Author Archives: admin

Ten years of Moodleblog

An important date slipped me by during the busy Christmas/New Year period: it was the end of December 2007 that I started this Moodle blog. Ten years…

A lot of things have happened over that decade, to me and to Moodle. When I first began, I was a full time languages and geography teacher, my children were still at school and Moodle was on version 1.8. In the intervening years, I moved from teacher to Moodle Community Educator, my children fled the nest, one to teach in London (with Moodle for School) and one to teach in St Petersburg (prompting me to learn Russian) and Moodle, of course, went from Moodle 2 to Moodle 3.4.

old Moodleblog

Moodleblog 2008 courtesy of Wayback Machine

The blog posts from the last ten years are all there, but unfortunately because of changing hosts, domain name and my own inefficiency, many of the images are gone. The first blog entry was a review of a Moodle book – little did I know at the time I’d be lucky enough to write Moodle books myself and then help with Moodle documentation.

Ten years ago I also began making video tutorials, partly for my school colleagues, partly to help others, but mostly, I suspect, for my own pleasure. I didn’t imagine then I would be luck enough to be  involved in the making of Moodle Release videos and the Learn Moodle Basics MOOC videos. (Quick plug: Learn Moodle Basics 3.4 MOOC starts next week and as usual there will be a playlist of video tutorials for the latest version.)

Ten years ago I rarely left my classroom (unless you count school trips to Blackpool Zoo!) And my French and German didn’t extend beyond the requirements of the UK GCSE curriculum (age 16)) Moodle has given me the opportunity, via Moodle Moots, to visit Australia, USA, Japan as well as revisting a number of European cities and networking with Moodle users globally. I’ve been able to use my French and German to a better level than I could in school; I got a chance to practise my minimal Spanish and even learned a bit of Japanese before heading to Tokyo. After some great times in Dublin, Edinburgh and London, the next  UK Moodle moot  will be on 26 March in Glasgow  (which I have never visited!) and I hope to see you there! And if you happen to be a Russian speaker at any Moodle moot – be warned – I will probably pounce on you to practise my current homework!

Ten years having passed, means I am now only two years away from claiming my teacher’s pension.  I could, in fact, retire. I mentioned this to my son the other week, saying it would be great to be retired because I could use my time flexibly, still  be involved in the Moodle community, helping in forums. contributing documentation, making videos, while at the same time  being able to travel the world and have time to study. He looked at me quizzically for a moment and said “But mum – you get to do all those things already! What’s the point of retiring?”

So.. grateful thanks @moodle. Here’s to the next ten years!


Moodling in Cambridge with Catalyst

I had a great day on Friday, taking a break from Moodle 3.4 preparations to attend a Mahoodle moot organised by Cambridge Assessment International Education and sponsored by very own (international!) Moodle Partner, Catalyst IT Europe.

Joey Murison from Catalyst

“Mahoodle” is a blending of Moodle and its open-source sister, the e-portfolio system Mahara, a union beautifully demonstrated by Cambridge’s e-learning manager Andrew Field in his presentation.

Andrew Field

My favourite type of presentation in all moots are the “show and tell” ones, where people actually using the product give us a window into their world, and this mini-moot included several like this, not just Moodle but also Mahara, as we saw from the presentation by  Sam Taylor and Aurélie Soulier from Cranfield university.

Sam Taylor, Aurélie Soulier

As well as being Moodle partners, Catalyst maintain Mahara and were capably and competently represented by their Business  Development Manager Joey Murison who gave a very useful – and bravely live! – demonstration of LTI  integration. LTI allows you to link, not only courses to courses and activities to activities on different Moodle sites – and the same Moodle site – but also to link Moodle to Mahara, replacing the now ageing Mnet option. (Thanks Andrew Field for the pic.) Here is the Moodle LTI documentation.

Joey Murison LTI integration

User experience was also covered in the moot with established plugin developer Bas Brands speaking to us on the big screen from the Netherlands about his wishes for Moodle’s future. Simple, user-friendly, easy to access, were some of his key points, and tie in very well with where Moodle is heading. Indeed,  Moodle’s mobile app and desktop app already present a simplified but functional version of Moodle. (Thanks to Sam Taylor for the pic)

BBrands MahoodleCambridge

I talked a bit about the mobile app, about plans for 3.4 and Moodle’s projects for the future.(Thanks to Richard Oelmann for the pic.)

Moodle in the world

I also gave a plug for our Learn Moodle 3.4 Basics MOOC which starts on January 8th. Sign up now and join in the Moodling!

The day was packed with interesting presentations and I urge you to check out the hashtag #mahoodle17 for more information on those I haven’t mentioned here. Thanks to Andrew Field for inviting me and thanks to Moodle partner Catalyst for the lunch and @CambridgeInt  for the cakes! I hope this Cambridge Mahoodle moot becomes a regular event!

Moodle, MOOCs and Accessibility

As if co-facilitating our 3.3 run of our twice-yearly Learn Moodle MOOC weren’t enough, Moodle Community manager Helen Foster and myself have just completed a four week MOOC on accessible online content. We were among around a hundred participants in the test run of this Accessibility MOOC: Inclusive Online Course Design  which will be showcased by its facilitators, Aaron Page and Marlene Zentz, at the New Orleans Moodle Moot #mootus17. If you’re intrigued, here’s a link to  a short video summary by Aaron and Marlene.

Helen and I were very enthusiastic participants on several levels, not least because it gave us a chance to experience a MOOC from a student’s point of view, and this helped us better understand potential issues of participants in our own Learn Moodle MOOC. Additionally, from a course designer’s point of view, we were pleased to observe new ideas and ‘borrow’ them to improve our own course. (If you did the Accessibility MOOC and you join us for Learn Moodle 3.4, see if you can spot some cool improvements :) ) Both these aspects sit nicely with Moodle’s social constructionist philosophy. As Moodle founder and CEO Martin says in our Pedagogy documentation page:

“All of us are potential teachers as well as learners. In a true collaborative environment we are both”

Of course -the main point of the MOOC was to develop our skills in accessible, universal course design, and the course went over and above our expectations. And  knowing Marlene and Aaron, those expectations started high! We aim to improve Moodle’s user documentation on accessiblity based on what we have learned. The MOOC used Moodleroom’s Snap theme, specially designed for accessibility. I struggled a bit with it as it was very new to me and unlike my experiences with other themes. But that’s the fun of trying new things! The teaching elements were divided into different aspects of accessibility with a new focus each week. For example, in the first week we learned about working with text – headings, layout, hyperlinks. Other weeks included information about images, media and uploaded content. I’m not going to go into too much details because I recommend you sign up and do it yourselves…

I had a slight understanding before, but the MOOC really clarified and extended that understanding. I especially appreciated the videos by Aaron and Devin who showed us how they experience online course content using Jaws and Dragon, two assistive technology software programs. That was for me the most revelatory aspect of the MOOC  -in fact, I was so enthused that I sat @mrmoodlefairy down for half an hour and explained to him everything I’d learned so far, culminating in showing him a couple of these videos. (That’s number 2 in the documentation page on Pedagogy by the way!)

As we progressed through the four weeks learning the materials (presented in Moodle Books) we were able to ask (and respond to) any questions in the forums. This gave us an opportunity to experience the Advanced forums plugin, which  I haven’t tried before. Each topic had a little mini-quiz at the end, and I think they were made from the popular H5P plugin – again, a  new experience. As part of the course we had to develop a practice course with accessiblity in mind. We could then share the link to our course during a Moodle workshop activity.That was fun too, since Helen and I are normally at the teacher end of the Learn Moodle MOOC workshops.

At the end of the MOOC we had both done enough to receive a Certificate of Completion and I have to say, having downloaded it, I now totally understand the pride and excitement involved when you successfully click that link!  If you’re able to attend #mootus17 in New Orleans, do go and see Marlene and Aaron’s presentation. Perhaps in a few months time you too will be the proud owner of a certificate like the person in the picture below!

Mary with certificate

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 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 :)