Moodle Blog

Review of Moodle 1.9 for Testing and Assessment

Saturday, 18. December 2010 von admin

teaching pupilsPackt truly have a plethora of Moodle books out and in the pipeline – and here’s another one: Moodle 1.9 for Testing and Assessment by Jason Myrick. It’s an easy read; the author’s style is clear and he goes into great detail with all the steps necessary to create tests in Moodle. Most of the  book is concerned with Moodle’s quiz module although he does deal with other elements too. Taking the chapters one by one, here are my thoughts:

Chapter 1 starts us off really simply by introducing us to the Quiz and its question types and then creating a  True/False question. I tend to start with this one myself as it’s a good “way in” to what isn’t always the easiest of modules in Moodle to handle.

Chapter 2 moves us up a step to multiple choice questions and formatting our questions while Chapter 3 covers the other question types, starting with Short answers – with a good section on Wildcards *, very useful  but not always understood. I particularly liked the sections on embedded (cloze) questions – these are again, not the easiest types to use in Moodle (in fact, Jason rightly points out that HotPotatoes does them  more simply) but the author explains the process in a clear way and the reader will feel confident in trying.  I benefited too from the explanation of the numerical and calcualated types, as being a non-maths person myself I tend to shy away from anything involving “numbers”, and yet they are of vital importance and use to many.

We finally put a quiz together in Chapter 4 and learn in great detail every aspect of this and the required settings. Additionally we are introduced to the different import formats (such as GIFT) which enable you to bring in questions from tests created elsewhere and we discover how to export our questions and use contributed plugins offering greater quiz results analysis.

Chapters 5 and 6 takes the reader through the Lesson module and the Workshop module two of my favourite standard Moodle modules and yet ones which can be somewhat confusing to the beginner. While Workshop in Moodle 1.9 still works, it’s not really recommended as it’s a bit “buggy” but it has been revamped considerably for Moodle 2.0 and is a great way of achieving self and peer assessment. Jason examines the settings for both these modules in depth, leaving the reader clear about how to manipulate them.

Of special interest to me as a language teacher is Chapter 7 which deals with listening tests. You can read this as a sample chapter on Packt’s website here. Jason sensibly suggests using Audacity to record soundfiles for Moodle  (although when embedding the mp3 I would point out you don’t have to  link to  a word or letter; you can just hyperlink to a blank space to avoid going in to code view) He suggests various quiz question types where you can use  video and sound files – but I would have liked him to show how you can include sound in the answers as well as the questions (it IS possible) He also discusses the different ways in which sound can be used in a forum for assessment and then makes reference to the ipodcast module and  Matt Bury’s Moodle mp3 player for tests.

By contrast, Chapter 8 is about Reading tests and includes contributed modules such as Flash card set, very popular Quizport (Taskchain) module, a non-standard module which is one step up from the Hotpot module, both developed by Gordon Bateson. This is very flexible, offering the opportunity to combine not only Hotpotatoes exercises but tasks of other types too in a series of activities.

Of course – we’ve had Listening and Reading  -it makes sense that we now move on to Chapter 9, Speaking, and Jason talks about NanoGong, a module I am familiar with both in its original format, discussed in the book, and also in the simplified NanoGong assignment type here. However, new to me in this chapter was Voiceboard – and I would have liked more information about where to find it as there was none on the relevant pages. (I found it here) Likewise – Voiceshadow, also very new apparently and allowing for self, peer and teacher evaluations – was unknown to me before this book and I’ d have appreciated more information. I realise however these are both in their early stages. Skype, on the other hand, is well established and the chapter ends with the using the Skype module for Moodle for real time conversational assessment. A brief overview is made too of COVCELL,  for which more details are available on the Language teaching forums of www.moodle.org.

To complete the four skills, Chapter 10 covers testing writing, whizzing past Mahara, blogs and Exabis to Moodle forums as a means of creating a portfolio. I like this idea – it is simple and effective. Jason then goes onto the Mindmap module – great if your mind is attuned to mind maps (mine isn’t, but that is just me!) He then deals with the assignment types, the activities where you would most normally expect to set and assess writing. I would perhaps have mentioned in the Advanced Uploading of files assignment that you have the facility to download, comment on (by,eg tracking changes) and reupload the student’s work. That’s a popular feature and wasn’t clarified I feel. The Crot block to combat plagiarism is sensibly mentioned in this chapter. I haven’t used the Crot block but it sounds interesting!

Even more interesting – to a non-numerical person like myself – is Chapter 11 which deals with  gradebook settings.  (Incidentally, just a minor niggly point –  it’s not always evident in the book whether you are accessing your Moodle course as an administrator or teacher – you have fewer permissions as a teacher – for example you can’t create site -wide scales  and yet this isn’t made completely clear)  This chapter was, however, a good introduction to the complexities of the gradebook – I have often thought someone could write an entire book on the Moodle gradebook – I wish someone would – but not me! ( I would happily read and learn though!)

To summarise: this is a useful and thorough book which reads well. Of course its title is Moodle 1.9 Testing and Assessment – and yet we have now reached Moodle 2.0: how useful will it be in future? First of all it’s important to remember that Moodle 1.9 will be around for a few years yet as it’s a good, stable version and many people are uneasy about the changes in 2.0. A large part of this book relates to the Quiz module, and while it is true the Quiz has been prettied up a lot in Moodle 2.0, its question types and their use remains pretty much the same. If you read this book and become proficient with the 1.9 Quiz, it will stand you in good stead for the 2.0 version.

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