There are several factors that can impact the effective development and use of Moodle spaces. Before embarking on the development of new spaces it is worth taking time, as a course team, to consider how these issues could affect your approach.
Typically, a unit lasts 12 weeks (i.e. one semester), where students are enrolled in Moodle automatically from SAMIS using the relevant unit code (e.g. XX0000).
- Semester 1 (S1)– students have access from 3-weeks before S1 starts until the end of the following September.
- Semester 2 (S2) – students have access from 3-weeks before S2 starts until the end of the following September.
- Student enrolments overlap in September (i.e. last year’s cohort and this year’s cohort are both enrolled at the same time for a short period).
- If Moodle groups are being set up this can cause issues.S2 preparation activities cannot be undertaken in the S2 Moodle space until students are enrolled 3-weeks before Semester 2 starts.
- Set up Groups (or Groupings) after last year’s cohort has been unenrolled. If all activity relating to last year’s cohort has been completed (i.e. all assessment is finished) it is possible to remove the cohort directly using the SAMIS block in the Moodle space.
- 2We have seen instances where students are set tasks between Semester 1 and Semester 2 and staff need to decide which Moodle space is best placed to house the activities/information for these. If the task involves a Moodle activity that will produce data that is required in Semester 2 (e.g. such as Group Choice or Fair Allocation) then it will be sensible to include it in the Semester 2 Moodle space, remembering that students will only have access 3-weeks before semester starts. If students are going to need access before this, it is possible to enrol the cohort in the Semester 2 Moodle space using the unit code from the Semester 1 Moodle space (via the SAMIS integration block).
Typically, a unit lasts 24 weeks, across two semesters, where students are enrolled from SAMIS using the relevant unit code (e.g. XX0001).
- Full Academic Year (AY) units – students have access from 3-weeks before S1 starts until the end of the following September.
- A unit of this length can generate a lot of content in a Moodle space (files, videos, activities etc.) which can become difficult for students to navigate over time. The ‘scroll of doom’ can result in barriers to student learning.
- A year-long unit is more likely to have multiple staff teaching on it and this can result in issues for students – see the point below about multiple teachers in a Moodle space.
There are two options we would advise course-teams to consider:
- Have one unit Moodle space but with a clearly planned approach, designed with the student in mind. Use Moodle functions to provide clarity:
- Distinct sections, using academic calendar weeks to signal ‘current’ activity.
- Agreed consistent approach by all teachers in the unit – this is crucial to avoid confusing the students. Staff should seek training if needed.
- Groups, visibility, conditionality functions should be used to reduce the amount of content students see at any one time.
- Have one unit (SAMIS coded) Moodle space with sub-spaces meta-linked to the parent – this could be suitable where:
- Staff have an understanding of SAMIS mappings (including programme administrators)
- The course team have limited skills using Moodle functionality (groups, conditionality, scaffolding) to control content which could become excessive over time, and
- Where there are distinct topics covered across the year
All assessments would be presented in the parent course to facilitate grade-transfer.
Non-typical units could include Dissertation units or Pre-sessional units. Typically, these units are not delivered in the same calendar patterns as most units (i.e. not in Semester 1 or Semester 2).
- Often these units are still running when the Moodle archive snapshot is taken at the end of July, in preparation for the Moodle upgrade at the start of August. This can mean Moodle is unavailable for staff and students for a number of days.
- Dissertation units have a fixed enrolment time, so students are automatically un-enrolled on a given date. This sometimes surprises staff who may not have completed assessment processes and find that students (and their work) have disappeared.
- The Moodle upgrade is an annual event and staff are notified well in advance. Assessment deadlines should be avoided during this time, and students notified of the downtime involved so that they can access/download materials in advance (if required).
- Staff can extend the enrolment period by editing the specified un-enrolment date in the SAMIS block in the relevant Moodle space. If this is done after students have already been unenrolled their work will re-appear with them when they are re-enrolled.
Only one Teacher
This occurs when only one member of staff is actively teaching in a Moodle space. Sometimes the Moodle space development can become focussed on the staff workflow rather than the student workflow.
- This can lead to ‘archive’ content being left in the Moodle space, or material not being updated appropriately.
- For each new cohort ensure only relevant content and activities are present in the Moodle space. Consider that at any point in the future you could be asked to hand over the Moodle space to a colleague, and the design should make sense to them, and they should be able to sustain the design, from the course-team design principles created, going forward.
More than one Teacher
When a team of staff are actively teaching in the same Moodle space, it is possible that different ‘styles’ or design ideas can create barriers to learning.
- Consistency of presentation may be lost if staff do things differently from their colleagues e.g. use different headings for the same type of task, or present lecture notes and accompanying materials in different orders.
- Ensure all staff are involved in creating and adhering to course-team design principles. It can be helpful to consider regular peer review or audit of your Moodle spaces to ensure consistency of approaches. If there is a sound pedagogical reason for having some sections presented differently, spell this out for students so that this is clear. Consider documenting responsibilities: who will add content, who will add activities, who will add assessment submission points, who will assess work etc.
Only one Cohort
Typically, for most SAMIS-coded units, students and Unit Convenors are enrolled automatically in unit Moodle spaces whereby the information is taken directly from SAMIS.
- Sometimes students change units or are placed in suspension.
- Staff who need access, but are not the Unit Convenor, are not automatically enrolled.
- Automatic Moodle enrolments always reflect the data present in SAMIS (with any changes being updated overnight). If students are not seeing the correct Moodle spaces, then please check SAMIS, noting that SAMIS is not a TEL tool but is supported by a dedicated team in DD&T and used extensively by Programme Administrators.
- Unit Convenors (Moodle space owners) can enrol additional staff manually. However, it is important to review this access before each new cohort to ensure only those who need access have it.
More than one Cohort
Sometimes it can be useful to combine units so that teaching takes place for both in one Moodle space, so that the number of cohorts enrolled in a Moodle space is greater than one.
- Automatic enrolments are linked to one SAMIS code and cannot be linked to more than one. Students from the second unit cannot access the Moodle space without manual intervention. The second unit will also have a Moodle space, and its presence can cause confusion if it has no content (as students will be automatically enrolled in it).
- Grade transfer from Moodle to SAMIS has a one-to-one relationship, and so any assessments included in the Moodle space, that actually belong to the second unit, will need manual intervention (to export results and import to SAMIS).
- Select one of the Moodle spaces to be a parent course to the second space using meta-linked enrolments. Hide the second unit Moodle space from course settings, so that it will be invisible to students to avoid any confusion. Make it clear, in the parent Moodle space, the title or content of which SAMIS units are being taught.OR it is also possible to use the SAMIS block to add additional cohorts, matching the unenrolment date with the automatically enrolled cohort. Hide the second unit Moodle space from course settings, so that it will be invisible to students to avoid any confusion. Make it clear, in the Moodle space, the title or content of which SAMIS units are being taught.
- It is possible to make the second unit Moodle space visible to students and include any assessments there. Then provide a link directly to the assessment activity in the first unit Moodle space. Grades could then be transferred directly to SAMIS for both units.
Units delivered across year-groups
Moodle space design for different year groups may have some differences, due to different course teams being involved, which could reduce consistency.
- Moodle space design for Year 1 students may tend to have more scaffolding (instructional guidance) than a Year 2 Moodle space design.
- Pay particular attention to any units taught across year groups (e.g. first year and second year) to ensure there is consistency for both groups. For example, use the same terminology and course layout.
Units delivered across faculty/school/department
Moodle spaces may have been designed with differing approaches in different faculties/school/departments which could make it more difficult for students.
- Different terminology, or differing Moodle space organisation may cause a barrier for students.
- Where a Unit is delivered in conjunction with another Department or Faculty/School, there should be coherence across these units where possible, through discussion between course teams. Any differences in approaches should be explained to students to provide clarity.