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Moodlefairy goes to Moscow: It’s all about Communication

One of the many benefits of the twice-yearly HQ-run Learn Moodle MOOC is that you get to meet online very interesting people from different parts of the world. Sometimes you even get to follow this up with face to face visits. Such was the case for me these last few days, when I was invited to speak at an educational conference in Moscow, Digital Education in the 21st century:

Panel discussion, Prof Mark Brown

One of the organisers, priest, theology lecturer and Moodle fan, Father Gennadi Egorev of St Tikhon’s University completed our 3.4 MOOC in January and felt the philosophy and pedagogical outlook of Moodle well suited his own approach and the approach of the conference.

Father Gennadi Egorov

So it was that on Sunday I arrived in Moscow  – my first time- and was fortunate enough to have the afternoon and evening for some whistlestop sightseeing before the work began on Monday – a walk around Red square with my excellent guide Evgenie and a pre-conference dinner in the form of a river cruise with magnificent views of the sunset.

St Basil's Moscow

In line with both Gennadi’s and Moodle’s approaches, the conference was not  a series of presentations with barely time for questions. it was a series of round tables (or круглые столы as I now know in Russian), parallel sessions on various topics. Each speaker had already submitted a paper or short presentation which conference participants should have familiarised themselves with in advance. I was on an all-woman panel facilitated by both Gennadi and Professor Mark Brown of the National Institute for Digital Learning, Dublin City University.

Panel discussion  with Prof Mark Brown

Our discussions ranged from my own Supporting non-native English speakers in an English-speaking MOOC to concerns and definitions of competency-based education, successful forms of assessment, and wider digital footprint issues.

As Dr Mark Brown pointed out, underlining much of the discussion was the importance of Communication. In our own Learn Moodle MOOC, nearly thirty percent of participants selected a language other than English for their Moodle interface. (And that doesn’t mean that those who chose English were native speakers just that they were comfortable using English.)

Communication is vital, be that in English as an international language  or in your own language (which shouldn’t be neglected in the face of anglophonic imperialism), communication with faciliators being available out of hours to support students, communication with students using various channels to discuss and communicate (and we considered the pros and cons of those) and of course, communicating progress via different types of assessment and competencies.

Panel discussion

Communication was apt in this conference as it was entirely in Russian apart from my own and Prof  Mark Brown’s contributions. I was torn between listening to the speakers and understanding as much of it as I could (after another three weeks in St Petersburg I am working towards B1 CEFR) or putting on headsets and  getting everything, essential in order to be ready to respond.

There was universal agreement about the importance of supportive and responsive facilitation in online courses and some interesting experiences of students these days being less ready to write and think at length – is it because of frequent use of short messaging services like text and Whatsapp? Is it because everything is so available from Google that they are not used to thinking? How far can a course facilitator guide and coach them – where does this preparatory work begin?

Some participants raised the issue of some teachers still being unwilling or uncomfortable delivering learning in any way other than lectures – the Moodle equivalent being lists of Powerpoints. Mention was made of the need to upskill some teachers digitally – this was a nice opportunity to mention the European Community Digital Competence Framework for Educators, and the work done by HQ with the Moodle Educator Certificate in the wider Learn Moodle program.  Professor Mark Brown also reiterated the  UNESCO four pillars of  learning. At the end of the session, participants were asked to give feedback on the format, with  Prof Brown reminding everyone that this too is an essential part of the learning process, both for students and teachers – yet more Communication.

The conference did have commercial sponsors, but they did not dictate the program, and it was refreshing to hear the conversations about educational issues rather than promoting agendas. Moodle was also represented there by our Russian Moodle partner, Open Technology, unfortunately in a different stream from me, so I was unable to get a photo, but it was gratifying to see the spread of Moodle in Russia. From a personal point of view, it was lovely to meet Russian Moodlers who contribute to the forums of It was also satisfying to be approached by a couple of university Moodlers who told me they too had done one of our MOOCS and had then gone on to design their own faculty Moodle training based on our Learn Moodle MOOC design – great to hear we are helping people globally. Or, in other words, Empowering educators to improve our world :)

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

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!