Changing perceptions: Learn Moodle week 4

As our sixth run of the Learn Moodle MOOC draws to a close, it’s been gratifying to note that, alongside the technicalities of learning how to teach with Moodle, we’ve seen our participants broaden their horizons both geographically and pedagogically. When I left my UK high school to work for Moodle, I recall the surprise on colleagues’ faces to discover that, actually, Moodle was bigger than just our school LMS –  or even a local education authority imposed LMS – or even a British LMS! One participant reminded me of this when she commented that not only had she learned good techniques for using Moodle with her class but that she was now aware that Moodle is  not just used in the US.

Having educators from all over the world connect with each other in the MOOC allows them to find common ground in their teaching, share ideas and strategies that give their subject a more global perspective. This effect of  ’changing perceptions’ is also apparent in participants who come to the course with some previous experience of Moodle. They are surprised to discover that it’s more than just a ‘document dump’, and they leave motivated to try out new features with their students:

Additionally, there have been a number of conversations in the weekly forums which have gone beyond the basics of setting up course activities. In a thread sparked  by the workshop peer assessment results, we’ve discussed the role of facilitators in ensuring  student feedback is effective and fair:

We’ve also been talking about time spent in a MOOC. Some organisations require a certain number of hours for accredited Professional Development. One participant pointed us to a recent study (HarvardZ and MITx: Four years of Open online courses) which states that A typical MOOC certificate earner spends 29 hours interacting with online courseware. The Custom certificate plugin allows teachers to specify number of minutes a learner must have been logged in the course in order to be eligible for this certificate, but how meaningful are such figures? Should our certificate include a time element?

These are the kinds of discussion we hope to continue over on Moodle.org where there is a dedicated Teaching with Moodle forum. And for those who want to continue learning Moodle, there are many courses, online and face to face at intermediate, advanced  and administrator level available from our Moodle Partners.

Final smile and sigh:

In an earlier post I talked about the smiles and sighs. Here are my personal two from this last week:

Smile:  the success of the Moodle mobile app. Each time we run the MOOC, more people access the course from the app. Each time we run the MOOC, more of the course is accessible from the app :) Participants can also do an optional quiz about mobile learning and an optional assignment from the app. If your organisation doesn’t use either the standard Moodle Mobile app or the branded Moodle Mobile app, you really should encourage them to!

Sigh: Questions asked in the forums are speedily answered by our experienced, regular attendees, and yet sadly the same questions are still repeated. Even a MOOC FAQ page doesn’t resolve the issue entirely. We need to give guidance in searching the forums to prevent this.

 What’s next?

Once the course is over, Helen and I  will  post some completion and participation statistics and as usual, we’ll be going through the participant feedback and adapting the course ready for next time. Missed this MOOC?  Or simply missed the workshop deadline? Get ready to sign up for our next run, starting on June 19th!

Learn Moodle week 3: It’s not just about you!

All in it together

I’m writing this on the final day of the third week of Teaching with Moodle: an Introduction, the HQ MOOC we run every six months. Having spent the first two weeks of the course familiarising themselves with Moodle, the participants are now engaged in peer assessing in our workshop activity and in sharing their practice courses to receive constructive comments from others. Note: if you sign up now you won’t be able to complete the course as a deadline has passed, but you are still welcome to learn Moodle. One of our participants put it beautifully in a forum post:

Indeed, it is this encouraging each other, learning together that makes the MOOC so enjoyable and, I hope, beneficial. Although the offficial language is English, participants can post in their native tongues, as you’ll see from our selection of week 3 bloggers:

We regularly get discussion threads set up in languages other than English to provide extra help for those who might have otherwise have difficulties. One of the most popular threads currently is for Spanish speakers, running from week 1 through to week 3 and no doubt into the final week too:

Additionally, our Learn Moodle videos have now been subtitled completely in Italian (thanks  Domenico Reccia) and in Greek (thanks Vasilis Palilis from Moodle Partner WIDE Services) (with other languages under way as well)

One observant Spanish speaking participant reported an error in the wording of her grades, resulting in a language string improvement. Using Moodle on such a large scale can often bring to light bugs or errors in language translations, and we see this as a Plus when community  members spot these and get involved in fixing them. In yesterday’s chat activity, moodler Mary Evans noticed a display issue which she then promptly set about repairing :)

 What’s to come?

Week 4 will touch upon some of the advanced features of Moodle that beginners can learn if they take their training further with Moodle partners. We’ll also be looking at how they can save (‘back up’ ) their courses to upload (‘restore’) into a different site, such as a MoodleCloud site, in order to continue working on them. If you’ve missed this run of the MOOC, don’t worry, as we’ll shortly be announcing the dates of our next MOOC :)

Learn Moodle MOOC: the halfway point

As I write this, we’re at the end of the second week of our twice-yearly,  four-week long MOOC on the basics of Teaching with Moodle. Participants are encouraged to blog about their experiences. The newbies have been very complimentary – here are a few:

Experienced Moodlers have also been blogging that they appreciate being able to try the new features of Moodle 3.2 and also to experience the latest version of the Moodle mobile app. So I thought, as one of the facilitators, I’d blog too, reflecting on how the first half of the course has gone. A former colleague used to divide the plus and minus points of her lessons into ‘Smiles and sighs’, so I’ll used her analogy. There have certainly been more smiles than sighs, both from the facilitators’ and participants’ points of view, but as sighs are valuable indicators of potential issues, we need to address and reduce them. Here goes:

Smiles

  • Despite only opening the course for sign up in the second week of December, we have over 4071 participants, 1260 of whom already have a participant badge. Percentage-wise this is a better rate than at the end of our previous MOOC last August: 31% as opposed to 26% and is looking  promising to match or beat the 37% from the MOOC this time last year. We were concerned about the course starting soon after Christmas, and about the short time to register before it began. I wonder now  if opening up sign up much closer to the start means it is fresher in people’s minds and so they are more active? We’ll get a better picture at the end of the month when we see who has the completer badge, an award which involves taking part in every required activity. Watch this space :)
  • As the MOOC is well established now – this is its sixth run – we have acquired several volunteer helpers, experienced Moodlers who just enjoy (I presume!) monitoring the course and responding to the more frequently asked questions. This is a very big ‘smile’ for Helen and me, because it means we’re not alone amongst thousands of Moodlers. It is particularly good for my own personality too, as it prevents me from answering every single question: bad practice in a course based on social constructionism! I have an annoying trait (neurosis?) in that if anyone texts, emails, whatsapps or asks a Moodle question, I feel compelled to respond straight away. That might be fine on an individual helpline, but if you’re running a course where participants learn together and help each other, you’re robbing them of the chance to do so. I learned my lesson trying to help in a foreign language forum on a different site: keen to respond, I spent ten minutes checking my grammar before pressing the ‘send’ button, only to discover the main facilitator and native speaker had already replied :(  So I thank one  of our hero regular Moodlers is Domenico Recchia, non-native English speaker yet knowledgeable and totally au fait with the Learn Moodle philosophy.
  • When a course is totally online and participants are scattered across the world, any opportunity to come together at the same time is a boon. We offer optional, recorded live sessions using Big Blue Button web conferencing. Participants join in with their microphones or webcams, or type questions in the chat and we’re always grateful when the developers of Big Blue Button come along in their free time to help.

  • In a MOOC with thousands of participants, it’s vital that each participant feels noticed and valued. One way we try to do this is by requiring people to introduce themselves – and then requiring them to reply to someone else’s post, thus ensuring everyone has at least one acknowledgement. Another of our hero regular Moodlers, John Bennett, has taken it upon himself to reply to anyone without a reply in the Introduce yourself forum. This is great:)

Sighs

  • The Introduce yourself forum as well as bringing smiles, also brings a level of frustration in that it illustrates how, despite the best efforts to explain things clearly, misunderstandings occur. Each required activity has box next to it. Most get a tick/checkmark automatically once the activity completion requirements are met. The Introduce yourself forum states that you must introduce yourself AND reply to someone else. Despite this, we still get participants wondering why their box is not ticked when they have introduced themselves. Some even introduce themselves a second or third time, highlighting to us we need to improve the clarify of the instructions.

  • We do a peer assessment activity called a Workshop.  It’s an advanced Moodle feature, so we don’t teach how to set it up, but we do feel participants will benefit from experiencing it as a student. (Its popularity certainly puts it in the ‘Smile’ list too. ) The activity requires participants to submit work and then, later, assess the work of others. Only then is their box checked as complete. A dedicated How to do the workshop activity page explains the process, but it seems we’re still not clear enough, judging by the confused participants who ask why the box is not yet marked complete once they have submitted their work.

  • Quiz questions for a large group of people whose first language is not English are very challenging to create! Each run of the MOOC there seems to be one question which causes problems – a short answer question. These are not the best type if your first language is not the language of the course. This isn’t a sigh so much as a salutory reminder that phrasing good quiz questions, with useful feedback, is a skill in itself, often overlooked.

 What’s to  come?

Weeks 3 and 4 will be busy – and, we hope, fun –  because not only will participants be assessing each other in the workshop activity but also sharing their practice courses to get some interaction and constructive comments. We’ll be very briefly touching upon advanced features to give newbies a taste of Moodle’s potential.  And if you’re wondering, yes, you can still sign up, but if you want a completion certificate, you’ll have to be quick, as that first workshop deadline is the 18th January :)

What teachers will love about Moodle 3.2

Not much blogging recently because I’ve been very busy filming :) Well, making videos that is, of the newest features of Moodle 3.2, which came out a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve been watching social media, you’ll no doubt have seen that everyone is talking about the new theme Boost, which will certainly silence those critics who complain the Moodle interface is ‘clunky’. Or maybe you’ve read about the user tours - guided tours administrators can create to help people find their way around the site. Equally cool, but for me, with each release, it’s the smaller, teacher-focused features that enthuse me. Little fixes that make a big difference to teachers’ lives. Here are a few scenarios:

  1. You’ve set up a Choice activity for students to choose their project group. When the deadline’s arrived, a couple of students message you in panic because they forgot to select their group and don’t want to miss out. Being the kind teacher you are, you make a note of their preference, go into the Choice activity and make those choices for them. Because in Moodle 3.2 teachers can make choices for students!
  2. Your drama class has an assignment deadline for next Tuesday. Then out of the blue your top student informs you she’s got an audition for ‘Stars in their X-Factor Talent‘ and can’t make the deadline. You don’t want to penalise her so instead you give her an individual extension. Because in Moodle 3.2 teachers can override assignment deadlines!
  3. You’ve mastered the complex lesson activity and are creating a long lesson with similar pages you use as templates, saving a lot of time. Because in Moodle 3.2 lesson pages can be duplicated in with one click!
  4. You’re re-running your course but you want this year’s students to view the postings from last year without replying to these older contributions. You can close those older contributions. Because in Moodle 3.2 forum discussions can be locked after periods of inactivity!

If you’re interested in finding out more about these new features from a teacher point of view, then why not sign up for our Learn Moodle MOOC starting on January 2nd?

Did I say I was busy filming? Oh yes – no sooner the 3.2 highlight videos finished than I began making all-new video tutorials for Moodle 3.2 to use in our MOOC. Better get back to work….

 

 

Moodling in Hollywood: moodlefairy goes to LA #mootus16

I’ve just come back from a week in Hollywood (OK, Universal City, but Hollywood sounds good!) at the very successful, very enjoyable – and VERY SUNNY! – US Moodle moot. I’m still in jet lag mode, sleeping, waking and eating at strange hours, so I’ll try to make this report as coherent and simply phrased as I can. It was a three day event; Tuesday, the pre-conference training sessions, and Wednesday and Thursday the conference itself. I took part in three presentations, one on our Learn Moodle MOOC, one on screencasting in Moodle and one with HQ’s Damyon Wiese on the new assignment changes in Moodle 3.1. The venue was the Hilton Universal City, great rooms, great food and best of all for conference attendees, having everything in the same place.

The novelty of breakfast in the sunshine

I especially liked the fact that my room, on the 20th floor, had not only a fine view of the Hollywood Hills but also, if I dared look down, a fine view of the swimming pool, allowing me to see how busy it was and whether it was worth going down there :) Before and after the conference, I did indeed go there, making the most of the 37 degrees C weather, which, to someone used to rainy summers of 17 degrees was in no way a burden…

I also took the opportunity to do the “Walk of Fame” and the Universal Studios tour.

Just to prove I’ve been!

Since my brain is still too chronologically challenged to think in sequence, here, in no particular order, is a list of things I really enjoyed and appreciated at #mootus16.

  • The full day workshop on  MOOC design – we were a small group so we all sat around a table discussing and sharing ideas. I felt it worked all the better for that. Thanks to Kathie Robeson from Elearning Experts for co-facilitating.
  • Meeting more Moodle partners. It’s always good to meet the people who pay your wages :) Several Moodle partners were sponsors, as you can see from the US Moot Sponsors list. As well as meeting Kathie, I was also pleased to meet other Partners for the first time, such as the refreshingly original Shalimar from Moonami, Ben from Lambda Solutions, Jai from Key to School/Vidyamantra and Navin from Ballistic Learning
  • Keynotes by invited speakers (1) On Wednesday we were treated to a fascinating exposé of the Neuroscience of Learning Design from Britt Andreatta. One aspect which particularly caught my attention was the knowledge that meditation/mindfulness is not only good for your mental health, which I was aware of, but can also help with learning and retention. I’ve been trying to “improve myself” this year, physically and mentally, with good intentions of  taking ten minutes each day for quiet reflection and weekly visits to our local Buddhist Centre and my good friend Pagpa. Sometimes it’s hard to find those ten minutes -yes- really! So understanding that there is yet another reason to do it – will motivate me all the more.
  • Keynotes by invited speakers (2) On Thursday we heard – and saw – the inspirational Aaron Page and Marlene Zentz demonstrate best practices in Accessible design. I say “saw” because Aaron demonstrated on his computer what it is actually like for people, like himself, who cannot  see with their eyes. And the two explained how we who are (love the term! “visually dependent“) can ensure our online courses are inclusive and accessible to all.
Marlene and Aaron keynote

Marlene and Aaron – photo by Martin Dougiamas

  • Speaking different languages! Kudos to Carles Augiló from Wiris Math, who is present at every moot I attend, whatever the country, and seems perfectly happy to pass on his passion about Moodle and Mathematics in several different languages. And thanks to the University of Montréal’s Serge Gauthier and Jean Philippe Gaudreau who worked with HQ on Competency based Education and who gave me the opportunity to attune my ear to Canadian French !
JP and Mary

J-P + Mary – le selfie anglo-canadien!

  • Having my historical phobia of numeracy assuaged by the calmly reassuring Statistics and Analytics expert Elizabeth Dalton. I’m sure if she and the equally mathematically competent HQ Community manager Helen Foster,  had been my school teachers, I wouldn’t have been so fearful of what, after all, is just another language.
  • Meeting old Moodle friends and making new Moodle friends. I don’t want to list names because I don’t want to offend  I don’t mention, but if we chatted, whether we had met before or met for the first time, I was really happy to connect with you and hope we meet again online or at another moot soon.

Many thanks to Gavin Henrick and Martin Dougiamas for making this possible and allowing me to attend. And now, if you don’t mind, it is six thirty pm, which I think means it is almost time for lunch…..