Moodle tips – adding an rss feed to your Moodle module

Top tips – designing out plagiarism

Plagiarism is a hot issue in education. Rather than just detecting it, there are ways to design your assessment so that it is difficult for students to plagiarise. Here are some ideas (mostly from other people so I hope I reference them correctly!)

1. Consider a change to the format of your assessment. Dr Liza Schuster from City University London has experimented with using individual wikis (using OU wiki on Moodle) for each student. Liza asked each student to write 300 words each week on the topic for that week under the following headings

Screen shot from Global Migration course

Screen shot from the wiki on the Global Migration course

Liza then went into the wiki weekly to look at a selection of student work to comment on. She reported that this meant that she was quick to identify any problems with student understanding, bad referencing and plagiarism.
The students had to put together a 3000 word essay from the weekly work in the wiki. Liza reported that the referencing and writing in the final submissions was of a better standard than when the assignment had purely been a 3000 word essay at the end of the course. The students reported that they preferred this approach as they were more confident they were on the right track and didn’t have a deadline that was the same for all their submissions.

2. Avoid using the same assignment title each year. I know, I know. As a teacher myself I know how much easier it is to mark the second and third year of using the same essay title. If you are loathe to make a big change, perhaps change the focus. Ask students to use the theories to explain a recent case study, for example. In this way, the structure of the marking remains the same but it is much harder for students to plagiarise.
(adapted from Culwin and Lancaster, 2001)

3. Ask students to make a brief presentation to the class based on their written assignments. This doesn’t have to be assessed but would help identify those that don’t understand what they’ve written or, worse, those that have bought their assignment from an essay bank
(adapted from Gibelman, Gelman and Fast, 1999)

4. The best way to design plagiarism out of a course is to teach students about good referencing in their first term of study. Don’t presume that students know how to do this effectively, even at Masters level. If you use a text matching tool e.g. turnitin, consider showing an example of a plagiarised script at the beginning of the course and show how turnitin picks it up. It may scare them into referencing properly if nothing else!

5. Come along to our designing out plagiarism workshop (if you work for the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences for City University London that is!). Click here to find our current workshop dates


Culwin, F. & Lancaster, T. (2001). Plagiarism, Prevention, Deterrence & Detection. Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, South Bank University, U.K.

Gibelman, M., Gelman, S. R., and Fast, J. (1999). The downside of cyberspace: Cheating made easy. Journal of Social Work Education 35 (3).

Moodle tips – module organisation

We’re starting a series of Moodle tips for staff (for Moodle 1.9 for those reading this outside of City University London).
The first is a basic one to do with layout of the module. I have noticed that some modules have all the documents/ weblinks/assignments etc together in a long list. This can be difficult for students to navigate. So we recommend a structure similar to this

Screen shot of Moodle module page

Labelling the topics or weeks

It is a good idea to split your content up into sections. For some courses that is done by week, for others it is done by topic. You could also consider having a general information and assessment section at the top or bottom of the module. To label the week sections

Turn the editing on

Click the hand icon (see below)

Type the name of the week or topic in the box. You can change the font size/bold the text etc

Click save changes

To move items around

You can move items (documents/weblinks/assignments etc) with drag and drop

Click on the icon to the right of the document name that looks like a compass and hold the mouse button down while you drag the document/weblink etc to the correct place. A grey line appears when you are hovered in the correct place. Release the mouse button and it should drop into place. Please note, drag and drop doesn’t always work with all browsers (Internet Explorer especially) so we recommend that you use Firefox when accessing Moodle

Item names

Please check that the name you have given a document/weblink/assessment etc is clear and easy for the student to understand. If you feel you would like to rename it you can click on the hand icon to the right of the current name

Change the name by typing the new name into the ‘name’ box

Click save and return to course (found at the bottom of the page)

Header image

Every module has a header image at the top of the page. Usually this is one that we have assigned to you. If you have a more appropriate header image please do email it to with your module code. Please note that images that need to be approximately 800 x 200 pixels and available under creative commons licence.  Alternatively you could send us a photo that you took.

Top Ten Tips for writing module / programme specification documents

Top ten tips

If you are involved in putting in a proposal for a new module or programme or amending an existing module or programme, you will need to write or update your specification documents. Here are some tips to help you along the way. Well written documents may also help profile raise your programme.

1.  There is a purpose for specification documents. They are intended to provide students and lecturers with a transparent outline of a particular module or programme using a structured, common template. If they are kept up to date, they should be a helpful and time-saving device for all.

2.  We use specification documents at two levels: module level – which provide information about individual modules; programme level – which provide information about full programmes. There are occasions in which programme and module specification documents for a programme need to be amended at the same time.

3.  If you are writing or amending one for the first time, why not contact your Learning Development Centre School Liaison Officer. For the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, that’s Patrick Baughan ( Patrick can provide a handbook, examples, advice and help to get your own specification document ready. Help can be offered on a one-to-one basis or as a workshop for larger groups.

4.  If you are writing or changing a specification document, plan ahead. You may need to have your specification document(s) ready for various School and / or University level committees. Try to allow time to write it, get some feedback from your LDC School Liaison Officer, and modify it if necessary.

5.  Make it ‘student facing’. All specification documents now have to be written to the student, as they are primarily intended for the student. Thus, write it to the student in the second person and try to make the document as readable and engaging as possible. As a secondary role, a specification document summarises and sells your module or programme, so writing them well will be beneficial all round.

6.  Keep it up to date. Details including reading lists should be updated regularly. This can be undertaken quickly and easily. Similarly, other changes such as the refinement of an assessment method may mean you need to ‘tweak’ the document.

7.  Understand what the learning outcomes are for.  This is a central part of the document in which you succinctly document: knowledge and understanding; skills; values. A few bullet pointed items under each of these will normally suffice. They capture the key characteristics of your programme or module.

8.  Learning, assessment, feedback: You’ll see from the form that summary explanations are needed about teaching strategies and methods; assessment (how you undertake formative and summative assessment); and feedback. This information is important and valued by students.

9.  Other sections – There are one or two other sections as well, so remember to provide information in response to these. For example, any professional accreditation for the programme and career development opportunities. Don’t leave these blank (as some people have done) as you will be asked to fill them in.

10.  Look at examples: Check out some examples of specifications, ideally in your own school – though it can be helpful to look at examples from other schools too. Again, your School Liaison Officer can provide suggestions.

A Guide to Writing Feedback for Undergraduates: By Academics and Students

Top ten tips

I ran a session at the LDC conference last week called ‘an undergraduate guide to feedback’.  I showed a few of the different ways in which we deliver feedback to students in the School of  Social Sciences.  This included using Wiki’s for continuous feedback, using the quiz tool in moodle to deliver operational feedback to students, and paying PhD students to write a guide to feedback for undergraduates with the purpose of providing students with a clearer idea of what we expect them to do with their feedback, and PhD students a more comprehensive idea of the types of feedback they should be giving undergraduates when they are marking.

I then opened the topic up to the floor for debate, first we discussed the different types of feedback that others were using in their Schools, and this ranged from using video and audio to providing group feedback for assignments.

We also had some students in the audience so I asked them to think of the most useful and productive feedback they had received as students and they came up with the following list of feedback preferences:

  • General points delivered to the entire class before they received their grade
  • Feedback that is delivered electronically as they often have difficulties deciphering handwriting
  • Lessons learned from previous years students
  • The option to discuss feedback with a tutor or module leader specifically in the first year
  • Voice recording (Audio Feedback)

We then moved the session on to try and write a series of tips for academic staff writing feedback for undergraduates.  The audience was made up of Academics, Support Staff and Students who all helped input into the following list of tips/ideas:

  • Consider giving general feedback across the class before grades are released so students engage.
  • Stay away from Jargon and ensure students understand the language you are using i.e. critical discussion
  • Criteria specific – link your feedback to your assessment criteria
  • Don’t hand write – consider electronic feedback (moodle?) or typed cover sheets, students have problems with handwriting.
  • All feedback needs to be appropriate to the type of assessment – one size does not fit all!
  • Suggest solutions, don’t just point out errors!
  • Make sure you let the students know when you are giving feedback – flag it as feedback!
  • Be creative consider audio, peer assessment and other innovative forms of  feedback.

Top Ten Tips for developing MCQs

Top ten tips

Bull and McKenna (1999) describe a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) as a question with a ‘choose from a list’ of options answers. Moodle and Clickers provide opportunities to develop, deliver, mark and feedback on formative exercises for consolidation of knowledge and summative assessments.

We have produced the ten top tips to help you in creating more effective and challenging Multiple Choice Questions.

MCQ Terms

Before we start here is a guide to the terminology used in developing an MCQ.

Stem The text of the question
Key The right answer
Distracter The incorrect answers
Options The list of answers which includes the key and the distracters.

Top Ten Tips

  1. The text of each question (stem) should be presented as a clear statement or question that does not give any clue to the answer. (e.g. do not use ‘an’ at the end of the stem if only one of your options begins with a vowel) (Bull and McKenna, 1999)
  2. The stem should be presented in a positive form. Use negatives sparingly and if you need to use negatives ensure they are highlighted (bold and CAPITALISE) (Bull and McKenna, 1999, UKCLE, 2010)
  3. The incorrect answers (distracters) must be plausible. Implausible distracters can ruin a good question. Higgins and Tatham (2003) use the following example to highlight this point.

Which US state was the third state to accede to the Union in 1787?

  • New Cardy
  • New Woolly
  • New Jersey
  • New Jumper
  1. Avoid the choices “All of the above” and “None of the above” in your options. If you need to use them, make sure that they appear as right answers some of the time. (Bull and McKenna, 1999) Be extra careful of these options if you are randomising answer options with Moodle as these choices may appear on the top of the list and confuse students.
  2. Effective distracters are options that address common misconceptions or are statements which are only partially correct. Don’t confuse students who know the right answer by creating a distracter that is too close to the correct answer. (CAA Centre 2002)
  3. Extend the MCQ to test application of knowledge by creating a scenario which is new to the students that develops over a series of questions. A great example is provided by UKCLE (2010)
  4. Extend the MCQ to test the students’ analysis and application of knowledge through interpretive exercises which begin with a picture; a passage of text or a series of figures that are followed by a series of questions  that test students’ analysis of the data provided.
  5. Extend the MCQ by designing an assertion reason question. This is a “question [which]consists of two statements, an assertion and a reason. The student must first determine whether each statement is true. If both are true, the student must next determine whether the reason correctly explains the assertion. There is one option for each possible outcome.” (CAA Centre, 2002) Assertion reason questions are commonly used in Prince 2 Project Management qualifications and you can view examples of these on PPC’s Prince 2 training website.
  6. Use the Clickers to increase interaction in-class by posing MCQs. Have a look at YouTube video from Professor Eric Mazur, Harvard University on how he uses Clickers to facilitate peer instruction to promote understanding of key concepts.
  7. Online MCQs can help you to provide effective feedback to your students quickly. You can use your feedback as an opportunity to providing links to additional resources to correct student understanding. (UKCLE, 2010).


Bull, C. and McKenna, J (1999) Designing effective objective test questions: an introductory workshop [online] Available from: (Accessed: 17.3.11)

CAA Centre (2002) CAA Centre Website. [online] Available from: (Accessed: 19.4.11)

Higgins, E. and Tatham, L. (2003) Exploring the potential of Multiple-Choice Questions in Assessment [online]Available from:  (Accessed 17.3.11)

PPC (2010) PRINCE2 Assertion-Reasoning Questions. [online] Available from:,com_madblanks/Itemid,516/mbcsr197configid,3/mid,197/task,showmbmod/ (Accessed: 29.3.11)

UCKLE (2010) How can I write effective MCQs? [online] Available from: (accessed: 17.3.11)

Top ten tips for Moodle course design

Top ten tips

Top ten tips

I attended a session on Moodle course design at the MoodleMoot 11 conference. One of the speakers, Michelle Moore, Chief Evangelist for Remote-Learner, gave some excellent dos and don’ts for effective and user-friendly Moodle course design which I have summarised below.

1. Don’t use more than three font styles per page. This includes different font size, colour, style etc. Research has found that it increases the cognitive load for your learners. Ensure you maintain consistency so it’s the message and not the busyness of the page that the learner takes away.

2. Don’t use the course page for content i.e. giving all your course material on the Moodle page using labels etc. Use the course page as a launchpad for links to your course content.

3. Don’t be the one doing all the work! Let students create the glossary, quiz questions etc. Encourage students to participate and collaborate in Moodle, for example by using discussion forums and wikis.

4. Don’t forget the value of the report logs. You can check student usage of Moodle by accessing the reports in the administration block. If you add weblinks to labels in Moodle the activity doesn’t get logged so add links as a resource.

5. Do keep activity names unambiguous and short (also important for Moodle 2 as the breadcrumb trail is more complex).

6. Do use labels to guide students to the activities and resources.

7. Don’t make your course cluttered. You can add line breaks in labels to increase the amount of white space between activities and resources.

8. Do consider simplifying delivery of the material e.g. through using book or lesson.

9. Don’t be afraid to branch out. Pick one new tool and try it out.

10. Do use relevant rss feeds so there is always new content in the module when a student logs in.

If you are a member of Staff from the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences at City University London, please do contact the Education Support Team for guidance and training on any of the above.