for the others.
122 | Chapter 6: Quizzes
CHAPTER 7
Assignments
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.1 Assignments
After the complex and powerful quiz module, assignments are a refreshingly simple
method for collecting student work. They are a simple and flexible catch-all for things
you want to grade that don’t fall into any of the other tool types.
The assignment module gives you an easy way to allow students to upload digital content for grading. You can ask them to submit essays, spreadsheets, presentations, web
pages, photographs, or small audio or video clips. Anything they can store on their hard
drives can be submitted in response to an assignment.
Assignments don’t necessarily have to consist of file uploads. You can create offline
assignments to remind students of real-world assignments they need to complete. Alternatively, you can ask students to input their answer directly into the assignment
itself.
Assignments are a useful tool you can use in creative ways to collect more authentic
responses from your students than is possible with the quiz engine.
Assignment Types
There are four assignment types:
Upload a Single File
This allows each student to upload a single file in any format, including a ZIP file.
Offline Activity
This is useful when the assignment is performed outside of Moodle. It could be
something face-to-face or on paper. Students can see a description of the assignment, but they can’t upload any files.
Online Text
This allows students to input text online. You can grade the assignment online and,
if necessary, add inline comments or changes.
123
Advanced Uploading of Files
This allows each student to upload one or more files in any format. As the teacher,
you can also upload one or more files for each student, either at the start or in
response to their submission. A student may enter notes describing their submitted
files, progress status, or any other relevant information.
Creating Assignments
Compared to some of the other tools we’ve looked at, assignments are easy to create.
Once you’ve decided on the basic type of assignment, you can very quickly create a
place for students to upload or enter their responses to the materials.
To create an assignment:
1. Click “Turn editing mode on.”
2. Select an assignment type from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu.
3. On the “Adding a new assignment” page, as shown in Figure 7-1, give your
assignment a descriptive name.
4. In the Description area, carefully describe your assignment. It’s a good idea to be
very detailed here, even if you’ve already detailed the requirements in your syllabus.
In fact, you might want to copy and paste from your syllabus to avoid confusion.
5. Choose the grade scale you want to use for the assignment.
6. Set the “Available from” date and “Due date” for your assignment or check the
Disable boxes.
7. Decide whether to prevent late submissions.
8. Choose the options for the type of assignment you have chosen:
Advanced uploading of files
• Set the maximum size for a file upload. (The top of the scale is set by your
system administrator. There is also a maximum upload size in your course
settings.)
• Choose whether students may delete uploaded files at any time before
grading.
• Set the maximum number of files each participant may upload. Note that
students can’t see this number, so it’s a good idea to write the actual number
of requested files in the assignment description.
• Choose whether to enable students to enter notes into the text area. This
can be used for communication with the grading person, for assignment
progress description, or for any other written activity.
• Decide whether to hide the assignment description prior to the date when
the assignment is available.
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• Choose whether teachers should be alerted via email whenever students
add or update their submission.
Online text
• Decide whether to allow students to resubmit assignments after they have
been graded (for you to regrade).
• Choose whether teachers should be alerted via email whenever students
add or update an assignment submission.
• Choose whether the student’s submission will be copied into the feedback
comment field during grading, making it easier to comment inline or to edit
the original text.
Upload a single file
• Choose whether to allow students to resubmit assignments after they have
been graded (for you to regrade).
• Choose whether teachers should be alerted via email whenever students
add or update their submission.
• Set the maximum size for a file upload. (As mentioned previously, the top
of the scale is set by your system administrator and there is also a maximum
upload size in your course settings.)
9. Select the common module options:
Group mode
Another location to set the group mode for the activity. If group mode is forced
in the course settings, then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
10. Click the “Save changes” button to make your assignment available.
Your assignment will appear in your course page. It will also be added to your course
calendar and will appear in the Upcoming Events block to remind students when it’s
due.
To see how your assignment appears for your students, select Student
from the “Switch role to” drop-down menu in the top-right corner of
the course page, next to the “Turn editing on” button. The “Return to
my normal role” link at the bottom of each page restores your teacher
status.
Creating Assignments | 125
Figure 7-1. Adding a new assignment
Assignment Capabilities
The assignment module has only three capabilities:
View assignment
This allows a user to view the assignment but not submit anything.
Submit assignment
This allows a user to make an assignment submission.
Grade assignment
This allows a user to view all assignment submissions and grade them.
Managing Assignment Submissions
To view your students’ submissions, click on the assignment name in your course page.
You’ll see the assignment name and details and a link in the upper-right corner of the
page telling you how many assignments have been submitted. Click on this link.
The assignment submissions page, as shown in Figure 7-2, contains a table with these
headings: First name/Surname; Grade; Comment; Last modified (Student); Last modified (Teacher); and Status. The list may be sorted by clicking on a particular heading.
126 | Chapter 7: Assignments
Figure 7-2. Assignment submissions
Clicking twice on the same heading sorts the list in the opposite order. If the table is
too large, then columns may be collapsed by clicking on the Hide icon next to a particular column heading.
By default, 10 submissions are shown per page, though this may be changed at the
bottom of the page.
To grade a submission, click on the Grade link opposite a particular student’s name.
A new window will open containing a feedback area (see Figure 7-3).
For Upload a Single File and Advanced Uploading of Files assignments, there is a link to
download the file together with the date it was last submitted. You will need to open
it in another application, unless it’s a web page. So if your student submits a Word
document, you’ll need to save it to your desktop and open it in Word.
For an Advanced Uploading of Files assignment, you have the option to upload a response file. Students may upload draft files for you to review at any time. When their
assignment is finished, they can mark it as final by clicking the “Send for marking”
button. Prior to grading, you may choose to revert an assignment back to draft status.
For an Online Text assignment, the text is displayed in a box with the word count above.
If comment inline has been enabled, then the text is copied into the feedback comment
field.
Once you’ve reviewed the student’s assignment, pick the grade for the assignment from
the drop-down list. (You set the scale when you created the assignment.) Below the
grade scale, you can type comments regarding the student’s work. When you’re done,
click “Save changes” or “Save and show next.”
To quickly grade multiple assignments all on one page, rather than one
by one in a new window, check the “Allow quick grading” box at the
bottom of the assignment submissions page. Simply add the grades and
comments, then when you’re done click “Save all my feedback” at the
bottom of the page.
Managing Assignment Submissions | 127
Figure 7-3. Assignment feedback
If you’ve set an Offline Activity assignment, you can enter grades and comments in the
same way as for the other types of assignments.
Students can see their grades and comment in two ways. First, they can click on the
assignment link again. They will see their grades and comments below the submission
block. Alternatively, they can click on the Grades link in the course Administration
block. They will see the grade for the assignment and can then click on the assignment
name to get the written feedback.
Effective Assignment Practices
The two most basic assignment types, offline and upload, are so generic you may find
it difficult to use them effectively at first. You may find it useful to think about them as
two separate modules sharing a common interface.
Offline assignments are useful for recording grades for real-world activities. Currently,
they are a sort of hack that allows the creation of manual columns in the grades module.
If you look at the grades area (which we’ll cover in Chapter 13), you’ll notice there is
no way to add a column in order to add grades not automatically generated by a quiz
or other tool. The offline assignment gives you a way around this limitation by adding
a column in which you can record any grade at all. This limitation will be addressed in
Moodle 1.9, which includes a completely rewritten gradebook.
128 | Chapter 7: Assignments
The offline assignment is more than just a hack, however. You can use this tool to
record scores or feedback for student presentations, class participation, performances,
sculptures, or any other nondigital performance. You can create a scale to give
nonnumeric feedback if you don’t want to give a numeric score to a creative performance. Again, we’ll cover creating scales in detail in Chapter 13.
Uploaded assignments are probably what most people expect when they think about
assignments. Remember, you can use these assignment types for any sort of digital
content. Most instructors use assignments to collect essays and other word-processing
assignments. You can also use them to collect other types of student work. Students
could upload PowerPoint slides prior to a presentation. You could assign a what-if
scenario using a spreadsheet and ask students to submit it. Students could take a digital
photograph of a sculpture or mechanical project and submit it for evaluation.
As long as the file is smaller than the upload maximum, you can create assignments for
any sort of digital content. Consider the types of work products you want your students
to produce during your course. How many of them could be digital files submitted
using an assignment?
Creative Assignment Practices
Simple, flexible tools can lend themselves to creative problem solving. The uses for the
assignment module are limited only by your imagination. Let’s take a look at case
studies, an advanced use of assignments, to get the creative process started.
Case studies are important learning tools in a number of professional fields. Medical
schools, business schools, and others use case studies to convey information in a narrative context and give students a chance to immediately apply their new knowledge.
Designing a good case study does take some time, but an iterative approach works well.
Start small and build up over time. Eventually, you could follow one case study across
an entire semester, or build a set of cases, forming the basis for your students’ practice.
Jason: My wife’s engineering capstone course used one case study in several parts, over
the course of a semester, to test the students’ abilities to apply the engineering concepts
they had learned over the previous four years. Each phase of the course introduced new
challenges they had to solve using different techniques and concepts.
Case studies have a few basic parts. There’s a narrative setup, background data, and a
problem statement. The problem statement should be an interesting challenge linked
to course goals and solvable by applying concepts and procedures learned in class. The
narrative setup is important because it contextualizes the assignment, giving students
a feel for the people involved in the problem. You can make the case easier or harder
depending on how ambiguous your narrative and data are. For more advanced challenges, you may want to create a case where there is no clear-cut answer, to encourage
student discussion.
Effective Assignment Practices | 129
Most case studies require combining assignments with resources to present the case
and give students a way to submit their answers. Add your narrative and data as
resources using the files and resources tools discussed in Chapter 3. Then add your
problem statement as the description of an assignment.
Students should use the narrative and data to solve the problem posed by the assignment. The response should show how the resolution of the problem is supported by
the data.
Summary
Assignments are an easy way to gather and track student submissions. Students can
submit any type of electronic file to fulfill the requirements. Instead of collecting unwieldy stacks of paper, you can let Moodle track who has turned in a paper and when.
The feedback options provide you with an easy way to send grades and/or comments
back to the students about their work.
130 | Chapter 7: Assignments
CHAPTER 8
Glossaries
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.5 Glossary
Part of becoming an expert in any field is learning the vocabulary used by practitioners.
Experts in an area of study develop new language and word usage to communicate new
ideas or subtle variations of old ones. As communities develop within a field and experts
communicate with each other over time, new languages emerge. Many experts find it
increasingly difficult to communicate with novices as they become more immersed in
the language of their field. For example, computer experts have developed an entirely
new vocabulary of acronyms, names, and shorthand to help them rapidly communicate
complex ideas to each other.
Jason: As someone with a degree of expertise in computer technology, I know I need
to be careful not to confuse others when I explain technical concepts. If you’ve ever
been privy to a discussion among geeks, you know it can be nearly impossible for an
outsider to follow the three- and four-letter alphabet soup that passes for geek speak.
Fortunately, Moodle has a tool to help you and your students develop glossaries of
terms and embed them in your course. On the surface, the glossary module doesn’t
seem to be more than a fancy word list. In practice, however, it’s a powerful tool for
learning. The glossary module has a number of features that make it easy for you and
your class to develop shared vocabulary lists, add comments to definitions, and even
link every appearance of a word in a course to its glossary entry.
Creating Glossaries
Each Moodle course has its own set of glossaries. Only teachers can edit the main
glossary. Secondary glossaries may be configured to allow student entries and
comments.
Your Moodle course may contain one main glossary and as many secondary glossaries
as you want. You can export entries from any secondary glossary into the main glossary.
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You can create the link to your glossaries anywhere in your course sections. We suggest
that you add a main glossary to the general section at the top of your course page, then
add secondary glossaries to the topic or weekly section where they are relevant.
To create a glossary:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Glossary from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu.
3. On the “Adding a new glossary” page, as shown in Figure 8-1, give your new glossary a descriptive name.
4. Write a description of the glossary and give directions to your students in the
Description area.
5. Select the general options:
Entries shown per page
This sets the number of words and definitions your students will see when they
view the glossary list.
Is this glossary global?
Administrators can make a global glossary, with entries linking throughout
the whole site. Any course may contain a global glossary, though usually they
are only included on the site front page.
Glossary type
The glossary can be either main or secondary. As mentioned, you can export
entries from any secondary glossary into the main glossary.
Duplicated entries allowed
This allows the entry of more than one definition for a given word.
Allow comments on entries
Students and teachers can leave comments on glossary definitions. The comments are available via a link at the bottom of the definition.
Allow print view
This provides a printer-friendly-version link for students.
Automatically link glossary entries
Moodle has a text-filter feature that automatically creates a link from a word
in the course to its glossary definition. Linked words are highlighted.
Approved by default
If students are allowed to add entries, you can allow entries to be automatically
approved and added to the glossary, or they can require your approval before
other students are able to see them.
Display format
You can select how the glossary appears when students list the entries. There
are a number of different options:
132 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
Simple, dictionary style
This looks like a conventional dictionary with separate entries. No authors
are displayed and attachments are shown as links.
Continuous without author
This shows the entries one after other without any kind of separation apart
from the editing icons.
Encyclopedia
This is similar to the “Full with author” format apart from attached images
being displayed inline.
Entry list
This lists the concepts as links.
FAQ
This is useful for displaying a list of Frequently Asked Questions. It
automatically appends the words QUESTION and ANSWER in the concept and definition respectively.
Full with author
This is a forum-like display format with attachments shown as links.
Full without author
This is a forum-like display format that does not show author’s data with
attachments shown as links.
Show “Special” link
When users browse the glossary, they can select the first character of a word
from a list. The Special link displays special characters such as @, #, $, etc.
Show alphabet
You can use this option to display the alphabet for easier glossary browsing.
Show “ALL” link
If you want students to see all of the glossary entries at once, set this to Yes.
Edit always
If you want entries to be always editable, set this to Yes.
6. Select the grade options:
Allow entries to be rated
You can grade entries yourself or allow students to grade entries as well. Select
“Only teachers” or “Everyone” from the Users menu. Then select a grading
scale. You can also restrict when entries can be graded to a specific date range.
7. Select the common module options:
Group mode
Another location to set the group mode for the activity. If group mode is forced
in the course settings then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
Creating Glossaries | 133
Figure 8-1. Adding a new glossary
8. Click the “Save changes” button at the bottom of the page.
There are a lot of options to choose from in the glossary setup. They open up some
interesting possibilities that we’ll explore later in the chapter. For now, let’s take a look
at how to add glossary entries and use some of the more advanced features.
The autolinking feature will work only if your system administrator has
enabled it in the Modules > Filters section of the Site Administration
block. Autolinking can be very processor-intensive, so if it doesn’t seem
to be working for you, your system administrator may have turned it off
to speed up the system.
Using Glossaries
Once you’ve created your glossary, it’s a good idea to seed it with a couple of entries
so students have a model to work from.
134 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
Figure 8-2. A glossary
The main view of the glossary can be a bit confusing at first, as you can see from
Figure 8-2. Under the main Moodle navigation bar, you’ll find the glossary description.
Directly below the glossary description, you’ll see the search bar. Checking the “Search
full text” box allows searching for a given word in any position in the text.
Below the search bar is the “Add a new entry” button, then four browse tabs:
Browse by alphabet
Students can look for glossary entries by the first letter of a word when they select
this tab.
Browse by category
You can create word categories and make them available for students to use when
they are searching the glossary.
Browse by date
You can view entries based on the date they were last edited.
Browse by Author
If you want students to add entries, this is a useful way to keep track of who has
entered what.
At the top right of the page, below the “Update this Glossary” button, are a few links:
Import entries
You can import glossaries from within this course or from other courses.
Using Glossaries | 135
Export entries
You can use this to export your course glossary to an export file stored in the course
files area. You can then download it to your computer and upload it to another
course.
Waiting approval
If your default approval is set to No, this link will appear with the number of entries
waiting approval in brackets. Clicking on the link will list the entries, with an
approve tick icon opposite each one.
Once you’ve oriented yourself to the page, you can add an entry to the glossary.
Adding Entries
Clicking the “Add a new entry” button gives you access to the definition entry page.
To add a glossary entry:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
From the Glossary page, click the “Add a new entry” button.
Enter the word you want to define in the Concept text field, as shown in Figure 8-3.
Add the definition of the word or concept.
If you’ve defined categories in the “Browse by category” tab, you can categorize
your entry here. We’ll cover how to add a category in the next section.
If there are synonyms you want to include with the entry, add them to the
Keyword(s) text area. Enter one word per line.
If you want to add an attachment, such as a picture or an article, you can attach it
below the Keyword(s) text area.
If you want this particular entry to be linked automatically within the course, check
the “This entry should be automatically linked” checkbox. If you select automatic
linking, the checkboxes below determine whether the links are case sensitive and
whether only whole words are linked.
Click the “Save changes” button to add your word to the glossary.
Glossary Categories
Categories can help organize your glossary entries. If you’ve enabled autolinking, the
category names can be linked along with individual entries.
To create a glossary category:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click the “Browse by category” tab in the main page of the glossary.
Click the “Edit categories” button on the left side of the page.
Click the “Add category” button on the resulting Categories page.
Give the category a name.
136 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
Figure 8-3. Adding a new glossary entry
5. Choose whether you want the category name autolinked as well.
6. Click the “Save changes” button.
If you autolink the category name, any occurrence of those words will be linked. When
a student clicks on the link, he will be taken to the “Browse by category” page of the
glossary.
Autolinking
Once you’ve added an entry to the glossary and enabled autolinking, any instance of a
glossary term anywhere in Moodle will have a link to its definition. For example, if you
create an entry for the word “Moodle” in the glossary, whenever someone uses the
word in a forum, assignment, HTML or text page, or even in a description field, it will
be clickable, as shown in Figure 8-4.
Once you click on the word, a new window with the glossary entry will pop up.
Using Glossaries | 137
Figure 8-4. An autolinked word in a forum
Importing and Exporting Glossary Entries
As you build your glossaries, you may want to share them between classes or with other
instructors. Fortunately, there’s a way to export and import glossary entries without
needing to share your entire course structure.
To export glossary entries:
1. Follow the “Export entries” link at the top right of the main glossary page.
2. Click the “Export entries to file” button.
3. Save the automatically generated XML file on your computer.
To import glossary entries via an XML file:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Follow the “Import entries” link at the top right of the main glossary page.
Browse for the exported entries XML file on your computer.
Select the destination for the new entries, either the current glossary or a new one.
If you want to import category information, click the checkbox.
Click the “Save changes” button. You’ll then see a report of the entries and categories added to the glossary. If you enabled duplicate entries when you created the
glossary, the import process will add all of the new definitions. Otherwise, it will
not allow you to import any duplicate entries.
Commenting on Entries
If you enabled comments on the glossary entries, users can annotate the definitions in
the word list. When you look at a word in the glossary list, you’ll see a little cartoon
speech balloon icon in the lower-right corner of the definition block, as shown previously in Figure 8-2.
When you click on the balloon, you’re taken to the comment entry page. Add your
comment then click the “Save changes” button.
Once you’ve saved your comment, Moodle will display all of the comments for the
entry. When you return to the main glossary page, you’ll see a new message next to the
speech balloon telling you how many comments there are for the entry.
138 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
Printing a Glossary
If you’ve set “Allow print view” to Yes, then you’ll see a little printer icon at the top
right of the main glossary page. If you click the icon, Moodle will open a new browser
window and present all the words and definitions in a printer-friendly format.
To print the glossary:
1. Click the printer icon at the top of the main glossary page.
2. From the newly opened window, choose Print from the File menu of your browser.
3. Once the word list has printed, close the printer-friendly format window.
Glossary Capabilities
The glossary module has a number of capabilities available to create roles. With capability overrides, you can enable your students to have a high degree of control over their
glossaries.
Glossary capabilities are:
Create new entries
This allows a user to add new entries. If you want a glossary in which only teachers
can add entries, you can use a role override to prevent students from adding entries.
Manage entries
A user with this capability can edit and delete other users’ entries.
Manage categories
This allows a user to edit and delete glossary categories for organizing the terms.
Create comments
This allows a user to add comments, if commenting is enabled in the glossary. By
default, both teachers and students are allowed to add comments. If you want only
teachers to be able to add comments, you can use a role override to prevent students
from doing so.
Manage comments
This allows a user to edit and delete other users’ comments.
Import entries
This allows a user to import glossary entries.
Export entries
This allows a user to export glossary entries.
Approve unapproved entries
If the glossary is set to hide entries until they are approved, a user with this capability can approve new entries. This is a capability to consider giving trusted student
moderators.
Glossary Capabilities | 139
Rate entries
This allows a user to rate entries, if rating is enabled in the glossary.
View ratings
This allows a user to view all glossary ratings.
Effective Glossary Practices
A glossary can be an important part of your course. As we discussed earlier, acquiring
vocabulary in a new field can be one of the biggest challenges to new learners. As an
expert in your field, you are comfortable using the important terms and concepts in
your area of expertise. Your students, however, are not experts. They may be just starting to learn new words representing new ideas and concepts. More advanced students
will need to refine their learned definitions with subtle improvements to make the
definitions more useful.
As an experiment, go to the library and randomly choose a journal article
in an area outside your field. As you read the article, does it make sense
to you? Notice the number of unfamiliar terms, or familiar terms that
seem to be used in a different way than you are used to.
Glossary Basics
At its most basic, Moodle’s glossary can be used like a regular word list for a class. You
can develop a list of terms you know students find difficult or confusing and make the
list and definitions available for your class.
If you want to get more in-depth, we recommend creating either a weekly or chapterbased word list. Students can use it as they do weekly readings and assignments. A
weekly glossary can make it easier for students to organize their learning process.
Creative Glossary Strategies
While a basic glossary is important, creatively applying the glossary can really make an
impact on your class. Autolinking is very useful for integrating glossaries with other
course activities. In addition, you may want to make use of the Random Glossary Entry
block to display glossary entries on your course page. With the introduction of the
database module, many activities can now be either glossary or database activities.
Glossary has two advantages over the database at this point. First, many instructors
find using the Random Glossary Entry block motivates students to submit high-quality
entries, because they know the entries will be shared with the class on the front page
of the course. The automatic term-linking is also useful to integrate the glossaries with
other activities in the course.
140 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
Collaborative glossaries
Instead of creating a glossary on your own, why not have the students create it as they
encounter unfamiliar terms? A collaborative glossary can serve as a focal point for collaboration in a course. Each member of the class could be assigned to contribute a term,
a definition, or comments on submitted definitions. Multiple definitions can be rated
by you and by the students, with the highest-rated definitions accepted for the final
class glossary.
When students are responsible for creating the definitions, they are much more likely
to remember the word and the correct definition. Engaging in the process of learning,
debating, and refining a glossary can go a long way toward helping students begin using
new terms. Moodle community member Leslie Smith has created a glossary for students
to submit entries that contain the definition, part of speech, an original sentence using
the word correctly, and some type of mnemonic or visual device to help classmates
remember the word’s meaning. The visual devices the students use are quite creative
and definitely help with memorization.
You can also structure multiple glossaries over the course of a semester. Break them up
by unit, chapter, week, or any other organizational structure. Another Moodle community member, Andy Diament, has his students create as many entries as they can in
20 minutes after a topic review, which creates both a framework for further discussion
and a nice study aid when printed out.
If you have a large class, assign student teams to come up with definitions and answers.
One strategy for managing large courses is to make each team responsible for one
week’s worth of definitions, while all the other teams must rate and comment. Alternatively, each team could be responsible for one definition per chapter and then rate
and comment on the other teams’ work.
To set up a collaborative glossary, create a new glossary for each unit with the following
options:
• Glossary type: Secondary glossary
• Duplicate entries allowed: If you want teams to be able to submit multiple definitions for rating, select Yes
• Allow comments on entries: Yes
• Approved by default: Yes
• Allow entries to be rated: Yes—by everyone
The other options are up to you. Once you’ve selected the above options, students can
add their own definitions, rate each other’s, and add comments.
Mini-projects
Mini-projects are small research projects where students create small resources for each
other. One high school teacher has the students do research on organs in the body,
Effective Glossary Practices | 141
then create an encyclopedia-style entry in the glossary, including pictures and other
resources. Moodle community member A. T. Watt uses the glossary for students to
share biographies of people in the field they are studying. In both of these uses, the
automatic linking makes this a very valuable resource, as anytime someone mentions
the organ or person in a lesson, forum, or wiki, the word is linked back to the definition
in the glossary.
Collaborative quiz questions
One of the most creative uses we’ve heard about is using the glossary to create collaborative quiz questions. Students are given the Moodle question formats and they create
questions in the glossary matching one of the import types. The teacher has the glossary
set to require approval, which hides the submitted questions from other students.
When the students have all submitted their questions, the teacher exports the glossary
and then imports it into a question bank. The quiz can then be built from studentsubmitted questions.
Credit for word use
This is a combination strategy using the forum and the autolink feature of the glossary.
After you and your students have defined the glossary terms, it’s important for students
to begin practicing using the words in realistic contexts. Students, however, are usually
reluctant to experiment with new terms. With the autolinking feature, it’s easy to spot
when a glossary word has been used in a forum or in a posting on the web site.
To encourage word use, assign a portion of the credit students receive for their forum
postings for correct use of glossary terms. As you or other students rate posts, you can
quickly scan for highlighted glossary words and award points for usage. You may even
want to break the score down further. Perhaps award one point for using the word and
two points for using it correctly.
Summary
At first glance, the glossary doesn’t seem to be a very interesting tool. You could simply
create a word list in a word processor and upload it. The power of the glossary tool in
Moodle comes from its ability to automatically create links in your course for every
word in the list, and to easily build collaborative glossaries.
Use the glossary tool to help your students learn the vocabulary of your field and
encourage them to experiment with new terms. Collaborative glossaries give your students even more practice using the new words and negotiating their meaning.
In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at a tool for developing linear lessons that combines
multiple resources and little quizzes to help students progress through the course
materials.
142 | Chapter 8: Glossaries
CHAPTER 9
Lessons
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.11 Lesson
Jason: When I was growing up, I enjoyed reading a series of books called Choose Your
Own Adventure. Written in second person, they placed the reader into the story as the
main character. Each chapter was a page or two long, and ended with a choice of
actions. I could choose the action I wanted to take and turn to the appropriate page to
see what happened. I could then make another choice and turn to that page, and so on
until the story ended or my character died, which happened with disturbing regularity.
The Moodle lesson tool is a lot like the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Each page
in the lesson can have a question at the bottom of the page. The resulting page depends
on the answer the student gives. You can create branching paths through the material
based on the selections students make at each page.
With branching lessons, you can create programmed learning opportunities in which
each correct answer brings up a new piece of information and a new question. You can
also easily create flash-card lessons and, with a little creativity, use the lesson module
to create simulations and case studies to respond to student input, which results in a
degree of interactivity.
There are two basic page types in the lesson module. The question page presents the
student with a question, and the student has to enter a correct answer. After a student
submits his answer, he will see the response you’ve created and will be taken to another
page or looped back. Question pages are scored and added to the student’s cumulative
grade.
A branch tables page presents the user only with the option to select a branch. There
is no correct or incorrect answer for each response, and the student’s selections do not
impact his grade.
The authors of the lesson tool envision branches as tables of contents giving students
access to chains of questions. At the end of a chain, the user will return to the branch
table, access another one, or end the lesson. Of course, you don’t have to create a lesson
this way. You can use the branch table to create a simulation in which the student’s
143
choices present him with consequences and new decisions. At the end of the chapter,
we’ll explore some other creative ways to apply the lesson module.
Creating a lesson isn’t complex, but the math of branching lessons means you have to
plan carefully. Unless you prune your branching lesson, you will end up with a huge
number of options for students and a large number of pages to write.
Creating a Lesson
Before you begin creating a lesson, it’s a good idea to draw a flowchart. Lessons require
more advanced planning than many of the other tools. They have the potential for
branching on each page, so advanced planning is critical before you begin to develop
your lesson. Even with two choices per page, if every choice results in a new page, you
will quickly need a very large number of pages. The first page will require two additional
results pages, and each of these will require two more—for a total of seven pages from
an initial two choices. The key to minimizing the number of pages is to reuse as many
as possible.
Take a few minutes to draw a flowchart for your lesson. What will the first page display?
What are the options? Where will the options take the student? It’s important to answer
these questions for each page of the lesson to avoid getting lost while you are actually
creating the content.
Once you have your flowchart, it’s time to start creating a lesson.
To create a lesson:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Lesson from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the appropriate
course section.
3. On the “Adding a new lesson” page, as shown in Figure 9-1, give the lesson a
descriptive name.
Don’t be put off by the long list of settings—they can generally be
left as default or you can change them at a later time.
4. Choose whether a lesson attempt should be timed, and if so, what the time limit
should be. If a time limit is used, then a student may finish the lesson activity after
the time is up, though any questions answered after the time limit is up are not
counted.
5. Choose the maximum number of answers/branches per page. This is the maximum
number of selection options you want per page.
6. Select the grade options:
144 | Chapter 9: Lessons
Practice lesson
If set to Yes, then students’ grades are not recorded.
Custom scoring
This allows you to add a score (positive or negative) for each answer.
Maximum grade
Choose a value between 0 and 100 percent. If the maximum grade is set to 0,
then the lesson does not appear in the gradebook.
Student can re-take
You can set this only to Yes (to allow students to re-take the lesson) or No.
You can’t set the number of times a student can re-take a lesson.
Handling of re-takes
If you allow students to re-take the lesson, you need to set a grading policy.
You can use the mean of the student’s grades for each lesson attempt or select
the maximum grade.
Display ongoing score
Set to Yes to show the student’s ongoing score on each page.
7. Select the flow control options:
Allow student review
If set, the last page of the lesson contains a “Review Lesson” button for the
student to navigate through the lesson again from the start. Maximum number
of attempts should be set to more than 1.
Display review button
If set, a Review button appears after an incorrectly answered question, enabling
the student to reattempt it. The Review button cannot be used for essay questions.
Maximum number of attempts
This represents the maximum number of attempts a student can make on any
question. If a student has difficulty with a short-answer or numerical question,
she can make this number of attempts before being moved to the next page.
Action after correct answer
This determines how the system responds after a correct answer. Most of the
time, you’ll want the system to show the page you’ve selected as a response.
You can also elect to have the system randomly display a question the student
hasn’t seen yet or one he hasn’t answered.
Display default feedback
If set, for questions without specific feedback, the responses “That’s the correct
answer” and “That’s the wrong answer” are used.
Creating a Lesson | 145
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
Minimum number of questions
With this option, you can set the number of questions used as a base for calculating the student’s grade. If you set a minimum number of questions, the
student must answer at least this many questions to receive full credit.
Number of pages (cards) to show
Set this parameter only if you are creating a flash-card lesson (see the following
section, “Effective Lesson Practices”). If this is set to a number greater than 0,
students will be shown that number of cards, then the lesson will end. If this
is set to a number greater than the number of cards you’ve created, Moodle
will display every card.
Select the lesson formatting options:
Slide show
If set, the lesson is displayed as a slide show, with a fixed width, height, and
custom background color, which you can also set.
Display left menu
If set, the list of the pages is displayed.
Progress bar
If set, a progress bar is displayed at the bottom of each page.
Set the “available from” and deadline for your lesson.
Set dependency options, if required:
Dependent on
Access to this lesson can be made dependent on student performance in
another lesson. Unless you have more than one lesson in a course, this menu
will only allow you to select none.
Time spent (minutes)
You can make access to this lesson dependent on the amount of time students
have spent in a previous lesson.
Completed
To access this lesson, the student must have completed a previous lesson.
Grade better than (%)
You can make access to this lesson dependent on the student scoring higher
than a certain percentage in another lesson.
Choose or upload a file for a pop-up window at the beginning of the lesson, if
required.
Select the other options:
Link to an activity
To add a link to another activity on the last page of the lesson, select the activity
from the drop-down menu.
146 | Chapter 9: Lessons
Use this lesson’s settings as defaults
If set, the settings you have chosen for this lesson will be the default settings
the next time you create a lesson in the same course.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
13. Click the “Save changes” button.
You are then asked what you would like to do first:
Import questions
You can import questions from a variety of formats. The lesson module will create
a page for each question you import.
Import PowerPoint
PowerPoint slides get imported as branch tables with previous and next answers.
Add a branch table
A branch table is a lesson page without responses to student selections. Instead,
each selection option branches to another page. Branch tables do not impact a
student’s grade. A lesson may start with a branch table that acts as a table of contents.
Add a question page
A question page consists of a title, some content, and a question at the bottom of
the page. When a student answers a question, she sees the response for her answer
and a Continue button. The Continue button takes the student to the appropriate
branch page.
To add a question page, fill in the form as shown in Figure 9-2:
1. Select a question type for the page by clicking a tab. Your options are multiple
choice, true/false, short answer, numerical, matching, and essay. If you want to
use multiple-answer multiple-choice questions or case-sensitivity in the
short-answer responses, click the checkbox below the tabs.
2. Give the page a title. The title will also be visible to the student as he completes
the lesson. You can also use it to organize your pages as you build the lesson.
3. Enter the page contents. The contents will need to include the question you want
the students to answer as well. If you are creating flash cards, you’ll want to enter
only the question here.
4. Enter the correct answer to the question in the Answer 1 box.
5. Enter the response generated by the answer.
By default, the first response takes the student to the next page while all other
responses return the student to the same page. After you’ve created a page, you
can come back and edit this behavior. The lesson automatically presents the
Creating a Lesson | 147
Figure 9-1. Adding a new lesson
question choices in random order so you don’t have to worry about the first response always being the correct one.
6. Enter any other answer choices you want to student to consider, with responses
for each.
148 | Chapter 9: Lessons
Figure 9-2. Adding a question
7. Click the “Add a question page” button at the bottom of the page.
You’ll then see the lesson construction page, such as the one shown in Figure 9-3. Each
page you create will be listed here with a number of options above and below it.
In addition to the options covered previously, you also have the option to:
Creating a Lesson | 149
Figure 9-3. Lesson construction
Add a cluster
A cluster is a set of question pages from which one or more may be randomly
chosen. Questions within a cluster are randomly selected by choosing “Random
Question within a Cluster” as a jump.
Add an end of cluster
Clusters should be completed with an end of cluster page.
Add an end of branch
If you use branch tables, you should end each branch with an end of branch page,
which takes the student back to the last branch table page so she can select another
alternative.
Above each page table, you’ll see the icons for moving, updating, previewing, or deleting the page. Previewing the page shows the lesson from the student’s point of view.
You can answer questions, check out branches, and interact with the lesson. The only
thing you won’t be able to see is the final grade.
You can also preview your whole lesson by clicking the Preview tab at the top of the
page list. This link will take you to the first page in your lesson as a student would see
it. You can then start from the beginning of the lesson and work your way through.
Once you’ve created your first page, you can add a new page, add a branch table, or
edit an existing question. You’ll need to add each page you want students to be able to
view.
150 | Chapter 9: Lessons
Figure 9-4. Grading an essay
Managing Lessons
Once you’ve created your lesson, there isn’t much management involved, unless you
have included essay questions. Essay questions require manual grading with an optional comment.
To grade an essay question:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Click the “Grade essays” tab at the top of the lesson page.
Click the essay link in the middle column of the page, as shown in Figure 9-4.
Give the essay a score and add some comments.
Click the “Save changes” button.
When you have finished grading essays, click the “Email ALL graded essays”
link to notify your students.
As students complete the lesson, their scores will be recorded in the gradebook (see
Chapter 13). If you’ve allowed students to attempt each lesson multiple times, their
scores may change as they repeat the lesson.
Lesson Capabilities
The lesson module has only two capabilities:
Edit a lesson activity
This allows a user to edit a lesson. If you create a blank lesson and allow students
to edit it, they can create a new lesson for the rest of the class.
Manage a lesson activity
This allows a user to manage a lesson and grade essay questions.
Effective Lesson Practices
Lessons can be an interesting change of pace for your students. They may require more
upfront development time than many other types of tools, but they do provide some
Managing Lessons | 151
Figure 9-5. Branching quiz schematic
benefits. The two basic lesson types, branching quizzes and flash cards, are relatively
easy to set up.
Branching Quizzes
The most basic lesson structure is a branching quiz. You use branches to organize sets
of questions around different topics or concepts in your course. Each branch of the
quiz leads to a linear series of pages and test questions, then returns to the main branch.
The main-branch page acts as a table of contents for the lesson, as shown in Figure 9-5.
If you decide to build this type of lesson, be sure to include a link to the end on the
main page. If not, the students will have no way of ending the lesson and recording
their scores.
If you create a lesson with a branch table and strings of questions, be sure to set a
reasonable minimum number of questions. Otherwise, students will be able to visit one
branch and receive a maximum score for the lesson, even though they didn’t look at
any other branches.
To create a branching quiz:
1. Create the lesson and the first question page by following the instructions.
2. Create a question page for the first question in each branch.
152 | Chapter 9: Lessons
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
Create a branch table with a branch for each of the questions you just created.
Be sure to make the last branch a link to the end of the lesson.
After you’ve saved the branching table, move it to the top of the pages list.
Under the first question for the first branch, create the second question page for
the next step in the branch.
Fill in the question page for the second question. Put the correct answer in the first
answer slot if you are creating a true/false or multiple-choice question.
Continue adding questions to the branch until you are finished.
Add an end of branch after the last question in the branch.
Below the first question for the each of the remaining branches, repeat steps 6
through 9.
When you have added all your pages, review your lesson by clicking the Check
Navigation link.
Flash Cards
Flash cards can be a useful way to practice recalling basic facts and definitions. As we
discussed in Chapter 8, learning vocabulary can be one of the most difficult tasks for
novices in any field of study. Flash cards allow students to practice rapidly recalling
definitions as an initial step toward learning how to communicate in a new field.
The lesson module can act like a deck of flash cards, presenting either the whole deck
or a subset of cards to students when they want to study the new terms. Each question
page is a separate card, and students can rapidly react to each one in turn. This is a very
different structure than the branching quizzes.
Setting up a flash-card lesson requires specifying options when you first create the
lesson. To create a flash-card lesson:
1. Follow steps 1 through 4 for creating a lesson in the “Creating a Lesson” section.
2. Consider setting a low value for the maximum grade. You want to reward students
for using the flash cards but also make them a valuable learning tool.
3. Use the following options:
Maximum grade
Consider setting a low value for the maximum grade. You want to reward
students for using the flash cards but also make the cards a valuable learning
tool.
Student can re-take
Unless you have a very specific reason for limiting re-takes, it’s best to set this
to yes. Flash cards are used to practice recalling information rapidly. Save the
assessment of students’ recall skills for a quiz.
Effective Lesson Practices | 153
Handling of re-takes
If you set this to use maximum, it will encourage students to reuse the flash
cards to attempt to get the maximum score.
Action after correct answer
Set this to unseen or unanswered. This tells the lesson module you don’t want
it to present the next page in order.
Minimum number of questions
Keep this at zero. The students shouldn’t have a choice about the number of
cards they see.
Number of pages (cards) to show
If you want to limit the number of questions students see each time they practice with the cards, set this to a nonzero number. Make it large enough to give
students enough practice, but not so large that they become fatigued by the
sheer volume of questions.
4. Once you save the lesson options, simply create question pages. The order doesn’t
matter. You’re basically creating a deck of questions to draw from.
Once you’ve created the deck of flash cards, you can release it to your students so they
can practice answering the questions you’ve created.
Creative Lesson Uses
While branching quizzes and flash cards are interesting applications, there is a hidden
potential in the lesson module that makes it much more interesting than it at first
appears. If you take advantage of the ability of each answer in a question page to link
to any other page, you can create branching Choose Your Own Adventure-style
simulations or case studies.
Simulations and case studies
A branching simulation can be a great learning tool. On each page, the student reads
some information or looks at a picture (or both), then decides what to do next. For
example, a medical simulation may start out by presenting a patient’s complaint. Possible choices could then be to order a test or to do nothing. If the student orders a test,
each branch would present the results and ask the student what to do next. Each page
could include an option to switch from diagnosis to treatment, which would branch
the student to a different set of options.
To successfully create a branching simulation, you will definitely have to map out each
page in advance. The first page should introduce the situation. You’ll need to include
enough details in the first page to get the students started. If you have other materials
you want them to use in the simulation, you may want to create a resource link for the
students to access before they start the lesson.
154 | Chapter 9: Lessons
If you just want students to engage in the decision-making process and not receive a
grade, simply create a series of branch tables. Otherwise, you can create a combination
of branching tables and questions.
To create a simulation:
1. Create a lesson as you would a branching-quiz lesson. If you’re just using branch
tables, assign a point value of zero to the lesson.
2. Create the first question page. If the first question page will be the first page in the
simulation, be sure to provide enough details about the case so the students can
start making decisions.
3. Create the first set of decision-result pages from the first page.
4. Go back and edit the first page and assign each answer a link to a resulting page.
5. Create the decision-result pages for each of the other decision pages.
6. You’ll need to create all of the pages in advance or, after you create each iteration
of decision-result pages, go back and add the links to those pages in the decision
page.
7. After you’ve added all of the pages and links, test your simulation by clicking the
Preview tab at the top of the page list.
Effective Lesson Practices | 155
CHAPTER 10
Wikis
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.8 Wiki
A wiki is a collection of collaboratively authored web pages. A wiki starts with one front
page. Students can edit the page or add more pages to the wiki by creating links to new
pages that don’t yet exist. Old versions of each page can be viewed by checking the
page history.
Moodle’s wiki is built on top of an older wiki system, called ErfurtWiki (http://erfurt
wiki.sourceforge.net/).
In Moodle, wikis can be a powerful tool for collaborative work. The entire class can
edit a document together, or you can create group wikis which are only editable by
group members.
Creating Wikis
Creating a wiki is relatively simple and involves far fewer steps than the lesson module.
Most of the work involved with creating wikis becomes easier once you start using
them.
To create a wiki:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Wiki from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the course section
where you would like to add the wiki.
3. On the “Adding a new wiki” page, as shown in Figure 10-1, give the wiki a
descriptive name.
4. In the summary field, describe the purpose of the wiki and what you expect students to contribute.
5. Select the wiki type: groups, student, or teacher. The wiki type interacts with the
groups setting for your course, resulting in nine options, as shown in Table 10-1.
157
Table 10-1. Wiki group permissions
No groups
Separate groups
Visible groups
Teacher
Creates a single wiki that only the
teacher can edit. Students can
view the wiki but not make
changes.
Each group has a wiki that only the
teacher can edit. Other groups
can’t view the page.
Each group has a wiki that only the
teacher can edit. Other groups can
view the page.
Groups
There is one wiki for the class. All
students can edit the wiki.
There is one wiki per group. Students in that group can edit the
wiki. Other students can’t view the
page.
There is one wiki per group that
group members can edit. Other
groups can view the page.
Student
Each student has their own wiki
that only the teacher and student can edit.
Each student has their own wiki
that they can edit. Students in the
same group can view the page as
well.
Each student has their own wiki
that they can edit. All the other
students in the course can view
the page as well.
6. Click the Show Advanced button to display the following additional options:
Print wiki name on every page
If you select this option, the top of each page will have the name of the wiki.
HTML Mode
There are three options: No HTML, safe HTML, or HTML only. No HTML
will display all HTML tags as tags (for example, a bold tag will look like a <b>
instead of making the word bold). Safe HTML will allow certain tags to be
displayed. HTML only enables the HTML editor.
Allow binary files
Binary files are graphics, audio, video, and other nontext resources. If you want
students to be able to add files as attachments, be sure to set this to Yes.
Wiki autolinking options
A new page can be created in the wiki by typing a word using CamelCase, i.e.,
with a capital letter at the beginning and a capital letter somewhere else in the
word. It’s called CamelCase because the two capital letters resemble a twohumped camel. CamelCase combines all the words for the link into one word.
Each word in the link is capitalized. When a word is added in CamelCase, the
wiki automatically creates a new page and makes the word a link. You can
disable this feature if you wish, so that typing a word enclosed in square
brackets is the only way of creating a new web page.
Student admin options
When students can edit a page, you can allow them certain administrative
privileges in the wiki. We’ll cover each of these options in more detail in the
“Managing Wikis” section later in this chapter.
Page name
If you want the first page of the wiki to be different from the name of the wiki,
then add a page name. Otherwise, leave the field empty.
158 | Chapter 10: Wikis
Figure 10-1. Adding a new wiki
7. Select the common module options:
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings, then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
8. Click the “Save changes” button. You will then be taken to the editing view of the
wiki page you just created.
Once your wiki is up and running, you and your students can begin collaborating on
creating content.
Managing Wikis
After you’ve created your wiki, it’s available for editing. You and your students can
create wiki pages, link them together, and collaboratively create a collection of web
pages.
Managing Wikis | 159
Figure 10-2. Editing a wiki page
Creating Wiki Pages
After you create the wiki itself, Moodle will take you to the first page, as shown in
Figure 10-2.
In the center of the page, you’ll see the editing area for your wiki page. If you’ve chosen
the HTML only mode, you’ll be able to use the HTML editor as you would for any
other document. You can add images, tables, and any formatting you need.
To add other pages to your wiki, simply type a word enclosed in square brackets. If
you haven’t created a page with that name already, Moodle will put a question mark
next to the word.
For example, if you type the word “[Wiki]” in the page, Moodle will look to see if a
page with the name “Wiki” has already been created. If it hasn’t, when you view the
page you’ll see the word in bold with a question mark after it, as shown in Figure 10-3.
If you click on the question mark, you’ll be taken to the editing view of the new wiki
page. Once you add some content and save the page, it becomes active. Whenever you
type the same word in square brackets, Moodle will automatically create a link to the
page.
There are four tabs above the editing area: View, Edit, Links, and History, as shown in
Figure 10-2. When you browse a wiki, every page is displayed in view mode. If you
want to edit a page, click the Edit tab and you’ll see the editing area for that page. The
Links tab will display the pages that have links pointing to the page you are viewing.
160 | Chapter 10: Wikis
Figure 10-3. Viewing a wiki page
Figure 10-4. A wiki history page
You can use this to backtrack and see where this page is referenced elsewhere in the
wiki.
The History tab gives you access to the version history of the page. Whenever someone
clicks the Save button, they create a new version of the wiki page. Moodle tracks all
these versions until you strip them out (see the strip tool in the administration menu
in the next section). Figure 10-4 shows the history page for our wiki’s first page.
Each version has three tools you can use:
Browse
You can view every version of a page.
Managing Wikis | 161
Figure 10-5. A version diff
Fetch-back
This brings back an old version of the page for editing. Once you save your changes,
it becomes the newest version of the page.
Diff
This highlights the differences between two consecutive versions of a page. Additions have a + symbol next to them. Deletions have a – symbol next to them. A
simple diff page is shown in Figure 10-5.
As you build your wiki, you and your students can use these very simple tools to create
a very sophisticated information space.
Administering a Wiki
Under the Moodle navigation bar, there are three tools: search, links, and administration. The Search Wiki button allows you to search the wiki for key terms. Moodle will
return all the pages containing your search term.
The Choose Wiki Links drop-down menu provides you with tools to view your wiki
in different ways. The tools include:
Site map
A hierarchical view of the pages and links in the wiki, starting with the first page.
Page index
An alphabetical list of all the pages in the wiki.
Newest pages
A list of the most recently created pages.
Most visited pages
A list of pages with the most views.
Most often changed pages
A list of most frequently edited pages.
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Updated pages
Lists all the pages in the wiki by date and time of last edit.
Orphaned pages
A list of pages that were created and had all the links to them deleted.
Wanted pages
A wiki page where people can list pages they want to see in the collection.
Export pages
You can wrap up all your wiki pages and export them as regular HTML to a ZIP
file for download or to a Moodle directory.
File download
Download binary files attached to wiki pages.
The Administration drop-down menu gives you tools that keep your wiki running
smoothly. As you and your class generate the wiki, pages may become orphaned or you
may need to manage a student’s contributions.
Set page flags
Page flags are properties you can set on a per-page basis. Every page can be set with
different permissions:
TXT
Indicates whether the page can contain text.
BIN
Flag for allowing binary (graphics) content.
OFF
Stands for “offline.” The page is still there; it just can’t be read by someone
who doesn’t have editing permissions.
HTM
Allows HTML content instead of wiki text.
RO
Stands for “read-only.” You and your students can only read the file, not make
changes.
WR
The writable flag allows anyone in the course to make changes to the document.
Remove pages
The wiki engine automatically tracks pages that aren’t linked from anywhere else
(they were created and then the link was deleted) and empty pages. This tool allows
you to remove these orphaned wiki pages, which can’t be reached through the
ordinary wiki interface.
Managing Wikis | 163
Strip pages
While the wiki engine tracks changes, it stores old versions in the database. To
declutter the data, you may occasionally want to delete all the old versions and just
keep the new one.
Revert mass changes
Use this tool to roll back changes to all pages if a particular author makes a mess
of many pages in the wiki.
Wiki Capabilities
Wiki capabilities enable you to allow your users to engage with the wiki in very different
ways. There are three wiki-specific capabilities:
Edit wiki pages
This allows a user to add or delete content from pages within the wiki. Students
have this capability allowed by default, but you could use it to restrict editing after
a certain date.
Manage wiki settings
This allows a user to edit the settings for the wiki (all the options we’ve described
above).
Override locked pages
When a page is edited by someone, the wiki locks the page so multiple people can’t
edit the same page at the same time (which would mean the last person to save
their changes would overwrite the first person’s work). Sometimes, however, a
student will open a page for editing, but forget to save his changes. This will keep
the page locked for other students for an unreasonable amount of time. A user with
this capability can override the lock, freeing the page for editing by someone else.
If you have group wiki projects, consider assigning the “Override
locked pages” capability to the students so they can manage their
own wikis.
Effective Wiki Practices
Wikis are gaining popularity as a collaborative tool in many environments. There are
now several commercial vendors offering wikis for group collaboration in corporate
settings. Many social web sites also have wikis to allow their members to collaborate
on documents. Effective management practices are the key to a wiki’s success. You’ll
need to think about your wiki’s editorial policy, as well as its educational objectives.
164 | Chapter 10: Wikis
Wiki Basics
Wikis are a simple, flexible tool for collaboration. They can be used for everything from
simple lists of web links to building entire encyclopedias. Wikipedia is the largest wiki
in the world (http://www.wikipedia.org). As of August 2007, Wikipedia contained over
2,000,000 articles in English alone, on everything from general topology to split infinitives. The entire Wikipedia site is written by volunteers from around the world. An
article is started by someone with an interest in the subject, and then anyone in the
community can add content, edit other people’s work, or add another page elaborating
on a sub-topic. It has become so large and so frequently used that there is a lively debate
about how authoritative a collaborative work without a central editor can be.
Of course, wikis in your own class won’t be that extensive. But it’s important to have
a plan for your wiki before you release it to the class. Students need to know the purpose
of the wiki and how it fits in with the class. If it’s a personal wiki, will they be graded?
Is it simply a staging area for group work that will be submitted later? Students need
to know so they can submit appropriate work. A brainstorming wiki is very different
from one that will be submitted for a grade.
You’ll also need to decide on an editing policy. Will you be a central editor? Or will
you let the students be completely responsible for the work? How will you deal with
offensive content?
In most circumstances, you’ll find that you can trust students. But on the rare occasion
a student does do something offensive, you will need to have a policy to deal with it.
Will you roll back the changes by that author? Or will you create a new version by
deleting her content? Creating a new version leaves a trail you can use for evidence later,
but it also makes it easier for the perpetrator to restore her comments.
Creative Wiki Practices
The free-form, collaborative nature of wikis makes them easy to apply in creative ways.
Any sort of group process can be facilitated using a wiki.
Group lecture notes
Usually, lecture notes are a solitary activity. But one person can easily miss an important
point during a lecture, whether by daydreaming or by trying to understand a prior point.
Students also have difficulty deciding what information is important and what is elaboration or example. Creating a wiki for group lecture notes after a lecture gives students
a chance to combine all their notes. Those who missed information can get it from their
peers. The group can also decide what information is critical and give it proper
emphasis.
Effective Wiki Practices | 165
Group lecture notes could be done with the entire class, if it is small enough, or with
small working groups. Groups can also compare notes for further discussion and
refinement.
Group project management
The most straightforward use of a wiki is as a tool for group collaboration for creating
group projects. If you assign a group project, give your students a place to work by
creating a wiki with the group mode enabled. This will give each group their own space
to record their research, create outlines, and even create the final product. You may
even want to create a submission date where you turn off editing capabilities for students and then grade the final projects. Afterward, consider enabling visible groups so
everyone can see each other’s work.
Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a creative process in which ideas are elicited from a group of people.
In a face-to-face meeting, a brainstorming facilitator will usually stand in front of a big
piece of paper and elicit ideas from the participants in the room. You can use a wiki to
create an online version of this process. Set up a wiki for the entire class, or for student
groups, and ask people to submit ideas around a brainstorming topic. People can add
ideas as they occur and link to other pages for elaboration.
Contribute to other wikis
Consider assigning your class the task of contributing to Wikipedia, or to another wiki
on the Web, on a topic in your class. Assign your students to groups (or make it a class
project if the class is small enough and the topic broad enough) and challenge them to
collaboratively create an article they would feel confident posting to a
public-information space. Your students will use the course wiki to create drafts of the
article they will publish to the community at the end of the semester.
This type of assignment has a number of benefits:
• It gives students additional motivation to do their best, since they know their work
will be viewed and critiqued by the public instead of just their instructor.
• It can act as a summarizing activity for an entire semester’s worth of material.
• Students will know their work will be used by other people, not just graded and
filed away.
166 | Chapter 10: Wikis
CHAPTER 11
Blogs
The word “blog” is a contraction of “web log.” Blogs are a form of online journal that
millions of people around the world use for self-expression and communicating with
family and friends. The author of a blog usually organizes it as a chronological series
of postings. Although some groups of people contribute to blogs, there is usually only
one central author for each.
Blogs are growing in importance around the world. They are used by everyone from
teenagers posting who they like or dislike at school to CEOs communicating directly
with their customers to dissidents in oppressed populations expressing their political
views.
In version 1.6, Moodle released a blog tool for users. The Moodle blog has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to other blogging platforms.
Using Blogs
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 3.16 Blogs
Blogs in Moodle are user-based—each user has his own blog, which is non-coursespecific. Your profile page contains a Blog tab for accessing your blog page, as shown
in Figure 11-1.
If your profile page doesn’t contain a Blog tab, contact your system administrator and ask if blogs are enabled.
Adding Blog Entries
To add a blog entry:
1. Click on the Blog tab in your profile page.
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Figure 11-1. A blog page
2. Click on the “Add a new entry” link in the Blog Menu block.
3. In the “Add a new entry” page, as shown in Figure 11-2, write your entry and give
it a title.
4. If you want to attach a file, such as an RTF document or a picture, click the Browse
button, find the file on your computer, and click Open. Be sure your document is
smaller than the maximum attachment size (set by the system administrator).
5. Choose who you wish to publish the entry to (i.e., who may see the entry). There
are three options:
• Yourself—so your blog entry is a draft
• Anyone on your site
• Anyone in the world
6. Select appropriate official tags for your entry and/or add one or more user-defined
tags (which we’ll cover in the next section).
7. Click the “Save changes” button.
You can edit your blog entry at any time using the Edit link at the bottom of the entry.
You may want to change the publish option from yourself to anyone on the site. You
can also delete the blog entry completely if you wish.
Viewing Blog Entries
You can view your own blog entries via the Blog tab in your profile page or the “View
my entries” link in the Blog Menu block. You may view blog entries for all students in
your course, or for all students in a particular group, via the Blogs tab in the course
participants page.
Alternatively, you can choose to view all blog entries with a particular tag via links in
the Blog Tags block (which we’ll cover in the next section).
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Figure 11-2. Adding a new blog entry
Blog visibility
By default, all site users can view all blog entries via the “View site entries” link in the
Blog Menu block. However, your system administrator may have restricted blog visibility site-wide so that users can only see blog entries for people with whom they share
a course or a group.
Using Blogs | 169
Blog preferences
The “Blog preferences” link in the Blog Menu block allows you to choose how many
blog entries are displayed on a page. The default number of entries is 10.
Blog Tags
A tag is a relevant keyword or term associated with a blog entry, describing it and
enabling keyword-based classification of information for the purpose of retrieval. Typically, a blog entry will have one or more tags associated with it.
You can add new blog tags when adding or editing a blog entry. There are two types
of tag:
User-defined tags
Personal tags that any user can add
Official tags
Added by an administrator and available for any site user
If you need to add official tags as a teacher, contact your system administrator and ask for the capability to be allowed.
Blog Tags block
To encourage the use of blogs in your course, you may wish to add a Blog Tags block,
as shown in Figure 11-3, to your course page. A Blog Tags block displays a “tag cloud,”
i.e., a list of tags where more frequently used tags appear in a larger font size. Tags can
be listed in alphabetical order or according to the last date used, depending on how the
Blog Tags block is configured.
To add a Blog Tags block to your course page:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Blog Tags from the “Add blocks” menu.
3. If appropriate, move the Blog Tags block up and/or left, using the arrow icons
under the block title.
To configure a Blog Tags block:
1. Click on the edit configuration icon in the block header.
2. On the Blog Tags configuration page, as shown in Figure 11-4, adjust the settings
as required or leave them as default.
3. Click the “Save changes” button.
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Figure 11-3. The Blog Tags block from Moodle.org
Figure 11-4. Configuring a Blog Tags block
Blog Capabilities
Blog capabilities focus on entries and tags, as you might expect.
These capabilities are set at the global level, so as a teacher you may not
have the ability to change them.
View blog entries
This allows a user to view entries in other users’ blogs. If you prohibit this capability, the user will not be able to read any blogs on the system.
Create new blog entries
This allows a user to create entries in her own blog.
Blog Capabilities | 171
Edit and manage entries
This allows a user to manage entries, giving her the ability to change and delete
other users’ entries.
Manage personal tags
This allows a user to create and delete user-defined tags that others may use. (Users
are always allowed to add their own user-defined tags.)
Manage official tags
This allows a user to create and delete the official tags that all users see.
Effective Blog Practices
Blogs in Moodle are a relatively new feature, which many people are still learning how
to use. There are currently very few examples of good usage of blogs. Most blogs are
either blogging for the sake of blogging, or an ill-defined “learning journal” where students engage in unstructured reflection on what they are learning. It’s difficult to
maintain students’ motivation for either of these activities. Students who are engaging
in purposeful blogging for the first time will have a difficult time successfully posting
without scaffolding and some clear goals. Perhaps a weakness in blogging assignments
comes from a lack of first-hand experience on the part of teachers.
To begin to understand blogging, we would strongly recommend starting your own
blog in Moodle. This experience will help you understand blogs better, and it will also
give you another channel to communicate with your students and/or colleagues. As
you develop your blog, notice which posts are easy to write and which are a struggle.
Do you post regularly? Or do you need to remind yourself to post? Creating interesting
posts on a regular basis is not easy, nor is making time to post regularly. However, if
you set a good example for your students, you will find it easier to create good blogging
activities.
The most important element of running an effective blog as part of your course is to
have a clearly defined goal for student blogging.
At the beginning of a course, do a quick poll of your students. How many of them are
blogging now? Why are they blogging? Many of your students will have either MySpace
or Facebook accounts where they can post updates of their activities to their friends.
But social blogging is different from blogging in a learning environment, and you will
need to work closely with your students to create effective blogs.
It’s recommended that you allow each student to create his own blogging goals. As
David Hawkins writes in his book The Roots of Literacy, “Children can learn to read
and write with commitment and quality just in proportion as they are engaged with
matters of importance to them, and about which at some point they wish to read and
write.”
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Blogging is essentially a writing exercise. It can be a personal, reflective exercise, or it
can be a forum for posting about the ideas and concepts important to the author.
Once your students have started blogging, they may respond better if they have an
audience. Knowing someone is reading your posts is a great motivator to continue
writing. Be sure to comment, either via messages or in class, on posts students have
made public. If students want to keep their posts as private reflections, allow them to
do so. Blogging is always personal, and your blogging authors need to feel a sense of
control over their personal posts.
Creative Blog Practices
As blogs are so new, there is a lot of room for new and creative applications. As the
blogs continue to develop in future versions of Moodle, there will be more capabilities
to apply to interesting activities. But even now, there are a few creative activities you
can develop using the blog tool.
Group work with tags
Blog tags are used to categorize and locate blog entries. Usually general categories are
used, like “teaching” or “trips.” However, creating assignment-specific tags can turn
the blog tool into a brainstorming tool. If you have an assignment on understanding
evolution, create a set of tags for your students to tag research findings, claims, counterclaims, evidence, etc. Once students have begun to create entries, they can collate the
work of the entire class by selecting the appropriate tags, and every post with that tag
will be displayed.
One-minute responses
Effective feedback is important for learning. This is true for both the teacher and the
student. One-minute-response blog posts are an easy way to get informal feedback from
students about a lesson or activity and keep them posting in their blogs. Usually, the
instructor gives the students a few prompts to get quick feedback on the effectiveness
of the lesson.
You can use three questions when asking for a one-minute response to a lesson:
• What was the muddiest (i.e., least clear) point in the lesson?
• What was the most important point?
• How useful/interesting was the lesson?
Obviously, there are many more prompts you can use to get the feedback you want
from your students. You may want students to reflect on how they feel about the class
itself, or about a test, or ask other questions about how they perceive various aspects
of your course. Alternatively, you could ask them for quick answers to more specific,
content-related questions that you know students frequently have problems with.
Effective Blog Practices | 173
Jason: One of the most effective Geography classes I’ve seen uses oneminute responses on a daily basis. In each lesson, the instructor hands
out a page asking students what they didn’t understand, what the strongest point was, and what they wanted to know more about. The
instructor then takes a few minutes at the beginning of the following
lesson to address the issues raised in the reflections from the day before.
Assign students a one-minute response as a blog assignment. Post the questions in a
prominent place in your course, and ask them to tag the post with the name or date of
the activity. Clicking on the tag will make it easy to collate all of the student responses.
174 | Chapter 11: Blogs
CHAPTER 12
Databases
This chapter covers the following MTC skills: 5.12 Database
The database module provides a tool for collaborative development of a database
within the course. For those of us old and geeky enough to remember, it’s Moodle’s
answer to Apple’s FileMaker program: a simple, easy-to-use, general purpose database.
It’s not meant to be very complex or powerful, it’s simply a way for multiple people to
add structured data to a shared resource.
Only your imagination limits the potential uses of the database module. You could use
the database to create glossaries, catalogs, taxonomies, registrations, paper submissions, maps, or anything where the students in your class can fill in a form to add data.
Creating database activities is a little more involved than most of the Moodle activities,
but it’s not as complex as lessons. You also have the option of using a preset of an empty
database activity, rather than creating your own from scratch. An image gallery preset
is currently included in the database module, though more database presets will be
available in the future. For now, however, let’s create a database activity from scratch,
based on the goals you have for the students in your course.
The database module should not be confused with the database that
powers your Moodle site. The database module is an activity type, which
uses the Moodle database to store data. The Moodle database stores
data for all modules and for your Moodle site.
Creating Databases
A database is made up of fields and templates. Fields define the type of data the database
will store: text, dates, files, URLs, etc. Templates allow you to control the visual layout
of information when listing, viewing, or editing database entries.
175
A database activity has three basic template types:
List template
The list template allows you to control the fields used and their layout when viewing multiple entries. Usually an overview of each entry is provided, with more
detailed information available by clicking on an entry to access the single view.
Single template
The single template is for displaying the detailed view of a single entry. All the data
the user entered should be visible here.
Add template
The add template creates the interface form used when adding or editing database
entries.
As with many of the activity modules, a little preplanning can go a long way when you
are thinking about developing a database activity. The field definitions determine the
fields in the add template, which determine the data you can display on the list and
single templates. Before you being digging into the database, try to sketch out the fields
you think you need the students to enter, and how you might want to lay them out in
each template.
Once you have a rough sketch, creating the database itself will be easier and you will
less likely need to go back and add fields later (although you can if you need to).
Moodle.org has three good examples of database activities:
• Moodle Buzz (http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?id=6140), a
database of the titles, authors, and web links to news articles mentioning Moodle
• Themes (http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?id=6552), a database containing screenshots, download links, and user comments
about Moodle themes
• Modules and plug-ins (http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?
id=6009), a database containing a number of web links and information about the modular components of Moodle
Browsing these activities can give you ideas for each of the template
types.
Adding a Database
The first step to creating a database is adding it to the appropriate section of your course.
As with most Moodle activities, you first set the options for the database, then create
the fields and templates.
To create a database activity:
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1. Select Database from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the course section
where you would like to add the activity.
2. On the “Adding a new database” page, as shown in Figure 12-1, give the database
a name and a description.
3. Select the general options:
Available from/to
The dates the database is both visible to students and open for data entry.
Viewable from/to
The dates the database is available for viewing, but not open for data entry.
Required entries
The number of entries each student is required to enter before the database
activity can be considered complete. The student will see a reminder message
if she has not submitted the required number of entries.
Entries required before viewing
The number of entries the student needs to submit before he can see entries
by other students. If the student has not submitted the required number of
entries, he will only see the entry page and not the list or single view pages.
Maximum entries
The maximum number of entries the student can submit before she is blocked.
This prevents people from spamming the system, either in the hope that one
entry is good enough or, on a public site, as a way of advertising.
Comments
Enables commenting on entries. The comments field appears on the single
view template when this is enabled.
Require approval?
Allows you to require each entry to be approved by someone with the appropriate role before other users can view it.
RSS articles
Enables you to publish an RSS feed of entries in the database. The option here
sets the number of entries available in the feed.
RSS feeds need to be enabled by your system administrator.
Allow posts to be rated?
Lets you allow posts to be rated, which will enter a score in the gradebook for
the student’s submissions in the database. The grade is set using the dropdown menu below this option.
4. Select the common module options:
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Figure 12-1. Adding a new database
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
5. Click the “Save changes” button and you will be taken to the database setup page.
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Creating Fields
The field definitions create the basic structure of the database and determine what kind
of information students can enter into your database. You are provided with a choice
of 12 data field types:
Checkbox
For students to select one or more checkboxes. To add multiple checkboxes, enter
each option on a different line in the options text field.
If you want to ensure that a student actively selects only one of the
options, it’s better to use the radio buttons field.
Multiple checkboxes can be useful, for example, for different film genres in a movie
database. You can check more than one in the case of Horror-Comedies or
Comedy-Westerns. The menu (multiselect) field also achieves this, but clicking
multiple checkboxes is usually a more obvious interface.
Date
For students to enter a date by picking the day, month, and year from a drop-down
list.
File
For students to upload a file of any type from their computer.
If you want students to upload image files, it’s better to use the
picture field.
Latitude/longitude
For students to enter a geographic location by specifying the location’s latitude and
longitude. When students view the entry, links are automatically generated to geographic data services such as Google Maps, Google Earth, or Multimap.
Menu
For students to select an option from a drop-down menu. Enter each option on a
different line in the options text field.
Menu (multiselect)
For students to select multiple options from a drop-down menu (by holding down
the Control or Shift key as they click).
Creating Databases | 179
The checkbox field offers the same options as menu (multiselect)
but with a more obvious user interface.
Number
For students to enter a number (positive, negative, or zero).
Picture
For students to upload an image file from their computer.
Radio buttons
For students to select just one option from a list. If used, “radio buttons” is a
required field; a student may only submit his database entry after selecting an
option.
Text
For students to enter text up to 60 characters in length. For longer text, or for text
that requires formatting—such as headers and bullet points—the textarea field
should be used.
Textarea
For students to enter text longer than 60 characters in length and/or include formatting such as headers and bullet points.
URL
For students to enter a URL. Selecting “Autolink the URL” will make the URL a
clickable link, and entering a forced name for the link means that the name will be
used for the hyperlink.
To create the fields for your database:
1. On the database setup page, select the field type you want to add from the “Create
a new field” drop-down menu.
2. Enter a field name and a field description. The field name is used to create the
templates, so make it unique and long enough to be descriptive, but not too long
to retype.
3. If necessary, add/select the options for each field type. For example, you can set
the height and width of the text area generated by the textarea field.
Once you’ve defined the fields you want to use in your database, as shown in Figure 12-2, you are ready to begin editing your templates.
Editing Templates
Once you have created the fields for your database, you will probably want to edit the
templates that define the user interface. Creating the fields produces a default template,
180 | Chapter 12: Databases
Figure 12-2. Database fields
Figure 12-3. A single template
as shown in Figure 12-3. However, with a little work, you can improve the defaults
considerably.
Database templates all work on the same principle. They are basically HTML pages
with a new set of tags for the database module to interpret. When editing a template,
Moodle displays a list of available tags on the left side of the editing screen. Doubleclicking on any of the tags adds it to the template. The database activity interprets these
new tags before sending the template’s HTML to the browser for display. It looks for
words enclosed in either two square brackets ([[) or two hash signs (##), representing
two different types of interface elements it can add to the template.
The square brackets define data tags, which tell the module to replace the word in the
brackets with the value or form element of the field with the same name. So if you have
a database with a name field, you would represent it in the template with [[name]]. In
the single or list template, the module would replace it with the data in the name field
Creating Databases | 181
for that entry. In the list template, the module would replace it with a text field, and
put the value in the text field if you’re editing the entry instead of creating a new one.
The ## tags indicate the word should be replaced by an icon or link for interacting
with the module. These tags are used to place the edit and delete icons, and links for
More, Approve, Comments, and User. If you want to add the edit icon to a template,
you just add a tag that looks like ##edit##. When the user looks at the page with the
tag, the database module replaces it with the edit icon. If the user then clicks on the
icon, it takes her to the edit template.
The edit and delete icons only appear for users with appropriate capabilities allowed. The Approve and Comments links only appear if these
options are enabled AND only for users with appropriate capabilities
allowed.
Aside from the replacement tags, creating a template is just like creating an HTML
page. Use a table to lay out the data elements (this is an acceptable use of tables for
layout), add descriptive text around the replacement tags, and publish. The database
makes it easy to rapidly view your changes by flipping between the Templates tab and
the tab for the template you are working on.
Don’t forget to save the template before you switch views! It’s easy to
forget, and very frustrating to switch views and have the template look
exactly the same because you forgot to save!
When you are editing the template, you may find the HTML editor gets in your way,
especially when editing the list template (more on the list template below). Fortunately,
Moodle has a toggle button for enabling and disabling the HTML editor in the template
editing screen. Just below the “Reset template” button on the left side of the template
page, you’ll see the “Enable/Disable editor” button. Disabling the editor allows you to
get your hands dirty with the raw HTML code rather than trying to use the editor’s
GUI. Most of the templates are quite simple, and switching the editor off is a great way
to learn how the templates are structured.
As mentioned previously, there are three basic templates necessary to use the database:
list, single, and add. The three other templates—RSS, CSS, and JavaScript—are more
advanced templates and aren’t necessary for basic database use.
To edit a template:
1. On the database page, click the Templates tab.
2. Click one of the template links below the row of tabs.
3. When you are done, click the “Save template” button.
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Add template
Add template is used to create and edit new entries. In this template, data tags are
replaced with the form element for the field. If the user is editing an entry, the field will
have the data from the field in the form element for editing as well.
It’s important to list every field you want the user to fill in on this template. If you leave off a field, the user won’t be able to add or edit its data.
If you have a lot of form elements, consider grouping them together logically. For example, if you have a database asking students to build a catalog of insects found during
a field trip, you may want to separate the description and taxonomy from the location
data. It will make it easier for students to fill in and organize their data.
Single template
The single template, as shown earlier in Figure 12-3, is the detailed view of an entry.
This template should list all of the available data. Again, consider organizing the data
if you have a lot of fields in your database.
List template
The list template is the first page students will see when they come to your database.
The list template should give an overview of the entries and enable users to click through
to the single or edit template.
Organizing a good list template is a bit of a challenge. First, you should identify the
fields that will be most helpful to users for selecting the entries they want to view. The
default layout almost always has too much information and is not laid out well.
The form has three areas: the Header, Body, and Footer. If you lay out the list template
as a table, you’ll want to use the Header area as the table header, the Body for the data,
and the Footer to close the table, as has been done for the Moodle.org modules and
plug-ins and Moodle Buzz databases. But the HTML editor puts a full table in each
area, which makes it difficult to get proper alignment of the elements and not repeat
the headers for every entry.
A knowledge of tables in HTML is required in order to lay out the entire
list template as one table.
To make the entire list template as one table:
1. On the list template page, turn off the HTML editor. Figure 12-4 shows the list
template from the Moodle.org modules and plug-ins with the HTML editor turned
off.
Creating Databases | 183
Figure 12-4. The list template from the Moodle.org Modules and plug-ins database
2. In the Header area of the template, open the table and add a row for your header
text. Each column should contain one element of the header.
3. In the Body, create another row with the data and command replacement tags.
4. In the Footer, close the table.
5. Save the template. DO NOT switch the HTML editor on while editing this template. If you turn the editor back on, it will create tables in each of the areas.
RSS template
The RSS template allows you to structure the RSS feed from the database. If you have
enabled RSS feeds for the database in the database options, the database will publish
the entries in a feed. This template allows you to structure how the entries in the feed
appear to the readers.
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CSS template
The CSS template defines the CSS styles for all of the templates in the database. If you
know CSS, you can adjust the template’s fonts, spacing, colors, and other display
information.
JavaScript template
Like the CSS template, the JavaScript template is used by the other templates. The
JavaScript template allows you to add new behaviors to the templates by defining JavaScript routines that can be loaded when the template page loads. At the time of this
writing, the JavaScript API isn’t yet documented, but the image gallery preset uses
JavaScript to define the size of images in the list and single templates.
Managing Databases
Once you have set up your database, you and your students can begin to enter data.
Managing your database as students begin to populate it with data is an important
factor in the success of a database activity. Someone will need to maintain the quality
of the entries and give students credit for participating.
Quality Data
Once students have started to add entries to your database, you will need to track their
data to help ensure they are making useful contributions. Managing the quality of
database entries can be a tedious exercise, but it can also be a learning opportunity for
your students. Students will enter their data according to their interpretation of the
activity and their abilities. An inaccurate or disorganized entry from a student is a
potential opportunity for feedback to help the student learn.
The database module has a few tools that will be useful to you in ensuring data quality:
Comments
Comments are a great tool for feedback to motivate your students and help them
improve their entries.
Require approval
The ultimate quality assurance tool is the “Require approval” option in your
database options. As mentioned earlier, this option hides an entry from the rest of
the class until you or someone with approval capability approves it. You might
want to use this capability to help students produce good material by giving them
feedback before approving an entry.
Managing Databases | 185
Figure 12-5. Rating and adding a comment to a database entry
Rating
Giving grades for entries is the single most powerful motivator for students. It also
rewards students for their time and effort. As always, if you don’t want to assign a
numerical grade to an entry, you can create a custom scale and assign a qualitative
grade. (We’ll cover grades and scales in Chapter 13.) When you rate an entry, the grade
is added to the gradebook, like a rated forum post.
We would strongly recommend combining rating and comments, as shown in Figure 12-5. Rating allows you to assign a numerical value to an entry, but it doesn’t give
you a method to tell the student why she received her particular grade. The comments
box enables you to communicate the reason.
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Rating and comments can be turned into a collaborative venture with your students.
By default, students are allowed to add comments, but only teachers are allowed to rate
entries. However, you can enable collaborative rating by setting a student role override.
If you don’t see the “Override roles” link in the Roles tab, ask your
system administrator. By default, teachers are unable to override roles,
so this ability must be granted by your system administrator, as well as
setting which roles can be overridden by the teacher role.
To enable student rating of entries:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
On the Updating database page, select the Roles tab.
Click the “Override roles” link just below the tabs.
Select the student role from the list of roles in your course.
Select Allow for the “Rate entries” capability, as shown in Figure 12-6.
Click the “Save changes” button.
Database Presets
To avoid the necessity of always having to create a new database from scratch, the
database module has a presets feature. As mentioned already, an image gallery preset
is currently included in the database module to help get you started. You can create
your own presets as well and share them with others.
To use a preset:
1. On the database page, click the Presets tab.
2. Either click the “Choose file” button, browse for the preset ZIP on your computer
and click Import, or choose a previously loaded preset.
If you have already created fields in your database, you need to map
them to the new fields in the preset or they will be deleted. For
example, if you load the image gallery preset, you can map three
fields to the image, title, and caption fields in the preset. Any other
fields will be deleted and any data in them will be lost.
3. If you desire, customize the fields and templates.
That’s all there is to using a preset. All the hard work of setting up the templates has
been done for you.
If you wish to share your database presets with others, you have two options:
1. Export as a ZIP file, which can then be imported to another course or Moodle site.
2. Save as a preset, which publishes the database for other teachers on your site to
use. It will then appear in the preset list. (You can delete it from the list at any time.)
Managing Databases | 187
Figure 12-6. Setting a student role override
Only the fields and templates of the database are copied when exporting
or saving it as a preset, not the entries.
Database Capabilities
The database module has a number of capabilities you can use to fine-tune your users’
interaction with the activity.
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View entries
This allows a user to view database entries submitted by other users. This capability
is moderated by any submission requirements in the database options, such as the
number of entries required before viewing.
Write entries
This allows a user to create new database entries.
Write comments
This allows a user to add comments to database entries. This capability is only
active if the comments option is enabled.
By default, students are allowed to add comments. If you only want teachers to be
able to add comments, you can prevent this capability with a student role override.
View ratings
This allows a user to view all ratings.
Rate entries
This allows a user to rate entries by other users. This capability is only active if the
“Allow posts to be rated” option is enabled.
The capabilities to write comments and rate entries together allow students to
provide feedback on entries.
You may want to select a small group of students as moderators
and create a role for them to provide feedback to others.
Approve unapproved entries
This allows a user to approve entries before they are viewable by everyone. This
capability is only active if the “Require approval” option is enabled.
Manage entries
This allows a user to edit and delete other users’ database entries.
Manage comments
This allows a user to edit and delete other users’ comments.
Manage templates
This allows a user to edit and delete the interface templates of the database. If you
want students to create database activities for each other, you can enable this
capability for them.
View presets from all users
This allows a user to view the list of site presets and select them for use.
Manage all template presets
This allows a user to delete site presets.
Database Capabilities | 189
Effective Database Practices
The database activity is both powerful and complex. It is probably the most technical
module to set up, though a complex lesson may take longer, but it has tremendous
power. The database is a veritable Swiss Army knife, useful in many situations with a
little ingenuity and work.
To reduce your workload creating databases, make use of one of the presets available
on Moodle.org. If a preset doesn’t meet all of your requirements, it’s easier to customize
an existing database than create one from scratch.
You can also share the work of creating a database. If you want your students to create
and submit a database for a project, you can override the student role and grant them
authoring capabilities. If you then use the separate groups mode, each group can create
its own database of research and submit it at the end for grading.
Remember to use roles and groups functionality to create additional flexibility to your
database.
Creative Database Practices
With a little creativity, the database activity can become a useful tool for collaboration.
The structure provided by the field definitions and the templates makes it easier for
students to understand what you expect of them and to provide each other with good
data. Combined with less structured activities, like wikis and forums, you have a powerful combination of thinking tools to enable your students to produce good work.
Student files area
Long-time Moodle community member and high school German teacher Art Lader
uses the database module to create a student storage tool. Creating a database to allow
students to upload files and then download them in a different location produces a very
simple-to-use content repository.
If you want to make a private student storage tool, so that only the student and teacher
can access the student’s files, you can set the database so that entries require approval,
but never approve the students’ entries. This will keep them invisible to everyone except
the student and the teacher.
You could use a file storage area in a small business as a repository of
proposals or other work products for sharing amongst your team.
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Collaborative research
In addition to allowing students to store files, you can also use the database to collect
information and references for collaborative research projects in a course. If you use
the groups mode, each workgroup can have their own collection and work together to
find books, articles, URLs, and other resources to share.
Voting and comments
The database module can also be used to gather feedback on a list of ideas for a project
or a guest lecturer. The rating and commenting fields can be used to capture group
feedback, as well as give you a tool for providing feedback to students. To set up voting,
select an appropriate scale when you set up the database options. To allow students to
comment, enable commenting in the database options.
Effective Database Practices | 191
CHAPTER 13
Grades and Scales
Grades are a necessary evil in modern education. They take a complex task—learning
a new subject—and reduce it to a single measure. Grades can function as both carrot
and stick for motivating students, and they are the primary measure of success in a
course. Tracking and calculating grades are serious and tedious tasks. Fortunately,
Moodle has a great tool to help.
The Moodle grades area is a sophisticated tool for tracking student scores in your
course. You can use it for scored activities both in the classroom and in Moodle. Moodle
1.8 introduces a number of useful improvements, including options to assign extra
credit, grade on a curve, and exclude a particular score from a student’s total grade.
With the new improvements, you should consider using the Moodle gradebook as your
primary tool for recording scores and calculating grades. Students will appreciate being
able to check their grades at any time and to compare themselves to the class average.
Grades aren’t the only way to give feedback to students. With Moodle’s scales, you can
create lists of nonnumeric feedback options for assessing student work. Moodle comes
with one scale by default, “Separate and Connected ways of knowing,” which we’ll
discuss later in this chapter. You can easily create your own additional scales for feedback options that are meaningful to you and your students.
Using Grades
This section covers the following MTC skills: 7.4 Grades
You can access the grades area by clicking the Grades link in the Administration block
on your course page.
The View Grades page, as shown in Figure 13-1, contains a table listing students in the
course together with their grades for each activity.
You can sort the table by student last name or first name by clicking the respective links
under the student column on either the left or right side. Initially, it’s sorted by last
name.
193
Figure 13-1. Viewing grades
To display the grades for one particular student only, click on his name.
This is useful when you are looking at grades together with a student
and you need to protect the privacy of other students.
On the right is the Total column. There are two arrows for sorting student totals in
descending or ascending order. There is also a Stats link, which displays statistics for
the class in a pop-up window.
Each graded activity name links to the grades for that particular activity.
Buttons above the grades table enable you to download course grades in a choice of
three formats: Open Document Spreadsheet, Excel, or text. Also at the top of the page
is the Set Preferences tab.
Set Preferences
The Set Preferences page contains the following settings:
Reprint Headers
This preference sets the frequency with which Moodle will display a row with the
column labels rather than scores. With a large class, this feature can make it easier
to view a large number of graded activities without losing track of individual grades.
Show Hidden Items
You can choose whether to show or hide hidden graded activities on the View
Grades page.
Advanced Features
Clicking the “Use Advanced Features” button on the Set Preferences page reveals further settings, as shown in Figure 13-2. Tabs for setting categories, weights, grade letters,
and grade exceptions appear at the top of the page. The advanced features enables you
to manipulate the raw grade scores however you see fit.
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Figure 13-2. Setting preferences with advanced features
Display Weighted Grades
This determines whether or not the weighted percent will be displayed for you and/
or students.
Display Points
This determines whether points are displayed for you and/or students.
Display Percents
This determines whether percentages are displayed for you and/or students.
Display Letter Grades
This determines whether a letter grade is displayed for the course total.
Letter Grade
This determines whether the letter grade is calculated using a raw or weighted
percent.
Set Categories
Categories are the key to using most of the advanced features. Categories are simply
collections of graded activities that you can manipulate together. The Extra Credit,
Curving, and Weighting features all use Categories to identify which grades to use.
Category
If you have a lot of graded activities in your course, then arranging them into categories will make grade viewing easier, since the View Grades page can be set to
Using Grades | 195
Figure 13-3. Setting weights
display grades for one particular category rather than for all activities. In addition,
you will be able to set weights for the categories.
To add a new category:
1. On the Set Categories page, type a category name into the “Add category” box.
2. Click the “Add category” button.
You will then be able to categorize activities using the new category by selecting it
from the Category drop-down menu next to the activity name.
Curve To
Curving sets a new maximum point total for the category. For example, if the
maximum grade for an assignment is 30 and the curve to is set to 25, then students’
grades and percentages will be calculated against a possible 25 points rather than
30.
Extra Credit
This checkbox is for giving particular activities extra credit. If an activity is marked
as extra credit, the points earned by a student will be added to the point total for
the category but won’t increase the total possible points.
When you are done, click the “Save changes” button.
Set Weights
Once you have set up some categories, you can weight them appropriately on the Set
Weights page, as shown in Figure 13-3. The options are:
Weight
This allows you to weight grades by category. The weight is the percent that a
category will contribute to a grade’s total. The individual weights must add up to
100.
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Drop X Lowest
This allows you to choose to omit grades for activities in which a student has
performed badly. However, if you use this feature, the point totals for all activities
in the category must be the same.
Bonus Points
This is used to give extra points that do not change the point total for a category.
For example, it can be used to adjust for unfair questions. Bonus points will be
applied equally to all students.
Hidden
If this box is checked it will remove a category from display and grade calculation.
The hidden category option provides a way of only adding items
to the gradebook after they have been graded. Since graded items
that have not been categorized will automatically be assigned to
“Uncategorized,” you can set the Uncategorized category to hidden
and then, as you grade items, move them to an appropriate
category.
When you are done, click the “Save changes” button.
Set Grade Letters
Here you can set an appropriate grade letter scale for the course total. You may choose
letters (e.g., A, B, C, D, E) or words (e.g., Below Pass, Pass, Merit, Distinction).
To set your grade letter scale:
1. Edit the grade letters and/or low and high figures, or leave the default scale as it is.
The figures must be written to two decimal places.
2. Click the “Save changes” button.
Grade Exceptions
Here you can exclude students from having particular activities graded. This is useful,
for example, in cases of extended illness.
To exclude a student from having an activity graded:
1. Click on the name of the activity(s) in the middle column. Holding down the Ctrl
key will allow you to select multiple items.
2. Click on the student’s name in the left column.
3. Click on the “Exclude from Grading” button. The student’s name will be moved
from the left column to the right.
The figures in brackets after the activity names in the middle column denote the number
of students excluded from having the activity graded.
Using Grades | 197
Figure 13-4. Viewing grades as a student
To include a previously excluded student:
1. Click on the name of the activity in the middle column.
2. Click on the student’s name in the right column.
3. Click on the “Include in Grading” button. The student’s name will be moved from
the right column back to the left.
Student Grade View
Students can check their grades by clicking the Grades link in their Administration
block. They can see only their own grades, not the other students’, as shown in Figure 13-4.
As for the teacher view, on the right is a total column and a stats link, which displays
statistics for the class in a pop-up window.
Creating Scales
This section covers the following MTC skills: 7.3 Scales
Scales are a nonnumeric way of evaluating students’ performance. Instead of giving an
assignment a number from 1 to 100 as a grade, you can give the student a word or a
small phrase as standard feedback.
Moodle’s default scale “Separate and Connected ways of knowing” gives you three
options: Mostly Separate Knowing, Separate and Connected, and Mostly Connected
Knowing. These phrases relate to a theory about how people approach the world.
Separate knowers try to remain objective and avoid personalizing knowledge. They like
to debate and critique new ideas. Connected knowers learn in a socially connected,
empathetic way. They try to find consensus instead of confrontation.
This scale comes with Moodle as a default. Some people use it, but many people create
their own. You can create a scale using any rating system you choose.
To create a new scale:
1. Click the Scales link in the Administration block.
2. On the Scales page, shown in Figure 13-5, click the “Add a new scale” button.
198 | Chapter 13: Grades and Scales
Figure 13-5. Viewing scales
Figure 13-6. Adding a new scale
3. On the next page, shown in Figure 13-6, give your scale a name that will identify
it clearly. This will appear in scale-selection lists.
4. In the Scale box, create your scale, ranging from negative to positive, separated by
commas.
5. Write a meaningful description for your scale. Your students will have access to
the description, and you can use this to give them additional feedback. The more
details you put in the description, the more students will understand what each
scale item means.
6. Click the “Save changes” button.
Once you’ve created your scale, you can use it in any activity where you would give a
grade, except quizzes. Quizzes are the only tool where you have to use a numeric grade
so Moodle can compute a score.
Creating Scales | 199
You can edit or delete your new scale, using the icons in the Action column, until you
start using it in one or more activities. The icons will then no longer appear.
When you give feedback using a nonnumeric scale, the activity does not appear in the
total grade column. Instead, the word you select for the feedback appears in the grades
list.
Effective Grade and Scale Practices
Grades and scales are important tools for providing feedback to your students. Using
these tools effectively can help you create a more powerful learning environment.
Grade Practices
Backups
We recommend that you regularly download your gradebook for backup. Your system
administrator should be backing up the entire server on a regular basis, but you can
never be too certain. After all, your students will complain to you if they lose their
grades, not to the system administrator.
To download your gradebook:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click the Grades link in the Administration block.
Click one of the download buttons above the grades table.
Save the file somewhere on your computer.
Rename the file to include the date of the download.
If you follow the backup procedure on a regular basis, you will have a record of student
grades if there is a catastrophic loss of data on the server. You can always recover
students’ grades up to that point in the semester if you have a regular backup.
Extra credit
Teachers often want to be able to award extra credit. Fortunately, the gradebook’s
advanced features make awarding extra credit easy.
To give an activity extra credit:
1. Click the Grades link in the Administration block. From the Grades page, click the
Set Preferences tab.
2. Click the Set Categories tab. (If you’ve not yet enabled the advanced features, click
the Set Preferences tab, then click the “Use Advanced Features” button to reveal
additional tabs.)
3. Click the extra credit checkbox opposite the activity you want to award extra credit
for.
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4. Click the “Save changes” button.
Curves and grade letters
Grading on a curve and translating numeric grades to letter grades are important tools
for adjusting student grades to reflect the performance of students relative to each other
rather than an objective standard. When the subject matter is very difficult, or if you
are trying a new course design, this can be very useful for maintaining fairness.
The gradebook provides two tools for adjusting grades after you have awarded a raw
score. On the Set Categories page you can set a maximum score for a scored activity
below the original point amount. This is equivalent to grading on the curve. Usually,
you will set the curve after the scores are completed. You may want to set the curve to
equal the highest grade in the class. If you set the curve score below the highest score,
students who score above that level will receive a score higher than 100 percent.
Allowing scores above 100 percent may be a useful way of rewarding students who
have done exceptionally well, and would have otherwise blown the curve.
You can also use the grade-letters scale to curve the total class score. There’s no law
that an “A” grade has to be 90 percent and above. You can use whatever scale you want,
as long as you are clear about it up front.
Jason: One of my favorite teachers in high school challenged us by making an “A” 93
percent and above. The modified scale encouraged the students to put that much more
effort into their work to try to meet his higher standard.
Categories and Weights
If you have a course design where it is useful to give a lot of low-stakes practice (like
weekly or daily homework), it can be difficult to balance the number of points possible
in the practice with the number of points in higher-stakes assessments, like finals. For
example, if you have 10 homework assignments, each worth 10 points, you will have
100 possible homework points. But if you want homework to equal only 10 percent of
the final grade, your midterm and final would each have to be worth 450 points (for
900 points of assessment) to balance out the homework.
Categories and weights make it much easier to manage activity types and give them the
correct weight when you calculate the total grade. If you want homework to be worth
10 percent of the total grade, create a “homework” category and give it a weight of 10
percent. Then create a “tests” category and give it a weight of 90 percent. You can then
create two 100-point tests and assign them to the tests category. Put all of the homework
assignments in the homework category. It won’t matter how many points the homework assignments are worth. All of them together will only count as 10 percent of the
final grade.
Effective Grade and Scale Practices | 201
Creative Grade Uses
The gradebook can be as useful in a business context as it is in traditional education.
Most business training tends to be shorter and more focused than traditional education,
but scores are still important. Usually, managers and trainers are only interested in
exceptional/pass/fail or other simple scales for both activities and final scores. But
trainees will still want to be able to track their progress and see how they are performing.
Gradebook scores can also be used to track progress against competency models. Try
creating a category for each competency and track student scores on activities designed
to measure the students’ performance against the performance standard.
Scale Practices
Scales give you the ability to provide qualitative, rather than quantitative, feedback,
but they require careful wording. When creating scales, ensure that your word choices
are meaningful to the students and provide information they can use to improve their
performance in the future.
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CHAPTER 14
Surveys and Choices
Moodle has two tools specifically designed for collecting ungraded feedback from your
students: surveys and choices.
A survey is a set of predetermined questions. It’s not yet possible to create your own
questions in a survey unless you install a nonstandard module such as Questionnaire
or Feedback. The current survey focuses on getting feedback from students about the
nature of the course.
Choices are small, one-question surveys. They act as small web polls that you may have
seen on other web sites. You can use a choice to get rapid feedback from your students
about any topic you wish, as long as it’s only one question long.
Surveys
This section covers the following MTC skills: 5.6 Survey
There are three types of surveys you can give:
COLLES (Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment Survey)
This is a set of 24 statements that asks students about the relevance of the course,
provides opportunities for reflection and interactivity, provides peer and tutor
support, and facilitates interpretation. These factors are based on social constructivist theory, as discussed in Chapter 1. Variations on the survey ask students to
discuss their preferred learning environment or the actual learning environment.
Moodle offers three types of COLLES surveys: preferred, actual, or a combination
of the two. The preferred COLLES survey asks students to discuss how they think
they want to interact with a course, while the actual COLLES survey asks them
how they are interacting currently.
ATTLS (Attitudes to Thinking and Learning Survey)
ATTLS seeks to measure the quality of interaction within a course. It builds on the
“Separate and Connected ways of knowing” scale, which we discussed in Chapter 13.
203
Critical Incidents
The Critical Incidents survey asks students to consider recent events and answer
questions about their relationship to those events.
Creating Surveys
The limited nature of the surveys tool makes surveys very easy to create. Basically, you
select the set of prewritten questions you’d like to give, edit the introductory text, and
you’re done.
To create a survey:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Survey from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu in the course section
where you would like to add the survey.
3. On the “Adding a new survey page,” as shown in Figure 14-1, give the survey a
name.
4. Select the type of survey you want to give from the drop-down menu.
5. If you wish, add an introduction to the survey.
6. Select the common module options:
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
7. Click the “Save changes” button.
8. The following page displays the question set you have chosen. Click the “Check
and continue” button at the bottom of the page.
Administering Surveys
Once you’ve created the survey, students can begin to give their feedback. They simply
click on the survey name in the course section and answer the questions. Once students
have begun to answer the survey questions, you can track results via the “View xx survey
responses” link at the top right of the survey page.
The survey report page contains links at the top right for viewing the data by course,
by student, or by question. You can also download the data in a choice of three formats: Open Document Spreadsheet, Excel, or text.
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Figure 14-1. Adding a new survey
Moodle surveys are not anonymous. While students cannot see each
other’s results, you can view each student’s survey. There is no way to
ensure anonymity. If you are using these results for research, you must
develop a scheme to download the data and assign participant numbers.
You should also inform students of this limitation.
The COLLES and ATTLS questions are five-point scales that range in response from
“Almost always” to “Almost never” for COLLES and from “Strongly agree” to “Strongly
disagree” for ATTLS. These results are reported in graphical form when you view them,
as illustrated in Figure 14-2.
The Critical Incidents survey is a free-response survey where students must type their
answers. You can see what students have typed for each answer. Later in this chapter,
we’ll discuss how to apply the data you gather.
Survey Capabilities
The survey module has three capabilities:
Respond to survey
This allows a user to participate in a survey.
Surveys | 205
Figure 14-2. A COLLES survey report summary
View responses
This allows a user to read survey responses via the “View xx survey responses” link
at the top right of the survey page.
Download responses
This allows a user to download survey responses.
Choices
This section covers the following MTC skills: 5.3 Choice
Unlike surveys, the choice tool allows you to ask any question you’d like, as long as it’s
multiple-choice. Once you’ve set up your choice, it acts as a poll in your course. Students click on the choice and select their answer. You can choose when and if students
see the results of the choice and even let them change their minds.
Creating Choices
To create a choice:
1. Click the “Turn editing on” button.
2. Select Choice from the “Add an activity” drop-down menu.
3. On the “Adding a new choice” page, as shown in Figure 14-3, give the choice a
descriptive name.
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4. Enter the question text in the choice text area.
5. Choose whether to limit the number of responses allowed. If this is enabled, each
response can be assigned a different limit. When the limit is reached, nobody else
will be able to select the response. If limiting the number of responses is disabled,
then any number of participants can select each of the responses.
6. Enter responses in each choice field. If you require more than 5 fields, click the
“Add 3 fields to form” button. You can fill in any number of choice fields—if you
leave some blank, they will not be displayed.
7. If you want the question to be available for a limited time, click the “Restrict
answering to this time period” checkbox and set the opening and closing dates and
times for the choice.
8. Select the miscellaneous options:
Display mode
Choose whether the responses are displayed horizontally or vertically.
A small number of responses looks better displayed horizontally, and a large number of responses and/or long responses
look better displayed vertically.
Publish results
You have four options for revealing the results of the choice to students:
• Do not publish results to students
• Show results to students immediately after they answer
• Show results to students only after the choice is closed (if you’ve set a closing
time above)
• Always show results to students
Privacy of results
Depending upon your “Publish results” setting, you can choose whether to
display students’ names with their response in the results.
Allow choice to be updated
If you want to allow students to change their minds after they’ve answered,
set this to Yes. Otherwise, students will be able to answer the question only
once.
Show column for unanswered
This option determines whether students will see the number of people who
haven’t answered the question when they see the choice results.
9. Select the common module options:
Choices | 207
Figure 14-3. Adding a new choice
Group mode
This is another location in which to set the group mode for the activity. If group
mode is forced in the course settings then this setting will be ignored.
Visible
This determines whether students may view the activity or not.
10. Click the “Save changes” button.
Once you’ve created the choice, it will be available to students after the opening time,
if you’ve set one.
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Figure 14-4. Viewing choice responses
Administering Choices
After students have answered the choice, you can see their responses via the “View xx
responses” link at the top right of the choice page. Unlike the students’ view of the
results, irrespective of whether results are published anonymously, you’ll see a column
for each response with the student’s picture and name, as shown in Figure 14-4.
Selected responses may be deleted if you wish. You may like to delete any test response
you made.
As for surveys, results may be downloaded in a choice of three formats by clicking the
appropriate button at the bottom of the choice responses page.
Choice Capabilities
The choice module capabilities are restricted to managing the responses from students:
Record a choice
This allows a user to answer the choice.
Read responses
This allows a user to view other users’ responses.
Delete responses
This allows a user to delete choice responses.
Download responses
This allows a user to download the full dataset of responses from other users.
Using Surveys and Choices
Surveys and choices represent two different tools for gathering feedback data from
students. Moodle surveys are formal and based in theory. Choices are quick and simple
for both you and your students. They can both provide useful data about your course
and your students’ success.
Using Surveys and Choices | 209
The COLLES and ATTLS surveys are a bit too long to be used frequently. They provide
useful feedback if you want to revise your course to meet student needs, but answering
a set of 24 questions on a regular basis can become tedious for your students.
Jason: I recommend using the ATTLS or COLLES survey three times per semester (or
twice a quarter if you’re on the quarter system). You may want to deliver the first survey
after the first few weeks to get some early feedback on student perceptions of the course,
once at the midterm to make adjustments for the second half, and once at the end of
the course to get summative feedback to include in the next semester’s course design.
Of the available surveys, the COLLES and Critical Incidents are the most useful for
making decisions about your course design. In the COLLES survey, pay close attention
to the relevance scores. Student perception of course relevance is very important in
determining student satisfaction and learning. If a student believes a course isn’t relevant to her life, she will have difficulty spending the time required to be successful. Her
performance will suffer, and her perception of the value of the course will diminish.
The Critical Incidents survey can provide useful feedback at the end of a topic or week.
If you’re trying something new, use this survey to get student feedback on the success
of the topic. Because it’s only five questions long, you can use it more frequently than
the other two surveys.
Choices can be offered much more frequently. Many web sites use quick polls to inform
or entertain their readers. Local and national news outlets run informal, nonscientific
polls through their sites to gauge public opinion. You can use your choices to do the
same. Choices can be about anything from course content to current school events.
Choices can also be used to provide an opportunity to share starting points through
which students are encouraged to think about and articulate existing knowledge and
understanding of a topic. Choices can encourage students to think in advance of a
follow-up related activity, such as a forum discussion or an online text assignment.
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CHAPTER 15
Putting It All Together
Now that we’ve taken a look at all the tools available in Moodle, let’s take a step back
and look at the big picture. Moodle has a lot of nifty capabilities, but they are only
useful if they are applied in the service of effective course design.
If you are a professor in higher education, you are an expert in your field. You know
more about your discipline than 99 percent of the rest of humanity. Universities do a
great job helping people become domain experts and researchers. They do a poor job
of teaching those experts how to teach. Unfortunately, the very process of becoming
an expert makes it more difficult to teach novices. Cognitive research has shown that
as people become more expert, they lose the ability to explain why and how they do
certain basic tasks. The higher the level of expertise, the less conscious access you tend
to have to the fundamentals of what you do. To achieve expertise, you need to develop
a level of automatic performance for basic skills so you can concentrate your mental
resources on the more difficult tasks.
Much of our preparation of teachers assumes teaching comes naturally. Since we’ve all
been to school, we must know how to teach. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Creating
effective learning environments requires training and careful preparation.
In this chapter, we hope to give you some ideas and background from which you can
develop your courses. We’ll spend some time talking about learning environments in
general, then we’ll talk about how to apply everything you’ve learned so far to your
courses. We’ll also provide some design patterns for different types of courses that
research and experience have shown to be successful.
What Is a Learning Environment?
Since we’re developing an instructional environment, it would be a good idea to have
a definition of what we’re hoping to develop. What makes a web-based learning environment different from a web site? How is a web learning environment different from
Amazon or Wikipedia?
The answer is: learning goals and feedback.
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Learning environments have very specific goals for students. Most other web environments are there for users to achieve their own goals. They provide information, a way
to buy things, or a way to connect with other people. People come to these environments of their own volition and can participate at whatever level they choose.
Learning environments are unique because they provide goals for students to achieve,
goals they are currently unable to meet on their own. Your course objectives define a
set of goals for students, goals they would not normally set for themselves. These goals
define how students will interact with the material, other students, and you.
For example, if you are teaching a large survey course, the course goal will be to introduce the main concepts of the field to your students. In an advanced theory course,
you will want students to demonstrate the ability to reason critically about advanced
topics, and possibly synthesize their own ideas. These goals should be just beyond what
your students can achieve right now. They may not even know what goals to set for
themselves, so you need to at least suggest goals and performance levels for them.
The second defining feature of learning environments is feedback. Feedback is critical
for students to monitor their progress as they pursue the course goals. Goal-oriented
feedback is one of the critical defining aspects of a learning environment. If a student
doesn’t receive feedback, he has no way of knowing if he is closer to achieving the goals
of the class or not. Other types of information environments can’t provide feedback to
their users because the users, not the environment, define their own goals. The only
exception is an online game, which defines external goals and measures the player’s
progress toward them.
Feedback in a learning environment can take many forms. Tests and quizzes are frequently used tools for measuring student progress. They can provide feedback to
students in the form of right and wrong answers or a percentage score. Homework can
also provide feedback to students about their understanding of the materials. Less formal feedback might include interaction with students in class, conversations with
experts, or applying new knowledge in a work setting. The key is to structure the feedback in useful ways so students can measure themselves against the course goals.
These two features make learning environments unique. Moodle provides you with
tools to implement these ideas in unique ways. Moodle’s educational philosophy guides
how those tools are designed and can influence how you structure your learning environment.
Course Design Patterns
Design patterns are abstract solutions to recurring design problems. The term was
originally used in architecture, but it has been applied more recently to software design.
In architecture, the placement of doors, gates, windows, and other elements are design
patterns that recur in many buildings. The idea of a lobby in a large office building is
a design pattern. Over time, these patterns become almost invisible to us as we are
212 | Chapter 15: Putting It All Together
continually exposed to them. Changing a pattern can lead to the discovery of an entirely
new way of interacting with a space.
Instructional design patterns are similar. There are abstract solutions to the design
challenges that occur in many courses. We can abstract four basic course types in higher
education:
Introductory survey course
These tend to be large lecture courses designed to expose students to basic concepts, vocabulary, and foundational ideas.
Skills development course
These courses are designed to apply the ideas introduced in the beginning courses.
Labs, recitations, workshops, and second-level courses tend to fall into this category. While there is discussion of theory, applying the theory to problems is the
core of the course.
Theory/discussion course
In more advanced courses, students are expected to think critically about research
and theory. Application is typically secondary to the discussion of the theory itself.
Capstone course
Many programs have some sort of summative experience that enables students to
demonstrate what they have learned in their course of study.
While there are variations and combinations of these course archetypes, these categories cover most of the courses taught in most universities.
Understanding the abstract problem types is the first step toward designing a solution
pattern. We also need principles of quality that will help us decide which patterns will
be more likely to result in a better solution. Every professor develops a response to the
course archetypes. The question is, which solutions are more likely to result in a quality
course?
Fortunately, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) has come up with
some recommendations for high-quality university courses. The AAHE has published
12 recommendations in 3 categories:
Culture:
• High expectations
• Respect for diverse talents and learning styles
• Emphasis on early undergraduate years
Curriculum:
• Coherence in learning
• Synthesizing experience
• Ongoing practice of learned skills
Course Design Patterns | 213
• Integration of education with experience
Instruction:
•
•
•
•
•
Active learning
Assessment and prompt feedback
Collaboration
Adequate time on task
Out-of-class contact with faculty
It would be impossible to apply all 12 of these principles in every class. But a course
that integrates as many of these principles as possible will likely be of higher quality
than one that doesn’t.
Fortunately, many of the tools in Moodle lend themselves well to realizing these quality
principles. Let’s take a look at how to apply the tools in Moodle to meeting these quality
principles in the four class types.
Introductory Survey Course
The introductory survey course tends to be a large lecture course. The primary goal is
to expose students to the basic concepts and vocabulary of a field of study. In the best
case, this course helps students develop a basic conceptual structure that serves as the
foundation for more advanced courses.
There tend to be two primary, related problems to address in these courses. First, their
large size makes it difficult to assess open-ended assignments such as projects and
reports. Second, student motivation is difficult to maintain due to the course’s large
size and its nature. Students who are required to take the course may find it difficult to
engage in the subject matter, and long lectures are hard for anyone to get excited about.
A survey course might focus on quality measures like assessment and prompt feedback,
adequate time on task, ongoing practice of learned skills, active learning, and high
expectations. So how can we use the Moodle tools and the above principles to create
a successful survey course?
Groups
The key to success in a large class is the strategic use of groups. To promote active
learning, create a group project that students must complete by the end of the
semester. Such a project cuts down on the number of submissions you need to
grade and provides students with opportunities for collaboration. Moodle has a
number of tools to help student groups communicate and collaborate, including
forums and wikis, which we’ll explore below.
Resources
Posting your lecture notes before each lecture will help students stay engaged by
giving them a structure for taking notes. Before each lecture, post an outline of the
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upcoming class to help students plan ahead for that class. Use the data from a short
quiz or choice to target your lecture to the areas students find most difficult or
interesting.
Alternatively, move yourself from being the source of information in the course to
being a helpful tutor. Post your lecture notes, your lecture in MP3, and any reading
assignments. Then use the face-to-face time to answer questions, demonstrate
problem solving, and provide feedback to students on their work. Moving the
information delivery portion of the course online will free up your face-to-face time
to provide valuable coaching and support for your students, even in large lecture
courses. This will promote active learning and prompt feedback within your
course.
Quizzes
Use the quiz tool to provide a small quiz for each reading assignment. This will
reward students for completing the reading and allow them to test their understanding of the material. Each quiz should be relatively low-stakes, but all of them
taken together could add up to a significant part of the student’s score. These small
quizzes will provide assessment, prompt feedback, and help students spend adequate time on task. Again, be sure to use the data from the quiz to modify your
lecture, or class discussion, to focus on the areas where students need more support.
Forums
A mix of class forums and group forums can be an effective tool for collaboration,
active learning, and out-of-class contact with faculty. Forums for questions to the
instructors and for general course discussion are great for class discussions. Each
group should also have a discussion area for reading groups and lectures. Be sure
to seed the discussion each week with a good question that will require students
to apply the concepts they’ve learned during that week. Bring the best questions
and discussions to the attention of the whole class to help motivate students. Create
a class forum for the submission of final group projects. Everyone can see the
projects, and each group needs to post the project only once. You can make this a
Q & A forum, so students can’t see other students’ postings until they post their
own.
Glossaries
A good glossary is critical when students are learning a new vocabulary. You can
use the glossary to promote active learning by assigning a different group to create
definitions for each week or topic. You and the other students can rate submissions
based on their usefulness. Be sure to turn on autolinking to get the most benefit.
Databases
While large courses can be difficult to manage, they also provide many minds for
collaborative work. In introductory courses, the database module can be a very
useful tool. Students can create databases of important figures in the field, collect
data for course projects, post quiz questions, or simply create small biographies of
Course Design Patterns | 215
themselves. You can leverage the large numbers of students in the course to create
rich resources for the students to use as they study.
Wikis
Each group should have a group wiki for their course project that they can submit
at the end of the semester. Using a wiki this way promotes active learning and
collaboration.
Lessons
Learning vocabulary is difficult without a lot of practice. To provide another opportunity for assessment and feedback, create a series of vocabulary flash cards in
the lesson module to help students drill themselves on the new concepts. You could
also replace static lectures with lessons on important topics, which will provide
students with immediate feedback on the topic, rather than reading something and
then receiving feedback later.
Messaging
Students in large-format courses can easily get lost. If students get into trouble with
the course material, or simply lose motivation, they may disengage from the course
and risk failure. The messaging system gives you a useful tool for communicating
with students who are not engaging with the course site. Filter your students by
last login, and send regular messages to those who haven’t visited the course site
in a while. This will let them know you are interested in their success and encourage
them to reengage.
Roles and capabilities
In a large-format course, it can be difficult to manage all of the forums, glossaries,
and databases yourself. Giving students a level of responsibility for different areas
of the course can increase motivation and engagement. Give each group of students
moderator privileges on a different forum each week. Students will study harder
to make sure they know what they are talking about when it is their turn to moderate. Giving other groups capabilities to approve glossary entries or database
entries will give them a sense of ownership in the course.
Combine these tools to create an effective learning environment. Each week or topic
should have lecture notes, a glossary, a quiz or quizzes, and a forum. At the beginning
of the course, post the course glossary, the course forum, and your syllabus. At the end
of the course, post the final-project forum.
Skills Development Course
The skills development course is generally the second-level class in a course of study.
The aim of this course is to give students the opportunity to apply the basic concepts
learned in the survey course and explore one aspect of the field in more detail. These
are usually workshop or lab courses that focus on a project or the repetitive application
of important skills. The goals of this course type include development of automaticity
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in some skills, refining skill performances, and beginning to develop flexibility in skill
application.
Skills development courses require continuous feedback and assessment. Engaged students need feedback so they can know if they are performing the skills correctly. They
also need resources to help them troubleshoot when they cannot solve a problem on
their own. You can create an effective practice environment for skills development with
the following tools in Moodle:
Resources
As students practice on their own, they will need information resources to help
them diagnose their mistakes. If you can post demonstrations, step-by-step instructions, or other aids for students as they practice on their own, you’ll make it
easier for them to succeed and eliminate a lot of repetitive questions.
Forums
Forums provide valuable opportunities for your students to help each other. Set
up a forum for each topic or week and have students ask each other for assistance
with course assignments. Allow post ratings in these forums to reward students
who provide assistance to their classmates. This encourages collaboration and
gives students an important out-of-class communication channel for support.
You can also use the forums for students to post their work and receive feedback
from their peers. With a well-structured scoring guide and good exemplars, students can help each other improve their work with well-reasoned critiques.
Quizzes
If your class is focused on math skills, you can use the calculated-question type to
provide your students with unlimited practice opportunities. Create a library of
questions for each topic and let students take the quiz as many times as they’d like.
Each time, they will see a different set of questions. Other types of courses can use
the quiz module to test the students’ ability to apply basic concepts, provide graduated practice, and provide an opportunity to practice other types of skills.
Lessons
Well-constructed lessons give students the opportunity to apply their skills and
receive immediate feedback. Each page in the lesson should challenge students to
use the skills they are developing in the course, and either provide direct feedback
or allow them to explore the consequences of their actions in a simulation type of
environment.
Databases
There is a lot of evidence to suggest people learn effectively when they are producing new materials for other people. In a skills course, you can use the database
to give students a place to create practice assignments for each other, which you
can then use in quizzes or lessons to provide additional practice, and spread the
work of developing a good course.
Course Design Patterns | 217
Roles and capabilities
As students progress in their capabilities, they can take on more responsibility for
their own learning. In a skills course, you may want to give groups of students the
ability to develop a quiz for other students, pulling questions from pools developed
by you, by a publisher, or ones they write themselves. Set up new lessons for them
to add new lesson pages, developing new practice opportunities for other students.
Theory/Discussion Course
A discussion course focuses on readings and the discussion of ideas. These are usually
senior or graduate-level courses that focus on discussions of theory and research. There
is little practical application. Instead, ideas are discussed, debated, and critiqued. The
emphasis is on reasoning, presenting evidence from the research literature, and critical
thinking.
Student motivation is typically not a problem in these courses. Students who take advanced courses are usually interested in the subject. However, it can be difficult to
create opportunities for active learning and provide prompt feedback. Fortunately,
there are a few Moodle tools that can help you overcome these issues:
Blogs
Critical thinking and analysis of theory typically require periods of private reflection along with public discussion. Encourage students to actively engage in these
activities by providing them with the opportunity to blog about the course topics.
Having students keep a blog in Moodle rather than a journal on paper allows you
to give them feedback on their entries without interrupting the writing process.
You can encourage students to use their blogs by bringing the most insightful or
interesting entries for discussion in class or a forum.
Databases
One of the hallmarks of most theory courses is a large amount of reading, usually
from original research. To help your students keep on top of the reading, create a
database and ask them to submit a short summary or abstract of the papers they
read. This strategy will reward them for keeping up with the reading and encourage
them to actively engage with the reading. It will also provide the students (and you)
with an annotated bibliography at the end of the course.
Choice
As a stimulation for conversation, include a choice each week. Poll the class about
a controversial point in the reading or discussion. Combine this with a forum asking students to explain their responses.
Forums
Forums are one of the keys to a successful discussion course. As we discussed in
Chapter 5, forums allow students to compose their thoughts and focus on the
content of their responses. Encourage careful, well-reasoned postings in the forum
218 | Chapter 15: Putting It All Together
by scoring posts. Encourage more active engagement by assigning groups of students as moderators for different topics.
Wikis
A class wiki can be used to create a shared understanding of the ideas under discussion. After each discussion, students should be encouraged to share their notes
on the course wiki for other students to learn from their perspectives on what was
important or interesting. At the end of the semester, students will have a synopsis
of the entire class to take with them.
Roles and capabilities
In a theory course, the collaborative construction of knowledge and artifacts is the
most powerful method for engaging students. Students can create activities, artifacts, and other materials for each other, developing their critical-reasoning abilities through the creative development of learning materials for other students. In
a theory course, you can override the student role at the course level to enable
students more permissions throughout the course, then set role overrides in those
areas where you need to restrict their access. This encourages students to actively
construct the course web site for each other.
Capstone Course
Capstone courses are usually focused around a final project that requires students to
demonstrate what they have learned during their course of study. In graduate school,
these courses are focused around a thesis or dissertation. In undergraduate study, students are expected to produce a paper or other artifact. These project-based courses
present challenges for both the instructor and students. Students need to be able to
apply skills they may have learned several years ago, and may have not used since.
Instructors need to ensure the project is stimulating and interesting. Moodle can provide activities to meet these challenges:
Assignments
You can help students structure the task by assigning a set of deliverables over the
course of the semester. Each deliverable should be a one- or two-week project you
collect with an assignment. For example, if students are writing a paper, you could
collect an annotated bibliography, a subject proposal, an outline, a couple of early
drafts, and a final draft.
Messaging
Use messaging as a private feedback channel so students can discuss their work.
As they work on each section of the project, they will need to ask questions about
the assignment and their performance. A record of all discussions is kept in the
message history for each student.
Course Design Patterns | 219
Blogs
Part of a student’s capstone experience is reflecting on what he has learned over
the course of study. Blogs can act as a tool for reflection and as a project notebook.
Encourage students to use their blogs for both activities.
These design patterns are abstract starting points for designing a solution that works
in your class. We’ve tried to recommend patterns that we have seen work, or that other
researchers have reported to be successful. They are not the final word on effective
course design by any means. But they can provide a useful starting place when thinking
about how to use Moodle to promote learning in your course.
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CHAPTER 16
Moodle Administration
If you are the administrator for your Moodle site, there are a lot of options at your
fingertips. Most of the time, the default settings that come with your Moodle installation will work well. But there are a lot of options for customization and performance
that can make your version of Moodle work exactly as you’d like.
The number of administration settings has increased a lot in recent versions of Moodle
and it can take a while to understand it all. We can only provide a brief mention of each
setting in this book; however, the “Moodle Docs for this page” links at the bottom of
each page in Moodle provide access to further information.
This chapter is organized into sections that are the same as the links in the Site
Administration block, which you’ll find on your Moodle front page when you log in as
an administrator. We’ll finish with a section on Moodle support, just in case!
A good way to learn about Moodle administration is to download and
install a Moodle package on your own computer. Create some test user
accounts and assign them the roles of student and teacher. Try logging
in as a student or a teacher in a different browser from the one displaying
you logged in as an administrator. You can change an administration
setting, then see how it affects students or teachers by refreshing the
page (or logging out, then logging in again for role changes).
Notifications
In the middle of the notifications page is the “Moodle Registration” button for registering your Moodle site with Moodle.org. Despite the statement “Please register your
site to remove this button,” the button doesn’t go away when you register! It remains
in order to enable you to update your registration—simply click the button again at
any time. Updating your registration periodically helps improve the accuracy of the
global Moodle statistics (http://moodle.org/stats/).
221
Below the Moodle Registration button is your Moodle version number. If you add a
bug report to the Moodle tracker (http://tracker.moodle.org/), you should state your
Moodle version number.
The notifications page may also include a warning that your site might not be secure
and a statement if your cron has not run within the past 24 hours. The cron is a script
that is run regularly and checks whether certain tasks need performing, such as sending
email copies of forum posts.
Users
User management can be one of the most time-consuming jobs for an administrator.
As your system grows, the number of users who lose their password or have difficulty
creating a new account grows as well. Fortunately, there are a few tools to help make
the job of user management easier.
Authentication
One of the first things you need to consider when setting up your Moodle site is user
authentication, i.e., enabling people to log in to your Moodle site.
In Chapter 2, we covered how to create a user account using email-based
self-registration. You created the account and Moodle sent you an email with a link to
confirm your address. While this is an effective and efficient way to create new accounts,
particularly for smaller sites, Moodle provides a number of other authentication methods as well. If you are in a university environment and have access to a university email
or directory server, you can tell Moodle to use them to authenticate new user accounts
instead. External servers prevent users from creating multiple accounts and prevent
people from outside your organization accessing your server when they shouldn’t.
Authentication methods (also known as authentication plug-ins) include:
Manual accounts
This method requires the administrator to manually create all user accounts. It may
be used together with the upload users facility (see following section).
Email-based self-registration
With this method, users can create their own accounts. They then receive an email
at the address they specified in their account profile to confirm their account.
External database
This method uses an external database to check whether a given username and
password are valid. You can choose whether certain Moodle user profile fields are
filled with information from the external database.
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FirstClass/POP/IMAP/LDAP/NNTP server
These methods use an external server to check whether a given username and
password are valid. If the name and password match, an account with the same
username is created in Moodle.
Moodle Network authentication
Moodle Networking is a new feature in Moodle 1.8, enabling resources to be shared
between Moodle sites using a single sign-on. Setup instructions can be found in
the Moodle documentation.
No authentication
Users can create accounts with no external validation. This option should only be
used for testing purposes.
Shibboleth
Shibboleth is open source software that provides a single sign-on across or within
organizational boundaries. The README.txt file in the auth/shibboleth folder of
your Moodle distribution contains setup instructions.
To set the authentication method:
1. Click on Authentication in the Site Administration block.
2. On the authentication page, as shown in Figure 16-1, click on the closed-eye icon
to enable your chosen authentication plug-in.
If you want, you may choose to use more than one authentication method. Use the
up/down arrow icons to arrange the plug-ins in order, with the plug-in handling
the most logins at the top of the page. This will minimize authentication server load.
3. If you have chosen email-based self-registration, select “Email-based
self-registration” from the self-registration drop-down menu in the common settings section. Potential users will then be presented with a “Create new account”
button on the login page.
4. If you have courses with guest access, set the Guest login button to show.
5. Click the “Save changes” button.
6. Click on Settings opposite the authentication plug-in(s) you have chosen.
7. Configure the required settings and click the “Save changes” button.
Accounts
Each user on your Moodle site has an account that contains profile information, forum
posts, blog entries, and activity reports.
Browse list of users
The “Browse list of users” page provides a list of all user accounts.
Users | 223
Figure 16-1. Choosing an authentication plug-in
If you are using email-based self-registration and a user has a problem confirming his
account, you can confirm his account for him by clicking the confirm link opposite his
name.
You can also search for a particular user, using her name or email address as the search
term, and then edit her profile. You will need to do so in order to reset user passwords if users are unable to log in. Another reason for editing a user’s profile is to disable
her email address if you are receiving lots of undelivered mail!
If you want to temporarily disable an account (i.e., prevent a user from
logging in to Moodle), you can do so by editing the user’s profile page
and changing the authentication method to “No login.”
Add a new user
The “Add a new user” page allows you to manually create a new user account. The
form to add a new user looks just like the new user profile page in Chapter 2 that you
used to create your own account. If you create a test account, you can use a made-up
email address.
You can always create new accounts manually, regardless of which
authentication method you are using.
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Upload users
The “Upload users” page allows you to import a list of users via a text file. Moodle
creates an account for each user and, if you want, can also enroll students in courses
and arrange them in groups.
The user data text file must follow a certain format, as described in the upload users
help file. (Click on the question-mark icon.)
By default, Moodle assumes that you will be creating new user accounts and skips
records where the username matches an existing account. However, if you set “Update
existing accounts” to Yes, then the existing user account will be updated.
User profile fields
A new feature in Moodle 1.8 is the ability for administrators to create additional user
profile categories and fields. New profile fields will appear on each user’s profile page.
Permissions
As we covered in Chapter 4, the new roles and permissions system provides you with
a huge amount of flexibility to manage how students and other users interact. However,
teachers can’t do much unless you give them the appropriate permissions.
Define roles
The “Define roles” page, as shown in Figure 16-2, has three tabs: Manage roles, Allow
role assignments, and Allow role overrides.
The “Manage roles” tab contains a list of roles on your site. The Edit column contains
icons for editing and deleting roles, and for moving them up or down in the list (affecting
the way that roles are listed around Moodle). Below the table is an “Add a new role”
button.
If you wish to modify the capabilities for a particular role, you can do so by editing the
role. For example, you may want to allow students to unenroll themselves from a course
when using internal enrollment.
To edit a role:
1. Click on Permissions in the Site Administration block, then “Define roles.”
2. Click the edit icon opposite the role you want to edit, e.g., student.
3. On the “Edit roles” page, change permissions as required. For example, change
the “Unassign own roles” capability from “not set” to “allow.”
4. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button.
Depending on what you require, rather than modifying a particular role, it may be easier
to create a new role. For example, you may want to create an inspector role for providing
Users | 225
Figure 16-2. Managing roles
external inspectors or college principals with permission to view all courses on your
Moodle site.
To add an inspector role:
1. Click on Permissions in the Site Administration block, then “Define roles.”
2. On the “Manage roles” tab, as shown earlier in Figure 16-2, click the “Add a new
role” button.
3. On the “Add a new role” page, give the role a name, e.g., Inspector.
4. Give the role a meaningful short name. The short name is necessary for other plugins in Moodle that may need to refer to the role (for example, when uploading users
from a file or setting enrollments via an enrollment plug-in).
5. Give the role a description (optional).
6. Set the “View courses” capability to “allow.”
7. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Add a new role” button.
You will then need to assign the inspector role as a global role (as described in the next
section).
To test a new role:
1. Create a test user and assign the new role to them.
2. Either log out as the administrator and then log in as the test user, or use a different
browser to log in as the test user.
Role changes only take effect when the user next logs in.
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Figure 16-3. Allowing role assignments
You can find setup instructions for other example roles in the Moodle documentation.
The “Allow role assignments” tab, as shown in Figure 16-3, contains a grid for setting
which roles each role can assign other users to. For example, by default, teachers can
only assign other users the roles of non-editing teachers, students, and guests. If you
want teachers to be able to assign other teachers in their course, you can allow the role
assignment:
1.
2.
3.
4.
Click on Permissions in the Site Administration block, then “Define roles.”
Click the “Allow role assignments” tab.
Click the checkbox where the teacher row and column intersect.
Click the “Save changes” button.
The “Allow role overrides” tab looks similar to the “Allow role assignments” tab, with
a grid for setting which roles each role can override.
In order for teachers to make the most out of the roles and permissions functionality,
it is highly recommended that you enable teachers to set role overrides for students. To
do so, you need to first allow the capability to override roles and then to set which role
(s) teachers can override:
1. Click on Permissions in the Site Administration block, then “Define roles.”
2. On the “Manage roles” tab, as shown earlier in Figure 16-2, click the edit icon
opposite the role of teacher.
3. On the “Edit roles” page, change the “Override permissions for others” capability
to “allow.”
Users | 227
4.
5.
6.
7.
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button.
To set which role teachers can override, click the “Allow role overrides” tab.
Click the checkbox where the teacher row and the student column intersect.
Click the “Save changes” button.
Assign global roles
Global roles are roles that apply across the whole of your Moodle site. For example, a
user assigned the global role of teacher will have this role in every course on the site.
Most likely you will only want to assign the default roles of administrator and course
creator globally, though you may create additional roles, such as the inspector role,
which require assigning globally.
Administrators can do anything and go anywhere in the site. You should limit the
number of people with administrator privileges to a bare minimum. If a lot of people
have administrator access, it’s a recipe for disaster because they can add accounts and
courses and change site variables at will.
Course creators can create new courses and assign the role of teacher in them. If you
are administering a small Moodle site, enabling your colleagues to create their own
courses removes you as a potential bottleneck. If you are running a university-wide site,
however, using this extensively is not recommended. On a large site it can become
difficult to track who is creating legitimate courses and who is abusing the system. A
large number of bogus courses will clutter your system and could lead to performance
slowdowns.
Global roles are assigned in exactly the same way as course roles (see Chapter 4),
including hidden assignments.
Assigning users the global role of student will result in them being
enrolled in every course.
User policies
The user policies page includes a number of role settings that are generally best left as
default. They include the following options:
Default role for all users
This should be set to authenticated user. If it is set to student, then all students are
enrolled in all courses.
Auto-login guest
If this is not set, then visitors must click the “Login as a guest” button before
entering a course that allows guest access.
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Figure 16-4. Adding a new category or course
Roles that are not synchronized to meta courses
Meta courses combine enrollments from multiple courses (see Chapter 2). You will
probably want users to have the same role in the meta course as in the normal
courses. If not, select the roles that should not be synchronized.
Hide user fields
User fields appear on users’ profile pages. You can increase student privacy by
hiding selected user fields.
Courses
You, as the administrator, together with any colleagues you have assigned as course
creators, are responsible for adding courses to Moodle.
Add/edit courses
Before creating courses, it’s sensible to set up some course categories.
By default, there is only one Moodle category: miscellaneous. Although you are certainly free to put all your classes in the miscellaneous category, your students will find
it easier to find their classes if they are organized in descriptive categories.
To add a category:
1. Click on Courses in the Site Administration block, then “Add/edit courses.”
2. On the “Course categories” page, as shown in Figure 16-4, type the name of your
new category in the text box and click the “Add new category” button.
You now have a new course category, which you can move up or down or into an
existing category to create a subcategory.
Once you set up a few course categories, you are ready to create a course.
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To create a course:
1. Click on Courses in the Site Administration block, then “Add/edit courses.”
2. On the “Course categories” page, as shown in Figure 16-4, click the “Add a new
course” button.
3. Enter the course settings, as covered in Chapter 2, then click the “Save changes”
button.
4. On the “Assign roles” page, click on the teacher role to assign teachers to the course.
You can choose to hide a course by clicking the eye icon opposite the course name.
Only users with the capability to view hidden courses, such as teachers, will be able to
access the hidden course. Categories can also be hidden, if you want.
Enrollments
By now you should have set up user authentication, i.e., enabled people to log in,
created some courses, and assigned teachers to them. The next thing to consider is
course enrollment, that is, assigning users the role of student in a course.
By default, students can enroll themselves in whatever courses they choose. They do
so by clicking on the course name, then answering Yes to the question “You are about
to enroll yourself as a member of this course. Are you sure you wish to do this?” This
method of enrollment is called internal enrollment. You can restrict users from enrolling
in whatever courses they choose by setting enrollment keys (see Chapter 2).
If you want to enable students to unenroll themselves from a course as
well as enroll themselves, you can do so by editing the role of student
(see the previous section).
Whilst internal enrollment is an effective and efficient way of managing course enrollment, particularly if you don’t have a lot of courses, Moodle also provides a number
of other enrollment methods (or enrollment plug-ins). They include:
Authorize.net Payment Gateway/PayPal
These methods allow you to set up an e-commerce system so students can pay to
enroll in a course. If you are running a business selling Moodle-based courses, you
can use either of these methods to enable students to use a credit card.
External database
This method looks up enrollments in another database. You’ll need to configure
the login settings so Moodle can access the remote server and map the fields in
Moodle to the fields in the external database.
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Figure 16-5. Choosing an enrollment plug-in
Flat/IMS Enterprise file
Like the upload users tool, which we covered in a previous section, these methods
allow you to import user enrollment data via a specially formatted text file. IMS
Enterprise file format is described in a help file, and flat file format is described on
the flat file settings page.
Internal enrollment
This is the default enrollment method, as described above.
LDAP
You can use an LDAP server to manage enrollment as well as manage authentication. Setup instructions can be found in the Moodle documentation.
To set the enrollment method:
1. Click on Courses in the Site Administration block, then Enrollments.
2. On the enrollments page, as shown in Figure 16-5, click the enable checkbox opposite your chosen enrollment plug-in.
As for authentication methods, you may choose more than one enrollment method,
if you wish. For example, if you have some courses that students must pay for and
some free courses, you can use PayPal and internal enrollment.
3. Select the default plug-in for interactive enrollment. This is when a user has to do
something interactively in order to be enrolled, such as clicking “Yes, I do” (internal
enrollment) or paying some money (Authorize.net Payment Gateway, PayPal).
4. Click the “Save changes” button.
5. Click on Edit opposite the enrollment plug-in(s) you have chosen.
6. Configure the required settings and click the “Save changes” button.
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Course Request
If you want users to be able to request new courses, you can enable course requests. A
“Course request” button then appears on the “All courses” page. If users then request
new courses, you as an administrator will see a “Courses pending approval” button on
the “All courses” page.
If you enable course requests, you will need to check the “All courses”
page regularly for the “Courses pending approval” button. Email notification of course requests is not yet available.
Backups
There’s a saying in the computer industry: “There are two types of users, those who
have lost data, and those who will.” Eventually, a hard drive will fail or your database
will collapse on your Moodle server and you will lose data. Fortunately, Moodle has
an automated course backup system that you can run on a nightly basis to export all
course content for the entire site.
The course backup tool in Moodle actually runs the same functions as an individual
course backup. It simply runs automatically on all of the courses on the site at a designated time. It’s a good idea to schedule backups for when your server isn’t usually
busy. Running the backup tool over all the courses can be processor-intensive, so you
shouldn’t run it when there are a lot of students trying to access the server.
The backup page lets you set the types of content to be backed up. If you are running
a nightly full-server backup (which is strongly recommended), we suggest you use the
following settings:
Include modules and module user data
Click both of these checkboxes to preserve all student work for each course.
Users
Set this to All. If you need to restore your Moodle server from a backup, you don’t
want to lose any accounts, even if they aren’t associated with a current course.
User files
Check this as well. You want the restored server to look as much like the original
as possible, so all user files should be restored.
Course files
Again, click this checkbox. You’ll need to deal with a lot of angry teachers if they
have to restore all of their course files after you restore the server.
Keep
This setting determines how many old backups will be saved. Set this as high as
you can without taking up too much space on your server. If you need to restore
a course a few days after you run the backup, you’ll be glad you have a few weeks’
worth of data.
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Once you’ve selected the backup settings, you’ll need to set a backup schedule.
To set the backup schedule:
1. Click the Active checkbox. This turns on the automated backup system.
2. Click the days of the week to run the backup. Backing up every day is
recommended.
3. Set the execution time for the backup process. For most servers, early morning will
be the best time.
4. Set the “Save to...” path. If you can, choose a backup path on another machine or
on a different drive than the one Moodle is on. You don’t want to lose your backups
at the same time you lose your Moodle site if the drive fails. If you leave the field
blank, then backup ZIP files will be saved in the backup folder of each course files
folder.
5. Click the “Save changes” button.
Once you’ve set up your backup schedule, Moodle will automatically create archives
of all the courses on the server at the time you specified. Once the backup is complete,
Moodle will send you an email describing the status of the backup. Any courses which
are unavailable to students and have not been changed in the last month are automatically skipped in the backup process.
In addition to setting automated course backups, we strongly recommend that you perform regular site backups, as explained in the Moodle
documentation.
Location
The location settings page includes the following options:
Default time zone
This sets the default time zone for date display. This can be overridden by a user’s
profile setting unless the default time zone is forced.
Default country
Select your country so that it appears by default on the new account page.
IP address lookup
You can experiment to find out which works better for your area, hostip or ipatlas.
Language
One of Moodle’s many strengths is its language-handling capabilities. As we mentioned
in Chapter 2, you can provide users with a choice of language or force a language in a
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particular course. Even if you want your site in English only, you may well find the
language editing facility useful for making changes to the standard text in Moodle.
Language Settings
The language settings page includes the following options:
Default language
This sets the default language for the site. The setting can be overridden by users
using the language menu, or the setting in their personal profile.
If a preferred language is set in a user’s browser, then this will
override the default site language.
Display language menu
This sets whether the language menu is displayed on the login page and the front
page. If it is turned off, the only places where a user can change the language setting
are in her user profile or in the course settings if she is a teacher.
Languages on the language menu
If you want to limit the number of languages students and teachers can select from,
enter a reduced list here.
Site-wide locale
Leave this setting empty, as it’s set through each language pack.
Excel encoding
Leave as default (Unicode) unless you have a particular reason for wanting Latin
encoding.
Language Editing
The language editing interface enables you to easily change any word or phrase used
on the site. For example, you may want to change the word “Course” to “Area.”
To change a word or phrase:
1. Click on Language in the Site Administration block, then “Language editing.”
2. Click the “Edit words or phrases” link in the middle of the page.
3. On the “Edit words or phases” page, as shown in Figure 16-6, click the “Switch
lang directory” button. A local language folder, parentlanguage_local, will automatically be created in moodledata/lang. Files of edited strings will then be saved
in this folder. This is necessary to prevent changes that you make from being overwritten by a newer language pack when updating.
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Figure 16-6. Editing words or phrases
4. Choose a file to edit. You may need to search through a few files before finding the
file containing the word you wish to change. The file moodle.php contains all common site-wide phrases.
5. Change the word or phrase.
6. Click the “Save changes” button. The changed phrase will be highlighted in a different color.
If you wish to make further changes later, be sure to check that files of edited strings
will again be saved to the folder parentlanguage_local, switching folders if necessary.
Language Packs
At the time of this writing, over 70 language packs are available for you to install on
your Moodle site. Simply select the languages you require from the list of available
language packs and click the “Install selected language pack” button.
All language packs, apart from English, are stored in the moodledata/lang folder.
Modules
As mentioned in the beginning of this book, Moodle is an acronym for Modular ObjectOriented Developmental Learning Environment. It has a modular design.
Modules | 235
Figure 16-7. Managing activities
In addition to using the wide variety of modules included in the standard download,
you can download and install third-party modules and plug-ins from the Moodle.org
modules and plug-ins database (http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=22).
Be aware that third-party modules may have quality issues, may not
work correctly, and may not work when you upgrade Moodle. You
should test them thoroughly before using them and be prepared to
uninstall them before upgrading.
Activities
The activities page, as shown in Figure 16-7, enables you to manage Moodle’s activity
modules.
The Hide/Show column allows selected modules to be hidden, so they do not appear
in any course “Add an activity” drop-down menu and cannot be used in any course.
To hide a module, click the eye icon so that it changes to a closed eye.
For various reasons, several modules are hidden by default. For example, the Exercise
and Journal modules are old modules that are no longer maintained, but they are included in Moodle for historical reasons.
The activities page also lists how many activities for each module there are on your
Moodle site. If you click on a number, the list of courses containing that activity will
be displayed.
Apart from the forum, any module can be deleted using the link in the Delete column.
There is no reason for standard modules to be deleted. However, nonstandard modules
may need to be deleted before upgrading.
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To delete a module completely, in addition to deleting it on the activities
page, you also need to remove/delete the actual module folder from the
moodle/mod folder. Otherwise, Moodle will reinstall it next time you
access the site administration. This also applies to blocks.
Many of the modules have additional settings, which can be accessed via the links in
the Settings column. Settings you may want to change include:
Assignment and Forum
You can set the maximum file upload size (subject to course and site limits).
Chat
If you intend to use the chat activity a lot, then you should consider using a chat
server daemon to reduce server load.
Database, Forum, and Glossary
If you have enabled RSS across the site (in the Server > RSS section of the Site
Administration block), you will also need to enable RSS in the Database, Forum,
and Glossary modules.
Resource
You may want to allow teachers to create links to files on a local filesystem, such
as a CD drive or a common network drive.
Quiz
You can simplify the “Add a new quiz” page by selecting a number of options to
be hidden from teachers by default and only displayed when teachers click the
“Advanced settings” button.
Blocks
The blocks page, which looks similar to the activities page, enables you to manage
blocks in Moodle. As for activity modules, you can show, hide, and delete blocks.
To reduce the length of course “Add a block” drop-down menus, you should hide
blocks that will not be used, such as global search (unless you have enabled the global
search feature in the Miscellaneous > Experimental section of the Site Administration
block), mentees (unless you have added a mentor role), and network servers (unless
you are using Moodle Networking).
The blocks page also lists the number of instances of each block. Clicking on a number
results in the list of courses containing that block being displayed.
Some blocks, such as the HTML block, can be used more than once on a course page.
You can choose whether or not to allow this by clicking the change link in the Multiple
column.
A few blocks have additional settings, which can be accessed via the links in the settings
column. Settings that you may want to change include:
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Remote RSS feeds
You may want to allow teachers or even everyone to be able to add new RSS feeds.
If not, then teachers will have to contact you to add new RSS feeds.
To add a new RSS feed:
1. Click the a “Add/edit feeds” link at the bottom of the “Remote RSS feeds
settings” page.
2. On the “Add/edit feeds” page, add the news feed URL and a custom title (optional).
3. Click the Add button.
Filters
Filters allow for the automatic transformation of entered text into different, often more
complex forms. For example, the titles of resources can automatically become hyperlinks that take you to the relevant resource, or URLs pointing to MP3 files can become
Flash controls embedded in the web page that let you pause and rewind the audio.
There are a number of standard filters included with Moodle and many more specialized filters available from the Moodle.org modules and plug-ins database (http://
moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=22).
The filters included in the standard download are:
Activity Names Autolinking
This filter scans text for activity titles that exist in the same course. Where found
they will be highlighted and linked to the activity.
To use this filter effectively you should use descriptive titles. For
example, a title of “Test” is poor because any use of the word “Test”
in the text will be linked regardless of what it refers to.
Database Autolinking
This filter scans text for database entry titles and works in the same way as the
Activity Names Autolinking filter.
Glossary Autolinking
This filter scans text for glossary entry titles and works in the same way as the
Activity Names Autolinking filter. In addition to this filter, individual glossary entries should have the “This entry should be automatically linked” box checked.
Resource Names Autolinking
This filter scans text for resource titles and works in the same way as the Activity
Names Autolinking filter.
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Wiki Page Autolinking
This filter scans text for wiki page titles and works in the same way as the Activity
Names Autolinking filter.
Algebra Notation
This filter converts algebra code into GIF images. It requires the TeX notation filter
to be enabled.
Word Censorship
This filter “blacks out” words from a list in the word censorship settings.
Email Protection
This filter scrambles email addresses in user profiles so that outside search engines
and guests can’t see users’ email addresses. This protects your users from spammers
and other attackers.
Multimedia plug-ins
This associates uploaded multimedia files with the correct media players.
Multilanguage Content
This enables resources to be created in multiple languages (as covered in Chapter 3). When turned on, it looks for <span lang="xx" class="multilang"> tags,
which indicate that a text contains multiple languages. Then it selects and outputs
the best language for the current user. The language of the resource will change
when the user changes his selected Moodle language.
TeX Notation
Another mathematics markup tool that allows you to use TeX notation and display
it correctly in Moodle.
Tidy
This filter checks whether HTML code is XHTML-compliant, tidying where necessary. To make this filter work you need to have PHP compiled with the libtidy
option. See http://www.php.net/tidy for more information.
To enable a filter:
1. Click on Modules in the Site Administration block, then Filters.
2. On the filters page, as shown in Figure 16-8, click the eye icon opposite the filter
you want to enable, so that it changes to an open eye.
3. Use the up/down arrow icons to arrange the filters in the order in which they should
be applied.
Certain filters have additional settings, which can be accessed via the links in the settings column.
Filter settings that apply to more than one filter can be found in the
Appearance > Filter settings section of the Site Administration block.
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Figure 16-8. Managing filters
Security
The Moodle project takes security seriously and is continuously improving Moodle to
fix any security issues that may arise. We recommend that you take the following basic
security measures:
• Update Moodle regularly on each release. Published security holes draw crackers’
attentions after release. The older the version, the more vulnerabilities it is likely
to contain.
• Disable register globals. This will help prevent against possible XSS problems in
third-party scripts.
• Ensure that administrators and teachers use strong passwords. This protects
against “brute force” cracking of accounts.
• Only give teacher permissions to trusted users and avoid creating public sandboxes
with free teacher accounts.
Further security advice can be found in the Moodle documentation.
Site Policies
The site policies page includes the following options:
Open to Google
Enabling this setting allows Google’s search spiders guest access to your site. Any
part of the site that allows guest access will then be searchable on Google. In
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addition, people coming into your site via a Google search will automatically be
logged in as a guest.
Maximum uploaded file size
Probably the most frequently asked question in the Moodle.org forums is, “How
do I increase the upload file size limit?”
Upload file sizes are restricted in a number of ways—each one in this list restricts
the following:
1. The Apache setting LimitRequestBody
2. The PHP settings post_max_size and upload_max_filesize
3. The site-wide maximum uploaded file size setting in the Security > Site policies
section of the Site Administration block
4. The course maximum uploaded file size setting in the course settings
5. Certain activity module settings
Enable messaging system
Click the checkbox to enable the messaging system (see Chapter 5).
If you enable the messaging system, all users will be able to send
and receive messages at any time. Teachers can’t choose whether
or not messaging is allowed between students in their particular
course.
Maximum time to edit posts
This sets the editing time for forum postings. The editing time is the amount of
time users have to change forum postings before they are mailed to subscribers.
Blog visibility
To enable blogs (as covered in Chapter 11), select the level to which user blogs can
be viewed. By default, all site users can see all blogs. Blog visibility may be restricted
so that users can only see blogs for people with whom they share a course or a
group.
HTTP Security
The HTTP security page contains just one option:
Use HTTPS for logins
HTTPS encrypts the user’s login data, so it’s difficult to sniff out a user’s username
and password on the network. You will need to enable HTTPS on your server
before you turn on this setting, or else you will be locked out of your site.
Every web server has a different method for enabling HTTPS, so you should check
the documentation for your web server.
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Module Security
Certain activity modules can be set so that they do not appear in the “Add an activity”
drop-down menu for teachers. The setting only applies to teachers—administrators are
always able to add any activity to a course.
To disable an activity module completely, click the eye icon in the hide/show column
in the activities page.
Notifications
The notifications page contains the following options:
Display login failures to
Set this to Administrators to be warned of anyone attempting to steal student or
teacher logins. When set, a link stating the number of failed logins appears in the
top-right corner of the page when an administrator logs in. Click the link to access
the login error page.
Email login failures
If you’re concerned about login failures, you can set up email notification for administrators.
Threshold for email notifications
This sets the number of failed logins for a given user from a single computer that
will trigger notification.
Anti-Virus
To make use of Moodle’s anti-virus feature, the open source virus scanner ClamAV
should be installed on your server. See http://www.clamav.net for more information.
Appearance
Themes
A theme sets the appearance—colors, fonts, and icons—for your Moodle site.
Theme settings
The theme settings page includes the following options:
Allow user themes
If enabled, users can select their preferred theme on their “Edit profile” page. All
Moodle pages will be displayed in the user’s theme, apart from courses where a
course theme has been set.
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Allow course themes
If enabled, teachers are provided with a “Force theme” option on their course
settings page. The course will always be displayed in the theme specified in the
course setting, with the user and site themes being ignored.
Theme selector
Moodle has a number of themes for you to choose from using the theme selector,
including an interactive theme called Chameleon. Chameleon uses Ajax technology to
enable you to easily design your own theme or enhance an existing theme. Further
information on Chameleon can be found in the Moodle documentation.
Alternatively, you can download a theme from the Moodle.org themes database (http://
moodle.org/themes).
To install a theme from the Moodle.org themes database:
1. Unzip the theme on your computer.
2. Copy the folder to the moodle/theme directory on your server.
3. Click on Appearance in the Site Administration block, then Themes > Theme
selector.
4. Click the Choose button opposite your new theme. (If your new theme is missing
from the list of themes, check that the new theme folder in the moodle/theme directory doesn’t contain another folder with the same name, as this may occur with
some ZIP utilities.)
Calendar
Moodle’s calendar displays the following events:
Site
These events are created by administrators and are viewable in all courses.
Course
These events are either created by teachers or are a result of setting closing dates
for activities such as assignments and quizzes, or repeating chat sessions. Course
events are only viewable by course participants.
Groups
These events are created by teachers and are only viewable by members of a group.
User
These are personal events that a user can create and are only viewable by the user.
The days and events to look-ahead settings are for displaying events in the Upcoming
Events block. If the Upcoming Events block becomes too long, you can reduce the
number of days and events to look-ahead.
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Filter Settings
The filter settings page contains the following options:
Text cache lifetime
Text filters can take a lot of processor power to analyze. If you have a large number
of courses, the filters may slow your system. The text cache lifetime determines
how often the filters run. If you set them to run too frequently, your system may
slow down. If you set them to run too infrequently, analyzing new content will take
too long and users will notice. You should experiment to find the correct amount
of time for your server.
Filter uploaded files
Moodle can also apply filters to uploaded HTML and text files, as well as content
entered directly into Moodle itself. Again, you will need to balance the increased
load imposed by filtering more files against the added usefulness of applying filters
more widely.
Filter match once per page or text
This setting affects the Glossary, Database, Resource, and Activity Names Autolinking filters. If checked, only the first match on a page, or in a block of text, will
be converted to a link.
Filter all strings
If checked, headings and titles can be displayed in different languages using the
Multilanguage Content filter (see Chapter 3).
Settings for particular filters can be found in the Modules > Filters section of the Site Administration block.
HTML Editor
The HTML editor is a word-processor interface for formatting text and inserting images, tables, links, and smileys (see Chapter 3), which teachers generally find useful.
You can customize the HTML editor and change the background color, fonts, and font
sizes, and hide selected buttons. If you want the HTML editor to have a spellcheck
button, you need to install aspell 0.50 or later on your server, and enter the correct path
to access the aspell binary in the Server > System Paths section of the Site Administration
block.
Moodle Docs
By default, teachers and administrators have “Moodle Docs for this page” links at the
bottom of each page in Moodle for accessing context-specific documentation.
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You may find that teachers prefer the documentation to open in a new window, so they
can easily return to their page in Moodle. If so, click the “Open in new window”
checkbox.
My Moodle
My Moodle is a customizable “dashboard” front page that provides users with links to
their courses and activities within them, such as unread forum posts and upcoming
assignments.
To enable My Moodle, click the “Force users to use My Moodle” checkbox.
By default, users can add and delete blocks from their My Moodle page. If you don’t
want users to be able to do so, you can edit the authenticated user role and change the
“Manage My Moodle” page blocks capability from “allow” to “not set.”
If you want certain blocks to appear on every user’s My Moodle page, they can be set
as sticky blocks (see the later section “Sticky Blocks”).
Course Managers
The course managers setting allows you to control who is listed in the course description. (Course descriptions are displayed in course lists.)
By default, users with the role of teacher in a course are listed in the course description
for that course. If a course has several teachers, the course description can become
rather long. In this case, you can create a role (e.g., head of subject) with no capabilities
set and assign it to selected users in addition to their teacher role. If you then select
only the head of subject role in the course managers setting, the course descriptions
will be shorter.
Sticky Blocks
Sticky blocks are blocks that you, as an administrator, can set to always appear on
course pages and/or on users’ My Moodle pages.
To configure sticky blocks:
1. Click Appearance in the Site Administration block, then “Sticky blocks.”
2. Choose whether to configure My Moodle or course pages.
3. Select the required blocks from the “Add a block” drop-down menu. Configure
each block as desired.
4. Reposition blocks using the arrow icons in the block headers.
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If you add a block that is already present in a particular course page or
My Moodle page, then it will result in a duplicate block. Course pages
contain a number of blocks by default. Instructions on changing the
default arrangement of blocks on course pages can be found in the
Moodle documentation.
Front Page
Your site front page is similar to a course page. You, as an administrator, can edit the
front page by clicking the “Turn editing on” button in the top-right corner of the front
page.
Front Page Settings
Front page settings include the following options:
Full site name
This name appears at the top of every page above the navigation bar.
Short name for site
The short name appears at the beginning of the navigation bar as a link back to
your site front page.
Front page description
This is an optional setting enabling you to add short message to your users in a
block on the front page.
Front page and front page items when logged in
The center of the front page can display any combination of the following: news
items, a list of courses, a list of course categories, a list of categories, and courses
or none. If you choose to display a list of courses when logged in, then students
are provided with a list of only the courses they are enrolled in.
An alternative option for logged-in users is My Moodle (see earlier
section).
Include a topic section
This adds a topic section to the center-top of the front page. When editing is turned
on, resources and/or activities can be added to the topic section using the dropdown menus, in the same way as on a course page.
The label resource can be used to add text and/or an image to the
center-top of the front page.
246 | Chapter 16: Moodle Administration
News items to show
This setting only applies if the front page is set to display news items or if you are
using the Latest News block.
Front Page Roles
You can assign roles and set up role overrides for your front page in exactly the same
way as for a course (see Chapter 4).
To enable users to engage in front page activities, you need to either assign all users the
front page role of student or set up authenticated user overrides. For example, if you
want users to be able to view forum discussions and reply to posts, you can override
the authenticated user role and allow these permissions.
If you have a site news forum in which everyone is forced to be
subscribed, you need to assign all users the front page role of student in
order for them to receive email copies of forum posts.
Front Page Backup
You can back up your front page with or without user data in exactly the same way as
for a course (see Chapter 4).
Site Files
Site files are basically the course files for the front page. Any images you want to display
on the front page can be uploaded to the site files folder.
Don’t be afraid of the note at the top of the site files page: “Files placed here can be
accessed by anyone.” This simply means that, unlike course files, which require a user
to have appropriate rights in order to access them, anyone who has the URL can access
the files within the site files folder.
The site files folder can be used for uploading a course backup ZIP file
prior to restoring it.
Server
System Paths
The system paths page includes the following options:
Server | 247
GD version
GD is a graphics library that manipulates graphics. It’s used to create thumbnail
images from uploaded files and other graphics on the fly. If you don’t know what
version is installed, leave this on the original setting.
Path to zip and unzip
If you are running Moodle on a Unix or Unix-like server (Linux, Solaris, BSD, Mac
OS X), you may need to specify where the zip program is located. Zip and unzip
are used to compress and decompress ZIP archives such as the backup folder.
Path to aspell
To use spellchecking within the HTML editor, you must have aspell 0.50 or later
(http://aspell.net/) installed on your server, and you must specify the correct path
to access the aspell binary.
Email
The email page includes the following options:
SMTP hosts
SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. The SMTP host is an email relay
that will take the email from Moodle and send it to users. You will need to set this
only if your server does not allow mail relay. Otherwise, PHP will send out the mail
using its built-in mail server. All the email sent by forums and other modules will
be sent through this host.
SMTP username
If you set an SMTP server and it requires authentication, enter the username for
the account that will be relaying the email from Moodle.
SMTP password
Enter the password for the SMTP user you set previously.
No-reply address
Email sent from Moodle needs to have a return address or many servers will reject
it as spam. Some users also want to keep their email private, so Moodle sends all
of its email using the no-reply address you set here.
Allowed and denied email domains
Authentication can be restricted to particular email domains when using emailbased self-registration so that, for example, only students with a university email
can log in.
Hour to send digest emails
Moodle allows mail digests from the forums, so users get only one email per day
instead of an individual message for every posting. This setting specifies when
digests are emailed to users. Users set their email digest type in their profile page.
248 | Chapter 16: Moodle Administration
Session Handling
The session handling page includes the following options:
Timeout
Once someone logs in to your Moodle server, the server starts a session. The session
data allows the server to track users as they access different pages. If users don’t
load a new page during the amount of time set here, Moodle will end their sessions
and log them out.
Be sure this time frame is long enough to cover the longest test your teachers may
offer. If students are logged out while they are taking a test, their responses to the
test questions may be lost.
Cookie prefix
Most of the time, you can leave this blank, unless you are running more than one
Moodle site on the same server. In this case, you will want to customize the name
of the cookie each Moodle site uses to track the session. This enables you to be
logged in to more than one Moodle site at the same time.
If you change the cookie prefix you will need to log in again, as the change takes
effect immediately.
RSS
The RSS page contains only one option:
Enable RSS feeds
Certain modules can send RSS feeds to users’ news readers. RSS feeds are headlines
that notify users of new content in Moodle. Users subscribe to RSS feeds by clicking
the orange RSS button and copying the address in the browser bar to their RSS
reader software.
In addition to enabling RSS across the site, you also need to enable RSS
in the module settings for each module with RSS capabilities (forum,
database, and glossary). Teachers also need to enable RSS in the activity
settings.
Debugging
Debugging messages are intended to help Moodle developers. If you have a problem
with your Moodle site and ask for help in a Moodle.org forum, a developer may ask you
to turn debug messages on, in order to locate the cause of the problem.
Server | 249
Statistics
If you enable site statistics, Moodle will gather statistics about each course and for the
whole site and produce graphs displaying them.
To enable statistics:
1. Click Server in the Site Administration block, then Statistics.
2. Click the “Enable statistics” checkbox.
3. As stats processing is quite resource-intensive, you should set the stats processing
to start in the early morning.
Set the stats processing to start an hour before your automated
course backups are scheduled to start, then set the maximum runtime to one hour. This ensures that stats are not being processed
at the same time as course backups are being made.
4. Click the “Save changes” button.
HTTP
The HTTP page contains the following options:
Frame name
If you’ve developed a web wrapper for Moodle and you want to include Moodle
in a larger frame, set the name for the Moodle frame here.
Use slash arguments
You will need to change this setting only if you are having trouble viewing files or
images. Most of the time, Moodle will display files and pictures with no problem
using the slash arguments. If you get errors when you try to view pictures or files
from within Moodle, your PHP server doesn’t allow the slash argument method
and you will need to use the file argument method instead.
Proxyhost and proxyport
Your Moodle server may need to access the Internet through a proxy server, depending on your network configuration. If you’re not sure about whether you need
a proxy server, contact your network administrator or ISP.
Maintenance Mode
Maintenance mode is for preventing any users other than administrators from using
the site while maintenance is taking place.
When users attempt to access a course when your site is in maintenance mode, they
receive a message informing them that the site is in maintenance mode. If you wish,
you can create a customized maintenance mode message, perhaps stating when the site
will be available again or giving the reason for doing maintenance.
250 | Chapter 16: Moodle Administration
The front page of your site will appear as normal when your site is in
maintenance mode. Users will only see the maintenance mode message
when they attempt to access a course.
To put your site in maintenance mode:
1. Click Server in the Site Administration block, then Maintenance mode.
2. Click the Enable button.
An alternative way of putting your site in maintenance mode if you’re
unable to access the web interface is to create a file called
maintenance.html and save it in the folder called 1 in your moodledata
folder. A customized maintenance mode message can be entered in the
maintenance.html file.
Cleanup
The cleanup page contains the following options:
Unsubscribe users from courses after
To help keep lists of participants up-to-date, you can tell Moodle to unenroll any
student who hasn’t logged in for a certain amount of time. Be sure to keep this time
long enough so students aren’t unenrolled accidentally while they still need access
to the course.
Delete unconfirmed users after
If you’re using email-based self-registration, users must confirm their account
within a certain time frame. Once the time set here has passed, any account that
hasn’t been confirmed will be deleted. Seven days is a good setting.
Keep logs for
Moodle keeps extensive logs of user activity. Eventually, however, the logs will
become so large that they begin to clog your server. Limiting the length of time
logs are kept for will reduce database table size. Generally, a year is enough time
to keep logs for.
Environment
The environment page enables you to check that your server meets all system requirements for your current and future versions of Moodle.
You should check that your server meets all system requirements before
upgrading your site.
Server | 251
PHP Info
The PHP info page provides information on the version of PHP your server is running,
including PHP compilation options and extensions, server information, and the PHP
environment and OS version information. If you have a problem with your Moodle site
and ask for help in a Moodle.org forum, you may be asked to provide some information
from this page.
Performance
Moodle can be made to perform very well, at small usage levels or scaling up to many
thousands of users.
If you’re happy with the performance of your site, leave the performance settings as
default. If you want to improve the performance, you can refer to the Moodle documentation for advice.
Networking
Networking is a new feature in Moodle 1.8, enabling resources to be shared between
Moodle sites using a single sign-on. Additional information, including setup instructions, can be found in the Moodle documentation.
Your server must have Curl and OpenSSL PHP extensions installed in
order to use Moodle Networking.
Reports
Just as teachers can obtain detailed logs and reports of student activity in their course
(as covered in Chapter 4), as an administrator you have access to logs and reports for
the whole site.
Course Overview
To obtain course overview reports, you must first enable statistics (see the “Statistics”
section earlier). You can choose to view reports of the most active courses or the most
participatory courses over a certain time period. Results are displayed in a bar chart
and in a table.
252 | Chapter 16: Moodle Administration
Logs
You can select any combination of course or site, participants, date, activity, and actions
and choose whether they are displayed on the logs page or downloaded in text, ODS,
or Excel format.
The “Live logs from the past hour” link opens a pop-up window listing all course
activity in the past hour, which refreshes every minute. You can use it to gauge server
load and to get a snapshot of how students and teachers are using the site.
Statistics
To obtain statistics reports, you must first enable statistics (see the “Statistics” section
earlier in this chapter). You can select any course or the whole site and choose to view
reports of all activity, all views, all posts, or all logins over a certain time period. Results
are displayed in a line graph and in a table, which contains links to course logs.
Miscellaneous
Experimental
The experimental page lists features that require additional testing and bug-fixing, such
as the global search. We recommend you use a test server for testing experimental
features before enabling them on your production site.
XMLDB Editor
The XMLDB editor is a tool for developers to easily edit tables/fields/keys/indexes in
install.xml files.
Moodle Support
Hopefully you won’t have any problems with your Moodle site. However, just in case
you do, Moodle support is available in the following ways:
Moodle documentation (http://docs.moodle.org/)
At the bottom of each page in Moodle is a “Moodle Docs for this page” link for
accessing context-specific documentation.
Community discussion forums
Moodle has a large and diverse user community which provides free support via
discussion forums on http://moodle.org/. You can search for answers to questions
other users have already asked, or post a new question of your own.
Miscellaneous | 253
Commercial support and other services
If you need urgent, complicated, or ongoing help, we recommend that you contact
a Moodle Partner—see http://moodle.com/support/.
Happy Moodling!
254 | Chapter 16: Moodle Administration
Index
Symbols
# (hash sign), using database templates, 181
* (asterisk), as a wildcard, 104
<< (add to quiz) icons, 112
[ ] (square brackets), using database templates,
181
A
AAHE (American Association for Higher
Education), 213
accounts, 11, 223–225
creating, 9–14, 222
Acrobat Reader (Adobe), 44
action after correct answer option, 145, 154
Activities block, 15
activity modules, 236
activity names autolinking filter, 238
activity reports, 21, 65
activity types, 25
adaptive mode, 97, 102
add a block menu, 237
add a cluster option, 150
add a new course button, 230
add a new discussion topic button, 73
add a new glossary entry, 135
add a new blog entry, 168
add a new scale button, 198
add a new topic button (News Forum), 26
add a resource menu, 24, 29
directories, displaying, 37
IMS Content Packages, adding, 37
linking to files or web sites, 34
media content, adding, 39
add an activity menu, 25, 29
assignments, creating, 124
chat sessions, creating, 85
choices, creating, 206
databases, adding, 177
glossaries, creating, 132
lessons, 144
quizzes, creating, 96
surveys, 204
wikis, 157
add an end of branch option, 150
add an end of cluster option, 150
add an IMS Content Package, 25, 29, 37
add new role button, 225
add news (forums), 79
add template type (databases), 176, 183
add to quiz (<<) icons, 112
add/edit courses, 229
administration, 221–254
notifications, 221
users, 222–229
Administration block, 15
add/edit courses and, 230
backups, 61
roles, assigning and, 50
scales, creating new, 198
student grade views and, 198
student groups and, 57
administration drop-down menu, 163
administrator role, 49
Adobe, 44
advanced searches (forums), 75
advanced uploading of files assignment type,
124
advanced uploading of files option, 127
Ajax, 13
We’d like to hear your suggestions for improving our indexes. Send email to [email protected]
255
algebra notation filter, 239
algebra text filter, 105
allow choice to be updated option, 207
allow comments on entries option, 132
allow course themes option, 243
allow entries to be rated option, 133
allow permissions value, 54
allow posts to be rated? option (databases),
177
allow print view option, 132
allow quick grading box, 127
allow role assignments tab, 227
allow student review option, 145
allow user themes option, 242
always see Q & A posts (forums), 79
American Association for Higher Education
(AAHE), 213
anti-viruses, 242
Apache, 241
appearance, 242–246
apply penalties option, 97
approved by default option, 132
Arabic characters, 8
archives (forums), 77–78
archives (ZIP), 42
(see also ZIP files)
assign roles (Administration block), 50
assignment submissions page, 126
assignments, 123–130
capabilities, 126
capstone courses and, 219
creating, 124
effective practices, 128–130
gathering/reviewing, 2
submissions, managing, 126
types, 123
asterisk (*), as a wildcard, 104
asynchronous communication, 69
attempts allowed option, 97
ATTLS (Attitudes to Thinking and Learning
Survey), 203
audio files, 44
authentication, 222
Authorize.net Payment Gateway, 230
auto-login guest option, 228
autolinking, 134, 137
automatically link glossary entries option, 132
availability option, 22
available from/to option (databases), 177
256 | Index
B
backups, 61, 232
grade, 200
beeps, using chats, 86
behavior issues in forums, 77
Bender, Tisha, 83
Blackboard format, 111
blended learing, 2
block contexts, 53
blocks, 7, 14–16, 237
Blog Tags, 170
sticky, 245
blog preferences link, 170
blog visibility option, 169, 241
blogs, 167–174, 241
capabilities, 171
capstone courses and, 220
effective practices, 172–174
entries, 167
tags, 170
theory/discussion courses and, 218
using, 167–171
bold function (HTML editor), 33
brainstorming, 166
branching
lessons, 143
quizzes, 152–153
simulations, 154
tables, 147
browse tool (wiki pages), 161
browsers, 7
bullet list function, 33
C
calculated questions, 101, 107
calendar, 243
capabilities, 52
introductory survey courses and, 216
skills development courses and, 218
capitalization, importance of, 104
capstone courses, 213, 219
case studies, 154
case-sensitivity, 104
categories (course), 18, 229
setting, 195
CC (Creative Commons) license, 47
CDs (media content), linking to, 40
center justify function, 33
“chalk and talk” method, 2
change background color function, 33
change font color function, 33
chapter checks, 119
chapter-based word lists, 140
character sets, 8
chats, 1, 84–89
capabilities, 87
creating, 85
creative practices, 88
effective practices, 88
using, 86
cheating, 120
Chinese characters, 8
choices, 206–209
administering, 209
capabilities, 209
theory/discussion courses and, 218
using, 209
choose or upload a file button, 34, 39
Choose Your Own Adventure books, 143
ClamAV virus scanner, 242
classes, managing, 49–67
courses, restoring and copying, 62
reports, 64–67
student groups and, 57–61
Clean Word HTML function, 33
cleanup, 251
close this window button, 9
Cloze (embedded answer) questions, 101, 109
CMS (Course Management System), 1–4
educational philosophy and, 4
collaborative glossaries, 141
collaborative quiz questions, 142
collaborative research, using databases, 191
COLLES (Constructivist On-Line Learning
Environment Survey), 203
comments
database module, 185
enabling on glossary entries, 138
rating, 186
comments option (databases), 177
common module settings, 32
communication, 69
community, 5
completed option, 146
compose a text page, 24, 29, 30–32
compose a web page, 25, 29, 33
compression, reducing file sizes, 45
Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment
Survey (COLLES), 203
contacts (messages)
adding, 92
managing, 91
content
creating and managing, 29–48
creative, 46–48
effective practices, 43–48
managing/updating, 40–43
media, 38
multilanguage, adding, 40
content packages, 25, 29
adding IMS, 37
contexts (of role assignments), 53
cookie prefix option, 249
cost option, 23
course files backup option, 62
course files setting (backup page), 232
Course Management System (see CMS)
course page, 14
editing mode, 23–26
course request button, 232
Course Test Manager format, 111
courses, 14–26, 229–233
add/edit, 229
Administration block, 41
contexts, 53
creator role, 49
design patterns, 212–220
formats, 16–18
introductory survey, 214–216
managers, 245
overview, 252
reports, 64–67
request, 232
restoring/copying, 62
roles, assigning, 50–51
settings, 18–23
skills development, 216–218
create anchor function, 33
create attachments (forums), 79
create group button, 58
create new blog entries, 171
create new question menu, 102
calculated, 107
embedded answer (Cloze), 110
essay, 109
matching, 106
Index | 257
numerical, 105
random short-answer matching, 107
short-answer, 104
Creative Commons (CC) license, 47
creative content, 46–48
Critical Incidents survey, 204
CSS templates, 185
CSS/no tables, weekly format, 17
current activities, 65
curve to feature, 195
curves, grading on, 201
custom scoring option, 145
D
data gathering, 120
databases, quality of, 185
database autolinking filter, 238
databases, 175–191
adding, 176–179
backups and, 232
capabilities, 188
creating, 175–185
creative practices, 190
examples, 176
fields, 179
introductory survey courses and, 215
managing, 185–188
practices, 190
presets, 187
quality data, 185
rating, 186
skills development courses and, 217
templates
editing, 180–185
types of, 176
theory/discussion courses and, 218
date stamps, 42
debates, 83
debugging, 249
decimal digits in grades option, 97
decrease indent function, 33
default language setting, 234
default question grade, 102
default role for all users option, 228
default role setting, 21
define roles page, 225–228
delete any posts (forums), 79
delete chat logs (chat module), 87
delete own posts (forums), 79
258 | Index
deleting files, 41
dependent on option, 146
deploy button, unzipping files, 38
description box (edit profile tab), 13
description questions, 101
design patterns (course), 212–220
Diament, Andy, 82
diff tool (wiki pages), 162
directories, displaying, 36
Discussion-Based Online Teaching (Bender),
83
discussions (forums), 69
display a directory, 25, 29, 37
display default feedback option, 145
display format option, 132
display language menu setting, 234
display left menu option, 146
display login failures to option, 242
display mode option, 207
display ongoing score option, 145
Docs (Moodle), 244
Dougiamas, Martin, 4
duplicated entries allowed option, 132
E
each attempt builds on the last option, 97
edit a lesson activity, 151
edit always option, 133
edit and manage entries, 172
edit any post (forums), 79
edit categories button, 98
edit profile tab, 11
edit wiki pages, 164
edit words or phrases link, 234
editing mode, 23–26
assignments, creating, 124
editing teacher role, 49
editors (HTML), 244, 248
database templates and, 182
labels, creating, 30
multilanguage content, 40
multiple-choice questions, creating, 102
using, 33
web pages, composing, 32
educational philosophy, 4
effective forum practices, 80–82
email, 248
edit profile tab and, 11
forums, subscribing, 73
email all graded essays link, 151
email login features option, 242
email protection filter, 239
email-based self-registration method, 222
embedded answer (Cloze) questions, 101, 109
enable messaging system option, 241
enable RSS feeds option, 249
enable/disable editor button, 182
enlarge editor, 34
enrollment key option, 22, 58
enrollment setting, 21
enrollments, 230
management, 52
entries required before viewing option
(databases), 177
entries shown per page option, 132
environment page, 251
essay questions, 101, 108
everyone can view past sessions (chat rooms),
85
Excel, 204
encoding setting, 234
expectations, managing, 76
experimental page, 253
export entries link, 138
export pages (wiki links menu), 163
exporting questions, 111
external database method, 222, 230
extra credit feature, 195, 200
F
face-to-face meetings, 2
feedback
blogs, using, 173
learning environments and, 212
skills development courses and, 217
voting and comments, 191
feedback (quizzes), 97
fetch-back tool (wiki pages), 162
fields (databases), 175
creating, 179–180
file download (wiki links menu), 163
Filemaker (Apple), 175
files
files area tools, 41–42
formats, 43–44
linking to, 34–36
uploading, 34
files area, 41–42
filters, 238
settings, 39, 244
text, 105
FirstClass server, 223
Flash, 40
flash cards, 153
flat file, 231
flow control options (lessons), 145
flowcharts, 144
folders, 41
fonts, composing web pages and, 33
force everyone to be subscribed link, 73
force groups option, 22
formats (course), 16
forms (HTML), 183
forums, 1, 69–84
archiving, 77
capabilities, 78
creating, 70–73
edit profile tab and, 13
effective practices, 80–82
introductory survey courses and, 215
managing, 76–78
News, 26
searching, 75–76
skills development courses and, 217
student groups and, 57
theory/discussion courses and, 218
using, 73–75
frames (HTML), using chats and, 86
frequently asked questions, 83
full justify function, 33
functions (HTML editor), 33
G
GD version option, 248
getting started, 7–9
GIF files, 44
GIFT format, 110
glossaries, 131–142
autolinking, 137
capabilities, 139
categories, 136
collaborative, 141
comments, 138
creating, 131–134
effective practices, 140–142
entries, adding, 136
importing/exporting entries, 138
Index | 259
introductory survey courses and, 215
printing, 139
using, 134–139
glossary autolinking filter, 238
glossary type option, 132
goals, learning, 212
Google, 240
grade assignment capability, 126
grade better than (%) option, 146
grade essays tab, 151
grade options, adding forums, 71
gradebook, 201
grades, 193–198
advanced features, 194
creative uses, 202
effective practices, 200–202
lesson options, 144
letters, setting, 197, 201
preferences, setting, 194
recording, 2
student view, 198
grades link (Administration block), 193
grading method option, 97
graphics, 45
group chats, 88
group lecture notes, 165
group mode, 22, 98, 133
assignments, adding, 125
choices, 208
databases and, 178
forums, 72
sessions, 85
wikis and, 159
group project management, 166
groups, 58
introductory survey courses and, 214
guest access option, 23
guest roles, 49
H
handling of re-takes option, 145, 154
hash signs (#), using database templates, 181
Hawkins, David, 172
help system, 8
hidden sections, 20
hide user fields option, 229
horizontal rule function, 33
HTML, 12, 13, 44, 244, 248
composing web pages and, 25, 32
260 | Index
databases and, 181
editors (see editors)
multilanguage content, 40
HTTP, 250
HTTP security, 241
hybrid courses, 2
I
icons (course page), 24
ID numbers (course), 20
images, 45
IMAP server, 223
import entries link, 138
importing questions, 111, 147
Impress (OpenOffice), 44
IMS content packages, 25, 29, 37
IMS Enterprise file, 231
include modules and module user data setting
(backup page), 232
increase indent function, 33
index of all help files link, 9
inherit permissions value, 53
initial subscriptions (forums), 79
insert a label, 24, 29
insert image tool (HTML editor), 33
insert special character function (HTML
editor), 34
insert web link function, 33
inspectors, 225
instant messaging, 84
interface (Moodle), 7
internal enrollment method, 231
interviews, 82
introductory survey courses, 213, 214–216
is this glossary global? option, 132
italic function (HTML editor), 33
item analysis link, 116
J
JavaScript, 13
chats, using, 86
SCORM format and, 17
templates, 185
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Health, 47
JPEG files, 14, 44
K
keep setting (backup page), 232
L
labels, adding, 29
Lader, Art, 190
LAMS (Learning Activity Management System)
format, 16
languages, 7, 233
edit profile tab and, 13
editing, 234
multi, adding, 40
packs, 235
settings, 234
languages on the language menu setting, 234
last-minute exam preparation, 88
Latest News block, 15
LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol),
223, 231
Learning Activity Management System (LAMS)
format, 16
learning environments, 211
learning journals, 172
lecture notes, uploading, 46
left justify function, 33
lessons, 143–155
capabilities, 151
creating, 144–151
creative uses, 154
databases and, 175
effective practices, 151–155
introductory survey courses and, 216
managing, 151
options, 144–147
skills development courses and, 217
letter grades, setting, 197, 201
Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP),
223, 231
LimitRequestBody setting (Apache), 241
link to a file or web site, 25, 29, 34
media content, adding, 39
link to an activity option, 146
links, 34–36
list of users page, 223
list template type (databases), 176, 183
live logs from the past hour link, 65
locations, 233
login page (Moodle), 9
logs, 253
backup option, 62
chat capabilities and, 87
student activity, 64
M
MacZip, 42
mail now box, 74
maintenance mode, 250
manage a lesson activity, 151
manage official tags, 172
manage personal tags, 172
manage subscriptions (forums), 79
manage wiki settings, 164
manual accounts method, 222
manual grading link, 116
match grades menu, 111
matching questions, 101, 106
materials, uploading and sharing, 1
maximum entries option (databases), 177
maximum grade option, 145, 153
maximum number of attempts option, 145
maximum time to edit posts option, 241
maximum upload size setting, 21
maximum uploaded file size option, 241
media content, adding, 38–40
messages
capabilities, 91
searching, 91
sending, 90
messaging, 89–93
capstone courses and, 219
introductory survey courses and, 216
meta courses, 229
backup option, 61
settings, 21
methods (authentication), 222
mini-projects, 141
mini-tests, 119
minimum number of questions option, 146,
154
missing-word format, 111
MIT, 47
forum practices and, 80
moderator groups, 78
chats and, 88
module (common) settings, 32
module contexts, 53
modules, 235–240
Index | 261
security, 242
modules and plug-ins (database), 176
Moodle Buzz (database), 176
Moodle Docs, 244
Moodle Network authentication, 223
Moodle registration button, 222
Moodle XML format, 111
most often changed pages (wiki links menu),
162
most visited pages (wiki links menu), 162
MOV files, 44
move discussions (forums), 79
move this discussion to menu, 77
MP3 files, 40, 44
multilanguage content filter, 239
multilanguage content, adding, 40
multimedia plug-ins, 39
multimedia plug-ins filter, 239
multiple-choice questions, 101, 118
My Courses block, 14
My Moodle, 245
N
networking, 252
new users, adding, 224
newest pages (wiki links menu), 162
News Forum, 15, 26
NNTP server, 223
no authentication method, 223
no groups mode option, 57
non-editing teacher role, 49
non-Latin character set, 8
notifications, 221, 242
number of pages (cards) to show option, 146
numbered list function, 33
numerical questions, 101, 105
O
OCR (Optical Character Recognition), 45
OCW (OpenCourseWare), 47, 80
offline activity assignment type, 123
offline activity option, 128
OmniPage Pro, 45
one-minute responses, 173
online discussions, 3
behavior issues and, 77
online forums, 3
online office hours, 88
262 | Index
online text assignment type, 123
online text option, 127
Open Document Spreadsheet, 204
open source, 4
open the quiz option, 96
open to Google option, 240
OpenCourseWare (OCW), 47, 80
OpenOffice, 44
operators for calculated questions, 108
Optical Character Recognition (OCR), 45
orphaned pages (wiki links menu), 163
override locked pages, 164
overrides (roles), 54
P
packages, installing, 221
page index (wiki links menu), 162
parameters area, 36
participants lists, 92
participation
messaging, 93
reports, 66
password, 9, 11, 222, 240, 241
for quiz, 97, 120
reset, 224
SMTP, 248
path to aspell option, 248
path to zip and unzip option, 248
PayPal, 230
PDF (Portable Display Format), 44
file sizes and, 44
peer assessment, 82
People block, 15
performance, 252
permissions, 49, 52, 225–229
(see also roles)
overriding roles, 55
personal profile, 11
PHP, 241, 252
server, 223
PICT files, 44
pictures, uploading, 14
PNG files, 14, 44
Portable Display Format (PDF), 44
file sizes and, 44
post_max_size setting (PHP), 241
PowerPoint, 44
branch tables, importing, 147
file sizes and, 44
lecture notes, creating, 46
ppt files (PowerPoint), 44
practice lesson option, 145
preferences, setting, 194
presets (database), 187
prevent automatic linking function, 33
prevent permissions value, 54
privacy of results option, 207
profile fields, user, 225
profiles (user), 10–14
progress bar option, 146
progressive testing, 120
prohibit permissions value, 54
proprietary software, 4
publish results option, 207
Q
Q & A forums, 70
problem solving and, 82
question mark icon (help system), 8
questions
collaborative quiz, 142
creating, 98–110
exporting, 111
importing, 110, 111, 147
strategies, 118
types of, 100–110
questions per page option, 96
Quicktime, 44
quiz closes option, 96
quizzes, 2, 95–122
body, creating, 96–98
capabilities, 116
cheating/security, 120
collaborative questions, 142
effective practices, 118–122
introductory survey courses and, 215
managing, 115–116
questions
adding, 112–115
creating for, 98–110
scales and, 199
skills development courses and, 217
strategies, 118
R
RAM files, 44
random questions, 114
random short-answer matching questions, 101,
107
rate posts (forums), 79
read all messages (messages), 92
read chat logs (chat module), 87
reading study groups, 84
RealPlayer, 44
redo action, 33
remote RSS feeds, 238
remove link function, 33
repeat sessions (chat rooms), 85
reply to news (forums), 79
reply to posts (forums), 78
reports, 64–67, 252
reprint headers setting, 194
require approval? option (databases), 177, 185
require network address (quizzes) option, 98
require password (quizzes) option, 97
required entries option (databases), 177
reset template button, 182
resource names autolinking filter, 238
resources
introductory survey courses and, 214
skills development courses and, 217
review button, 145
Rich Text Format (RTF), 43
lecture notes, creating, 46
role-playing, 83
roles, 49–57, 52
activities, 56
assigning, 50–51, 228
define roles page, 225–228
editing, 225
front page, 247
introductory survey courses and, 216
overrides, 54
skills development courses and, 218
theory/discussion courses and, 219
roles that are not synchronized to meta courses
option, 229
Roots of Literacy (Hawkins), 172
rough sketches, creating databases, 176
RSS, 249
articles option (databases), 177
feeds, 249
templates, 184
RTF (Rich Text Format), 43
lecture notes, creating, 46
RV files, 44
Index | 263
S
save changes button, 34
save past sessions (chat rooms), 85
scales, 198–200
effective practices, 200–202
practices, 202
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference
Model) format, 17
screen reader, 13
Search Forums block, 15, 75
search spiders, 240
search tab, searching messages, 91
searches (forums), 75
security, 240–242
anti-virus, 242
HTTP, 241
security (quizzes), 120
send a message to many people (messages), 92
separate and connected ways of knowing scale,
198
separate groups mode option, 57
servers, 247
path, 247
servers (Moodle), 1
session handling, 249
set preferences page, 194
set weights page, 196
settings tool, 15
Sharable Content Object Reference Model
(SCORM) format, 17
Shibboleth, 223
short-answer questions, 101, 104
show activity reports setting, 21
show advanced button, 11
linking to files and web pages, 36
parameters area, 36
window options and, 31
show alphabet option, 133
show column for unanswered option, 207
show grades setting, 21
show hidden items option, 194
show mark details box, 115
show quiz in a secure window option, 97
show “ALL” link option, 133
show “Special” link option, 133
show/edit current subscribers link, 73
shuffle questions option, 96
shuffle within questions option, 96
simulations, 154
264 | Index
single template type (databases), 176, 183
Site Administration block, 221
add/edit courses, 229
authentication, 223
define roles, 225–227
enrollments, 231
filters, 239
language editing, 234
maintenance mode, 251
roles, assigning, 227
site policies, 241
statistics, 250
sticky blocks, 245
theme selector, 243
site contexts, 53
site files, 247
site map tool (wiki links menu), 162
site policies page, 240
site-wide local setting, 234
skills development courses, 213, 216–218
slide show option, 146
smiley tool (HTML editor), 33
social constructionism, 4
social format, 17
social forums, 84
spiders, 240
split discussions (forums), 79
spreadsheets, 204
square brackets ([ ]), using database templates,
181
standard forums, 71
start new discussions (forums), 78
statistics, 66, 250, 253
sticky blocks, 245
storytelling, 83
streaming players, 40
strikethrough function (HTML editor), 33
student can re-take option, 145, 153
student files area, 190
students
demands/schedules, 3
expectations, managing, 76
grade view, 198
groups, 57–61
removing, 51
roles, 49
workgroups, 22
study groups, reading, 84
StuffIt Expander, 42
style function, 33
submit assignment capability, 126
subscribe (forums), 73
subscript function (HTML editor), 33
subscriptions, 70
superscript function (HTML editor), 33
surveys, 2, 203–206, 209
administering, 204
capabilities, 205
creating, 204
introductory courses, 214–216
system administrators, 9, 39
multilanguage content, adding, 40
statistics and, 66
system contexts, 53
T
table tool (HTML editor), 33
talk in a chat (chat module), 87
teachers, 131
explaining tasks, 211
roles, assigning, 227
templates (database), 175
CSS, 185
editing, 180–185
JavaScript, 185
RSS, 184
TeX text filter, 105, 239
text, 13
filters, 105
page, composing, 30–32
themes, 242
database, 176
theory/discussion courses, 213, 218
threads, 70
threshold for email notifications option, 242
throttling applies (forums), 80
tidy filter, 239
TIFF files, 44
time delay between attempts option, 96
time limit option, 96
time limits for lessons, 144
time spent (minutes) option, 146
time zone, 13
timeout option, 249
toggle text function (HTML editor), 34
tool-centric systems, 5
topics format, 17
true/false questions, 101
turn editing on tool, 15
Blog Tags block and, 170
chat sessions, creating, 85
choices, creating, 206
forums, adding, 71
front page and, 246
glossaries, creating, 132
labels, adding, 30
lessons, 144
linking to files or web sites, 34
messages, 90
surveys, creating, 204
wikis, 157
tutorial support (messaging systems), 93
U
UK Open University, 47
underline function (HTML editor), 33
undo action, 33
Uniform Resource Locator (see URL)
update this glossary button, 135
updated pages (wiki links menu), 163
upload a single file assignment type, 123
upload a single file option, 127
upload_max_filesize setting (PHP), 241
URL (Uniform Resource Locator), 7
use advanced features button, 194
use HTTP for logins option, 241
use this lesson’s settings as defaults options,
147
user backup option, 62
user contexts, 53
user files backup option, 62
user files setting (backup page), 232
user policies page, 228
user profiles, 10–14
usernames, 9
users, 222–229, 224
Utah State University, 47
UTF-8, 8
V
versions, tracking, 42
video files, 44
view any ratings (forums), 79
view assignment capability, 126
view blog entries, 171
view discussions (forums), 78
Index | 265
view grades page, 193
view hidden timed posts (forums), 78
view my entries link, 168
view ratings (forums), 79
view subscribers (forums), 79
viewable from/to option (databases), 177
viruses, 242
visible group mode option, 57
visible mode option, 98
visible module option, 86, 125, 133
choices, 208
databases and, 178
forums, 72
wikis and, 159
visible option (lessons), 147
wildcard (*), 104
window options
displaying text/web pages, 31
linking to files or web pages, 36
Windows Media Player, 44
WinZip, 42
with chosen files menu, 41
WMV file, 44
word censorship filter, 239
word lists, 140
word processors, reading file formats and, 44
workgroups (student), 22
WYSIWYG mode (HTML editor), 34
W
XHTML, 111
XML, 111
glossaries, exporting/importing entries,
138
XMLDB editor, 253
wanted pages (wiki links menu), 163
WAV files, 44
web applications, Course Management
Systems and, 1
web logs (see blogs)
web pages, composing, 32
web sites
external, 46
web sites, linking to, 34–36
WebCT format, 111
weekly format, 17
weekly-based word lists, 140
weights, setting, 196, 201
wiki links menu tools, 162
wiki page autolinking filter, 239
Wikibooks, 48
Wikipedia, 48
wiki pages and, 165
wikis, 157–166
administering, 162
basics, 165
capabilities, 164
creating, 157–159
effective practices, 164
introductory survey courses and, 216
managing, 159–164
options, 158
pages, creating, 160
permissions, 163
practices, creative, 165
theory/discussion courses and, 219
tools, 161
266 | Index
X
Z
ZIP files, 248
courses, restoring and copying, 63
creating, 42
databases, exporting as, 187
themes and, 243
using deploy button, 38
About the Authors
Jason Cole is a product development manager at the Open University in the UK, where
he works on the development of the OU’s Course Management System. Prior to joining
the OU, he was the academic technology manager at San Francisco State University,
where he initiated the process of upgrading the university from Blackboard to Moodle.
A member of the Moodle community, he has developed a student data integration tool
for the system and contributed to discussions regarding a document management system and object model for Version 2.0. Jason earned a Ph.D. in educational technology
from the University of Northern Colorado.
Helen Foster is a Moodle administrator for the site with the most users (over 300,000
at the time of this writing)—Moodle.org—and holds a key Moodle role of documentation steward. Helen is a facilitator for the Using Moodle course, which provides free
24-hour support for Moodle users worldwide.
Prior to relocating to Belgium, Helen was the Information Learning Technology Manager at Alton College in the UK, where she implemented Moodle and managed the
development of the third-party Object module and other Moodle code. Helen has a
B.S. in Mathematics from the University of London and a Postgraduate Certificate in
Education from the University of Cambridge.
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