Interacting with the Students using Moodle 1.9 (part 2)

We'll add a competitive element to the project and—just as we have seen on TV—let the children vote for the winner. The tasks we set will involve the students researching, collaborating, and reflecting. They will be working hard, but we'll have a much easier time now, as all of their responses will be on Moodle for us to view and mark at our convenience—no more carrying heavy books around.

Giving our class a chance to vote

Moodle has an activity, known as Choice, which allows you to present students with a number of options that they can choose from. We're actually going to use it twice in our project, for two different purposes. Let's us try and set it up.

Time for action-giving students a chance to choose a winner

The students have posted their suggestions, comments, and views on Moodle. A choice is to be made of the best suggestion. Who better, than the students themselves to choose and vote for the best?

  1. With editing turned on, click on Add an Activity and then select Choice.
  2. In the Name field, enter an appropriate descriptive text—in our case, this is Vote for the best design here.
  3. In the Choice Text field, ask the question based on which you want the students to cast a vote.
  4. Leave the Limit field as it is if you don't mind any number of students casting a vote for any option available. Change it to enable, if you only want a certain number of people to vote for a particular choice. We shall leave the Limit block as it is, but we shall inform the students that they can't vote for themselves.
  5. In the Choice block, type in the options (a minimum of two) you want the students to be able to cast their vote for. Clicking on Add more fields will provide you with more choice boxes. We will need one field for each member of the class, for this activity.
  6. Use the Restrict answering to this time period option to decide when to open and close your Choice—or have it always available.
  7. Miscellaneous settings: For our activity, we need to set Display Mode to Vertical set and Publish Results to Do Not Publish. The following table explains what the settings mean, so you can use them on other occasions.


    What it is

    Why use it

    Display Mode

    Lets you have your buttons go across or down the screen

    Use Vertically if you have many options to avoid stretching your screen

    Publish Results

    Decide if and when you want students to see what others have put

    Choose Do not publish if you want them to tell you their progress privately; if you're doing a class survey, choose, for example, Always show results

    Privacy of Results

    Lets you choose whether to show names or not

    Are the results more important than who voted for what? Some students might be wary of responding if they think their names will be shown

    Allow choice to be updated

    Lets them change their mind-but they can still vote only once.

    Useful, if you are using this to assess progress over a period of time.

    Show column for unanswered

    Sets up a column showing those who haven't yet responded

    A clear visual way of knowing who hasn't done the task

  8. For now, you can ignore the Common Module Settings option, and just click on Save and return to course.

What just happened?

We've set up an area, on our course page, where the students can choose their favorite designs from a number of options, by clicking on the desired option button. On the screen, you will be able to see an icon (usually, a question mark) and some text next to it. If you click on the text next to the icon, the following information will appear:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

The students will click on the option button placed next to their choice—in our case, the name of the classmate whose design they prefer.

Finding out the students' choice

  1. Access the Choice option and click on the words View *** responses on the upper right of the screen. The *** will be the number of students who have voted already.
  2. You will get a chart displaying the choices of the students. In my Moodle course, as shown in the following screenshot, nobody has voted yet—so they need a gentle nudge!

    Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

Remember that we have set up this activity so that our students cannot see the results, in order to avoid peer pressure or bullying. However, we can see the results. Thus, if Mickey votes for himself (even after having been told not to) we will spot it and can reprimand him.

Have a go hero-getting the class to give us feedback

After we've gone through all of the effort to set up our project on Moodle, it would be nice to know how well it was received. Why not go off now and set up another Choice option, where the question asks how much did you enjoy planning and designing the campsite? You could give them three simple responses (displayed horizontally) as:

  1. A lot
  2. It was OK
  3. Not very much.

Or you could be more specific, focusing on the individual activities and asking how much they feel they have benefited from, say, the wiki or the forum. Make sure it is set up, so that the students don't see the results—that way they're more likely to be truthful.

Why use Choice?

Here are a few other thoughts on Choice, based on my own experiences:

  • It is a fast and simple method of gathering data for a class research project. I used this with a class of 13 year olds who had just returned from the summer break. I asked them to choose where they had been on vacation, giving them choices of our own country, several nearby countries in Europe, the United States of America, and a few more. I set up the choice, so that they could all see the answers when the time was up. I also set it up in such a way that the results were anonymous, to avoid any kind of uneasiness felt by those students who had stayed at home. The class then compared and contrasted the class results with Tourist Office statistics on the most popular tourist destinations.
  • It offers a private way for students to evaluate and inform the teacher about their progress. Students might be too shy to tell you in person if they are struggling; they might be wary of being honest in the open voting methods that some teachers use (such as red, amber, or green traffic lights). However, if the students are aware of the fact that their classmates will not see their response, they are more likely to be honest with you.
  • It acts as a way to involve the class in deciding the path that their learning will take. I first introduced my class of 11 year olds to rivers in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia. Then, I offered the class, the chance to vote for the river that they wanted study in greater depth as part of their project. The majority opted for the Amazon—so the Amazon it was!

Announcing the winner

Well, you could give out the results in the classroom, of course! Alternatively, can encourage them to use Moodle by using the Compose a Webpage resource that we met in the previous article on Adding Worksheets and Resources with Moodle, and adding the information there.

Writing creatively in Moodle

Once a winner has been found, the next task for everyone is to create a cleverly-worded advertisement for this campsite, for which, you could use one of the names suggested in the glossary. This too can be done on Moodle. Why use Moodle and not their exercise books? The first reason is that it will save paper, the second reason is that the students enjoy working on the computer, and the third and final reason is that we can work at our leisure in school, at home, or in any room where there is an Internet connection. We're not tied to carrying around a pile of heavy books. We don't even need to manually hand-write the grades into our grade book. Moodle will put the grades that we give our students, into its grade book automatically and alphabetically. Moodle can also send our pupils an email telling them that we've graded their task, so that they can check their grades. This might be a different way of working from the one that you are used to, but do give it a try. It will take the pressure off your back and shoulders, if nothing else.

Time for action-setting up an online creative writing exercise

For our advert, we'll use an Online text assignment.

  1. With editing turned on, select online text option, within Assignments.

    Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

  2. In the Assignment name field, enter something descriptive—our students will click here to get to the task.
  3. In the Description field, enter the instructions. Our screen will then appear as shown in the following screenshot:

    Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

    If you need more space to type in, click on the icon on the far right of the bottom line of the HTML editor. This will enlarge the text box for you. Click it again when you're done, to return to the editing area.

  4. In the Grade field, enter the total marks out of which you will score the students (for now, we're sticking to a maximum of 100, but you can change this).
  5. Set a start and end date between which the students can send the work assigned to them, if you want.
  6. Leave the Prevent Late Submissions option as it is, unless you need to set a deadline by which the students must submit the assigned work.
  7. Set the Allow Resubmitting option to YES, if you want to let students redraft their work.
  8. Set the Email Alerts to teachers option to NO (unless you want 30 emails in your inbox!).
  9. Change the Comment inline option to YES, so that we can post a comment on the students work.
  10. Click on Save and return to course.

What just happened?Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

We've just explained to our class what we want them to do, and have also provided them with space in Moodle to do it. We used an Online Text assignment.

If we go up to the top of our course, where the editing button is, you'll be able to see a very useful feature called Switch role to…. If we choose the Student option, it will allow us to see the tasks as the pupils will see them:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

In this case, there's a rather unfriendly command at the bottom of our assignment. Do you think that your students will know that they need to click here to get to their text box?

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

Why not ask your Moodle administrator to look at the Language editing settings and change these words to something more child-friendly—such as Click here to type your answer?

Marking students' work on Moodle

Now that the students have done their bit, it's time that we did ours. The difference is that, instead of staying late after school or taking a pile of exercise books home and then searching around for a red pen (or green, as in my school) we can just type our comment on top of their entry. If we go back to the assignment and click on it, we'll see a message on the upper right of the screen, as shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

The number displayed on the screen is the number of children who've completed the task. If we click on this link, we'll be transported into Moodle's online grade book, as shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

Eventually, after clicking on the link, we will be able to see whose work it is (Mickey Mouse, in our case). Moodle has also recorded the time at which the student posted it, and will also record the time that we (the teacher) grade the post. We need to click on Grade on the right and get our online pen ready. By doing this, we'll be able to see a window similar to the one shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

The student's effort is shown at the bottom of the screen—but it's also present in our HTML editor box. So, we can correct the student's words but will still keep the original for him to compare against. Moodle also tells us how many words the student has written (in our case, 24 words). I have made it clear that I wanted the suggestion to be 100 words, so that's lost him some marks already.

We can type a general comment, ahead of Mickey's work, using a different color to separate our work from his. We can then use the features of the HTML editor to highlight, cross out, or even underline errors, depending on our personal marking style.

We can then select a suitable grade in the box at the top and, if we want, ensure that he gets an email telling him that his work has been awarded a grade. Before we save, let's just look at the corrected version. It will look similar to what is shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

If we have lots to mark, we can click on Save and show next, which will take us to the next post in our register, posted by a student. Let's just click Save changes for now.

What just happened?

We have just finished grading the students on their very first exercise in Moodle! The grade book was waiting there for us. We saw that mickey mouse had sent in his work. Thus, we clicked on Grade and were able to correct it, comment on it, and give it a grade. By saving our corrections, we've now added them to the grade book and can see how this looks in the following screenshot:

Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

However, for one thing, I need to chase up Tom Cat as he hasn't posted his suggestion yet! Mickey's grade is located along with the first part of my comments. He'll get an email telling him to go and check his score. If I change my mind after I've marked others, I can always click on Update, and alter the student's grade.

More than one teacher or class can work on the same assignment in Moodle and have them displayed separately. However, to implement this, you'll have to ask your Moodle administrator to set up groups for you. This isn't something we're looking at right now, but as you get more into Moodle, you'll find it a useful feature.

Other ways to set and mark work in Moodle

If you just want your students to perform a piece of writing, such as an advert, a letter, or a description, then the Online text assignment would be the best choice. But there might be times when the students need to actually upload files, such as presentations or leaflets that they have created. Moodle has four types of assignments you can use (although one of them is a bit of a cheat, really). The following table explains the benefits of each one, so that you can select the one that is most suited to your purposes:

Type of assignment

What it's for

Why use it

Online text

Allows students to type straight into Moodle and teachers to correct online

For shorter passages of plain text it's the quickest and simplest way to set and mark work

Upload a single file

Gives students a box to upload a file such as a Word-processed document or PowerPoint

For tasks that aren't suited to the online text type, say when you need to upload a certain file type such as spreadsheet or slideshow

Advanced uploading of files

Students can send more than one item; teachers can return the work corrected for students to revise

If you like commenting on the students' work, but the online text isn't for you, use this one to mark and return a Word-processed document; use it also if you are doing a project involving several pieces of work

Offline text

Students produce work offline, such as a class role play, and it is marked in Moodle

This is just a space in Moodle's grade book  for you to record marks of tasks done outside Moodle

Have a go hero-mark their campsite design

It's now your turn! The students have uploaded the campsite designs to a database so that everyone can see them. Unfortunately, the designs are not linked to the grade book. However, you could still mark each individual student by using the Offline text facility. Why not set it up and see how the grade book appears, ready for you to mark the designs?

Collaborative story-telling

The project is nearly over, but as an entertaining plenary, let's get the students to put their minds and imaginations together to devise a spooky tale about a night on the campsite! We'll help to start them off, and then they can all join in by adding, editing (and even deleting) others' contributions. We shall use a Moodle wiki for this, as a wiki is a great tool for collaboration. However, like the glossary, and even the database, a wiki has many more features than we require at present. So we'll just stick to what we need.

Time for action-getting our class to work together on an online story

Let's make things more interesting! Let's ask the students to post an imaginative story.

  1. With editing turned on, select the Wiki option within the Add an activity option.
  2. In the Name field, provide a suitable title for your wiki, and in the Description field, enter a short explanation of what you want the students to add.
  3. For the Type option, choose Groups.

    Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

  4. Don't worry about the settings that you don't understand. For now, just click on Save and Display.
  5. On the screen that is displayed next, enter the beginning of the story (or anything you want them to continue with).

    Moodle 1.9 for Teaching 7-14 Year Olds: Beginner's Guide

You can add extra pages to a wiki by adding square brackets around the name of the page. The next time that you save it, it will link to the new page. We're just going to have our story on one page, for the sake of simplicity.

What just happened?

The students now have, thanks to our efforts, a communal space on Moodle where they can continue the story. They can click on the wiki, enter the desired text into it, and save it, as they would do, if it were a Forum or an Online text assignment.

The benefit of our group wiki is that our entire class can come to the same page and add, edit, and delete what has been entered. However, if we object to any student's act, we can click on History and see who did it, when they did it, and precisely what they did.

Although, we chose Groups for our wiki, there are also Student and Teacher wikis available. The following table provides a very brief outline of the three types of wikis and their uses.

Type of wiki

What it is

Why use it


One wiki that everyone can edit

Collaborating on a story or group activity


Only the teacher can edit this

For presenting information that you can easily add to or edit yourself


Each student has his/her own wiki

As an online exercise book  for notes/revision; private communication between student and teacher


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