Video: Competency based education in Moodle

John CollinsJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based eLearning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Part of his interesting job involves keeping up to date with the latest educational technology advancements.

This seven-minute video blog helps us to understand competency based education in Moodle version 3.1 including:

  • The relationship between the SMS, units of competency and Moodle courses
  • Linear and clustered relationships between units of competency and Moodle course
  • Directly linking assessment activities to specific units of competency.

More on Moodle competencies

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Moodle Competencies for evidence of learning

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Currently she is excited about the inclusion of competencies and learning plans in Moodle 3.1, and ways that this function can be applied to the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

Moodle competencies

For those of you who don’t know already, Moodle 3.1 comes bundled up with competencies and learning plans. This is perfect for the VET sector, where there is such an emphasis on demonstrating skills rather than simply knowledge. If you haven’t started using this feature, now is the time to get started.

What are competencies?

Competencies track what your students have demonstrated that they know or they can do. Instead of simply seeing which courses a student has completed, you can also see which competencies the student demonstrated whilst doing the courses. This is a powerful feature, especially when training students to work in practical fields such as trades.

How do we set up competencies?

Competencies can be set up in Moodle in three, easy steps:

  1. Make sure you already have the scale you require, such as ‘Not Yet Competent’, ‘Competent’. This can be set up by going to Administration> Site administration> Grades> Scales, see Scales.
  2. Set up a framework for a set of competencies – this needs to be done by an administrator in your site. I would suggest that you use a separate framework for each Unit of Competence, and add the year, eg ‘BSB20115 – Cert II in Business 2017’ to the name in case you want to update the framework in the future. This will also help your course creators to find the competencies they need to use. Instructions are available in the manually set up a competency framework video.
  3. Add competencies to this framework. Once again, I’d suggest adding the year to the name, eg ‘BSBWOR204 2017’.

This is a tedious process, and it is suggested that you use the Import competency framework plugin to do this. Instructions to use this plugin are available in the video importing the competency framework. This plugin will be in core Moodle 3.2!

Using competencies

Once the Competencies are set up, you can use them in courses.

  1. Add the appropriate competencies to the course
  2. Apply the appropriate competencies to the activities.

This step will ensure that you can track the competencies that your students have demonstrated by completing courses or activities. Information about doing this is in the applying competencies video.

Further information

Of course assessing competency is a little more complicated than that. Your VET students will need to demonstrate that they can do something more than once, over a time period and so on. To manage this, you may like to restrict access to an activity until the required skill is demonstrated in another activity, then award competency. For example, by completing activities A, B and C, a student demonstrates that they are competent in a competency. The student can’t complete activity C until activities A and B are successfully completed. The student is graded as competent once activity C is successfully completed. Or you may award competency manually. In any case, taking the time to set up competencies correctly, will save you time and effort when tracking whether or not your students are capable of doing what you, and their future employers, need them to be able to do.

Once you have competencies set up, you may like to look at implementing learning plans. More on that in a future blog post, but not until I get back from my imminent holiday to India! See Moodle docs for further information, read my colleague’s blog that introduces competency frameworks, and let me know if you have any queries.

Goodbye Moodle Progress Bar

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TVC training, advanced Moodle training and support desk services. A self-confessed Moodle ‘geek’, Bernadette loves to discover new ways to navigate and make the most of Moodle. Today she shares the exciting new features of The Completion Block, which replaces Moodle’s Progress Bar.

Demise of the Progress Bar block

The Progress Bar block in Moodle is a fabulous way to visually track progress through courses. Learners can see how they are progressing through the course, and teachers can see how their students are progressing. This is important, both as a motivational tool for students and a measure of engagement for teachers. The Progress Bar block has been very popular with most of our clients, so it was with dread that I read of its demise! It won’t be supported after Moodle 3.1. But never fear! There is a perfect replacement, with new and improved features – the Completion Progress block.

The Completion Progress block is maintained by Michael de Raadt – who also maintained the Progress Bar. According to the Moodle Progress Bar page, the Completion Progress block is faster, more efficient, easier to use, and more compatible with additional plugins. So this is good news!

Transition from Progress Bar to Completion Progress

As we transition between the Progress Block and Completion Progress Block, you will need to have both plugins installed for some time. First of all, you will need to install the Completion Progress block from Once it has been installed, it is recommended that you:

  1. go to Administration> Plugins> Blocks> Manage blocks
  2. find the ‘Progress Bar’
  3. click on the ‘Protect instances’ icon
  4. now you can no longer add a ‘Progress Bar’ block, nor delete any that exist
  5. go to your courses that use the Progress Bar, hide existing Progress Bar blocks, and create a Completion Progress block
  6. when all courses have a replacement Completion Progress block, you are ready to uninstall the Progress Bar block. This process is a great opportunity to do some Moodle housekeeping, such as re-evaluating courses that may be too long (should they be split in two?).

How do the Progress Bar and Completion Progress blocks compare?

It is useful to undertake a quick comparison of the two blocks, especially when at first glance they look very similar.

  1. Look and feel

The Progress Bar and Completion Progress blocks look very similar to the teacher as you can see below:

blog_progress_1  blog_progress_2

2. And the overview of students also looks the same:


To the student they look the same:

With both Completion Progress and Progress Bar you can select particular activities OR all activities to be included.

3. You may notice in the student view image that the Progress Bar block has an extra blue bar. This is because by default, if you choose to include all activities, the Progress Bar also includes the ‘Announcements’ as an activity by default.

4. With Completion Progress block, you can set it to include all activities that have completion set. This is a significant improvement.

5. If you add an activity to your course after you set up a Completion Progress, then it is automatically added to the Completion Progress (if you selected ‘all activities with completion settings’). A big time saver.

6. If you add an activity after you set up a Progress Bar, then it is NOT automatically added to the Progress Bar block.

Further information

A couple of extra useful tips for you:

  • As with the Progress Bar, if you go to Administration> Site administration> Plugins> Blocks> Completion Progress, then you can customise some of the settings and the colours that appear on the Completion Progress block.
  • When a student completes an activity, the page needs to be refreshed for the Completion Progress block to show the activity as completed (same as for Progress Bar, but easy to forget).

Our advice?

Change over to the Completion Progress block as soon as possible. It is a superior product, and you don’t want a last minute panic when the Progress Bar Block is no longer maintained. Let us know if you need a hand.

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.