Enaging with Moodle

I’ve just had a cracking week.

Just for a change I’ve had two days ‘out’ working with real, live practitioners, which is what I miss the most these days, because that’s what I’m best at.

On Wednesday, I was asked to work with colleagues from the RSC YH at New College, Pontefract, where they had set the entire day aside to begin college-wide development of their new Moodle 2 installation. Luckily Brian Coughlan (at the college) and I are old acquaintances and he was the one designing the event. We chatted prior to the day and I accepted the job of working with what looked like being the largest group – the beginners.

The college had previously had a Blackboard installation, which hardly anyone used. They had predicted some trauma with the move to Moodle, but that hadn’t happened. However, because of the huge difference between the two VLEs, very few people were using Moodle either and certainly not to great effect. That had changed by the end of the day.

Two other groups (intermediate and advanced) were being attended to by RSC personnel and I was helped by Daniel from Barnsley College – which made my life a lot easier once we got started. I first addressed my group saying that ‘if you ONLY put some resources onto your course today – you can be happy. However, if you put up some resources that are engaging and interactive and/or use the VLE to make sense of your resources – you learners will be happy!

I then showed them Moodle and explained the ‘blocks’. Then I explained the ‘course’ and showed them the ‘settings’ block. And then we looked at ‘topics’ and ‘labels’ (and their associated icons). Then I said ‘go‘. 

Given the day’s results, it is obvious that there had been a lot of pent up creativity in the college because they simply ‘got it’. The questions that most colleagues asked were pertinent and aimed at making their resources more engaging and interactive  – which was brilliant.

  • Where the teacher could only contemplate a resource being uploaded, we were able to discuss using ‘labels’ to help the learner make sense of the resource.
  • Where the teacher could see beyond simply uploading we investigated ways of making the resource more engaging before they uploaded (and subsequently used labels as above).
  • Those who were ready to go beyond these stages were shown ‘book’ and asked to investigate the use of forums. (Other features were being discussed in other workshops and I’d agreed with Brian that rather than go everywhere in Moodle, I’d concentrate on getting everyone ‘on’ and active).

It has been a long time since I worked on an event with so many participants where there was not one sour face, at all, all day. Well done Pontefract.

I’ll discuss my second day out later (and post the link here when ready).

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Moodle 2 and so on

I’m just coming to the end of a longish period of time, working with a great team of ‘e’ people.

Since June this year we’ve been working on a Super Moodle for a College in Leeds. The team was put together and managed by the wonderful Lilian Soon.

Now that the work is gradually coming to a close and we’ve begun to reflect upon the outcomes, we have realised that all VLEs could be like this – if only colleges and university departments had the vision to set such a thing in motion and if staff (academic and non-academic) could comprehend the benefits.

We’ve used Moodle 2 at the core of this development and integrated lesson capture tools like Adobe Connect and Panopto. Panopto has a plugin called Unison that allows video and audio to be uploaded ready for streaming to the user a’la YouTube. Mahara is integrated to allow easy portfolio building by learners – but which also allows easy sharing and collaboration by all. Xerte too, is incorporated – giving staff the opportunity to easily create interactive, accessible multimedia resources. There have been other more technical developments as well – but far too clever for me to understand.

At the college, they wrap all of this up in a fairly seamless learning environment. Whatever you think of ‘naming’ VLEs (and this college does have a ‘name’ for theirs), it has worked – because all of the various non-Moodle integrations have been skinned to have a similar look and feel – all down to the careful planning by Lilian and her team.

My part in all this has been quite small (on the huge scale of things) – I’ve worked with various staff to prepare them for using the end-result and to help them build both on-line and in-line learning pages.

Furthermore, I’ve been involved in the generic preparation and training of staff for use of ILT/e-Learning and with the preparation of extensive on-line ‘help’ and training materials for all users. I’ve learned a lot about Moodle 2 and those many peripheral tools.

But most of all, I’ve learned a lot more about what a learning environment can be – if we put our minds (and expertise) to it. Well done Lils, Ron and everyone else. (Contact any one of us if you want more details)