Reflections on MoodleMootUK 11

Photo from MoodleMootUK11

MoodleMootUK11

I attended MoodleMoot this year and last year and would recommend it to all those working with Moodle or considering moving to Moodle. It attracts people from different sectors including schools, FE, HE, business, charities, police, public sector etc. It is a great place to network and find out about new innovations.

What I enjoyed this year was:

  •  the knowledge cafe section. On the second day we were split into groups based on our first name and we discussed different topics in our groups. Some colleagues of mine didn’t find this a very useful session but I met some interesting people from different sectors and was able to get a good understanding of their issues with Moodle (although we set our agenda and didn’t merely talk about the designated topics which probably helped).
  •  It’s always good to hear from Martin Dougiamas (via Skype this year)
  • Thought-provoking sessions. I did manage to pick some good ones which was helpful!
  • The MoodleMoot app was very handy (although the programme was a little small). I think it was worthwhile and I would recommend that it was used each year
  • The twitter stream was very interesting and I would encourage more people to tweet during the conference

My suggested improvements for next year

I have already completed my feedback form including these suggestions

Knowledge cafe sessions

The Knowledge cafe sessions should be on the first day and should be streamed more effectively. It would be useful to talk to people in the same boat e.g. those that are considering moving to Moodle, those that currently have Moodle 1.9 and are evaluating Moodle 2, different sectors etc. Having these sessions on the first day would allow people to continue to network and discuss during the breaks.

One keynote per day

One of the grumbles on twitter was that there were two keynotes per day and, with the exception of Martin Dougiamas, three of them didn’t talk about Moodle at all. As it is a Moodle conference I think the focus should be on Moodle. If there was one keynote per day it would allow for two extra workshop or discussion sessions which I would have found more valuable. I must say though that, on the whole, I did enjoy the keynotes and Sugata Mitra was a highlight last year.

Abstracts

The abstracts for the sessions were not available to look at before the conference. This would have been helpful as I went to one session on a tool and it turned out that I had used it more than the presenter! This was a waste of my time but I could have found this out if I’d had time to look at the abstract.

Streamed workshops

One of the workshop sessions that I attended had two very different topics. I think it would be helpful to have streams e.g. sector based, innovations/tools etc. This would help when choosing which sessions to attend and would stop the need to sneak out of one room and into another in order to see the talks that you want.

MoodleMoot app

The app was very useful and I hope that it is developed for next year. I would prefer the programme to launch in a full screen as it was hard to read all the text without a lot of scrolling. It would also be very handy to have the abstracts and room numbers updated.

On the whole, I am glad that I attended MoodleMoot. I look forward to attending next year, perhaps somewhere other than London!

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.

esthelp@city.ac.uk

Moodlemoot – two cases studies of using Moodle for Music education

I am attending the two day MoodleMoot 11 conference in London. This is an annual conference for those that are using/considering using the open source virtual learning environment Moodle.

There was a lot of choice in the sessions but I eventually chose to attend a session with two speakers, both from different Music schools. As a Learning Technologist that works with a Music department I was interested to see these examples of using Moodle in this specialist area.

Case study one – Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Dr Helena Gaunt talked about the introduction of Moodle at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Moodle was introduced in 2006 with Mahara being added more recently.  Initially, two members of staff in Music Studies (a supporting study rather than key course) took Moodle on. A very small piece of research with a tutorial group of eight students.

The feedback was:
– the students felt they had the IT skills they needed to use Moodle
– the students valued having the chance to review learning materials and learn at their own pace
– many students had English as a second language and valued the extra flexibility that Moodle gave
– however, they didn’t feel their use of Moodle enhanced collaboration with peers

Helena talked candidly about the problems with the culture of the type of teaching that happens at Guildhall and how technology was not a part of that culture. When they tried to bring in the use of Moodle for a new module for first year undergraduates in performance studies they ran into some problems. There was some basic staff training but problems with logging onto the system and firewall issues when accessing Moodle from home meant that staff switched off and didn’t use Moodle consistently.
Helena discussed some of the issues of using Moodle at the Guildhall in the question and answer session. She feels that she can see the benefits of its use, as the small scale tutorial pilot showed. It appeared, through the questioning session at the end, that there isn’t a lot of staff support available. One member of the audience recommended that Helena follow up more on the use of Mahara as, in his experience, it was user-friendly and engaged staff and students.

Case study two – Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Northern College of Music

Peter Stacey e-learning coordinator from Royal Northern College of Music spoke about their planned move to Moodle 2. Peter took up his post in January 2011 so has not been with the College for very long. His role appears to have been created to bring in a virtual learning environment as they do not currently have one. He said that the current intranet is very slow and unusable which means that anything will be better! Peter himself came into post from an institution that had Blackboard but, after evaluation of a few virtual learning enviroments, the decision was made to go to Moodle instead of Blackboard. It was then decided to go to Moodle 2.0 as it wasn’t a good idea to move to 1.9. However, Peter is aware that there are less plugins currently developed for Moodle 2.0 and that it is untested in production.
Peter’s aim is to make Moodle the main hub for information, materials and communications and as such he is trying to structure it in the same way the college works. In the future looking to use Mahara and get video streaming server as the nature of the subject means there are a lot of recordings which are currently put onto DVD and left in the library. Students currently often use facebook to organise events but many don’t like to have university and private life in this social networking space so he envisages Moodle or Mahara being used for this.

My thoughts

It was interesting to see two Music Colleges with their own issues of implementing Moodle. They are issues that many smaller institutions have; implementing a new system does necessitate a culture change and that does not happen quickly. Both institutions were at an earlier stage of virtual learning environment implementation than City University London.

The issue of the subject matter and Moodle needs wasn’t really addressed which was a shame as I am interested in how this specialist area can utilise Moodle. The video streaming issue was brought up and this is something that we have also been looking at at City University London.