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What is Moodle?

Moodle is the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) used at Bath. It is essentially a website that facilitates the delivery of content and activities to students, through the provision of a range of built in tools and functions. It can be used to deliver anything from a wholly online course (pure e-learning); through to one that supports aspects of traditional, face-to-face interaction (blended learning).

Whilst Moodle is commonly used to provide students with access to content, it is far more than just a repository for Word documents and PowerPoint files!  Moodle is a highly flexible environment that enables course Teachers to create a range of activities tailored to the needs of their students and the curriculum.  It enables staff to build an online community of learners - supporting and scaffolding individual and collaborative learning experiences, and provides many opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

How does it work?

Individual learning spaces within Moodle are known as Moodle courses, and course owners (Moodle 'Teachers'), have full access to customise the spaces as needed; adding links to activities and resources in order to construct a dynamic, interactive and relevant learning environment for their students.

The best Moodle courses are often hives of activity - regularly updated and visited, with students taking a central role in the construction of their learning.  In order to achieve this, careful consideration of the needs and expectations of your students is essential when developing your Moodle course:

  • What purpose will your Moodle course serve?
  • How will you promote your page in class?
  • What can learners get from your Moodle course that they can't simply get from Google?
  • What could you add to your course to motivate students to use VLE content for homework, assignments and revision?
  • How do you encourage and foster peer support/peer learning outside of contact hours?

Why not identify one or two challenges that you (or your students) face and then consider whether Moodle has the tools to help overcome them?  Not everything needs to happen at once - courses can evolve over time.

Moodle is widely used across the university and functions as a single, teacher controlled learning and teaching 'hub' through which online materials and activities can be delivered.  The simple to use, yet highly flexible environment gives staff the freedom to develop and structure their courses in an almost endless variety of ways in order to meet the needs of the curriculum and their learners.

Files can be shared with students simply by dragging them and dropping them on the course page, and a range of interactive learning activities can be created around these resources to enable the students to engage with the subject matter or perhaps with their peers.  Many of the available learning activities support assessment (including, individual, group and peer assessment), and a wide range of mechanisms exist to support the provision of feedback (such as rubrics or marking guides).

A range of built in reports automatically track users progress through the site, enabling staff to generate reports for a single course or activity (and to export the results into a spreadsheet if required).  These reports show staff when students accessed the course and whether they have accessed or participated in a particular activity. Whilst this kind of user data might help staff to identify students who may need more support and encouragement, the activity and course completion functions (which can be optionally enabled by the course Teacher) can help both the staff and students to track their progress through the course.

Infographic showing some of the report types

Available 24/7 from across the globe, the University of Bath's Moodle installation is well supported and extensively used with an average of 8.5k unique users accessing the site each day.

Why Should I Use Moodle?

Although there is no institutional requirement to use Moodle, student expectations and growing student numbers mean that it is being used to support over 90% of institutional units.

Moodle has been designed with the education sector in mind, and as a result, its many tools and functions have the potential to support and extend traditional face-to-face teaching approaches.

Whilst few VLE's can claim to be entirely pedagogically neutral, Moodle is flexible enough to support many different teaching styles.  Nevertheless, it has been specifically designed with principles of constructivism/social constructivism and connectivism in mind, and is well placed to support student centred/active learning approaches; where students are presented with opportunities for knowledge construction through interaction and collaboration with peers.

Rapid delivery of feedback is always an area of interest to the student body, and Moodle, through it's wide variety of assessment and feedback mechanisms, can give students instantaneous access to their feedback and grades.  From the point of view of the busy academic, Moodle also includes several tools to help with the rapid delivery of feedback (use of rubrics and the re-use of frequently used feedback comments), and also provides mechanisms for improving the consistency of feedback (particularly in multi-marker scenarios) with tools such as the Marking guide.

Are there any issues of which I need to be aware?

It is important to remember that use of Moodle does not immediately equate to a better learning experience for students.  Whilst the environment may offer a wide variety of opportunities to support and extend existing teaching, these tools must be applied appropriately and with care if they are to impact positively on the learning experience.

Read about: Students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment

Additionally, research into students' expectations shows that they increasingly expect their course materials to be delivered in a consistent and well structured way.  To this end, the University of Bath has consulted both staff and students about their expectations and have produced a number of resources which are intended to scaffold the development of Moodle courses.

The Bath Baseline for Moodle & Online Teaching

Moodle Course Checklist

Inclusivity in Moodle

What are the Implications for Teaching and Learning?

We live in a world where high quality teaching materials are freely available online - either through MOOCS (Massive Online Open Course) or through other open knowledge initiatives (such as the OU's OpenLearn offering), whilst fee paying students increasingly view themselves as 'consumers'; wanting to access their learning resources from anywhere, at any time and on any device.

Moodle does not limit students to consuming data in a passive way - it's social constructivist philosophy, means that it can be used to help to support knowledge construction through a student centred, activity led alternative.  It makes it easy for educators to create spaces for students to collaborate not only with peers on their course but also with those at other institutions, and a well constructed, student centred course can enable them to interact in ways which may not otherwise have been possible.

Summary
Title: Using Moodle for summative assessments to reduce marking time, minimise selective learning, and provide timely feedback
Motivation
  • To provide instant feedback to students (marks)
  • To reduce marking time to zero!
  • To ensure breadth of learning (no question-spotting and strategic learning of select topics by students)
How we did it

We created a Moodle Quiz bank of questions to replace existing exam essays (creating questions from scratch took the most time, but was well worth it!!). PhD /MSc/final year students could potentially be used to create the draft questions, before final approval by academics.

Two question banks were created (formative and summative) as separate sections on the Unit Moodle page.  Assessment time was consistent (students attempted 48 questions in 60 minutes).  The formative quiz was opened to students 3 weeks in advance of the exam and closed 24 hr before the final exam. This was to ensure that:

  • Students were familiar with the assessment format and the technology being used prior to the summative e-assessment
  • The assessment provided a valid and reliable measure of the student’s achievement of specific outcomes
  • Any technical issues or ambiguous questions could be identified before the summative assessment

The format of questions included fill in blanks, figures etc., and all 4 academic staff checked the questions and ANSWERS and QUIZ SETTINGS in advance of the assessment.

Contingency measures were also put in place, including:

  • Exams Office were informed during scheduling period to ensure PC rooms were allocated for the unit assessment. They also ensured that the rooms were available for at least 1-2 hr in advance of the exam start to rectify any technical problems)
  • Registry were informed
  • Audio-visual team informed, so the PCs were checked for technical faults
  • Paper version printouts (in case of technical failure)
  • Presence of AV technical staff in each venue
  • Students requiring extra time/separate venues were given university laptops (which also need to be checked by AV support)
Lessons Learnt

The quiz has now been delivered during several academic years.  In the first year, everything ran smoothly; just as expected.  In the second year however (following a large increase in student numbers), Moodle was simply not able to cope with 350 students logging into a single page near simultaneously.  As a result, service performance suffered, and the room invigilators had to rely on a paper backup which had been produced as a contingency against technical issues.

This issue was addressed the following year by staggering the start time in each room by 1 minute.  This meant that since bulk of students taking the examination were split across 7 different rooms, the pressure on the system was dramatically reduced - again leading to a successful outcome.

Impact
  • Instant feedback:  Students received the marks as soon as they completed the test (provisional, subject to approval by Unit Boards)
  • Time spent marking = zero!
  • Enabled a breadth of knowledge to be assessed
Other Recent Examples

  • Online Quizzes for formative and summative assessment?

    Dr Matteo De Tina, Director of Learning and Teaching in the Department of Economics at the University of Bath, discusses why and how he has explored the use of online multiple choice quizzes in the Moodle online environment for both ... read more
    Source: Exchange (Moodle)Published on 2016-05-03By Giles Martin
  • Double blind marking on Moodle

    Dr Steve Cayzer from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath discusses some of the background and reasons behind the department exploring the use of Moodle for double blind marking. In the second clip, Steve discusses ... read more
    Source: Exchange (Moodle)Published on 2016-04-28By Giles Martin
  • Developing randomised e-quizzes for flexible assessment

    Summary The aim of this 2013-14 project was to generate large banks of applied numeracy Moodle questions to support the teaching of basic maths in Biochemistry and Chemistry. We employed and trained six students studying these subjects to create new ... read more
    Source: Exchange (Moodle)Published on 2016-04-28By Helen King
  • Weekly Moodle Quizzes

    Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath discusses how she uses time-limited weekly online quizzes to help provide feedback and motivate ongoing learning with large cohorts. ... read more
    Source: Exchange (Moodle)Published on 2015-12-04By Giles Martin
User-Submitted Examples on this Website

Weekly Moodle Quizzes

CLT Admin

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath discusses how she uses time-limited

Read more.

Flipping Quantum Physics

CLT Admin

This is a case study of one of the University's funded pilot Flipping Projects

Read more.

Double blind marking on Moodle

CLT Admin

Using Moodle for double blind marking

Read more.


Who can I speak to @Bath?

There is lots of help and advice available to you from across a range of Professional Service departments at the University.

This includes, but is not limited to:

Some departments and Faculties also have an active academic community which support and promote the use of Technology Enhanced Learning. We recommend that you talk to your Director of Teaching and Learning and your Faculty Learning Technologist who will be able to put you in touch with another academic who can share their own experiences and offer pedagogical advice.

Step Two: Ask the Community
Step Three: Raise a Support Request
Suggested Reading
Title Link Comments
Anatomy of a 70:20:10 Moodle course Infographic:  Anatomy of a 70:20:10 Moodle course Moving beyond formal, structured learning.
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