Moodle 1.9 E-Learning Course Development — Save 50%
A complete guide to successful learning using Moodle
In this three-part article series by William Rice, we will learn how to add Interactive course material in Moodle. Interactive course activities enable students to interact with the instructor, the learning system, or each other. Note that Moodle doesn't categorize activities into 'Interactive' and 'Static'. In Moodle, all activities are added from the Add an activity... menu after turning the editing on. We use the terms 'Interactive' and 'Static' as a convenient way to categorize the activities that Moodle offers.
The following table gives you a brief description of each kind of activity. The sections that follow the table describe how and when to use these activities.
An assignment is an activity completed offline, outside of Moodle. When the student completes the assignment, he or she either uploads a file for the instructor's review, or reports to the instructor in some other way. Regardless of whether the assignment requires uploading a file, the student receives a grade for the assignment.
A choice is essentially a single, multiple-choice question that the instructor asks the class. The result can either be displayed to the class, or kept between the individual student and the instructor. Choices are a good way to get feedback from the students about the class. You can plant these choices in your course ahead of time, and keep them hidden until you need the students' feedback. You can also add them as needed.
You can create an online journal, which will be unique for each student. A journal can be seen only by the student who writes it, and the instructor. Remember that a journal is attached to the course in which it appears. If you want to move a student's journal to another course, you'll need to make creative usage of the backup and restore functions.
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A lesson is a series of web pages displayed in a given order, where the next page displayed may depend upon the student's answer to a question. Usually, the 'jump question' is used to test a student's understanding of the material. Get it right, and you proceed to the next item. Get it wrong, and you either stay on the page or jump to a remedial page. But the jump question could also ask a student what he or she is interested in learning next, or some other exploratory question.
A lesson gives Moodle some of the branching capability found in commercial computer-based training (CBT) products. You could make a course consisting of just a summary, one large lesson, and a quiz.
Questions that you create while making a quiz in one course can be reused in other courses. We'll cover creating question categories, creating questions, and choosing meaningful question names.
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a collection of specifications that enable interoperability, accessibility, and reusability of web-based learning content. If a piece of learning material meets the SCORM standard, it can be inserted into any learning management system that supports SCORM (which is most of the major ones). Moodle's SCORM module allows you to upload any standard SCORM package into your course.
Moodle comes with prewritten surveys, designed by educational experts to help instructors learn about their students. If the stock survey questions are not appropriate for your usage, you have two choices: repurpose a quiz into a survey, or edit the survey's PHP code to change the questions. This section covers using the stock surveys, and those two options for custom surveys.
After logging in as a teacher, and turning on editing, you can add an assignment from the Add an activity... menu.
Types of Assignments
You can select from four types of assignments. Each of them is explained here:
Upload a Single File
Use this assignment type when you want the student to submit a single file online. The following screenshot shows what the student sees before he or she submits the file:
And this is what the student sees after submitting (uploading) the file; the submission is graded by the teacher:
Advanced Uploading of Files
Just as with the Upload a Single File assignment, this type of assignment allows each student to upload a file in any format. However, the student can upload multiple versions, or drafts of the file. Until the student uploads the final version of the file, the submission is marked as a draft.
The teacher determines how many versions can be uploaded when he or she creates the assignment. The student can either upload that many versions, or indicate that a file is the final version.
Students can also enter notes with the submitted file. In the following screenshot, you can see that a student has uploaded a file, added a note, and that the submission is still a draft. Note that:
- The student can replace the existing file by uploading another one. That will count as another draft.
- The Edit button enables the student to edit the note.
- The Send for marking button enables the student to call this the final submission, even if he or she hasn't submitted the maximum number of drafts allowed.
Select this assignment type when you want the student to create a page online. While it's called 'Online text' assignment, note that the student can include anything on the page that you can include in a web page, such as graphics and links. That's because the student creates the page using Moodle's built-in web page editor. If you include this assignment type, consider giving your students directions on how to use the online editor for inserting graphics, links, multimedia, and tables. Most of the functions of the online editor are self-explanatory, especially for a generation of bloggers. But these functions may give your students some problems if you don't explain them.
While grading the assignment, the teacher can edit the student's online text page. When the student clicks on the assignment to see his/her grade, the student also sees the original and edited versions of their page. In the following screenshot, note the student's one-word submission, and the teacher's witty response:
If the teacher allows resubmission of the assignment, then this back and forth feedback and grading can continue until the teacher decides upon the final grade for the assignment.
If you are familiar with the older, pre-1.7 version of Moodle, you may remember an activity type called journal. The online text assignment is meant to replace the journal. However, as of version 1.9, the journal module is still included with the standard distribution. It is deactivated, but you can turn on the journal module under Site administration | Modules. Why would you do this—because, the journal still does some things that an online text assignment does not. For example, the student's journal entry is private, and can be viewed only by the student and teacher. In an assignment, the group mode causes the student's entry to be accessible by at least the other members of the student's group, if not the whole class. And, in a journal, the student's multiple entries are compiled in a single view. In an assignment, the student can make only one entry per assignment.
Select this when you want the student to do something outside of Moodle. Note that 'outside of Moodle' doesn't have to mean 'offline'. The assignment could be something elsewhere on the Web, as in the following example. Or it could be completely offline, such as taking a photograph or visiting a museum.
While the work is performed outside Moodle, the teacher still records the grade in Moodle.
Creating an Assignment
Adding an assignment automatically brings up the Editing Assignment window:
The Assignment name field is displayed on the course page. When a student clicks on the name, the Description field is displayed. The description should give complete instructions for completing and submitting the assignment.
Assignments that are due soon will appear in the Upcoming Events block. If you do not set a due date, by default, it will be set to today (the day you created the assignment). This will make the assignment show up in the Upcoming Events block, as if it's overdue. Make sure you set an appropriate due date for the assignment.
As assignments are completed offline, you may want the directions to be printer‑friendly, so that students can take the directions with them. Make sure that any graphics you've embedded into the Description field are less than the width of the printed page. Or, you can upload the directions as an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file, and use the Description field to instruct students to print the directions and take the directions with them.
Make It Clear That Assignments Are Mandatory
On the course's Home Page, an assignment link appears with its own icon, like this: . It is not immediately apparent to a new student that this icon means 'Do this assignment'. You might want to use a label to indicate that the assignment is something the student should do. In this example, a label instructs the student to complete the assignment and a multiple-choice survey question:
You can also label the individual activities with an imperative, such as 'Read about the plants around you', or 'Answer a survey question about your experience with edible plants'.
Assignments are always added to the Upcoming Events block. If you have an assignment, consider adding the Upcoming Events block even if you have no other events planned for the course (such as a field trip, discussion, chat, and so on). This will serve as an additional reminder for the students.
Also, if you display the Recent Activity block, content that was recently added or edited will appear in that block. If you add or edit an assignment while the course is underway, the Recent Activity block will serve as an additional reminder to complete the assignment.
A lesson is the most complex, and most powerful, type of activity. Essentially, a lesson is a series of web pages that presents information and questions.
A Moodle lesson can be a powerful combination of instruction and assessment. Lessons offer the flexibility of a web page, the interactivity of a quiz, and branching capabilities.
What Is a Lesson?
A lesson consists of a series of web pages. Usually, a lesson page contains some instructional material, and a jump question about the material the student just viewed. The jump question is used to test a student's understanding of the material. Get it right, and you proceed to the next item. Get it wrong, and you're either taken back to the instructional page, or you jump to a remedial page. But the jump question could also easily ask a student what he is interested in learning next, or who her favorite candidate is. Or it could also be labeled Continue to take the student to the next page.
The following is a screenshot of a lesson page. Its purpose is instructional. It appears like any other normal web page. Indeed, you can put anything on a lesson page that you can put on any other Moodle web page.
At the bottom of the lesson page is the Continue button. In this lesson, when the student clicks this button, he or she is taken to the following question page:
Each answer displays different feedback, just like a quiz:
If the student answers correctly, he or she is taken to the next instructional page. An incorrect answer takes the student to a remedial page. The following is an example of a remedial page:
This is the simplest sequence for a lesson in Moodle. You can also add a few more advanced features. We'll discuss these later, after looking at the basic features.
When you first create a lesson, you are presented with a window where you choose the settings for the entire lesson. Before you can add even a single page to a lesson, you must select the lesson settings. If you're not sure about any of these settings, just take your best guess. You can always return to this page and change the settings. Remember, one of the advantages of Moodle is the ease with which you can experiment with, and change your course material. Get accustomed to taking a bolder, more experimental approach to using Moodle and you will enjoy it a lot more.
This window is broken into six areas:
- Grade options
- Flow control
- Lesson formatting
- Access control
In this section, I'll go through the Editing Lesson page from top to bottom. I'll discuss most of the settings, and focus on the ones that are most useful for creating the effect of a deck of flash cards. By the end of this section, you will understand how most of the settings on the Editing Lesson page affect the student's experience.
The following are the settings:
This is the name of the lesson, which students will see on the course's Home Page.
When the time limit is reached, the student is not ejected from the lesson. The student remains in the lesson. However, any question that the student answers after the time limit is reached does not count towards the student's grade.
Maximum Number of Answers/Branches
At the bottom of each question page in a lesson, you can place a quiz question. Maximum number of answers/branches determines the maximum number of answers that each question can have. If each answer sends the student to a different page, then the number of answers is also the number of branches possible. For true/false questions, set this to 2. After creating question pages, you can increase or decrease this setting without affecting the questions that you have already created.
If a lesson is being used only for practice, most of the grade options are irrelevant.
If you set Practice lesson to Yes, this lesson will not show up in the Gradebook.
Normally, a correct answer in a question is worth the entire point value for the question, and each wrong answer is worth zero. Enabling custom scoring allows you to set a point value for each individual answer in a question. Use this if some answers are 'more right' or 'more wrong' than others. You can also use this to set the point value for a question. If a question is more important, use custom scoring to give it more points.
If you set Maximum grade to 0, the lesson does not appear in any of the Grades pages. The student's score in this lesson will not affect the student's final grade for the course.
Student Can Re-take
This setting determines if the student can repeat the lesson.
Handling of Re-takes
This setting is relevant only if the student is allowed to repeat the lesson (the setting above is set to Yes). When the students are allowed to re-take the lesson, the grades shown in the Grades page are either the average of the re-takes or the student's best grade.
Display Ongoing Score
When this is set to Yes, each page of the lesson displays the student's score and the number of possible points so far. Note that this displays the number of points that the student could have earned for the pages that he or she has viewed so far.
If a lesson is not linear (that is, if it branches), then the path that each student takes through the lesson can change. This means that each student can have the chance to earn a different number of points. So in a branching lesson, the 'total number of points possible for the entire lesson' is not meaningful because the lesson can be different for different students. For example, you might create a lesson with many branches and pages. Then, require the student to earn at least 200 points on that lesson. This would encourage the student to explore the lesson, and try different branches until he or she has earned the required points.
Some of the options under Flow control make the lesson behave more like a flash card deck. Other settings on this page become irrelevant when a lesson is used for flash cards.
Allow student review enables a student to go backwards in a lesson, and retry questions that he or she got wrong. This differs from just using the Back button on the browser, in that the setting enables the student to retry questions while using the Back button does not.
Look at the setting for Action after correct answer. Note that in this case, it is set to Show an unanswered Page. This means that after a student answers a question correctly, Moodle will display a page that the student either hasn't seen or has answered incorrectly. The Show an unanswered Page setting is usually used during a flash card lesson to give the student second chances at answering questions correctly. During a practice lesson, you will usually use Allow student review to enable students to go back to questions they got wrong.
Display review button displays a button after the student answers a question incorrectly. The button allows the student to re-attempt the question. If your questions have only two answers (true/false, yes/no), then allowing the student to retry a question immediately after getting it wrong doesn't make much sense. It would be more productive to jump to a page explaining why the answer is wrong, and use the Show an unanswered Page setting to give the student another chance at the question at a later time.
Maximum number of attempts determines how many times a student can attempt any question. It applies to all questions in the lesson.
Minimum number of questions sets the lower limit for the number of questions used to calculate a student's grade on the lesson. It is relevant only when the lesson is going to be graded.
Number of pages (cards) to show determines how many pages are shown. If the lesson contains more than this number, the lesson ends after reaching the number set here. If the lesson contains fewer than this number, the lesson ends after every card has been shown. If you set this to 0, the lesson ends when all cards have been shown.
The settings under Lesson formatting are used to turn the lesson into a slide show, which appears in a pop-up window. The Slide Show setting creates the slide show window. Slide show width, height, and background color set the format of the slide show. The background color setting uses the Web's 6-letter code for colors. This code is officially called the 'Hex RGB'. For a chart of these color codes, try a web search on the terms 'hex rgb chart', or see a partial chart at http://www.w3.org/TR/2001/WD-css3-color-20010305#x11-color.
Display left menu displays a navigation bar on the left side of the slide show window. The navigation bar enables the student to navigate to any slide. Without that navigation bar, the student must proceed through the slide show in the order that Moodle displays the lesson pages, and must complete the lesson to exit (or the student can force the window to close). Sometimes, you want a student to complete the entire lesson in order, before allowing him or her to move freely around the lesson. The setting only display if Student has grade greater than accomplishes this. Only if the student achieved the specified grade will he or she see the navigation menu. You can use this setting to ensure that the student goes completely through the lesson the first time, before allowing the student to freely move around the lesson. The Progress Bar setting displays a progress bar at the bottom of the lesson.
However, recall that in the beginning of the article, we learned that lessons are the only activity that can be made dependent on completing another activity. That is, you can require that the student completes a specific lesson in your course before allowing him or her access to the current lesson. Now, look at the Dependent on setting in the following screenshot:
Pop-Up to File or Web Page
The following is what this page looks like:
When the student launches the lesson, you can make a new web page or file launch with the lesson. This page or file will launch in a separate window. This enables you to use the page or file as the focal point for your lesson. For example, you could launch an animation of a beating heart in a pop-up window, and use the lesson to point out parts of the heart, and quiz the student on what each part does during the heartbeat.
Moodle will display the following file types in their own viewer:
File types for which Moodle does not have a built-in viewer get a download link instead.
Even if your file type is supported by one of Moodle's viewers, you might want to embed the file in a web page instead. Putting the file on a web page enables you to write an explanation at the top of the page, say, 'You will refer to this graphic during the lesson. Reposition this window and the lesson window, so that you can see both at the same time, or easily switch between the two.'
If you combine this with the Slide Show setting (the screenshot on the last page), you'll have the Moodle slide show displayed in one window, and the file specified here displayed in another.
Other Lesson Settings
The Other settings area has some settings that can make the lesson more interesting for the student.
Notice in this screenshot, Link to an activity is set to workshop - Example: Pre-correction in a Workshop. This setting places a link on the last page of the lesson to the activity or resource specified. The drop-down list for Link to an activity contains all of the resources and activities in the current course. The user must click the link to be taken to the location, so this setting doesn't force the user to proceed to a specific place after the lesson.
Number of high scores displayed lets the high scoring students choose a name to post their scores under. This setting doesn't do anything if you make the lesson a Practice lesson.
When you are creating a lesson, you see all of the pages in the lesson in their logical order. The logical order is the order in which a student would see them, if the student answered every question correctly and proceeded straight through the lesson. At any time, you can preview the lesson from the student's point of view. This section will cover previewing a lesson.
A lesson can be graded or ungraded. It also can allow students to retake the lesson. While Moodle allows you to grade a lesson, remember that a lesson's primary purpose is to teach, not test. Don't use a lesson to do the work of a quiz or assignment. The lesson's score is there to give you a feedback on the effectiveness of each page, and to enable the students to judge their progress.
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About the Author :
William Rice is an e-learning professional who lives, works, and plays in New York City. He is the author of books on Moodle, Blackboard, Magento, and software training.
He especially enjoys building e-learning solutions for small and mid-sized businesses. His greatest professional satisfaction is when one of his courses enables students to do something that makes their work easier and more productive.
His indoor hobbies include writing books and spending way too much time reading slashdot.org. His outdoor hobbies include orienteering and practicing archery within sight of JFK Airport.
William is fascinated by the relationship between technology and society: how we create our tools, and how our tools in turn shape us. He is married to an incredible woman who encourages his writing pursuits, and has two amazing sons.
You can reach William through his website at http://williamrice.com.