Testing Students' Knowledge using Moodle Modules

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by Paul Taylor | June 2010 | e-Learning Moodle Open Source

This article by Paul Taylor, author of the book Moodle 1.9 for Design and Technology, explains how best to support and reinforce your students' understanding of some of the disparate knowledge they need to engage in their courses.

(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

There are a number of tools in Moodle to find out the students' depth of understanding—some formal and some informal. There are also some tools that allow the students to assist themselves in their own knowledge consolidation. We will now investigate these tools in more detail.

Implementing a glossary

The glossary is a well known and commonly used module in Moodle, but it may not always be used as the effective teaching and learning tool that it can be. Given the jargon-rich nature of design and technology, it is also an important glue for the whole subject area.

Checking the settings

The key options here relate to the functioning of the glossary and how you use it as a teaching and learning tool. The first thing that needs to be done is to check the overall settings for the module in the administration section of the site. The settings are divided into three key areas:

  • Default settings for the glossary module
  • Settings for the entries in the glossary
  • Format of the display styles

The previous settings can be found on the administration panel in the Site Administration | Modules | Activities | Glossary section.

Default settings

The first section determines which functions of the glossary are generally available to the users of the module on the site. In the previous screenshot, the main options relate to the linking functions and comments on the entries themselves. For example, do you want to allow students to comment on the glossary entries? For a subject such as DT, you might wish to allow students to add their own understanding of terms. In some cases, there may be regional terms for some things which are different from the "formal" definition of a term, such as the term used for certain woodworking tools. As woodworking is an ancient craft, there are many different local terms to describe some of the equipments used. The glossary would then reinforce the social nature of the design as a part of a teaching method.

Preventing duplicate entries

As you can see in the previous screenshot, the default setting here would be to not allow duplicate entries in the glossary—although it can be enabled to perhaps show the nuances in a term or allow the term to be defined in another language, if your school has a partner school in another country. In some instances, you might have a definition that is the accepted definition, but also one that students might come across such as a building term. Likewise, you might have a definition relating to a usage as opposed to how a manufacturer might determine an item. Allowing duplication gives students a sense of how terms change, depending on how they are used and by whom.

Allowing comments

Allowing comments on the entries is useful for students to build up an internal dialog whereby they may be able to add examples of best practice to the definitions in the glossary relating to their on-the-job work experience. This is useful because students who had previously worked in a company and gained some experience of the job can leave a historical record to help the students who have just started the course or work.

Automatically linking comments

The linking of the glossary terms is useful if you use a consistent approach throughout your course design; in particular, if you use the Compose a web page function under Add a resource, as discussed earlier, rather than uploading the proprietary word-processed files, then Moodle will be able to link the terms through the database. However, please bear in mind that the linking function will add some load to your server and may not be appropriate in all cases, such as when using a server on a shared system. Linking definitions throughout the site allows students to have a better understanding of all the elements, as they work through them and when they forget some key terms. However, you need to remember that this links across an entire site and some definitions may clash across curriculum subjects. Therefore, there is a need for the duplicate entries. The ability to create a glossary for all the users on a site is only available to site administrators.

Entry level default settings

The following screenshot shows the options that are available for the entries, which are added to the glossaries. If enabled, the options shown in the following screenshot will automatically be enabled when the entries are made. Users still have the choice to disable the options like the automatic linking shown as follows:

Again, you can link terms in the course to the glossary definitions, and if necessary, make the terms case sensitive. The case-sensitive option as well as the matching of whole words allows some fine tuning of the glossary. For example, you may make an entry for a law, which is HAM. If you enable the case-sensitive option on this entry, then a link will be created in the database when the specific term HAM is entered on a page in the course and not for every instance of hammer. This may be more useful with younger students when it is important for them to learn the key terms, but perhaps not so with older students.

You can now save the settings you have chosen. If the changes have been applied for you by your site administrator, you can move directly to your course to begin using a glossary.

Creating a glossary

Once you or the site administrator have set up the module in the way that is most appropriate for your institution, teachers can then begin to apply them to their courses. We are assuming here that you have other subject areas on your Moodle site, therefore, we will focus on the course-level entries, but the principles are same.

Enabling the glossary

For this example, we will add a glossary of terms to our construction-based course. Younger students may be unfamiliar with this subject in many cases and they will, therefore, have a greater need for some ways of understanding the wealth of the terms. The same is true for Food Technology or Resistant Materials, but it is more likely that they would have at least encountered food-based products or materials in their lives. It is less likely that they had been involved in the construction of their environment or have working knowledge of these key terms.

As with all the modules, the first action is to enable editing on the course to activate the activities drop-down menu. This requires clicking the button that follows:

This will then show the activities menu from which you can select the glossary module Glossary from one of the many Add an activity' drop down menus, as shown in the following screenshot, to create a new glossary activity module.

Editing the glossary

Once enabled, added, or created, you can then name the glossary and determine some of the functionality you want in it to be available. Like all the other modules, these are related to time and display elements. The following screenshot shows some of the key settings such as the type of glossary and the display format.

Most of these settings were determined at the site level, such as allowing duplicate entries or comments, but they can be changed by the staff as required. The key point here is that we make one glossary—a main glossary for the course. We make all the subsequent glossaries secondary, which means that we can export the terms into this main one, but this is the overall glossary for the course. We might have secondary glossaries for the human aspects of construction or health and safety, as opposed to the material elements for example. As this is a very graphical subject, we have enabled the display to be like an encyclopedia. This will allow staff and students to add images and video files to explain the terms they are defining in a better way.

Rating entries

If you are going to use the glossary in a more formal way, it would be useful to allow the students to rate the entries, so that they can peer assess each other's terms. If you set each student a number of terms to define as a homework exercise, you can allow the students to research and populate the glossary and for the other students to award marks. This makes the terms far more dynamic and real for the students. You might also invite your contacts from local companies to rate the students' definitions and give them feedback to help develop their understanding on a deeper level. This is enabled through the grading option, as shown in the following screenshot:

The glossary can now be saved.

Adding entries (categories)

When we are adding entries, the first real requirement is to create some categories in which you can organize the terms. A category in this instance is a group of terms such as tools or techniques. If we had created one Moodle course to cover all the DT subjects, we might have a main glossary for DT and secondary glossaries for Food and Construction. This makes it more organized as well as making it easier to search for items. In this example, we are creating some glossary items relating to the term 'carpentry'. We need to create an overall category for this area. This is achieved by first adding a new category item by clicking on the Browse by category tab and then on Edit categories, as shown in the following screenshot:

This will open the dialog window to create a new category for this glossary, as shown in the following screenshot:

If you select to link the category, this whole sub-section will be revealed by a hyperlink to this term, which could be useful for newer students.

Adding entries

If the course you are managing incorporates all of the DT subjects, then you may wish to create a main glossary for DT and secondary glossaries for Food or Resistant Materials and so on. In this example, we have a course for Construction and the Built Environment, which is the main glossary. We are going to create categories to group the terms in the glossary for areas such as carpentry or electrical. With the categories set, it is now possible to add and organize the definitions for your course. This can be managed entirely by the staff or can be an exercise that allows student participation, such as a homework exercise as mentioned earlier. In this example, we are building up a definition for a particular woodworking joint. Once we have set the name and basic details, we can then categorize the entry and add some keywords for searches, as shown in the following screenshot:

The entry can now be viewed by students as well as rated and commented upon. In the following instance, the student has not only rated the entry, but also added a comment with a link to a website they have found, which further illustrates the particular woodworking joint.

Students could also embed a video stream from a video site, which would also help to explain the process more clearly. This level of collaborative learning is immensely powerful with this type of kinesthetic information.

Students can now add their own entries as part of a homework routine or teaching strategy.

As shown in the following screenshot, items added to the glossary are linked to other pages through the database. The terms are highlighted by Moodle and clicking on them will take users to the glossary page, which defines them.

In this example, the word 'wood' is highlighted in green. When you click on this link, it will open the corresponding entry for wood in the glossary, as shown in the following screenshot.

Mapping their minds

Many aspects of design require students to sketch out their ideas in a graphical form in order to get to grips with the complexity and the various components. These sketches could be scanned and uploaded as formal assignments, but they could also be incorporated into the Moodle site through the use of an add-on called Mindmap. This is a third-party module that allows the students to map out their ideas using a basic interface and permits them to link and label the items on a screen. It can be saved by them in their area and can be viewed by the staff for guidance and support. The Mindmap module can be found at:

http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1628&filter=1

Once the module has been installed, it is added to a course in a similar way as we add any other module, by turning the editing on.

After choosing the drop-down activities menu, you can then add theMindmap module, as shown in the following screenshot:

This will activate the dialog to set up the name and settings for the Mindmap module for the course.

Moodle 1.9 for Design and Technology Support and Enhance Food Technology, Product Design, Resistant Materials, Construction, and the Built Environment using Moodle VLE
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(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

Making a map

Students can now log in to the course and create a map of their ideas and plans in a pictographic form, which may be easier for them to grasp. It might also be easier for staff to understand what they are trying to achieve and therefore to help them.

The interface is quite basic and allows objects and sub-objects to be added and labeled, as shown in the following screenshot:

The function of the toolbar icons is described in the following list:

  1. Export the image as a picture or PDF file.
  2. Add or remove blocks or sub-blocks.
  3. Change the block colors.
  4. Undo or redo any actions.
  5. Edit the text on the boxes, as well as color.
  6. Auto layout to fit the screen.

The module opens with a central shape that can be renamed (defaults to Moodle). Sub-items can be added and pressing the Insert key will add sub-items to these items. The design will end up as complex or as simple as required, such as the following image that shows a basic plan for a project:

By default, each map that is enabled can be used by the course participants. This may be useful to create one instance for each student on the course in order to make it easier to track their work. For example, you might name each instance for your students, such as, "Mary's Mindmap for understanding circuit board construction", maybe using your own design for reference material or a special localized method of practice or building method, as shown in the previous image. All the users on the site can, however, edit the mindmaps, so you will need to instruct your students to only modify the reference maps that the staff creates if they ask in advance.

Quizzing their understanding

One of the most effective ways of assessing a student's progress, both formally and informally, is through the use of the Quiz module. The Quiz module is very flexible and has a great number of styles and options to suit most requirements. Once it has been set up, it can be used over and over again through a quiz bank and can be set for multiple attempts or just one. Students can access the quiz at their convenience and the reporting tools associated with the quiz. When used in conjunction with the gradebook, it can give a clear indication of which areas of a course are most accessible to your students, and which areas still need work.

Developing a quiz for Food Technology

For this example, we are going to develop a quiz for Food Technology. One aspect of food technology, which is vital, is an understanding of ingredients and equipments. In most cases, it would be best to supplement more kinesthetic activities with the quizzes. However, the quiz will only act to show how much of a class-based practical demonstration the students have retained. It will also help them before they attempt any formal examinations by drilling in any unfamiliar terms and items.

Site-wide settings

As with all the other modules, it may require some basic settings at the site level to make sure that the quiz performs the way you would like it to, or at least have a set of common functions, by default. The following screenshot shows the settings page with some of the options available:

If you are a head of the DT department, you may wish to tick the advanced settings box to hide some features to make a cleaner interface. Once your staff is comfortable with the setup and using quizzes, you may then wish to introduce other features.

Preparing the work surface

A requirement for an understanding of food technology and production is to have a basic understanding of the composition of food. Most countries have food course specifications. For example, in the UK, this is termed as an understanding of the physical and chemical properties of starch, sugar, protein, and fat. Students need to be aware of the characteristics of the food they prepare in order for them to do the best possible job in its production. Making a good Béchamel sauce is not entirely down to good technique and timing; it also relies on an understanding of the properties of the ingredients and the interaction of fats and starches.

As with all the modules, the first task is to enable the edit state on the course.

From the resulting drop-down menu, choose the Quiz option, as shown in the previous screenshot.

Choosing ingredients

The quiz options will be available once you choose the module. The first two options are common to all the modules and require you to name and describe the quiz. The remaining options are related to how the quiz is displayed, to whom, for how long, and so on.

Setting the quiz timings

The first group of options is the Timing of the quiz. If it is a quiz that is testing the students' knowledge and requires a start and an end time to make sure that the students are meeting deadlines, then you can set the start and the stop dates for when the quiz can be taken, as well as how long the quiz is visible for the students when they take it. This may be useful for trying to get students to work with tight deadlines, which is what they will experience in a real restaurant. In this example, we will leave the quiz open as we want them to practice as often as possible to reinforce their understanding. The quiz can be taken as many times as the student requires and the style of presentation, with penalties for wrong choices, will hopefully allow students to learn the questions and the corresponding answers at a pace that is comfortable to them. The following screenshot shows some settings such as when the quiz will be available (the date it opens and the date it closes for students). The quiz also has settings for delay between attempts. In some cases, a student may take the test multiple times and learn the pattern of answers in order to get a better score. In this case, they are not really learning the answers. Setting a delay between attempts allows student's time to reflect on their wrong answers and possibly time to go to the library to do some more revision.

Setting the quiz display options

The next set of options relate to the way the questions are displayed to the students. If you have questions that have images in them or quite a lot of supporting text, you may choose to limit the number of questions viewed per page. In the following screenshot, we have chosen to have just one question viewable at a time. If the question contains a large amount of text and pictures, such as a detailed description of a process with some terms missing, the students will need to focus on that one question. If it were a part of a series, it may be distracting.

Setting the attempts allowed

The next couple of options relate to how many times students can try the quiz and what grade is stored. Again, if it is to be used as their mark towards a government-controlled qualification, you may limit them to one or two goes and only keep the highest score, or allow them to keep the score from the first or last attempt. In the following example, the students have three attempts at the quiz. In addition, we have chosen to enable that each attempt builds on the last and that the answers are adaptive. In this case, each time the student retakes the quiz, they will see their previous answers and can, therefore, concentrate on why they gave the wrong response. The adaptive mode means that they will receive a penalty for each wrong response, but they will have the chance to try the same quiz again.

The default review options will be fine in most cases, unless it is used for a public examination where you may decide to hide any feedback until they have all completed the quiz.

Setting common module settings: groups and categories

The security settings can be used to restrict the examinations to a specific set of computers, which is good for the examinations. This could help in conditions where the staff can monitor the students taking the quiz to cut down on cheating. The common settings are for specifying which groups will see the quiz. If you have also enabled groupings, you can set the quiz only for a small group. The groupings function is useful for advanced groups or groups that need additional help in some areas.

Moodle 1.9 for Design and Technology Support and Enhance Food Technology, Product Design, Resistant Materials, Construction, and the Built Environment using Moodle VLE
Published: June 2010
eBook Price: $23.99
Book Price: $39.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

Determining feedback options

The overall feedback option, as shown in the following screenshot, is what feedback the students will see once they check their scores. You can set some default comments here, or you can customize them for the nature of your course, which makes it more real for the students by incorporating the feedback related to the food industry for which they are trying to gain knowledge and understanding.

You can now save the quiz and start preparing the questions. The quiz will appear on your course, as shown below. You need to click on the link, in this case Food Properties, to add the questions.

Mixing ingredients

Once you click on the link to the quiz, it will open the main editing window showing all of the options available for the new questions, as shown in the following screenshot:

The module, by default, will create a category for the course, but you can also elect to use a category specific to the topic you have chosen as well. If you have created questions in another system or program, you may also choose to import these questions into your course. The following screenshot shows the current systems from which you can import questions into Moodle:/p>

You can also click on the Categories tab and make some more categories. In this example, you might have categories for equipment or ingredients, or possibly for elements such as fats, starches, proteins, and so on.

With the category selected, you can now make the questions on your own. From the drop-down menu for creating new questions, you can see that there are several types to choose from. These are:

  • Multiple choice
  • Short answer
  • Numerical
  • True / False
  • Matching
  • Embedded answers (Cloze)
  • Random short-answer Matching
  • Random
  • Description
  • Calculated
  • Essay

This gives a wide variety of possible questions to help students in their understanding. In most cases, the multiple choice and essay questions will be the most familiar and widely used. For this example, as the process is the same, we will use the multiple choice question type.

The following screenshot shows the name of the quiz and its actual question:

In this instance, an image has been uploaded and inserted into the question for reference. This is achieved by clicking on the insert image icon as follows:

If the question has multiple answers, you need to select the option, as shown in the following screenshot:

Also, you can enter whether or not to apply the penalties for multiple attempts. The following screenshot shows these options:

The following sections are the answers themselves. For the correct answer(s), you need to apply the resulting grade. If you have set a default grade of three, then three answers can have 100 percent. If the default is one, then each correct answer will be 33.333 percent and so on. The following screenshot shows the basic setting for a correct response:

With all of the answers filled in and any specific feedback, the question can be saved.

Once you have built up a bank of questions, you can select them from the list, as shown in the following screenshot, and click on the arrow to add them to the quiz.

The number of questions can be used as the total, or if you have a series of 10 quizzes, which collectively make up the entire formal assessment of the course, you can make them each out of 10 to get the 100 percent total marks. Here, we have made the grade 15 to equate to 15 percent of the course formal marks.

You can preview the quiz to see what the students will see and to make sure that it is presented in the way you want, as shown in the following screenshot:

You can also test the responses to make sure that the feedback is how you would like it to be, as well as any penalties, as shown in the following screenshot:

The results obtained from the quiz will be stored in the gradebook.

Summary

The activities outlined here—the glossary, the quiz, and the Mindmap—will allow the students to test their understanding of the material that they have studied and give staff a clearer idea of where their groups are, in terms of knowledge. This sort of information can help you design better courses and materials for the students.


Further resources on this subject:


About the Author :


Paul Taylor

A lifelong educator, Paul Taylor has always been involved in aspects of education and training in both companies and educational establishments.

After working in the world of animation hardware for a small company in California in the 1990s and getting a company credit on Toy Story, Paul returned to the UK and to Education. The idea was to combine real-world computing experience with educational principles. This led to 9 years of teaching secondary school ICT and Business Studies; running a web design company with A Level students for their vocational qualification.

A return to teaching coincided with an introduction to Linux and open source and Paul was an early adopter of Moodle in late 2003. This led to dialog with various Moodle users and Partners and an eventual leading role with the UK's oldest Moodle partner, Pteppic, in 2007.

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