Tag Archives: moodle

Day 13: Acronyms I could do without

scrabble letters
Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

Probably the acronym I could do without has to be VLE though LMS comes a close second.

VLE is a virtual learning environment, though these days most people equate the VLE with a specific product such as Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle.

You hear people say things like, our VLE is Blackboard. The concept of the VLE is synonymous with a actual product.

For me thought I always saw the VLE as a concept, an online environment which could encompass a product such as Moodle, but would be supplemented with other functions through tools such as Mahara, WordPress even the Twitter.

The challenge then is if you change your VLE, you need to then start referring to a new product as people will associate the term VLE with the legacy product.

You also have that concept that we don’t have a VLE, we have Moodle.

The other issue I have with the term VLE, is that we don’t refer to the physical learning environment in the same way that we refer to the VLE.

So probably the acronym I could do without is VLE.

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Day 1: The VLE in my life…

graveyard
Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

This post is part of the #JuneEdTechChallenge series.

ALT set a challenge.

Today we are asked about the VLE in my life…

Well it’s dead isn’t it…

At ALT-C 2009 we did a debate called The VLE is Dead.

It was Tuesday 8th September 2009 at 13:40 at Manchester University that The VLE is Dead symposium was kicked off by Josie Frasier.

2009 was also the year that delegates at ALT-C discovered the Twitter! In 2008 there were roughly 300 tweets and about forty people tweeting, in 2009 the amount of tweeting went through the roof!

Most people though remember that year as the year I allegedly said the VLE was dead! We had certainly over the months leading up to the conference trailed the debate with blog posts, tweets and even a trailer.

The debate was huge, with hundreds of people in the room, sitting on the floor, standing by the walls and we also live streamed the debate over the internet (which was quite revolutionary at the time). Overall an amazing experience and an interesting debate that still goes on today.

If you watch the video of the debate and discussion you will see that my view was that the VLE was more of a concept a place where a learner starts their journey and other technologies could be plugged into the institutional VLE to enhance and enrich it.

I still hold that viewpoint that the VLE is a construction of different tools and services. Back in 2009 I thought the VLE would evolve into something at the heart of a student online experience. 

Reality was everyone thought I said the VLE was dead…

My first experience of a VLE, well more of a Learning Management System was First Class back in the late 1990s. I remember the number of red flags that said you had unread messages in the text based discussion forums. I did think it had huge potential.

In 2001 I got a job as Director of the Western Colleges Consortium and part of the role was leading and supporting the use of a shared VLE, TekniCAL’s Virtual Campus. This was an interesting platform, though the best thing that TekniCAL did was create a SCORM authoring tool based on Word. A simple tool which used styles and then you could create interactive and engaging learning content. The challenge with the platform was that the focus of technical development was on the administrator experience and not the student experience, so there was a lot of dissatisfaction from the end users on their user experience.

I then moved jobs and moved VLEs.

In later jobs I had to use Moodle and Moodle was like a breath of fresh air in the VLE space when it was first around. I did get annoyed when people confused free (open source) software with free (as in no cost). Certain skills were required to manage and administer Moodle from a technical perspective. If you didn’t have those then there was potential for things going wrong. 

Over time though Moodle became somewhat clunky and needed a redesign. I did once take an in-depth look at Canvas.

I have never used Blackboard!

In my current role I don’t use a VLE.

So for me the VLE is now dead!

Though I didn’t post these posts each day in June (and to be honest I didn’t post it each day on the Twitter either) except the final day, I have decided to retrospectively post blog posts about each of the challenges and back date them accordingly. There is sometimes more I want to say on the challenge then you can fit into 140 characters (well 280 these days).

Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

There wasn’t a FOTE conference in 2015, which was a pity as it was one of my favourite annual events. I spoke at many of the conferences, most recently in 2014 when I spoke about the conflict between the light and the dark and used a Star Wars theme.

I remember reflecting on the conference on the way home that it would be a lot of fun to do a Back the Future themed talk for 2015.

Back to the Future

Alas it was never to be…

However I thought it might be a little fun to explore what might have been…

Continue reading Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

Top Ten Blog Posts 2015

Sand Bay

Over the last 12 months I have written 24 blog posts which is two a month. In 2014 I wrote 11 and in 2013 I wrote 64 blog posts and over a hundred in 2012. In 2011 I thought 150 was a quiet year!

The tenth most popular post on the blog in 2015, dropping one place from 2014, was written back in 2009 when Twitter was (at the time) looked like the height of the Twitter’s popularity. In the post Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die… I talked about how Twitter would, like so many other earlier social networks such as Friendster, Bebo, MySpace, would eventually wither and die… well I got that one right didn’t I? Still there are aspects in the post that may, at some point in the future ring true!

My opinion piece on Area Based Reviews for FE was a new entry and the ninth most popular post, I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? This was written in 2015 and looked at what we mean when we ask FE Colleges to “embrace technology” and how they could in fact do that. Embracing technology is easy to say, easy to write down. Ensuring that you actually holistically embrace technology across the whole organisation, as part of a wider review is challenging and difficult. We haven’t really done this before, so I don’t think we can assume it will just happen now.

Area Based Review

One of my many posts on Moodle was a re-entry at number eight Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable? This post was the ninth most popular post in 2013. One of the common themes that comes out when people discuss how to use Moodle, is the inevitable scroll of death. My response was that due to a lack of planning (even forward planning) that the end result more often than not would be a long scroll of death in a Moodle course.

Another new entry at number seven in 2015 was written and posted in December 2015 and was about time and why I don’t have a dog. I don’t have a dog #altc was a discussion piece was written for the ALT Winter Conference and looks at the over used excuse for not doing something, which is not having the time to do it. The real reason though, more often then not, is that the person concerned does not see it as a priority.

On The Streets of Vilnius
CC BY 2.0 FaceMePLS https://flic.kr/p/a7RLz7
The sixth post was from the App of the Week series and was called VideoScribe HD – iPad App of the Week I talked about this app in July 2013 and was impressed with the power and versatility of the app for creating animated presentations. This has dropped four places, but one problem, is that the app isn’t available any more for the iPad.

The fifth post, dropping two places, of 2015 was another one from that series. Comic Life – iPad App of the Week. Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

Climbing one place, the fourth most popular post was from my other series on 100 ways to use a VLE. This one was #89 Embedding a Comic Strip. This was a post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE. It included information on the many free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet out there. It is quite a long post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

Climbing four places, at number three was a copyright post entitled, Can I legally download a movie trailer? One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008, I am a little behind in much of what is happening within copyright and education, one of things I do need to update myself on, as things have changed.

The second most popular post in 2015 was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week. This has risen two places and even I am not sure why this one is so popular!

Once again, for the third year running, the number one post for 2015 was the The iPad Pedagogy Wheel. I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

So there we have it, the top ten posts of 2015, of which two were from 2015!

Here’s to 2016.

e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2013

Oxford

A little later than planned. Well 2013 was an eventful year for me, moving jobs after seven years at Gloucestershire College. I have continued with writing blog posts. There was a lot less writing on the blog this year with just 64 posts, which averages about one a week. Here are the top ten blog posts of 2013. Interestingly this year eight of the posts are from 2013. Half of the posts are app reviews from my series “App of the Week”.

10. Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week

I wrote about Frame Magic in June and it is one of the many photographic and image apps I have used and reviewed.

9. Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?

This article from May looked at how the default setup of a Moodle installation, the way in which we do training will inevitably result in the Moodle “scroll of death”.

8. Comic Life – iPad App of the Week

Though I have been using Comic Life on the Mac for a few years now I realised I hadn’t written much about the iPad app that I had bought back when the iPad was released. It’s a great app for creating comics and works really well with the touch interface and iPad camera.

7. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

This is an older post from July 2011, that looked at the different comic tools out there on the web, which can be used to create comic strips that can then be embedded into the VLE.

It is from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet.

It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE.

The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has maintained itself in the top ten, dropping two places from last year.

6. Show what you know [Infographic] – Updated

I liked Tony Vincent’s excellent Infographic on apps that can be used for different activities. This post was showing off his updated version.

5. Keynote – iPad App of the Week

Probably one of my longest blog posts that explores the iPad presentation app from Apple. I used the post to help me to understand the app better and what it is capable of.

4. VideoScribe HD – iPad App of the Week

I talked about VideoScribe HD in July and was impressed with the power and versatility of the app for creating animated presentations.

3. Educreations – iPad App of the Week

I was introduced to this app by a colleague at Gloucestershire College in 2012 and used it and demonstrated it a lot to staff. It was great to see how they and their students used it to support their learning over the year. 2

2. Thinking about iTunes U

Maintaing its position at number two, is this blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.

1. The iPad Pedagogy Wheel

This was my most popular blog post of the year (and if the stats are to be believed of all time on my blog). I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

Allan Carrington who drew up the diagram has published a revised version, what I like about the original is the simplicity. The revised version is more complex, but as an introduction to what the iPad can do, I much prefer the simpler diagram.

100 ways to use a VLE – #27 Undertaking a Survey

clipboard

Many curriculum topics ask learners to gather and analyse data. Hospitality and Catering students may want to gather data about spending habits on eating out. Travel and Tourism students may want to gather information on the costs of tickets for attractions, opening times and discounts. Students on a Business Enterprise course may want to gather data on customer habits to help them formulate a business plan.

In addition to learners gathering data for a survey, teachers or other staff in the college may want to get data. We recently gathered information on how learners felt about the VLE and what needed to be done to make it better; we also gathered data on how they felt about tablets and their use in teaching and learning.

There are a fair few ways for learners and staff to gather data for a survey. You can of course collect responses in paper format, enter all the data and then undertake the analysis. Another option would be to use a Google Form and collect the data in that way.

Using the VLE, say for example, through the Feedback Module on Moodle, allows the learners to spread their survey across the complete college community. Once the survey is done there are some analytical tools included in the Feedback Module, or you can download all the data into an Excel file for further analysis. There is an element of consistency too, with learners using the same tool for the data collection and initial analysis.

Best thing since…

Bread

The best thing that I did recently on our Moodle installation to was have the Grid format installed.

If you’ve not seen it, what it does is change the format of a Moodle course from a long list of topics to a grid of icons that link to the topics.

Or to put it more simply it kills the scroll of death.

Moodle Grid Format

I have written a fair bit about the inevitable scroll of death that seems to naturally occur in Moodle once you start using it “properly” to support learning.

The grid format means that learners click the icon for the topic they want to view and the content pops up on the screen.

This means that the learner doesn’t need to scroll down to get to the content or activities they want to engage with.

In addition it makes Moodle courses look neater and tidier. It makes it easier to find the right topic. Initial reaction from learners and staff was very positive and they liked the new format.

There are a few things that I would like to see changed.

You can’t change the default size of the icons, the standard size of 210 x 136 is quite large and on a “normal” sized screen means that you really shouldn’t use more than 12 icons. If you were using a weekly schedule for your Moodle course you might have 36 or more topics. In this type of scenario then the grid format means you have a scroll of large icons instead. In that example a much smaller icon would make more sense.

You do need to have the ability (or the service of others) to create the icons you need. Though you can use any image as an icon, and Moodle will automatically resize the image, this from a design perspective doesn’t quite work. The resizing is quite crude and if your image doesn’t have the same ratio as the default icon size then you will have gaps. I use Fireworks for creating my icons, though you could use Photoshop. For staff I have been recommending CoolText.com which is an online tool for creating logos and with a little tweaking can be used to create a series of icons for the grid format for Moodle. It would be nice though if there was a way that this kind of tool could be built into Moodle.

A minor point is that the grid format is only really usable with 2.4 or later. Using it with earlier versions of Moodle is not to be recommended as there are stability issues. A key issue is that the grid format will break the backup and restore process in earlier versions of Moodle, and you wouldn’t want that.

So if you are running Moodle 2.4 I would certainly recommend that you have a look at the grid format and see how it can change the way Moodle looks, but also the way that staff and learners engage with it.

Assessing Assessment – ocTEL

This week on ocTEL we’re looking at assessment. As part of my thinking I reflected on the use of quizzes in Moodle.

Designing Moodle quizzes is much more than just been able to use the quiz tool from a technical perspective. There is a real art to crafting questions so that they not only allow the learner to test their understanding, but also require a higher level of thinking.

If we look at the following multiple choice questions, the format of which is one of many different types available on Moodle, it provides the structure and the practitioner provides the question and the answers:

Which is these is a mammal?

Shark
Dog
Spider
Crocodile

This question does not test understanding, most students would be able to guess the answer or would not find it challenging. Within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

In terms of feedback, you can design Moodle quizzes to provide feedback on questions. So you can explain why their answer is wrong or right and where to look for further information or support.

Onto a similar question:

What is the capital of Australia?

Sydney
Melbourne
Canberra
Melbourne

If we look at this question if you didn’t know the answer then you would need to do some research. However as with the previous question within Bloom’s Taxonomy this is testing knowledge only, the bottom layer of the triangle. It’s more challenging than the first question, but if you didn’t know it already then a quick Google search and you have the right answer.

So what about this question:

Which of these is the odd one out?

Odd One Out

The “problem” with this question is that there is no single right answer. The answer needs an explanation, and it’s the explanation that demonstrates understanding of the question, not the answer.

If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy it is possible with this question to go all the way to the top.

However Moodle will struggle with assessing a question with no “right” answer and certainly would not be able to assess the explanation.

You could provide generic feedback on why there is no “right” answer, but that may not be useful for all learners. Feedback needs to be personalised to be really effective. Students generally don’t appreciate generic feedback.

This doesn’t mean that Moodle quizzes aren’t an useful tool for checking learning, but its limitations in assessing higher order thinking needs to be considered when designing assessment.

A Closed Group

Discussion

Back in 2009 at ALT-C we had the VLE is Dead debate. My view back then hasn’t changed much in the last four years. To save you watching the video, the heart of my viewpoint was that the VLE was the core of a student’s online presence and that other tools and services would plug into that.

I was recently discussing with a group of Psychology students how they used and felt about the VLE. Their response was quite positive, they found the VLE useful and it helped them with their learning. What they also said was that they were pleased it was available. When I asked them about discussions and chat functionality, they were quick to respond that no they didn’t do this on the VLE, but were much more likely to use their “homemade” group on Facebook for those kinds of discussions. When I reminded them that learners had asked for Facebook to be blocked in the library, they replied that this didn’t matter as they preferred to use Facebook on their smartphones.

You get a picture of how they were using different online environments and tools to support their learning. They were making choices about which tools they preferred and those that they didn’t. The students could have created a group on our Mahara site, but they preferred to use a familiar tool such as Facebook.

The question we might want to ask is how do we “assess” these discussions or even access them? Another question might be, do we need to?

If students are using a Facebook group for discussions, should we be trying to impose restrictions on their choices and make them discuss course related stuff on the VLE rather than in a closed group on a different service? Or should we focus on the importance of discussing over the importance of the platform?

In face to face discussions, these do take place in a classroom or seminar, however the vast majority happen elsewhere, whether that be in the refectory, the coffee shop, the library, at home, in the workplace or while travelling. Can we be surprised that online discussions also take place outside the “official” discussion forums?

Is the Scroll of Death Inevitable?

newspapers

One of the common themes that comes out when people discuss how to use Moodle, is the inevitable scroll of death.

As you start to use Moodle and create a course for the first time., you add a title, add a label describing the course and then you add a link to file, a link to the forum, some quizzes, a wiki, an assignment, then another. Before long you will have a long list of resources, the inevitable “scroll of death”.

From a learner’s perspective this is a long list of links, no context and not really an engaging and interactive learning experience. It will be more challenging to use Moodle, it won’t be intuitive. The end result will be disengaged learners and people saying that Moodle is “boring”, why can’t it be more like Facebook, Twitter or Google+?

If you are reflective and ask learners for feedback, when you next build a Moodle course, hopefully you will think about whole course design and not build merely a list of links. However years of talking to educators I have found that they rarely talk about whole course design, they are more worried about what they are going to teach tomorrow, or at best next week. They may well have a scheme of work, but that doesn’t mean that it’s useful or they stick to it.

This short-term planning often resulted in the resources been posted to Moodle without any thinking about the context or the impact this approach will have over the whole course.

Now at this point we mustn’t dismiss this approach entirely. It’s often seen as a good thing that we see learning on the VLE, however this doesn’t mean that when you find just a list of resources means that there is no learning happening. It may be happening in the classroom, in the workshop, the workplace, the resources are merely a starting point or a catalyst for learning.

An unplanned approach to curriculum design, combined with a interface flaw within Moodle, means that you are more likely to end up with the “scroll of death” than anything else. If you throw into that mix all the resources that are used over a course, there could be lots of them, probably much more so than any kind of interactive activity, then is it any wonder that when used extensively, most Moodle courses have the “scroll of death”. I know that when I was planning lessons I would have many kinds of resources to support the activities, there may anything up to ten resources for any one activity or assignment. This can quite easily lead to a “scroll of death”.

Another aspect to consider is that the VLE in most FE Colleges (and Universities) is used more often to support, enhance and enrich delivery in the classroom or the lecture theatre. It’s more rare for the VLE to be used for the delivery of learning on its own. Support often means resources, as opposed to a series of learning activities.

Having said all that there is no excuse for the “scroll of death” with a little planning, it’s quite easy to not only avoid it, but add context to any resources and activities, so making the VLE an engaging and useful experience for learners.