Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress


Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0

Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0

Create interactive lessons and activities in Moodle to enhance your students' understanding and enjoyment of science

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Moodle 2.0, see here.)

To do this, we will look at some of the following activities:

  • Magnesium Sulfate – resource
  • Osmosis and diffusion discussion carousel – forum
  • Motion - quiz
  • Osmosis and potatoes - assignment

You will learn how to analyze the results from these activities and see how we can use the findings to improve our course and our teaching. With Moodle, you can specify what activities and attainment in these activities have to be met for users to complete your course. You are able to give your users the bigger picture explaining what they need to achieve to complete the course and give them goals to work towards.

Checking usage and completion of tasks

For you to be able to help your users learn, it goes without saying that they have to complete the tasks you set! Quite a common question is "how do I know if my users are looking at the content I make for them?" There are a variety of ways to monitor this, which vary depending on whether you are looking at a resource or an activity.

Tracking usage of course materials

Quite often you might set your students a task to go on to your Moodle course and read a resource that you have uploaded or follow a link to another website. While you can't know for sure that they have read the material, it is possible to check that they have displayed it on their screen.

To check if users had viewed a resource, we have completion tracking. To use this feature, your administrator must enable it for your whole site and you need to turn it on in the student progress section of the course settings.

This means that now you can easily see a list of users who have looked at the resource.

On the pupil view, there are boxes next to items that require completion. If a teacher has specified certain conditions that need to be met, the box will automatically fill with a tick once they have been met. Users can also use this to manually track their progress towards completion if there are no criteria set for a particular task by ticking a shaded box themselves. This is shown in the following screenshot:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Preparation for course completion reports

The course completion report will show you which activities or resources your learners have used. To demonstrate this first you need to change some of the settings on your resources and activities, and ask your administrator to enable it in the site settings.

Completion settings for resources

Let's go back to a resource we uploaded in the first topic "Manufacture of magnesium sulfate" and edit it. Click on Turn editing on, which has the icon of the hand holding the pen. When the updating file dialog comes up, scroll right down to the bottom where it says Activity completion. Here you have a number of settings, as shown in the next screenshot:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

We're going to use the setting Show activity as complete when conditions are met. If you're happy letting your users decide to declare when they have completed an activity, you can use the setting Students can manually mark the activity as completed. This would be useful for a self review, towards pupils building a portfolio, or just to get them to take more responsibility over their learning. Once you've done this choose the conditions that need to be met. As this is a resource check the box next to Require view. These conditions vary depending on the nature of the activity. If you want to you can set a date when you expect the activity to be completed. This is just to help organize your completion report and is not shared with the users.

Completion settings for activities

Different activities have their own settings that you can set to decide when an activity is completed by your users. We'll go through each of these below.

Forum activity completion settings

You can set up activity completion for forums. In the introduction to this forum, our learners were asked to answer the most recent unanswered question and then post a question of their own. Let's use activity completion to make sure that they do this. In the same way, go to update the forum and scroll down to the activity completion settings at the bottom.

You'll notice that there are a lot more options than for a resource. The activity completion settings that we'll choose are Required discussions and Require replies. Both of these will be set to one. This means that your students will need to start at least one discussion and provide at least one reply. Don't forget to set the completion tracking setting in the top drop-down box. This is what the settings will look like:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Quiz activity completion

For quizzes (assignments and lessons), there are two options for activity completion. You can either require your users to view the quiz or require a grade. Let's go back to the motion quiz we set up and let that require students to receive a grade to complete this activity. Here are the settings:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Chat activity completion

For a chat activity, the only completion option is for users to manually check the boxes completed.

Once you've gone through and set the activity completion settings you will be able to see which of your activities your users have completed.

Completion tracking for your whole course

Now that you have set up your activities and resources to be tracked, you need to define at a course level, which activities need to be finished for course completion.

From the settings block on the left-hand side, click on the link Completion tracking.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

This is where you decide on the criteria for course completion. We want our users to complete all of the activities chosen, so in the first box choose All for the aggregation method. If there are prerequisites for your course, you can set them here. In the activities completed box, check all of the activities you want your users to complete and specify the completion dates, if any, and passing grades. All the settings can be changed to a later date, if you wish.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Course completion reports

You can now set up the course completion reports. The link can be found in the navigation block on the left-hand side:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Once you click on the course completion reports link, you should see something like the following:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

The grayed out boxes with ticks are for activities that users can manually choose completion for. So as you can see, it would be quite easy to identify which users haven't completed particular tasks. From here, you can click a user's name and send them a reminder via a message. You can also export this data if you wish.

Course reports

There are three different types of course reports—activity report, view course logs, and participation report. You can use them to monitor your users in slightly different ways.

Activity report

For the activity report, you can see a simple overview of the number of views for each activity. This could be useful if you want to see if one activity is more popular than another or if an activity is not being viewed a lot.

View course logs

This report shows detailed usage across the whole course. Now that we are using completion reports, you would only need to use this type of log if you wanted to check when a particular user accessed a task.

Participation report

This report gives you a customizable overview for each activity listed by a user. You could use this type of report to see if the users have viewed or posted to an activity or resource and then send messages directly to multiple users.

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Moodle 2.0, see here.)

Further analysis of activities

Apart from seeing if a student has completed a task, it's important to drill down further and to look at their grades and provide feedback and help, if needed.

Analysis of quiz results

Again, using the quiz on motion, we want to be able to see our users' grades to identify gaps in their understanding.

Quiz grades

After your users have completed a quiz, there is lots of analysis that you could do. However, when you access a quiz that your users have attempted, you won't be able to change any of the questions.

Click on the link Attempts to see the results. The first option you are presented with is to decide which attempts you'd like to see. Here, you can select Participants who have not attempted the quiz and then contact these participants if you need it to.

The following screenshot shows the participants who have attempted the quiz:

If you need to, you can download these results. It's quite interesting to look at the length of time taken for your quiz. Especially, if the user has rushed through it and scored a very low grade.

You can see question by question results, and at the bottom of each question column, you can see the average score for that question. This is particularly useful to identify questions that were overly difficult or easy. It could also suggest that your learners couldn't answer that question because of a lack of understanding or there may be an error in the question. You can then use all of this information to either improve your course or your delivery of the subject.

If you click either the started on date, completed date, or final grade you will be shown a more detailed analysis for that user. You will be able to see the answers and you can comment or override grades for particular questions. You can also do this by clicking the score for an individual question.

You can edit any of your questions after the users have taken the quiz. To do this, you will need to use the button Regrade all to re-check the answers.


On the left-hand side in the navigation block, you'll see some more options below your quiz:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

If you click on the Responses link, you'll be taken to a page similar to the grades analysis page. However, this time you can see the actual responses that your users made. You can use this to see if your users are making common mistakes.

With the example, you can see that the users are forgetting to use a capital N for 'Newtons' (the SI unit for force) and some are getting the equation wrong. Now that we've identified these common mistakes we can send our learners a message via Moodle to help them.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress


Following the statistics link in the navigation block for your quiz shows you some very detailed statistics for your quiz. These are broken up into three sections—quiz information, quiz structure analysis, and statistics for question positions—and are explained next.

Quiz information

This first section shows you an overview for the whole quiz including some values for standard deviation and errors.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Quiz structure analysis

The second section contains some statistics for individual questions including the percentage chance of randomly guessing the correct answer for question. The facility index gives an idea of the overall difficulty of question. It is calculated by dividing the average score across all users by the marks available for that question. So the higher the facility index the easier the question.

Statistics for question positions

The third section displays the facility index and discriminative efficiency graphically.

Discriminative efficiency is a measure of how well users who achieved high marks in the quiz did on a particular question. The higher the value, the better the question. A lower value indicates that learners who achieved the lowest overall grades in the quiz answered this question better, hence not a very good question.

So in the next graph, questions one, three, four, and six are all good questions because learners who scored highly in the quiz, also scored well on these questions. By comparing the discriminative efficiency with the facility index you can get the measure of how effective your quiz is.

If the facility index were high (showing that it is an easy question) you would expect learners who scored well overall to get the answer correct. This is not the case for the question in position two below (as shown by a low discriminative efficiency) and highlights the need to possibly rewrite this question.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Manual grading

The manual grading link gives you a list of questions that can be manually graded. These are usually essay-type questions. It also allows you to override any scores given by Moodle, should you wish to.

Marking and analysis of assignments

Let's have a look now at some simple analysis of your users' work. For this example, we'll go back to the "Osmosis and potatoes" assignment. When you click View submitted assignments you will be presented with a page that looks like this:

If there are any assignments that you need to assess click the highlighted grade button and you will be taken to a new screen to give feedback. Here you can read their submission, give it a grade and give them feedback. You can check the box Send notification e-mails so that your users get instant feedback on their work. The Save and show next button is really useful and does exactly what it says.

Once you have finished marking all of the assignments, you will be taken back to your submitted assignments page. You can click on the column headings to sort your submissions. If you click on the Grade title in the second column, you will be able to easily see a list of users with no submissions.

Similarly, you could identify which users have submitted assignments that are not satisfactory. You can then message these users to talk to them about their work. Again, all of these grades and comments are stored in gradebook. There is also an Allow quick grading setting that you could enable on this page.


This is another feature that you will need to ask your site administrator to enable in the site settings. It can be found in Site Administration | Grades | General settings. Outcomes allow you to be able to give multiple marks for an assignment covering different categories. For instance, if you had a lab report, you may wish to give separate marks for prediction, method, collecting and presenting data, analysis of results, conclusions, and evaluation.

You would be able to set up each of these categories as outcomes and attach scales to them. When you go to mark the assignment, you will be able to give an overall grade, plus separate grades for each of the different outcomes. Don't forget you can customize the scales you use in Moodle, for example, you could create a pass/fail scale or met/not met, and attach them to different outcomes.

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Moodle 2.0, see here.)

Using the gradebook

The gradebook gives you an overview of all of the scores recorded for activities on your course. We'll use it to help your learners improve their understanding of science.

Viewing grades

All the grades and associated settings are found by following the Grades link in the Course administration block.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Grader report

Once you click on this, you will probably see the Grader report for your users. If you scroll down to the settings block, you'll notice quite a few reports and settings under grade administration.

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

This gives you an overview of all of the grades that your users have achieved. The grader report looks like the following:

The up/down arrows for a particular activity mean that you can display the grades in either ascending or descending order. To go back to alphabetical, click on the surname link at the top of the first column.

If you scroll to the right you'll be able to see the course totals. The names of the activities are links that take you to detailed reports on each activity. By clicking on any of the cells you can manually change or add any of the grades. If you do so, these will be shown with an orange background.

The green and red checkered icon alongside the username takes you to an individual's user report, which is slightly more detailed than the grader report. You can change some of the display settings for the grader report by accessing My report preferences in the settings block.

A great use of the gradebook is to identify students who need extra help then use messaging to send them links to resources and activities that they can use for improvement.

Outcomes report

The outcomes report gives an overview for particular outcomes. As I've mentioned earlier, outcomes can be used to collect data about certain aspects of an activity. For instance you can use them to give separate grades for specific criteria when you're marking assignments, for example planning, observing, displaying results and so on, so if you set up these different criteria and used them for a series of lab reports then by using the outcomes report you could get an idea of the average scores for all of your users combined for each of the criteria. This will allow you to see which areas your users on average are performing better or worse in.

Overview report

The overview report shows the user's overall grade for every course they are enrolled on.

User report

As mentioned earlier the user report provides a slightly more detailed report for an individual user. Along with their grades for different activities, it also shows the range available, turns the grade into a percentage, and also displays any feedback you have given.

Import and export of grades

Grades can be both imported and exported in Moodle. If you are importing grades into Moodle, it is handy to export a file first as this will give you the correct structure for your tables. All of the import and export functions are in the settings block. It is also handy if you want to keep a separate record of your students grades, an Excel mark book for example, or manipulate the data further.

Course grade settings

There are a number of options that you can choose to determine how the gradebook appears for the course participants. Let's go through the reasons for each setting. In the general settings, Aggregation position changes how the course total is displayed. Its good to use a variety of different scales, criteria, and grades in you course however let your students see the actual (real) grade for each activity, rather than converting everything to a percentage.

There is lots of evidence to say that grade-based marking provides little value to students and that ranking students only has a negative effect towards learning. So think of the effect the Show rank setting would have on the pupils at the bottom of the ranking. The only exception to this is when you might want to add a block to a quiz to show the top five attempts.

Research experiments conducted by educational psychologist Ruth Butler found that feedback through comments has a positive effect on pupils' learning. In contrast, giving of marks or grades causes Students to perform less well, and they are less interested in the task. Butler, R. (1988) Enhancing and Undermining Intrinsic Motivation." British Journal of Educational Psychology 58

"Grades may encourage an emphasis on quantitative aspects of learning, depress creativity, foster fear of failure, and undermine interest" Butler, R., and M. Nissan. (1986). "Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance." Journal of' Educational Psychology 78.

Organizing your gradebook

With all of this information about your students, it's useful to know how to organize the data to make it more meaningful.

Categories and items, simple view

If you choose the Simple view for categories and items you will be presented with a table and some settings that you can adjust for your course. The first of these is the aggregation setting.

By default, the total grade for your course is set as the mean of the grades for individual activities. You can choose to change this to a number of different settings. These are:

  • Mean of grades
  • Median of grades (the middle grade when all of the grades are arranged in size order)
  • Lowest grade
  • Highest grade
  • Mode of grades (the most frequently occurring grade)
  • Sum of grades (all grades added together)

In the second column, you can set the maximum grade available for your course and using the icons in the actions column you can edit, move, hide or lock particular grade items. Using the buttons at the bottom, you can add categories to organize your grade items. If you click on Add category, you'll be taken through to a new screen where you can set up your new category. This is shown next:

Moodle 2.0 Science: Monitoring Your Students' Progress

Similarly, you can set up a grade for the category based on an average of the graded items. If you click on Show advanced, you will be able to choose from more settings such as dropping the lowest grades from the average calculation, and setting a pass grade for the category, if you wish. Use this to group together different activities into topics, or you could group activities by difficulty, for example, pass, merit, and distinction.

The full view setting for categories and items contains all the same settings as the simple view but has a lot more of the advanced options laid out for you.

However, when you decide to organize your graded activities, try to set this up before your learners begin to use their course. This is because they see their course grades (assuming it is enabled) and it is important that they can see in advance what is expected of them and how the final grade for their course will be calculated. You can edit the way the gradebook calculates the final grade by clicking on the calculator icon.


Hopefully, after working through this article, you have a better idea of how you can monitor the work that your science students submit to you via Moodle. You now know how to check that they are completing the work and how to analyze the data produced by Moodle to identify common misconceptions in understanding. Used in conjunction with the previous article on feedback, you will begin to see improvements in your learners' understanding of science and enthusiasm for their work.

Further resources on this subject:

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Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0

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