John Slepian of IA kindly agreed to show us how he uses Moodle. He also teaches at Smith, so had used it for a few years there, even before Hampshire adopted it.
John spoke about using to organize the schedule for the semester- he outlines the topics and sections for the semester and then plugs in appropriate readings, media, etc.
As a studio art teacher, John had been having some trouble getting students to read the articles he recommended since they were not always directly related to in-class work. He began setting up discussion forums for students to post a response to the readings online, and has had success with this technique.
There was some general discussion about the use of forums. Some faculty set the forums to automatically subscribe all the students to them at first- so students can’t miss when others start posting! Others used forums successfully as a discussion space for groups working on projects together- it can sometimes be hard to have the students get in touch with each other to exchange info, but a forum takes a little legwork out of it for them.
A student reported that one of their classes sets up a “Help” forum and auto-subscribes everyone, so students can send out questions or requests for clarification to the whole class. The help requestor gets the benefit of receiving quick help from a fellow student, and the student answering the question gets the benefit of teaching what they’ve just learned- an excellent way to cement knowledge in the mind!
John uses sub-pages in his Moodle course to give more detailed info on assignments and other things. This is a great way to keep the main page of your page neat and de-cluttered, and cuts down on the scrolling people have to do to get to various course sections.
Some faculty expressed interest in being able to display a folder of files vs placing them in one at a time. This can easily be done using a directory. A tip: if you ever have a truly time-strapped semester, a Moodle course can consist of one sub-page with a reading list and one folder of files where the students can look for the readings. A super simple way to go for times when you just can’t deal with setting up a whole site!
A few people were using the Wiki activity for various purposes. The Wiki just gives you a very basic website that lives within your Moodle course, and can be edited collaboratively by students. Some used it for office hours sign-ups in lieu of Hampedia or Doodle. One person had his class type their notes from class into the Wiki so all could benefit, and so students could quite literally “compare notes!”
Asha then gave a demo of Moodle 2. If all goes as planned, we will be upgrading our current Moodle system to the new version in late July (more info on why here). All courses, files, etc will remain, the system will just look and feel a little different. Faculty can begin work on their Fall 2012 courses whenever they like, but sometime in July (we will announce it thoroughly) you will switch to working in the new version.
As for the system itself, the faculty present seemed to appreciate the ease with which you can now move items and sections around within the course. Blocks can be “docked” and collapsed allowing everyone to really customize what their Moodle pages look like and maximize screen real estate.
File handling is the biggest change. Instead of the “Files” section in your administration block, files can now go into a general “Server Files” area, or, for those who want to be able to organize files and upload in bulk, a “Private Files” section accessible from ALL classes. Overall people were OK with it and nothing seemed like a deal breaker!
We’ll get to pick a new theme (color scheme and layout) for Moodle 2 and voting is happening this week- look on the Moodle home page for the survey!
Some general questions came up which we will look into: lots of folks had concerns about having to manually add so many Five-College students to their courses. We’ll look into if there’s anything to be done, but you can always email names to email@example.com and we’ll take care of it for you. Another perpetual annoyance is “the scroll of death”– having to go down and down and down to get to the section you want. We have a previous post on it here with some tips on combatting it!
Another question was how to add a section for a special meeting. This can’t be done since class dates pull from the hub, but you can “fake” a section buy inserting a line and date into an existing one. We can do this for you or show you how.
Have questions or want to try any of the above? Get in touch!