Lesson Solutions Using Moodle 1.9: Part 2

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Moodle 1.9 Teaching Techniques

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by Susan Smith Nash William Rice | January 2010 | Moodle Open Source

Read Part One of Lesson Solutions Using Moodle 1.9 here.

Controlling the flow through a lesson

If your lesson questions have all true/false or yes/no answers, you will probably set Maximum number of answers/branches to 2. If you use more than two answers per question, consider whether you want to create a jump page for each answer. If you create a unique jump page for every answer on the question pages, and you use three answers per question, how many cards will there be in your flash card deck? The answer is your lesson will have three pages for each flash card, the card itself, plus two jump pages for remedial information.

We don't want to spend all day creating a short lesson. But we still want to show remedial information when a student selects the wrong answer. Consider phrasing your questions, answers, and remedial pages so that one remedial page can cover all of the incorrect responses. The illustration shows this kind of flow. Note that we've reduced the number of remedial pages that have to be created.

If you must give a different feedback for each answer to a question, consider using a quiz instead of a lesson. While a remedial page in a lesson can consist of anything that you can put on a web page, a feedback can only consist of text. However, quizzes are usually easier to create than lessons. If a quiz with feedback will suffice, you can probably create it faster than the kind of branching lesson shown in the figure. But if your feedback must be feature rich, there's nothing better than Moodle's Lesson module.

Use a lesson to create a deck of flash cards

Flash cards are a classic teaching strategy. In addition to a learning experience, flash cards also make a good self-assessment tool for students. You can use a lesson, as if it's an online deck of flash cards. One advantage of using an online system is that log files tell you if a student completed the flash card activity, and how well the student did.

Keep it moving

Students are accustomed to a flash card activity moving quickly. Showing a remedial page after each incorrect response will slow down the activity. Consider using only question feedback, without remedial pages in between cards.

In a flash card lesson, every page will be a question page. In a lesson, a question page can have any content that you can put on a normal web page. So, each page in your flash card lesson can consist of a fully-featured web page, with a question at the bottom and some text-only feedback for each answer.

When setting the jumps for each answer on the question page (on the card), make sure that a correct answer takes the student to the next page and an incorrect answer keeps them on the same page. Again, this duplicates our physical experience with flash cards. When we get the correct answer, we move on to the next card. When we get the wrong answer, we try again until we've got it right.

Lesson settings that help create a flash card experience

For a flash card lesson, you will probably set Practice lesson to Yes so that the grade for this lesson will not show up in the Gradebook. As stated above, setting Maximum grade to 0 will prevent this activity from showing up in the Gradebook. However, it will also prevent a student from seeing his/her score on the activity. If you want the student to see how well he/she did on the lesson, set Practice lesson to Yes and use a maximum grade that makes sense such as one point per correct answer.

Allow student review enables a student to go backwards in a lesson and retry questions that he/she got wrong. In a flash card activity, this is usually set to No. Instead, we usually set Action after correct answer to Show an unanswered Page. That means after a student answers a flash card question incorrectly, Moodle might display that card again during the same session. If the student answers the question correctly, that card is not shown again during the same session. This is how most of us are accustomed to using physical flash cards.

Number of pages (cards) to show determines how many pages are shown. You usually want a flash card session to be short. 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. For a flash card lesson, set this to less than the total number of cards.

You can use the Slide Show setting to display the lesson in a separate window, and make that window the size of a flash card. This can help create the effect of a deck of cards.

When the student uses a physical deck of flash cards, he/she can see approximately how far into the deck he/she is. The Progress bar setting can help to create this effect with your online deck of flash cards

Use an ungraded lesson to step through instructions

Briefly, precorrection is anticipating mistakes that students might make, and providing instruction to help them avoid those mistakes. Consider, you give a complex assignment to students . You know that even if you supply them with written instructions, they are likely to make mistakes, even when following the instructions. You might also give the students a video demo, and a Frequently Made Mistakes document. You could even host a chat before the assignment to answer any questions they have about how to complete it. If you focus these items on the parts of the assignment that are most likely to cause trouble, they become examples of precorrection.

You can use a lesson to give students precorrection for difficult instructions. Place directions that should be read in a specific order on a series of lesson pages. See to it that the students step through those pages. This has several advantages over placing all of the instructions on one page. They are as follows:

  • Moodle will log the students' view of the lesson pages so that you can confirm they have read the instructions.
  • While the length of a lesson page is unlimited, the tendency when creating them is to keep them short. This encourages you to break up the directions into smaller chunks, which are easier for students to understand.
  • You can insert a question page after each step, to confirm the user's understanding of the step. Question feedback and remedial pages can correct the students' understanding, before they move to the next step.

If you use this technique, the lesson should probably be a Practice lesson so that the students' grade doesn't affect their final grade for the course.

A workaround

Less ons are designed to primarily be a teaching tool, and only secondarily an assessment tool. However, if you decide that you prefer to use a lesson for assessment, you can work around this limitation. This workaround enables you to determine if a student answered incorrectly on an initial question or on a remedial question. A low score on remedial questions should prompt action on the teacher's part such as contacting the student and offering additional help.

You have seen how a lesson usually consists of an instructional page followed by a question page, and that when a student answers a question incorrectly the lesson can display a remedial page. After the remedial page, you can present another question on the same topic. Now, imagine a lesson that covers three items. Each item has its own instructional page followed by a question page, and a remedial page followed by another question page. So, not counting the entry and exit pages, there would be:

  • Three topic pages
  • Three question pages
  • Three remedial topic pages
  • Three remedial question pages

If you were looking at the Gradebook for this lesson, and a student's grade indicated that he/she got two questions wrong, you could determine whether it was because he/she gave:

  • One incorrect response on two of the items
  • Two incorrect responses for the same item

If the student answered incorrectly on both the first and the remedial questions for the same item, it could indicate the student is having trouble with that item. But the Gradebook won't tell you that. You will need to drill down from the Gradebook into the lesson to see that student's score for each question. From the Gradebook, you would select the category in which the lesson is placed.

In this example, the activities are not categorized:

Moodle Teaching Techniques

After selecting the category (or just Uncategorised), a table of grades for each student/activity is displayed, which is as shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle Teaching Techniques

You may see that Student2 did not score well on the lesson. So, select the student's score to drill down into the lesson. Select the Reports tab, then the Overview subtab, and then the grade that you want to investigate:

Moodle Teaching Techniques

Finally , you may think that you're going to see a detailed report telling you which questions this student got right or wrong, so you would then be able to determine which concepts or facts he/she had trouble with, and help the student with those items. But instead, you see the following screenshot:

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Notice that the top part of the page tells the same thing as the previous page. This student scored 50% on the lesson. The bottom part of the page doesn't tell you which questions this student missed. Instead, it gives you statistics for how the class answered each question. That would help you determine how many students had trouble with a certain question. But it doesn't help you determine which questions this student had trouble with. Unfortunately, there is no way for you to find out how the student answered each lesson question—Moodle records the final grade, but not each answer. Even if you go into Moodle's database, and look at the table mdl_lesson_grades, you see only final scores and not individual question scores. This student's attempt is recorded in the second row of the table shown in the screenshot:

Moodle Teaching Techniques

You seem to have arrived at an impasse. You want to know whether Student2 had trouble with some initial questions and then got them correct after remediation, or if Student2 had trouble with both the initial and remediation questions for a single item. However, Moodle doesn't store Student 2's responses to individual questions, only the student's final score. So let's improvise.

The following screenshot shows a remedial question from the lesson. Recall that in the lesson you created, a remedial question only displays when the student has answered a question incorrectly. Please note that on this remedial question, the correct answer is worth 1 point, and each incorrect answer is worth 0 points, as shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle Teaching Techniques

Now suppose your lesson has five instructional pages, each followed by a question page, then possibly a remedial instructional page and then a remedial question. If the scores for correct answers are all set to 1 and for incorrect answers are all set to 0, the maximum score is 5 and minimum is 0. However, for a less-than-perfect score, you can't tell if the student answered incorrectly to the remedial questions.

Now, suppose you give a score of "-10" for getting a remedial question wrong. What would happen to the student's overall score for the lesson if he/she missed a remedial question? It would be negative and you would be able to spot the student having real trouble with the concept being taught. If you make the score for each incorrect answer to the remedial questions a large negative number, you can easily spot the students who are not being helped by the remedial instructional pages.

There is a disadvantage to this method—the last page of the lesson will display the student's grade. What effect would it have on a student's morale to see that his/her score on the lesson is "-20"?

Once again , we need to improvise. Specifically, we need to ensure the student never sees the last page of the lesson. We can do this by creating our own end-of-lesson page.

Create a page that informs the student that he/she has reached the end of the lesson. On this page, place a link to the course's home page, or wherever you want the student to go after the lesson. Instruct the student to click this link to exit the lesson. Moodle will still display a Continue button at the bottom of the page, which takes the student to the last page. Therefore, your instructions should emphasize that the student should click the link and not the Continue button, as clicking the button will display an "invalid grade".

Summary

Lessons are a flexible tool for creating both instructional and assessment experiences. The key to making best use of them is planning. When creating a lesson, plan the flow within the lesson. Know which jumps you want to make before you start creating the lesson, and plan how you want to combine the lesson with other activities into a larger flow. For example, many users favor a flow that puts a non-interactive, reading or viewing activity first, then an interactive lesson, followed by a quiz, and finally a chat or forum for review.

Since a lesson offers both presentation and question capabilities, it is tempting to try to make it do the work of both a web page and a quiz. However, a lesson functions best when used as a bridge between those two resources. Don't be afraid to experiment with using lessons in new ways. Let's know about your experiences on the official www.moodle.org user forums.

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About the Author :


Susan Smith Nash

Susan Smith Nash is involved in the design, development, and administration of e-learning and m-learning programs for learners pursuing degrees, certification, credentialing, and professional development. Her current research interests include the effective design of competency-based education, knowledge management, knowledge transfer, and leadership. Her articles and columns have appeared in magazines and refereed journals. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma, and in addition to e-learning, Nash has also been involved in international economic development training, interdisciplinary studies, interdisciplinary petroleum geosciences programs, and sustainable business and career training. Her book, Leadership and the E-Learning Organization, was co-authored with George Henderson, and published by Charles Thomas and Sons. Her most recent books include E-Learning Success: From Courses to Careers, and E-Learner Survival Guide, Texture Press. Her edublog, E-Learning Queen (http://www.elearningqueen.com) has received numerous awards and recognitions.

William Rice

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 practicing archery within sight of JFK Airport, and trying to keep up with his sons on the playground.

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

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