Easy marking with Moodle

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison shares how to make marking easier with Moodle.

Having students submit their work into Moodle has many advantages. Not only does it provide accessible and timely training and assessment, it also evidences the training and assessment requirements for Standard 1 of the Standards for RTOs (2015).  However, marking online in Moodle Gradebook takes a bit of getting used to when compared with marking students’ paper-based assessments, so here are few simple steps to making marking easier in Moodle (try saying that quickly ten times in a row).

1. Start at the designing and planning stage

Ensuring that your assessment requirements in Moodle are set up correctly is the very first step. This will ensure that your students are given the right information, and allow you to provide them with timely and effective feedback.

This starts with setting up the grades in the Moodle activity (eg an Assignment or a Quiz) with the right marking scheme. For example:

  • Quiz activity in Moodle by default only allows you to provide a ‘number’ mark for correct answers. In competency based assessment, the use of numbers to mark a student’s work is not desirable. To ensure students understand these quiz results, it is a good idea to provide a written explanation as part of the introduction of the quiz about how these marks contribute to their overall marks eg: correct marks means they have ‘completed’ the quiz activity correctly. Zero marks means they are yet to complete the activity correctly.
  • When allocating grades to an Assignment activity, ensure that you only provide a Competent/Not yet Competent result on the final assessment activity in Moodle. All other assessment activities, whether they are Learning / Formative activities or Assessment / Summative activities, should only have a Completed/Satisfactory / Not yet Completed/Satisfactory result.

The above may require to you add a customised course scale as Moodle may not have the required grading option for your RTOs grading requirements.

If you have a learning / assessment tasks which does not require an Activity to be added in Moodle eg class presentations, you can add a grade item in the Gradebook to cater for this activity.

2. Set up for easy marking

Gradebook is Moodle’s killer feature as it electronically stores students’ work, results and feedback, making it a lot  easier to:

  • mark students’ work without having to lug around heavy paper-based assessments
  • provide timely feedback to students as notifications are sent to students as soon as work is marked in Moodle, so no more waiting until you see your students to return their work, and
  • find requested information for an NCVER non-financial activity audit. With Moodle this is a breeze compared to trawling through paper-based archives.

However, separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of finding which students’ work needs marking in the Moodle Gradebook can be time consuming if you do not set up Moodle correctly.

Start by ensuring that Moodle provides email notifications to trainers when students have submitted their work. This provides a trigger for the trainer to go into Moodle. Once logged into Moodle, each course on the trainer’s home page should be set to show “You have assignments that need attention”. This notification allows the trainer to go straight to the activities which need marking without having to search through each course and each course activity individually.

Once in the Moodle Gradebook, the trainer should set the filter option at the bottom of the page to “requires grading”. This means that the Gradebook will only show those students’ work which needs to be assessed. Upon assessing a student’s work, the option to mark the next student’s work becomes available, thereby streamlining the marking process.

3. Group the learners together

Moodle also provides for efficiency in the delivery of training and assessment by allowing more than one trainer to use a Moodle course at the same time, without their students interacting with any other students outside of their class using Moodle Groups. This means that course updates only need to happen in one course at any given time.

However, finding your students in among your colleagues’ students can be time consuming, so by creating Moodle Groups, you can filter to only see your students in the Gradebook. This feature will also allow you to get an overall perspective of where your students are at with completing all of the required tasks for the training program.

4. Train the students to submit their work in the correct format

If students submit their work in Moodle using the PDF file format, trainers can then view and comment on this work directly in the Moodle Gradebook. This avoids the need to download files to view, and then having to save them somewhere if comments have been written in them before uploading back into Moodle for the student to receive their results and feedback. Why not remind them of the correct format by customising your Moodle emails.

5. Provide the right feedback

When providing feedback in Moodle Gradebook always ensure you:

  • Add the date on which you provided feedback and your name – Moodle records the date that the last lot of feedback was given but not the dates of any feedback which may have been previously given on any assignment task. Nor does Moodle record which ‘teacher’ has provided the feedback. So, by writing the date and your name you will establish a chronological trail of feedback. This will make validation of assessment and non-financial audit processes a lot simpler.
  • Explain the what and why of the assignment outcome – If students are doing more than one Moodle course or assignment at a time, it can be confusing when they receive multiple feedback notifications from Moodle so writing ‘well done’ as your feedback does not cut it. Always include the following in your feedback so your students (and the auditor) are clear about what the student has done:
    • The assignment/activity name
    • The course / unit name / title
    • The reason why the student has correctly/incorrectly completed the assessment
    • How the student could be successful or improve their work next time (if necessary)
  • Keep a bank of feedback responses – if your Moodle learning and assessment activities are well designed, the evaluation of the evidence is easier to assess because the assessment criteria is clearly stated and easy to follow. This often means that the feedback you provide to students is very similar, so collecting a bank of feedback responses and saving them electronically into Notepad or similar means that you do not need to type the same thing over and over. You can simply copy and paste it into the feedback section of the Moodle Gradebook, and then contextualise the feedback for each student’s work.

6. Maintain good Moodle housekeeping

Moodle is a software program, which means it is susceptible to technical issues as is any other software program. As part of your good Moodle housekeeping you should periodically back-up each course with all of the students’ work in it.  Also, ensure that you download a copy of this Moodle course back-up and store it safely away from where Moodle is housed.

A little less frequently (eg end of year/program), and after doing a backup, you should also ‘reset’ your Moodle course to clear out all students and their work. This will take your Moodle course back to its original pristine format to allow you to start a fresh with new students or for a new year.  You can then restore your backed-up version at any time if you need to.

When in doubt, ask

If you’re not making the most out of educational technology but you’re ready to get started, it’s time to contact the friendly eWorks team.

Facebook groups: A great way to build language and literacy

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison teaches us how you can use Facebook to build student language and literacy skills.

A Facebook group provides a great place to build students’ language and literacy through a blended methodology. This is done by posting information / images / videos and getting students into the Facebook Group where they can interact with it. This model involves class discussions about the topic, which helps students build their understanding, and then having students write replies to posts which allows them to build their language and literacy.

Here are the steps on how to do this.

Getting started

  1. Set up the Facebook group

Set up the Facebook group as an ‘Open Group’ and invite students to be members.  Once all students have joined the group, change the group settings to make it a ‘secret’ group. This way any interactions the student have in the group will not show up on their Facebook timeline or be found by anyone outside of the group.

  1. Lay down the guidelines

Students use Facebook a lot, but that doesn’t mean that they have very good online etiquette (or netiquette). So ensure you have a discussion with your students about what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t when using the Facebook group. Summarise these and put them in the ‘Description’ of the Facebook group as a reminder to everyone.

  1. Make your first post

Now make your first post which introduces you to the group and ask your students to do the same eg Hi – I’m Allison – the Facilitator for the “Deliver a service to customers” training program. I live in Adelaide. Please introduce yourself.

  1. Start the training

Make the next post about training such as finding a video online about your topic. Then add the link to the video and write something appropriate to generate an in class discussion, eg What is customer service? View this video and think about what customer service is.

The students then watch the video individually.  This allows students to replay the video if they need more time to understand the content. Students are encouraged to write their own notes.

Then as a group, discuss the video and the question. Throughout this discussion, write the students’ responses on the whiteboard and have the students type the group’s work as their reply to this post. For those students who are a little more confident with their writing, encourage them to type the summary of responses in their own words.

  1. Rinse and repeat

Now put up the next post while the students are writing their replies to the above post.

As Facebook is quite visual, consider things like:

  • Saving each of your PowerPoint slides as a ‘JPG’ format and uploading each one as an image as individual posts. This way the students will have ongoing access to the course content from their Facebook account
  • Getting the students to find relevant online images and video, then getting them to post these as a reply with an explanation of why they chose the image/video and how it relates to the topic
  • Getting the students to work in groups to brainstorm their ideas/responses on butchers paper and then getting them to take a photo and uploading the photo to the group

You can even upload workbooks or PDF files which students can download.

Consider all of the facts

While Facebook group offers many great features to build students’ language and literacy skills, there are some things you need to consider all of the facts:

Pros Cons
A lot of students are already a Facebook user

Evidence of student learning is in one place

Students can easily edit their posts

Students can access the information as long as they’re a member of the group

The approach allows you to ‘chunk’ up the training

Those students who finish their post quickly can ‘surf’ the net

You cannot make students join Facebook due to privacy reasons

You will need a classroom with internet connected computers and headsets

Students need to remember their Facebook login and password

Students may not feel comfortable about having their work seen by everyone

There are alternatives

If you cannot access Facebook at your organisation or you prefer not to use it, consider Yammer or Edmodo, which are very similar to Facebook, but without the ads, and with more control of content and privacy.

Reach more learners through webinars

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about the delivery of engaging learners, to equip them with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison teaches us how to reach more students through the use of web-based seminars, commonly known as webinars. Think you’ve heard it all? You might just be surprised.

A little about webinars

As internet connectivity improves across Australia, the opportunity to deliver training and assessment via a live web-based environment or a webinar greatly increases.

A webinar is like watching a YouTube video but with the added benefit of having a live presenter or facilitator and other participants that you can interact with. Webinars are delivered through webinar rooms which can have lots of interactive tools, such as:

  • whiteboards – so participants can brainstorm or debate ideas
  • text chat – so participants can simultaneously answer questions or offer information
  • polls and emoticons – so participants can virtually express how they are understanding the session
  • screen sharing – so presenters can share their desktop to give a virtual tour, and
  • web cam – so a presenter can either video stream themselves talking or deliver practical, hands on sessions demonstrating how to do something.

Webinar rooms also allow you to upload presentation slides, and record the session, so if learners miss a session or would like to revisit a session, they can view the recording. This also means that you can instantly create a learning resource which can be shared with others.

How might you use a webinar?

Webinars can be used to purely present information or for group activities, where participants use their own computers to access the training session. Alternatively, webinar rooms can be used in a hybrid approach, where a trainer is delivering the session in a workshop or classroom environment with students, and a few individual students join the session through the webinar room.

Webinar rooms can also be used for assessment such as viewing students in their workplaces through the web cam.  Or, a guest presenter can be beamed into a classroom environment.

Planning a webinar

As you can see webinars offer many great features and opportunities, however they do require careful planning to ensure that it is a successful experience for participants.

Planning starts with ensuring that the trainer is skilled in facilitating a webinar. Facilitating a webinar requires some rethinking about design and delivery of the virtual training to ensure that information delivery and activities are appropriate. It also means that the trainer needs to be given the opportunity to learn how to effectively use the webinar environment and its tools by having some practice sessions. Ideally, it is a good idea to have co-presenters in the first couple of sessions or with large groups, so they can help monitor participant activity or help deal with any issues.

Other planning considerations including scheduling or booking the webinar room just like you would book a classroom, so participants know where to go. Then contacting participants by email or a learning management system to provide them with instructions about the webinar room: such as:

  • having a headset with a microphone, and
  • entering the webinar room prior to the session starting so technical issues can be addressed, and to ensure participants can hear and speak before the session begins.

Lastly, ensure that you have some technical support before, during and after a webinar session to help troubleshoot any issues. This support can be offered through:

  • a link to online help information
  • having someone people can ring if there is a technical issue, and/or
  • providing a separate practice session prior to the beginning of a series of webinars so participants can ensure their webinar works on their computer and also get to know how to use some of the webinar’s features.

Facilitating the webinar

Webinar environments allow a facilitator to be as creative as they like in the delivery of their training. There are a few key things to remember, however, such as hitting the record button at the beginning of a session.

Other must haves include:

  • Welcoming participants with an introduction and a photo of the trainer so participants build a connection with him or her.
  • Explaining to the participants the different features of the webinar environment and how they can interact with them.
  • Incorporating virtual icebreakers so participants start to feel comfortable with their virtual colleagues.
  • Lots of interaction between the trainer and the participants through questions and activities.
  • Having a ‘Plan B’ if for some reason the webinar room is not available or you cannot load your slides or your web cam decides not to work.

Training online offers lots of opportunities for a wide range of students. Being an online student can feel very isolating, however, so always ensure you follow a webinar session by communicating with the participants either through email or your learning management system.  This follow-up communication will allow you to share the link to the session recording, and to ask for feedback about whether participants found the session useful.

And don’t forget your trainers!

Remember that your trainers need to feel confident enough to facilitate their students in an online environment. This means ensuring that they have been adequately trained to deliver via a webinar. But with a little thought and support you will find that webinars can be an effective way to deliver training and easily reach more learners.

Online assessment validation tools and VET

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work, today Allison discusses the role of validating online assessment in ensuring the ongoing quality of the Australian VET sector.

Issuing a vocational education and training (VET) qualification or a statement of attainment for a unit of competency (UoC) or skills set requires the careful assessment of a person’s skills and knowledge. This means the assessment process plays an important role in ensuring the ongoing quality of the Australian VET sector.

To support this, the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 (Standards) (Clauses 1.9-1.11) outlines what a training organisation must do to undertake ongoing, systemic validation of their assessment practices and judgements, also known as assessment validation.

Assessment validation is a two staged process:

  1. Validation of the assessment tools and practices before any assessments are undertaken
  2. Validation of assessment judgements after assessments have taken place and the decision about of a learner’s competency has been provided by the assessor

Stage 1: the validation of the assessment tools and practices

  1. The beginning of a quality assessment process requires the validation of the assessment tools and practices of a unit or cluster of units by ensuring that they meet: Training package requirements – this is done by ensuring that the unit’s assessment tools and practices map to the UoC, and that assessment practices are conducted in accordance with the principles of assessment (Clause 1.8-1).
  2. Industry requirements – this is done through regular industry engagement to ensure that assessment tools and practices align with the current methods, technology, products and performance expected in the workplace.

Online tools and processes to support stage one

Once this has been done, the perfect place to store and manage a unit’s assessment tools and practices is via the learning management system’s (LMS) Grade Book/Centre. The LMS Grade Book/Centre allows students to upload their assessments into one location. This provides an easy and cost-effective way to store and retrieve students’ assessment evidence and grading decisions ready for stage two of the assessment validation process.

Stage 2: the validation of assessment judgements

Following a period of assessment, RTOs need to schedule the validation of their trainer/assessor assessment judgements to ensure they are complying with the rules of evidence (Clause 1.8-2). Clause 1.10 states that each training product must be “validated at least once every five years, with at least 50% of products validated within the first three years of each five year cycle”.

Stage 2 involves:

  • Determining the random sample of assessment evidence and judgements which has been undertaken in the six months prior to the validation process occurring;
  • Having one or more assessors/validators who were not involved in the training or assessment for those units where student assessment evidence and trainer/assessor judgements is being reviewed;
  • Assessors/validators using a checklist to determine whether they ‘agree’ or ‘do not agree’ that:
    • the assessment activity adequately meets the unit of competency requirements; and
    • with the original assessment judgement.
  • Recording reasons why an assessor/validator does not agree with an assessment activity’s adequacy/assessment judgement;
  • Recording and actioning any recommendations for continuous improvement; and
  • Examining the RTO’s whole assessment system to ensure it continues to meet training package and industry requirements (Clause 1.4) ie Stage 1.

Online tools and processes to support stage two

Some great ways to support stage two of the assessment validation process are to:

  • Set up an LMS course which outlines the RTO’s assessment validation polices and processes that validators can refer to before undertaking any assessment validation processes. This LMS course should also have discussion forum so that validators can participate in an online Q&A about assessment validation.
  • Use a webinar room or virtual meeting tool to conduct validation workshops, especially when involving assessors from other RTOs/locations.
  • Create an assessment validation discussion forum in each unit’s LMS course, placed in a hidden/orphaned section so students cannot see it, where assessment validation discussions can be record, such as:
    • how random samples of student assessments were selected
    • which student assessments were selected
    • validation process outcomes
    • recommendations for improvements
    • when/how improvements are made

Posts to the forum are date/time stamped and clearly show the validators involved for future reference and the ongoing continuous improvement process that an RTO has in place.

Assessment validation can be an emotional process

Evaluating someone’s assessment practices and judgements can be a very emotional process, invoking fears of incompetence among trainers and assessors. Being sensitive to the way information is communicated about the quality of people’s assessment judgements is very important.

This process should be viewed as an opportunity to have professional discussions about the continuous improvement of an RTO’s assessment processes, and not used as a finger pointing or brow beating exercise. Recommendations for improvements should be clearly articulated, and all trainers and assessors should be encouraged to be active participants in how these improvements will be implemented.

If you’re not sure whether your assessment practices are adequate, eWorks is happy to help.