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Moodle 2: Improving the help functions

January 24, 2013 1 comment

One of the common critiques of Moodle is that when you need some information on how to do stuff, it may take you some time finding what you are looking for and the information may not always be available in the most user friendly fashion.

moodle_docsMoodle 2 promises a range of interesting and useful tools. However at times, might leave us feeling exasperated when we look up that guidance sheet and realise it doesn’t contain what we need. Or that we may be referred to another resource all of which wastes more time. Or that we might have preferred another type of resource for e.g a short video since this may suit our learning style.

The forthcoming move to the latest version of Moodle (Moodle 2) has given us the opportunity to think about the many ways we provide guidance on Moodle and what may need revisiting. Not least of these is the structure of the Moodle guidance area. To address this, the Moodle 2 guidance working group(consisting of Educational Technologists from across the University) have been looking at how we provide resources for staff and students that are both engaging and inspiring, accommodate a range of learning styles and are available at our finger tips.

Currently resources are provided through Moodle in the form of a ‘teaching with Moodle‘ module. The educational technologists in each school provide a variation of this module dependent on their needs. In addition, one to ones and small group sessions are also on hand in schools for staff and students. A recent QAA report highlighted that students had rated the Moodle resources to be helpful. Since moodle is an open source product, there is scope yet, for adapting the guides to meet local needs.

Having taken some advice from universities such as Lancaster, Bath and UCL, the Moodle 2 Guidance WG are structuring a guidance area that will include all the SLE related technologies. The guidance area will adopt a more user friendly format and include how to guides, frequently asked questions(FAQs), demonstration and best practice ideas. A workshop is being planned to help build up the training materials and the guidance will be ready when staff commence training from Easter. More details to follow soon.

Moodle 2: Here’s looking at what’s around the corner

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

ImageAs has already been posted in educational vignettes, Moodle is being upgraded at City University, London in the next three months. Before that happens, all ed. tech teams are on the go trying to ensure that Moodle 2 gets the full body treatment! This blog provides you with an update on what the Moodle implementation working group are doing to provide staff and students with the best possible Moodle 2 experience.

Those who are fanatical about Moodle will know that the latest version was released in late 2010. This version has been hailed as a ‘more improved version’ and the answer to many of the requests from the community of users and that of the technical developers. As an example discussed before, the way we upload files is most certainly going to be faster and better. The ed.tech team at City University, London is taking a good look at Moodle 2 to make this upgrade an opportunity to reflect on what Moodle can offer as a learning environment, what can change, what needs promotion and what needs attention.

The Moodle 2 implementation working group are testing current functionality to make sure everything is as expected.  They will also be testing new functionality to ensure that we can better support our academic staff and students in using Moodle. The testing involves some use of scenarios on schools experience however this is only replicated in some processes. This will ensure that the tools deliver on what is expected. The testing process described has begun and all ed. tech teams are involved. It is anticipated that the testing will be completed by the end of March.

As we move towards Moodle 2, we will be publishing more details on this in the coming months. We will also be thinking proactively about how staff and students will be trained whilst making sure we spend some time hearing your thoughts, sharing with you some exciting new stuff and generally making sure we are listening to you to make Moodle better than ever before. Please do get in touch with us or your ed. tech team if you are interested in knowing more.

Moodle 2: The look and feel of it

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

As the case with all SLE Working groups, the Moodle look and feel working group have also been busy paving the way to a new look and feel of Moodle with the emphasis on making it a good ‘user‘ experience. All of this work is being done taking into account schools and their requirements as well as making Moodle much more engaging and consistent to both staff and students. The group have also been working hard to ensure that staff and students don’t have a completely new system to start from scratch but are provided with some extras that ensure that there can be an integrated and intuitive learning environment for all.

Of course none of this can be done without obtaining staff and students’ views on how they find using Moodle as it stands at the moment. With the help of  Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design at City, user testing(both staff and students) took place in November and December 2012. The scenarios and tasks aimed to test the following areas across both Moodle 1.x and Moodle 2.x included:
• MyMoodle
• Module Details
• Assignment Submissions and
• Calendar

confusion1

A report has been collated which has been used to inform the recommendations passed on for the design brief. Some of the main problem areas identified were about:

-the ease with which students needed to use the system so for example it wasn’t always clear how My Moodle could be adapted to suit the person. Students tended not to notice the edit button for instance.

-students often wanted to have access to their timetables which were not available through Moodle. City Law School does provide access to timetables within Moodle so this is something that can be enhanced.

-Whilst users appeared to like the fact that each module had it’s own personality, there appeared to be a lack of consistency across different
module details pages.

In addition to these findings, the working group also set about seeking to identify what other institutions sites on Moodle looked like. Here’s a helpful Moodle theme exploration video devised by Matt Jenner at UCL. This was necessary to see if Moodle’s look could be future-proofed and ensure that we knew enough about what we are competing against.  Exciting to note is that there will be a fully mobile friendly page, which will make moodle much more usable on a mobile device. As well as that there will of course be a new improved MyMoodle page and module homepage (course format). We aim to keep you posted through weekly vignettes so have a lovely Christmas and watch out for new postings in 2013.

Talking Multimedia in Education

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

As posted in Educational Vignettes  one of the investments in our Strategic Learning Environment(SLE) is about using multimedia to support and better our teaching and learning practices at City University London. This post looks at how multimedia has evolved in Education. This is combined with a quick look at some of the external and internal case studies on using multimedia in teaching. This post will also include a look at the recommendations that the Multimedia Requirements Working group are considering which is based on an analysis of all the schools needs on this topic.

header_services_multimediaCity University has a good track record of enabling academic staff to use multimedia for learning since it is a key aspect of the Strategic Learning Environment (SLE).

Why use Multimedia in Education?

There has been an increase and change in the use of multimedia (video & audio) in learning, teaching and assessment in Higher Education the last few years. This is influenced by the experience of using web 2.0 services such as You Tube and iTunes, and increasing use of mobile devices in education. Educators and students have been inspired to make, share and learn from video and audio in new ways.  Other areas such as marketing, libraries and research are also increasing their use of multimedia.

For an interesting talk in how video is currently being used in education view Salman Khan at TEDTALKS. Common examples of uses of multimedia (as researched by JISC Digital) include:

  • demonstrations of contextual images;
  • images with clickable parts (an image map) that link to further information e.g. Google maps;
  • video recordings of teaching sessions; to produce media-enhanced feedback;
  • recordings of special events such as guest lecturers.

External research on Multimedia

A useful framework to support educators in terms of how to use digital resources (artefacts) has been inspired by a JISC project. The DiAL-e Framework supports the pedagogically effective use of a range of digital content, focusing on what the learner does with an artefact rather than giving priority to its subject or discipline content.

So what’s the latest at City?

Demand for video is increasing, in particular for assessment in the form of coursework submission and reflective portfolios and as well as enabling staff and students to make their own video content.

For a look at some of the case studies around using multimedia you may be interested in the online webinars (run by the Video Special Interest Group). A recent webinar contained a diverse use of multimedia to suit the programmes in three schools. These were:

  • Sophie Paluch (The City Law School) has created mock courtroom scenarios for retraining judges across the UK. These videos enable the practice of representing someone in court as an advocate on the programme.
  • Natasa Perovic (School of Health) has created resources on blood pressure stethoscope sounds as the programme wanted a resource that made it easier for students to recognise the different sounds. The videos were for students who weren’t experienced in measuring blood pressure.
  • Luis Balseca (CASS) is running a pilot on video assessment for students which are being submitted through Moodle for one of the MBA programmes.

The session has been recorded and will be submitted in a vignette in due course.

Schools and their Requirements

All schools recently took part in a requirements gathering exercise in summer 2012. Four themes emerged that describe the direction that City University London expects in the tools or features used most frequently.

Features in relation to the four themes:

1. Help staff and students easily make and share multimedia recordings.

  • An easy to use online workflow with compression and creation of assets that will be compatible on all devices and platforms.
  •  A web cam and a screen capture feature, which is automatically saved to the library.

2. Enable sharing of audio & video material created at the University.

  • A ‘you tube’ like browse-able public and private and administration interface
  •  A library that can be searched from within Moodle

3. Provide a safe and controlled place to store and publish audio & video, so access can be restricted to suit different needs, e.g. confidential subject matter, assessment pieces, student presentations, copyrighted materials and television recordings.

  •     Secure Moodle assignment integration
  •     Very large files can be submitted and handle in batches
  •     Private reflective portfolios for students

4. Take learning, teaching and assessment using audio & video further i.e. to a global, mobile generation and enhance the power of social media tools.

  •     Users can record and upload via mobile devices
  •     Basic editing can be online
  •     Allows users to build playlists and make favourites

With Moodle 2 due to be released to students in September 2013, the Multimedia requirements group are looking at ways in which multimedia can be integrated effectively with Moodle at course and assessment level. Do stay tuned for the next update, and in the meantime if you’d like to be find out about how to use multimedia to suit your programmes, please do contact your educational technology team.

 

 

Moodle 2: How file management will work

December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

As posted in Educational Vignettes  Moodle 2 is coming to City University London for academic year 2013-14 and one of the changes it brings is in file management. This post looks at the improvements in file management with Moodle 2 and is the first in a series of posts on how the investment in educational technologies will provide you with opportunities to enhance your teaching practice and support student learning

One of the most significant differences between Moodle 1.9 and Moodle 2 is the way in which files are managed. From feedback collected, improved content management was identified as a priority for staff using Moodle at City University London and Moodle, it seems, has delivered with Moodle 2.0.

opening-files

The internal file manager within Moodle 2, called the File Picker, offers two key improvements in the handling of files:

  1. Quicker and easier method for organising resources through the use of a simple drag and drop interface, where academics will be able to drag and drop files directly onto their module homepage or into the File Picker. Currently, you need to browse to upload your file, so the drag and drop will save clicking and time. For more information about how to drag and drop works in Moodle 2 have a look at this video. Students will also have option of dragging and dropping files from their computer into a Moodle 2 assignment; reducing the amount of clicks involved when submitting an assignment.
  2. More effective ways of managing/storing files, which offers better flexibility in accessing and linking to files across modules. This allows for linked files to be automatically updated with any changes to the master file, ensuring that important information for students is always kept up-to-date.

The progress so far

After a review of external file management solutions, the Repository Working Group (whose membership includes Educational Technologists from each School and the Learning Development Centre) recommended the use of the internal file manager within Moodle 2. The Repository Working Group is currently investigating areas where improvements can be made to the File Picker to further improve the workflow when adding files and also exploring the additional opportunities offered through accessing other internal and external repositories.

We will be providing you with regular updates on how you can enhance your teaching practice and support your student learning through the Strategic Learning Environment (SLE) projects, so watch this space.

Moodle 2: Coming to City University in Spring 2013

December 10, 2012 1 comment
Sunrise in London

A new dawn in the City

As has already been mentioned in Educational Vignettes, City University London’s educational technologies are receiving an investment boost. Moodle, being the chief technology we use, is getting the greatest investment, with it undergoing an upgrade (to move to version 2, rather than the 1.9 we are currently on) and a a re-design with the help of City’s HCID Centre. The Moodle upgrade  will have more tools available, meant to give you more choice and flexibility when it comes to designing the electronic component of your course.

Now this sounds like a lot of change, we can hear you (and us!) saying; it should mostly translate into a lot of change behind the scenes, and a slightly different-looking but  improved system for its users. The plan is to have Moodle 2 launched from April 2013, but not used by students until the start of the 2013-2014 academic year (with the existing Moodle continuing to exist and be used as normal throughout this time). That will give the Schools and the LDC time to transfer modules (which will be done by IS after meeting with School Educational Technologists to plan which modules to make available first), showcase the system, and make training and guidance materials available to everyone before the system is used fully at the start of the 2013 term.  Different Schools will be approaching training in different ways, but every School will have a professional development programme in place; your local Educational Technologist will be contacting you with more information as the time gets nearer.

About Moodle 2
Moodle 2 works in a similar way to our current version of Moodle; there will be some changes around navigation and file management that make the system nicer to use, and as these two areas are accessed a lot when setting up a module, we are aware of the big impact this may have on users – which is why our training and guidance will pay particular attention to these areas. This release of Moodle brings with it a number of new features that we think are improvements as well:

  • a drag and drop interface to upload files
  • greater flexibility in linking to files across modules
  • an improved assignment activity which can also handle group-based assignments
  • conditional release which provides for greater control of when resources and activities are released to students
  • an improved Quiz tool with clearer navigation for staff and students and improved handling of quiz attempts not submitted to deadline.

We are finalising what exactly Moodle 2 will look like, and what additional tools it will contain, over Winter 2012-2013 in order to get it ready for its April launch. The Educational Technology Community at City have created a number of working groups to support the upgrade to Moodle 2. A series of blog posts will be provided through Educational Vignettes to keep you up-to-date on what is happening with Moodle 2 and the other educational technologies. But if in the mean time, you have any questions, please be in touch with the LDC or your School Educational Technologist, and we will do our best to help you.

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