Learn Moodle Extra – a few more Moodle screencasts

We’ve just finished the Learn Moodle 3.5 Basics MOOC – make sure you put 7 January 2019 into your diaries as the start date of the Learn Moodle 3.6 Basics MOOC. Sign up will be available in a few months on the Learn Moodle site.

Each MOOC covers the latest version of Moodle, and has accompanying screencasts. The 32 video playlist for the 3.5 MOOC is available here

As the MOOC only covers the basics of teaching with Moodle, we don’t deal in depth with some of the more complex activities, such as the powerful Workshop activity or the customisable Lesson activity, even though participants get to experience these as students in the course. However, we thought it might be helpful to provide short, ‘starter’ screencasts on these and some other Moodle activities for anyone interested in taking their training further.

Here’s a new playlist, currently with screencasts on the Lesson, Workshop, Database and Feedback activities. Everyone is welcome  to translate the subtitles of the Learn Moodle Extra playlist - please do :)

Workshop activity:

Database activity:

Lesson activity:

Feedback activity:

Learn Moodle 3.5 Basics Week 3: Celebrating cultures

As we pass the half way mark in the current Learn Moodle 3.5 Basics MOOC, participants are discovering more about the countries and cultures of each other through two activities: a Food for Moodlers database and a My home country (peer assessment) workshop. Both these activities are advanced tools which are not directly taught in the MOOC but provide an experience, a ‘taster’ of what is possible in Moodle. In the database activity, participants share favourite recipes from their region:


In the My home country activity participants give basic information including an image and link to a website about their home area, and in the current “Assessment phase” the information is now evaluated according to very simple criteria by their peers. The submission and evaluation criteria have been deliberately left very simple, not only because of the number of non-native English speakers in the course but primarily because we want participants to get a feel for the process of this powerful peer assessment activity, without the worry of inadequate grading. (That doesn’t stop the worry for some participants however!)


These two activities, along with other activities from the MOOC aroused so much interest in earlier runs of the course that we replicated them in our School demonstration Moodle site, Mount Orange. This is a site where you can take on the role of teacher or student and try out activities, safe in the knowledge that you cannot break anything as the site is reset every hour on the hour. There is a course there called Celebrating cultures  and if you’d like to see permanent examples of the database, workshop and other MOOC activities, log in and explore!

Week 3 also offers optional activities to better appreciate the Moodle mobile app, now updated for the latest version of Moodle. There’s an optional quiz and assignment for mobile app users in the MOOC, but the School demonstration site also has a course specifically designed to try with the mobile app. Head over to the Digital literacy course  with the app and see how you get on :)

While there’s still time to join the MOOC, it’s too late to obtain a certificate of completion as the one single deadline has passed. However, watch social media this coming week for the announcement of the next run, Learn Moodle 3.6 Basics :)

Learn Moodle 3.5 Basics Week 2: Even warmer!

This week on Learn Moodle 3.5 Basics has felt even warmer than the warm welcome experienced last week, although that might partly be because Helen Foster and I were in 30 degrees C temperatures at MoodleMoot Spain in Barcelona #mootes18 where  we  ran a workshop on collaboration in Moodle:

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/eixavuiro

Collaboration was a timely topic because this week in our MOOC, participants are submitting to a peer assessment workshop about their home region. While we do try to explain the various stages of the task, in particular that the completion tick is only available at the very end, some participants are still confused. This is less of an issue this time thanks to Hart Wilson’s  infographics, available in various formats in the Any questions forums:

Workshop help

As mentioned before, we’re grateful to our experienced ‘regulars’ who like to collaborate by helping out. Another good example is John Bennett  our ‘doorman’ in the Introduce yourself forum who ensures no post gets left unanswered. The Introduce yourself! forum has added interest this time, with Moodle 3.5, as participants can introduce themselves via video or audio with the new feature in the Atto editor:

 This new feature was very popular at #mootes18 and prompted many questions after my presentation on the benefits to teachers of Moodle 3.5 Here’s the slideshow. The slides are in Spanish although I presented in English.

Coming up this week…. all participants (not just those in the ‘All at once’ group) will be invited to share their courses for feedback. This is a very important part of the MOOC and we’d love it if our regular Moodlers and any experienced Moodlers enrolled in as many courses as possible to offer constructive comments.

And also this week… another live Big Blue Button session. These are optional (because of timezone issues) but popular as they give participants a chance to ask questions in real time and to see and speak to one another via video and microphone. See (and hear) you soon :)
Live session


Warm Welcome in Week 1: Learn Moodle Basics 3.5

We’ve just completed the first week of our twice-yearly Learn Moodle Basics MOOC, this time covering Moodle 3.5 (And yes, there is still time to sign up!)  From the (I confess, few) online courses I have participated in myself, I have learned that an early welcome by the facilitators  and contact with other participants is very helpful in encouraging newcomers to continue. Our MOOC has an Introduce yourself! forum where participants must not only introduce themselves but also (and this is something many initially omit) respond to an introductory post by others. The aim is that no post should be left unanswered. With over three thousand participants so far, it is difficult for the facilitators to engage with every new participant, and we’re very grateful to our experienced regular MOOCers who help with this. (I’m deliberately not naming  names because there are a few of them and I don’t want to miss anyone out but you know who you are and you’ll get your reward :) )

If this is your first experience of a course with a large number of participants,  a key piece of advice is: don’t feel obliged to read every post! Scroll down the list; find one with either a title you like or one which doesn’t yet have a response, and click on that. Perhaps someone is posting from your area? Perhaps someone has cleverly added a ‘teaser’ in their title? Would any of these attract your attention?


And the warm welcome is not only restricted to the Introduce yourself forum: the Any questions about Week 1? forum is monitored by helpful Moodlers who respond within minutes of a query being made. Do our helpful Moodlers have the forum in a tab on their computer and simply keep refreshing the page every five minutes (or is that just me? :) ) Whatever – it’s great that assistance is so swiftly given. We even have participants providing  tips for Newbies and infographics to help understand the peer assessment task (more next week)

As last time, participants can select to have the weekly activities displayed one week at a time (for a Step by Step approach) or all at once, if they are confident they won’t be overwhelmed. This works well but  it is surprising (and a little disconcerting to see participants sharing their empty courses in the week 3 section “Show us your Moodle course”. The idea is to work on the course for two weeks minimum and only then share the course for feedback on its content. Hopefully these fast-trackers will get some participants willing to return to the course once content is added; I’m sure they will.

Another surprise with the All at Once group of participants, is the number of people who are completing the “Tell us what you’ve learned” forum after a mere twenty four hours in the course.  Fast learners! But when you get feedback such as the below, it’s very encouraging:

What Learned

Some facts and figures so far:

  • We have 4184 participants, of whom 1150 already have a Participant badge.
  • Nearly twice as many participants opted to see the course materials “All at once” rather than weekly “Step by Step”
  • Over two thirds of the participants are totally new or relatively new to Moodle.

This last figure is interesting because although (at the moment) only 238 participants have classed themselves as “expert users here to help others”, there are still aspects to be learned, as this blog entry points out:

Experienced moodler

Week 2, starting on Monday 25th, brings an insight into Moodle’s interactive elements – and one of its most powerful features: a peer assessment tool called Workshop.  Going to be fun!

Moodlefairy does Languages in Russia (Part 2: Languages)

Note: This blog is in two parts – the first about Moodle and Language teaching, the second only about Language teaching. So read one, both or neither, depending on your interests!

During the three days of the ITMO conference, I was delighted to attend, as a regular participants, sessions on ESP teaching. These were practical, active, hands-on, engaging sessions – exactly the kind of methods you’d like to think students would be experiencing! As with all good conferences, I couldn’t attend simultaneous sessions and so, sadly, had to choose some and miss out on others. I enjoyed Head of ITMO Foreign Languages dept Yulia V. Ryabukhina’s session on Project and Problem-based learning (two different things), particularly as we were constantly questioned, asked to reflect, to think, to predict what happened with her real-life example class. Yulia also chaired a panel discussion on the Role of Materials in Student Motivation during ESP classes.  On the panel were representatives from three publishers and there  was much talk of the huge preparation time needed to provide learners with interesting and relevant ESP materials. It occurred to me that Moodle users (and maybe non-Moodle users?) should  have this problem alleviated with the advent of resource sharing in the new MoodleNet. It’s worth keeping an eye on the ongoing progress of this new, open, social media platform for educators.

Discussion Panel

Elena Belyaeva of St Petersburg State University (and formerly my son’s manager!) did an excellent and interactive workshop on authentic learning for students. I was particularly interested in this because I know the difficulty of providing authentic materials for foreign language learners. Elena’s take on this was that she didn’t only mean authentic paper materials – but an authentic experience. So she took us through  a typical experience her students have where they first discuss the benefits and drawbacks of studying abroad, they then research possible scholarships (with differentiated tasks and more or less assistance depending on their needs) and eventually will produce a scholarship application. It’s authentic because, as graduate physics students they may well be doing this. Elena even thought to make our own workshop experience authentic by having us research teaching scholarships rather than Physics graduate ones. (Sadly for me, one of them required Russian nationality!) In undertaking these tasks we first reflected on our own, then with a partner, then with a different partner – I was reminded of ‘think/pair/share’.

Elena Belyaeva

This active, student-centred learning was very present in another workshop I attended – and unfortunately my poor photographic skills meant my pictures aren’t good enough to show. (Yes, they’re of even poorer quality than the ones  I have chosen to show!!!) That’s a shame because the workshop was run by Aleksandra Shparberg and Maryam Reyhani (EMI co-ordinator) from ITMO University. (Maryam is from Perth Australia -home of Moodle!) The two delivered a masterful double act, from the first five minutes when we all had to get to know each other via paper aeroplanes to the last five minutes where we were each teaching the group about considerations in English as a Medium of Instruction. By the end I really, really wanted to be part of their department! I wanted to be a teacher again, to inspire and engage and all the things  I had forgotten I’d enjoyed during my 28 years teaching.

The final keynote was delivered by Robert Cote of the University of Arizona. He’s visited before, several times and he intends to return. “Though our governments and presidents may not get along, the people certainly do.”

Robert’s presentation was full of interesting and entertaining facts and information along with many practical hints for getting the most out of your English language learning students.

English Prevalence

I loved the TV news and weather reports, and was reminded that I did that years ago with my own students, at a much lower level, but with their enthusiasm nonetheless. He also encourages blogging and I realised that my own personal learning Russian blog, while useful as a self-disciplinary task, really ought to be written in Russian now my skills are improving. Or some of it at least. I’ll think about it :)

Big thanks to ITMO for allowing me to attend the conference. It was a pleasure both from a Moodle and a Languages point of view. And, of course, thanks for the lovely cakes!

ITMO Cakes