Increase student motivation (and reduce cheating) using Mahara

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

eWorks’ Accredited Consultants are training, learning and development specialists. The consultant program allows us to work with industry thought leaders to champion our award-winning learning solutions. It’s time to meet Allison Miller, eWorks’ newest accredited consultant. Read on to find out how to increase student motivation, and why Mahara rocks.

Do online students cheat?

Offering training online means that you can open up your training program to people who live outside your area or are time poor and cannot get to regular classes. Online training can, however, result in some students feeling isolated. It can also increase the risk of cheating, as you do not know your online students in the same way that you understand the strengths and weaknesses of those you teach face-to-face.

What does the research say?

A recent study managed by the New Generation Technologies business activity identified that the best way to reduce cheating is to increase your students’ motivation and interest in their training (Lang 2013 via Morris, 2014). Increasing the intrinsic or ‘what’s in it for me (WIIFM)’ value of online training provides a win-win situation for the online student, through more interaction with other people and a better learning experience as a result.

Here are some strategies to increase intrinsic motivation in your students:

  • Use activities which help you interact with your students so you get to know them better.
  • Use a variety of assessments which are real and applied, and that clearly demonstrate your students’ capabilities.
  • Develop peer activities which allow your students to interact and learn from each other.
  • Incorporate self-assessment activities which enable your students to understand why they are learning something and how they can apply what they have learned to other situations.

What does Mahara have to do with it?

Mahara, as a personal online learning space, provides a great platform to implement and manage these types of strategies:

Motivation strategy How Mahara supports this
Getting to know your students Mahara Profile and Resume features allow students to provide personal information about themselves and their previous achievements. This may also lead to opportunities for recognition of prior learning (RPL).
Applied/real assessment tasks Mahara Pages and Collections (of pages) allow students to present the outputs of their applied/real assessments by displaying images, audio, video, written work etc as an online showcase of their work. Students can use the Plan tool to create an action plan of how they are going to undertake their work. Students can then pick and choose who views these pages/collections through the controlled ‘share’ options within Mahara.
Peer activities Mahara Groups allow students to work together through forums and shared pages. This space can be used to allow online students to thrash out ideas and collaborate on group projects.
Self-assessment Mahara Journal allows students to write a personal journal about their learning journey and record ways they can use their training in other situations.

It’s a win-win!

The value add or intrinsic component of all of this is the final online portfolio of work which your students create in Mahara. They can use this online portfolio to demonstrate what they have learned and what they can actually do to other people. This is very useful when applying for jobs or to get into another course, helping to provide a point of difference for your students in a very busy job and course application market. And there we have it – motivated, successful students and satisfied, happy teachers.

Want to become an accredited consultant for eWorks? The Accredited Consultant Program offers everything a consultant needs to start delivering eWorks’ e-learning solutions. Comprehensive training is provided, together with full ‘eWorks Accredited’ branding.

Design for accessibility first – or else

Francis Kneebone, eWorks Accredited Consultant and accessibility advocate

eWorks’ Accredited Consultants are training, learning and development specialists. The Consultant Program allows us to work with industry thought leaders to champion our award-winning learning solutions. Let’s meet Francis Kneebone, eWorks Accredited Consultant and an accessibility advocate.

Why design for accessibility?

Design for accessibility first. It’s far too important to ignore and too hard to add on later. An accessibility-first approach also makes sense from a design perspective. The best way to make an educational video is to write a script, which can then be used as your plain-text alternative. It is the same when you write text content for a course – it would be bad practice to write your first copy in Authorware; it’s a better idea to make a plain-text version first. So when creating a digital object from scratch, your early output should include:

  • plain text
  • heading hierarchy
  • labelled images
  • transcripts for videos or animations
  • colour schemes and more.

A better experience for everyone

Accessibility in e-learning can sometimes become all about meeting government requirements or ticking off on web standards. It should really be about ensuring a better user experience, for everyone. If you want best practice in accessible e-learning, work with your learner group to go beyond the standard to improve your user experience. This will mean talking to your learners and asking them what could make their experience better. Standards are one measure, but mix this with the feedback from your learners and you’ll be on your way to approaching accessible products. And that means happier users in general.

Find out more

Not convinced? Or maybe you feel as strongly about all of this as I do? Either way, read more on the BlendEd website.

Want to become an accredited consultant for eWorks? The Accredited Consultant Program offers everything a consultant needs to start delivering eWorks’ e-learning solutions. Comprehensive training is provided, together with full ‘eWorks Accredited’ branding.

Thinking outside the box ­- 70:20:10 and sunny days

Kylie McKeon, eWorks Accredited Consultant

eWorks’ Accredited Consultants are training, learning and development specialists that eWorks has selected to champion its learning solutions. These authorised agents have been chosen for their field and industry expertise, and work closely with eWorks to deliver high-quality e-learning solutions across Australia. Meet Accredited Consultant Kylie McKeon – a lover of the outdoors, the 70:20:10 framework, and everything e-learning.

Spring is here….well sort of in Melbourne, but there have certainly been some days when I’ve looked out the window from the training room and thought “If only we could do this training outside!”. How many times have you had that same thought? Or if you’re not a trainer, you may have wanted to take your work outside. With the adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and the implementation of more contemporary e-learning delivery, educators, trainers and students can now do exactly that this Spring and Summer – spend more time outside while still building knowledge and skills.

As an eWorks Accredited Consultant, I’ve recently had the pleasure of discussing with eWorks the better use of tools in blended deliveries. I have also discovered many new and exciting technology advances that have taken place in e-learning. I’m now more excited than ever about working with organisations to help explore and expand their paradigms regarding their training delivery options.

I’m a big believer in the 70:20:10 framework credited to McCall, Lombardo and Eichinger. The application of 70:20:10 in the learning and development arena can help organisations and learning and development professionals to plan improved learning strategies for an organisation by using tools that provide opportunities for more than just the traditional workshop sessions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the 70:20:10 framework and how e-learning and social media can play an important part in the learning and performance solution. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch to ask any queries that you might have, share your ideas, or just to have a chat. If at all possible I’ll be on my mobile device enjoying the sunshine…

Want to become an accredited consultant for eWorks? The Accredited Consultant Program offers everything a consultant needs to start delivering eWorks’ e-learning solutions. Comprehensive training is provided, together with full ‘eWorks Accredited’ branding.

Moodle course best practice, part 2

In the first part of this Moodle course best practice series, the eWorks team offered some simple tips to make your Moodle courses more engaging. Have you implemented them yet? Let us know if you need some help. Now it’s time to consider the usability of your course.

Part 2 – Improving usability

Rule #4: Structure your categories and courses

You can’t build a house without a floor plan. Your Moodle is exactly the same—you need to estimate how big your site will be. The more complicated the structure, the more you need to think about management, maintenance and usability.

Specifying categories and subcategories for your courses is like filing—if you take the time to put your courses in the logical place, they will be easier to find later. And Moodle makes it so easy to do this that there’s no excuse not to:

N.B. If administrators or course creators create a course without specifying the category, the course will automatically be moved to the miscellaneous category. This means that your users will have more difficulty finding the course.

Rule #5: Display enrolled courses after login

Many organisations like to use the Moodle home page for public content such as announcements, news and promotions. This makes sense, but once learners have logged in, the focus is on learning—they should not be interrupted with further messages.

Therefore, at this point it makes sense to only display courses in which the student is enrolled. Showing all of the courses may confuse or distract your learner.

This Moodle front page setting is quick and straightforward, but do let us know if you’re having trouble.

N.B. An exception to this rule might be when all courses are available for the public with guest permission. In this case you might decide to display all courses after login.

Source: Australian Childhood Foundation Online Learning Portal

Rule #6: Choose course format wisely

The best course format for your organisation depends on how you structure your content and activities within the course. Most important is how the trainer runs the course, which will of course be influenced by the learners. Each format is different, both in terms of the design and purpose of use. Trainers should therefore choose the format based upon clear course objectives.

Regardless of the format chosen, the following structure should always be included:

  • Course title
  • Course introduction, providing users with the study scope and how to complete the course.
  • Topics
  • Short introduction about each topic
  • Subtopics, if any
  • Short introduction about each subtopic, if any
  • Activities

Still not sure about course format? You might find the Moodle course formats document useful.

Source: TAFE NSW Riverina Institute: Grid Format

Rule #7: Structure your content

It is important to recognise that a good theme does not always produce good looking courses that are user friendly and easy to follow. If the theme were used to design each individual course on a site, it would quickly become bloated and unmaintainable. This is why most themes provide only basic formatting styles for course content, like text colour, heading sizes, and so on.

Unfortunately, Moodle doesn’t provide much option to create advanced styling for courses. The typical solution is to use inline styles inside the HTML editor (TinyMCE) of each course.

However, even though this technique might be very tempting, we recommend that course creators do not use it. Why? Because it can quickly result in inconsistencies across and within courses, and therefore reduce the level of usability of the whole site. This is especially true in organisations with many course creators, as it is neither practical nor effective to force all of them to use the exact same styles.

An example of inconsistent course content.
Source: Illustration for demonstration purpose only.

Source: Moodle’s HTML editor, TinyMCE

eWorks therefore recommends that course creators use the HTML editor only to structure the content rather than design it. This means using HTML tags semantically: <h1> for course title, <h2> for topic title, <h3> for subtopic, <p> for body text in paragraph, <ul> and <li> for unordered lists, and so on.

The design should be left to a specific person or team, who will take care of maintaining consistency, usability and accessibility across the site. If you have an in-house web designer or developer, then look no further! Otherwise, we’re always here to help.

Source: TAFE NSW Riverina Institute course template

That’s it for now from the eWorks team. We hope you have found our Moodle golden rules useful. By now you should be able to easily improve your Moodle courses in at least a couple of ways. Keep in touch with us on Twitter and LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter.