Visually track your learners’ progress

bernadette-parry-headshotBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TrainingVC training, advanced Moodle training and support desk services. Have you ever thought about using Moodle’s Progress Bar block to keep an eye on how your learners are progressing through their courses? Bernadette tells us how to do it.

Are your students engaged?

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.

This is what a teacher sees

Overall view

  • When the teachers click on Overview of students in the Progress Bar block

  • They will see a visual overview of what the learners have completed.
  • The teacher can also select particular learners and send them a personal message to let them know they need to do some work, or congratulate them on how much they have completed.

This is what a learner sees

Learners will see the activities they need to complete in the Progress Bar block. As they move the mouse over the coloured blocks, they will see what each block represents. Learners only sees their own information. Clicking on the coloured boxes will take the learner to the activity.

On the My home page, learners will see all progress bars for any courses they are enrolled in. The course name will appear above the appropriate progress bar. By clicking on any of the coloured boxes, the learner will be taken straight to the activity.

Setting up your progress bar

1. Set up completion for your activities and resources (show completion settings)

Make sure that any activities or resources you want to track have completion settings set.

Example for a Chat activity

2. Add a progress bar to the course

  • In the course, turn on editing
  • Add a block> Progress Bar
  • Click on ‘Select Activities/resources’ in the Progress Bar block
  • Select all the activities that you want the users to monitor (usually all assessed items).
  • Choose ‘yes’ and the ‘action’.
  • Save

You will see a visual representation of the activities completed. The completed ones are usually green, and incomplete are purple. The teacher can see an overview of all student progress by clicking on ‘Overview of students’.

3. Add the Progress Bar block to My Home

As an administrator in your site:

  • Go to Administration> Site administration> Appearances> Default My home page
  • Click on Blocks editing on so you can edit this page
  • Add the Progress Bar block
  • Ignore the message ‘No activities or resources are being monitored. Use config to set up monitoring.’ The learners will see their own activities if there are progress bars set up in any course they are enrolled in.

Test this by logging on as a student and teacher and checking their My home page. For this to display correctly, you need at least one course that your students are enrolled in to have a Progress Bar correctly set up.

4. (Optional) when users log in, send them straight to the My home page

As an administrator in your site:

  • Go to Administration> Site administration> Appearance> Navigation.
  • Set the first setting Default home page for users to My home.

Note that in this example there is no progress bar block in the course Bernadette Testing.

All good to go!

It’s time to start monitoring your learners, making it as easy as possible for them to succeed in their studies. Let us know if you need a hand.

7 days of Moodle tasks: Be ready for the new year

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Here Allison encourages us to consider what we should be doing to ensure that our Moodle courses are ready for 2016. Don’t worry, just one task per day for seven days and you will be set!

A smooth transition into 2016

When I was a child, there were a number of activities that my family always did to prepare for the end of year celebrations. Decorating the tree, hanging up stockings, being nice rather than naughty, and so on. Similarly, as an adult, there are things that I need to get done in my workplace before going on leave. Right about now I’m sure you know the feeling! These activities include cleaning and clearing up so that I am ready for the new year, and this tidying applies to my Moodle courses as much as anything else. Follow these seven days of Moodle tasks to ensure that you’re ready for the new year:

On the first day of Moodle tasks: Request and review student feedback through Moodle Survey

Every cohort of students is unique and different, so it is always important to ask for feedback from your students about their learning experience. Moodle Survey has a number of surveys that you can use to evaluate your students’ learning experiences and to help you reflect on whether the course design or your training and assessment approach could do with any further tweaking.

On the second day of Moodle tasks: Remind students to keep copies of their Moodle work

One thing I learned very quickly about being an online student was that once the subject finished the online course closed, preventing me from accessing my work in the future. This included posts to discussion forums, in wikis and glossaries and so on. To ensure I had access to my work after the course closed, I would copy and paste it into a Word document and save it somewhere safe. So, why not give your students the gift of this wisdom by encouraging them to do the same. You can share this wisdom through a post in the Moodle ‘News’ discussion forum as everyone receives these posts.

On the third day of Moodle tasks: Send students an end-of-year greeting through Moodle Messaging

All students like to feel that they are important to their teacher. This is especially important for online students, who might not have met their online teachers and tutors face-to-face. Take a little time to send your students a Christmas or end-of-year greeting through Moodle Messages. Sending this message makes it more personalised, as each student receives an email message from you. You can easily send all of your students a message through the Moodle ‘Participants’ block, but try to be creative in your approach. As Moodle Messages does not have a WYSIWYG editor, source some text art such as this image below, and copy and paste it into Moodle Messages, along with your Christmas greeting.

ascii star

Credit: ASCII Text Art

On the fourth day of Moodle tasks: Back up your Moodle courses

It is good practice to regularly back up your Moodle course, even if your organisation does a system-wide nightly back-up. This is because your organisation is very unlikely to roll back the whole system back up if something minor has gone wrong in your course. Backing up your Moodle course takes less than 30 seconds, and you should always download the backed up file and save it to another location outside of your Moodle course.

On the fifth day of Moodle tasks: Reset your Moodle courses

Resetting your Moodle course means restoring it back to its original format before any students start working in the course. The end of the year is a good time to reset your Moodle course so that you start 2016 with a clean slate. You can always access your 2015 students’ work by restoring the backup you did on the fourth day of Moodle tasks, so always ensure you do a back-up before doing the reset. Like the back-up, this process is quick and easy.

On the sixth day of Moodle tasks: Ensure your Moodle course is up to date

Content can quickly go out of date due to legislative, regulatory and industry changes and updates. Links to external websites or to internally housed documents can easily become broken links. Staff details and contact information can also change. Spend a little time reviewing your Moodle course content, links and staff profiles to ensure they are up to date.

On the seventh day of Moodle tasks: Make a Moodle course maintenance wish list

Like content, technology changes rapidly. With the release of Windows 10, any Articulate Storyline 1 embedded files in your Moodle course are now not able to be viewed. Similarly Adobe Flash, which previously allowed interactive content to be developed, is no longer supported by Adobe and has never been viewable on an Apple iOS device. Interactive content should be developed using HTML5. So on the seventh day of Moodle tasks, make a wish list of technical improvements for your Moodle course and log a job with your ICT support so your 2016 students have a seamless user experience in your Moodle course when they start in the new year.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

Now that you have completed your seven days of Moodle tasks you are ready for a well-earned break. Have a safe, restorative and fun holiday season, knowing that you are organised and ready to go in 2016.

Improve your Moodle user experience

Jeanette Swain, eWorks ConsultantJeanette has worked in education and training for over 20 years as an environmental educator, e-learning leader and in quality and compliance. She is also a member of the talented team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks. In Jeanette’s first blog post she offered advice about how to take an e-learning check-up. Now Jeanette focuses on your learners, and considers how Moodle’s functions can ensure a positive experience for them.

What is user experience?

In my last Blog I talked about the user experience and asked the questions:

  • How consistent are your courses?
  • When trainers are course developers there are countless approaches to course development. Does this confuse your learners?
  • What are the organisational strategies you can use to ensure consistency of user experience?

So what is user experience? Wikipedia defines user experience or UX as involving a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. User experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership.

What does user experience look like at your organisation?

How do we begin designing the online learning experience with the end user, our learners, in mind? What functions does Moodle have to ensure a positive user experience?.

I have based the following Moodle User Experience Hierarchy of needs upon Maslow, Growth engineering and also Stephen Anderson’s user experience hierarchies of needs. I have tampered a little to get my point across but let’s explore the particular attributes of each:

moodle user experience hierarchy of needs

Moodle’s User Experience Hierarchy of Needs

1. Functionality – it does what it is supposed to do.

There are two aspects to this. The first one involves the service and the other the design.

  • Firstly, Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) that provides learning content to students. Yes it does that job and does it well at a system level, and eWorks ensures that the system runs well and without bugs.
  • Secondly, when it comes to course design various approaches can be used and this has an impact on the user experience. Complex courses using hidden and orphaned activities can render a Moodle course non-functional! If a link to an activity is hidden in a Moodle page or a Moodle book and the learner cannot find it again without searching madly, is that functional?

2. Reliable – it is stable and there when I need it.

This brings to mind several aspects of organisational practice:

  • Locating the link to the learning management system (LMS) on the organisation’s website. Is this different on site versus offsite?
  • Have you utilised the Moodle mobile? Can learners access what they want, where and how they want to?
  • How easy is the password reset? If you are using a single sign on system are the students aware of this?
  • Are all assessments and important course materials available to your learners?

3. Useable – it is intuitive and I can use it.

What type of material do you give your learners to assist them in using the system?

  • If each course is designed in a different way, then each course will require individual help guides or leave the learner in the lurch.
  • Can instructional materials be produced once for all courses, therefore saving time and money? Plus, your learners will not need to re-learn how to use the next course based upon trainer design.

Poor course design can take away the useability of Moodle. For example, if you think about visiting an online shopping website, there will be a call to action such as add to cart or checkout. Moodle activities such as assignments or forums or quizzes are quite obvious calls to action for a learner; they know they need to do something. Think about how you utilise these in your course. Adding blocks such as the activities block to a course can assist learners in locating and prioritising these activities across the course duration.

4. Pleasurable – it doesn’t detract from my learning.

Lack of consistency in course design can cause learners to be distracted. Good practice examples include:

  • Ensuring course documents are named the same name and not added in multiple places.
  • The use of consistent fonts, headings, layout, and colours.
  • Using white space – rather than cramming text into a page.
  • Using conditional release for activities and learning content, to ensure that the learning follows a structured pathway.

5. Personal – I feel like I am learning with friends.

This is part of course design and embraces connectivism as a learning theory or pedagogical view. How can learners have fun and learn from each other? Moodle gives you the tools to make learning a more personalised experience.

  • Moodle profile. Does each student add a profile picture? Can this be integrated with the student card process when users are created?
  • Messaging. Are learners encouraged to contact each other?
  • Have you added a participant’s block to the course to show when other learners are online? Adding the block with chat as activity to the course can encourage learners to seek answers to others and add to a sense of community.
  • Workshop. The workshop activity enables learners to review and peer assess the work of others.
  • Databases. Consider a bank of learner material curated by learners for learners. 

The moral of the story?

Let the tool do the work. Put your creativity into how you use the tools from an educational perspective. A consistent user experience for learners will make learning more pleasurable and personal and allow them to concentrate on the learning. An easy way to get a consistent look and feel is to invest in a more design focused theme at an organisational level and a consistent minimum standard for all courses. Contact Jeanette to focus on user experience as part of your eLearning check-up.

The latest in live online classrooms

Big Blue Button Logo

Bronwyn Lapham is a senior technical officer at eWorks. In this role she lives a double life, working within the E-standards for Training activity on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, and also managing the TVC learning delivery platform helpdesk. BigBlueButton (BBB), which provides the classroom features and tools in eWorks’ TrainingVC, has been upgraded to version 0.91. This means that all TVC clients benefit from a range of new features – here Bronwyn tells us all about it.

Yes! The rumours are true

BigBlueButton has upgraded to version 0.91 and this version has been implemented on all TVC sites. BigBlueButton (BBB) is an open-source online classroom package that we have been working with for years. If you’re not quite up to speed with this package you might like to take a look at our top tips for using BigBlueButton. The upgrade means fantastic new features, especially the nifty little start/stop button for recording sessions.

Start/stop button for recording

Instructors can now mark segments of the recorded session for later publishing using a new start/stop recording button in the toolbar. After the session is over, the BigBlueButton server extracts the marked segments for publishing the recording. This means you can create concise, targeted recordings for distribution. Please note that recording needs to be started specifically, it doesn’t happen automatically.

blue buttonsCredits: Buttons by kaboompics

Audio check

To ensure that users have a functioning microphone when joining a session, BigBlueButton now provides a microphone check for users before they join the session. By encouraging your learners to perform an audio check prior to a session you can get sessions started on time and reduce the faff!

Listen only audio

To quickly join the conference as a listener only (no microphone check), BigBlueButton offers a listen only mode. We’ve all been in that situation when we want to quietly creep into a session.

WebRTC Audio

BigBlueButton now uses web real-time communications (WebRTC) audio for users of Firefox and Chrome, giving them better quality audio. And audio quality can dictate whether or not a learner stays until the end of an online class. Please note that Safari and Internet Explorer will continue to use Flash for audio unless WebRTC plugins are installed. For WebRTC, additional UDP ports need to be opened if there is a firewall in the way. The complete port list is TCP 80, 443, 7443, 9123, and 1935 and UDP 16384-32767. Proxy servers will also prevent web real-time communications audio.

Getting up to speed with BigBlueButton

If you’re not quite sure what BigBlueButton offers, or whether or not it is included as part of your Moodle, simply get in touch with eWorks. And for more information about TVC? Likewise.