Are your Moodle courses taking ages to load?

Jo Norbury

Jo manages a range of e-learning content services including Flexible Learning Toolboxes and the VET Commons online community. Having taught extensively within the TAFE system herself, Jo is all about making life easier for busy, budget-constrained VET professionals. This is a great Moodle tip:

What’s going on with my Moodle course?

Have you noticed that the more content and resources you add to Moodle courses the heavier they become? We have. And this results in slower page response times (time to load when you click) and much longer back-up and restore times, sometimes even timing out? Yep, for us too. Then storing those backups for auditing requirements means larger archiving loads. Urggh.

We also found it hard to use one true source, so that modules only need to be updated in one place but changes translate throughout all courses. If I added a student handbook to multiple courses, for example, when I wanted to update the handbook I needed to know where it was, upload the new version and delete the old one. If I missed one, well I would have multiple sources not just one. (Don’t get me started on how we do that every day with email attachments!)

What we did to fix it…

Moodle is one of the most popular learning platforms worldwide designed to manage digital learning.

It became very clear that we needed to manage our content better. Fortunately, Moodle 2.0 also recognised this need, so along came Alfresco. Alfresco manages the content (what it was created for) and Moodle manages the learner (what it was created for). With this combination you have a pretty neat system. Moodle’s repository API plugin seamlessly helps the two softwares, Alfresco and Moodle, speak to each other.

Alfresco is the leading open source content management platform designed to manage content.

So last year we introduced Alfresco content management into our TrainingVC – an integrated system of tools to support organisations to deliver flexible learning solutions to their clients or staff. The core of TrainingVC is Moodle, integrated with virtual classrooms, ePortfolios, reporting and of course learning content management.

What this means for teachers

The Alfresco/Moodle integration was created so that Moodle editing teachers can easily discover then add content into and out of their organisation’s Alfresco folder in the file picker, without leaving the Moodle user interface. Each organisation has its own intuitive, easy to navigate folder taxonomy, including a consistent set of metadata with as much automatic capturing as possible. All of this supports greater user uptake of content management.

Why we’re singing Alfresco’s praises

Alfresco has been so popular that clients have requested standalone Alfrescos to manage all of their organisation’s content.

With all the content now in Alfresco, we have removed the heavy load from our Moodle courses and we have one true source for our content. This means:

  • version control tracking for audits
  • simple review workflows
  • record and automate moderation and validation of assessments
  • a comfortable folder structure that can also control access by permissions.

It has been so incredibly popular with our clients that many have requested standalone Alfrescos for other areas of their businesses. An Alfresco standalone means even more integration features for your organisation, such as desktop integration, collaborative team sites and content discovery and retrieval. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re thrilled.

Not sure whether Alfresco is the answer for you? Need some questions answered? #askjnorbs on Twitter or send an email.

Why do RTOs struggle with compliance?

Marlene Liontis, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Sarah Phillips is a Senior Educator VET Assessment Specialist at Chisholm Online. She specialises in developing assessments for the online environment and has a background in e-learning that stretches for ten years. If you’re struggling to tick all of the compliance boxes at your registered training organisation (RTO), Sarah’s blog highlights a topic that trips up so many people.

Yes, many RTOs are non-compliant

It is not uncommon for an RTO to be found non-compliant in what was previously Standard 15 of the Standards for NVR RTOs 2012 when experiencing an audit. Standard One now replaces much of what was this standard prior to 2015. In fact from October 2013 to March 2014, 78% of all existing RTOs were found non-compliant in their initial audit for Standard 15 – the elements that underpin quality in training and assessment. This can be an even greater risk when delivering courses online, because RTO staff may believe that near enough is good enough when addressing the components of a unit of competency and training package.

Common non-compliances

Here is a list of common non-compliances when dealing with assessment:

  • over or under assessing
  • failure to fully address the requirements or components of those requirements
  • addressing skills requirements as knowledge
  • incorrect mapping to criteria and required knowledge and skills
  • using language of the unit of competency for assessment
  • unclear instruction given to students
  • open questions that could result in the student not covering the criteria
  • tasks not sufficient to cover the requirements of the unit of competency
  • observable tasks passed off as knowledge or non-observable activities
  • assessments over or under the required AQF level
  • risk of trainer bias
  • failure to address implicit and explicit requirements.

This is a long list, and ensuring all these issues are avoided takes time and good processes to be in place. However, it also takes great attention to detail, and this is often where RTOs are let down by their assessments. This is where it can be important to unpack your unit of competency before you embark on writing your assessments.

Why can it be so hard?

Most training packages require you to assess students within the context of the industry, that is within a simulated environment or within the workplace. This can have huge implications for those RTOs delivering in the online environment. Just because it is inconvenient for your RTO to deliver in a simulated or real workplace, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. The main factors in all of this are the observable skills over time and real-time assessments and knowledge, demonstrated in context and applied.

Getting your evidence right

I have had many RTOs ask me how much evidence is enough? I give the same answer that an auditor would – sufficient. We must comply with the Rules of Evidence and Principles of Assessment when writing our assessments, and fortunately the 2015 standards explicitly explain this to us. However, it is not difficult to identify how much evidence is sufficient if you look into the language of the unit of competency and, in particular, the performance criteria, skills and knowledge. The identification of action words, multiple items and occurrences, plurals and other implicit requirements can help to make sure you write assessments that fully cover the criteria – and provide enough information to the students for them to provide the evidence you require to find them competent in the unit.

Here is an example

Share personal experiences and knowledge with the person being mentored according to agreed objectives.

When deconstructing the literal requirements of these performance criteria, we can identify the active verb (Share), the recipient or participant (person being mentored), the abstract nouns (experience and knowledge) and the condition of demonstration (according to agreed objectives).

This criteria has a number of components that need to be included when writing an appropriate assessment for the student to undertake. It clearly identifies resources required for the student to be able to complete the task, those being access to a ‘person being mentored’ and access to ‘agreed objectives’. To sufficiently cover this criteria, you need to provide a contextual environment for this activity to occur.

How things can go wrong online

Although it may be tempting in an online environment, it is not adequate for an assessment to simply ask:

How would you share personal experiences and knowledge with the person being mentored according to agreed objectives?

Firstly, the student hasn’t actually done the task, and secondly, it has ambiguous components. It can be considered measurable to assess one’s ability to share something with another person according to a set of rules, however the abstract nouns (experience and knowledge) create a facet that is immeasurable within this criteria. What does experience and knowledge actually look like? Therefore the criteria are ambiguous and must be interpreted by the writer to create a benchmark for the student to provide measurable evidence. You also need to make it explicit that the student is required to share both knowledge and experience as one or the other is not enough to fulfil the criteria.

Then how should you do it?

This criteria would be better evidenced through a project where a student is required to engage in a session with a person being mentored. It would also be ideal to group this criteria with others that help to provide context to the situation. You can see that a single performance criterion can hold a large amount of detail to be covered, and attention to detail is necessary to ensure your RTO is found compliant at audit.

Are you watching your language?

Although the standards have changed for those entering RTO land, and they are changing in April 2015 for those already in it, the simple rule of watching your language still and always applies. Indeed watching your language is the most important part of complying with VET legislation and all the supporting documents included within its implementation. Make sure you have good writers (or at least proofreaders) who understand language and can take the time to make sure your application is done right. It will cost you less, both in time and in your RTO registration, to do it right the first time.

Sarah would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Follow her on LinkedIn or Twitter for more advice about everything VET. And if you’re struggling to get your online content compliant eWorks has a team of instructional designers that can help.

Changing your perspective on gamification

Board games

Chris Dunkley is part of the talented team of multimedia designers at eWorks. He is particularly interested in graphic and user experience design. Here, Chris offers advice about the effective use of gamification in e-learning in order to improve the learning experience for students.

Using gamification in learning program design

It’s easy to dismiss gamification as just the latest trendy, marketing buzzword. The term is sometimes associated with the transformation of serious educational content into something which is frivolous. Some gamification techniques can seem like tricks designed to push students through content that is otherwise ineffective, by offering artificial and extrinsic rewards for doing so. It’s easy to argue that these are bad things, but the core ideas that underpin the gamification are good ones. As with any design, gamification must be applied thoughtfully and judiciously to be successful.

Define your success criteria

Success criteria should reward those who engage with the content. A student could, for example, be rewarded for completing a quiz as this demonstrates that he or she has understood the content. A less effective reward would be given for visiting every page in the content, this simply implies that the student has paged through each page of the content and may not have engaged with it at all. When designing your content you need to be clear about the goals you want your students to meet.

Common gamification techniques

Try telling a story with your content. Lending context to actions that the student is required to make can greatly help the student understand why certain actions are required in certain scenarios. Levels and badges can also be used to indicate when a student has achieved something. Levels can be good for showing linear progress through content while badges are best for highlighting individual achievements that may be non-linear.

Gamification should be about learning, not technology

Simply using a high tech solution to a problem doesn’t make it more effective than a low tech solution. Gamification principles can be employed at any level of technology and to any existing e-learning software. Gamification is an approach to design that makes your content more game-like. It’s not about using better technology, or about creating a game that contains learning. It’s about using game elements to improve the learning experience.

Contact eWorks to learn how to apply the principles of gamification to your digital content.

Workplace bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination

Marlene Liontis, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Marlene Liontis, Director of Lion Global HR Pty Ltd, has just joined eWorks’ team of Accredited Consultants. The Consultant Program allows us to work with industry thought leaders to champion our award-winning learning solutions. Below Marlene warns us of the implications of workplace bullying, and tells us how to avoid getting into hot water in the first place.

Let’s not pretend it doesn’t happen

No workplace is immune to workplace bullying, defined as “repeated and persistent negative behaviour, directed at an employee, that creates a risk to workplace health and safety.” [source] As well as having a detrimental effect on productivity and psychological health, it is extremely destructive to organisational culture. It is therefore critical that we do everything we can to minimise it.

Are you aware of the consequences?

Did you know that employers, supervisors and managers can be held legally responsible for acts of bullying against their employees, contractors and agents? This is known as vicarious liability, a legal term to describe being held responsible for the acts of another person.

It’s time to skill up!

Duty of Care Pty Ltd are specialist producers of workplace training programmes on the subjects of workplace bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, internet and email liability prevention. Written and produced by a senior business law specialist, these programmes have been designed to keep you and your organisation out of court and not out of pocket. They are based on overriding fundamental legal principles and can be used in most legal jurisdictions. Dedicated versions for supervisors/managers and employees are also available.

Where can you get your hands on it?

Lion Global HR Pty Ltd are the global master distributors for Duty of Care workplace training programmes ©. Our passion is HR best practice and we have dedicated the last twelve years to making these highly regarded programmes available all over the world. We do this via a network of distributors and agents in the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. We are very excited about joining the incredible team at eWorks and making these programmes available to a new audience.

Ask me today how you and your organisation can minimise workplace bullying and avoid liability.

Remember – Ignorance is no defence, training is!

Interested in becoming an accredited consultant for eWorks? The Accredited Consultant Program provides everything you need to start delivering eWorks’ e-learning solutions. Comprehensive training is provided, together with full eWorks Accredited branding.