Moodle’s killer feature? The Gradebook

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

By now you will know that Allison Miller is a big fan of Moodle. She has already shown us how to reduce cheating, demonstrate professional currency, take advantage of forums, and even consider a Mahoodle. Now we learn what makes Moodle’s Gradebook so special, and why it is such a shame that so few users are taking advantage of all that it offers.

Moodle supports active learning

Moodle is an acronym which stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. In layman’s terms, this means that Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) which allows you to create online courses where learners actively interact with one another and collaborate to construct a course’s content through active research.

But how many Moodle courses are designed this way?

In Allison’s experience, however, a lot of Moodle courses have been designed as content repositories (aka places to publish teacher-directed content) where the majority of learner interactivity is driven by poorly designed online quizzes. These courses seriously under-utilise many of Moodle’s key learning features. Developed on the philosophy of constructivist and social constructionist approach to education, Moodle is designed to make online learning active and not just set and forget. This design mantra has driven the development of a multitude of activity options in Moodle, such as: journals, discussion forums, lessons/workshops, wikis, glossaries and databases. And it’s Moodle’s Gradebook which acts as the glue that sticks all of this active learning together.

How does it work?

Visually, Moodle’s Gradebook replicates your traditional Gradebook or marks book, where you list all of your learner’s names down the left hand side, and then along the top of the page you list all of the activities that will be undertaken and/or assessed. The matrix in the middle is then populated by your learners’ results. However, unlike a traditional marks book, as soon as you mark your learners’ work and provide them with feedback, this information is automatically populated into the Moodle Gradebook.

What makes the Gradebook so special?

  • Flexibility

Results can be assigned as a mark (eg out of 100) or a scale (eg resubmit, pass, fail). You can also use a marking rubric or include offline assignments. This allows you to provide feedback to your learners in Moodle for offline assignments and include these scores in the learner’s final result. You can even set different grade categories which will weight your learners’ marks accordingly. Results can also be manually edited or updated, if required. If more than one teacher is using the same course, learners can be assigned to a group so the teacher only sees the Gradebook for their learners.

  • Scheduling learning and assessment activities

The activities linked into the Gradebook allow you to schedule when your learners are working on which activity. Conditional settings such as ‘days available’ and ‘restrict access’ allow you to schedule what activities need to be completed by when. This helps your learners focus on the task at hand and provides the motivation to stay on track. It also helps them with their time management to meet key deadlines as Moodle locks them out of activities if they miss the due date.

  • Using the data in so many ways

Final Gradebook results can then be downloaded into a spreadsheet which can be uploaded into a student management system (SMS) or manipulated into graphs for other reporting purposes. The final Gradebook also contains all of the learning and assessment activities, together with the learner’s actual assessment pieces, ready to demonstrate learner’s educational interaction and competency. This means you have an effective way of meeting your learner assessment retention requirements.

What about the learners?

The Moodle Gradebook also gives learners more control over their learning as each learner can access their slice of the Gradebook. It will send automatic email notifications to learners when their work has been marked. This allows learners to receive timely feedback and information, leading them in the right direction for their next lot of learning and/or helping them to monitor any outstanding work.

Allison Miller is an important member of a team of Accredited Consultants at 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.

Contact Allison if you have any comments or queries about this article, Moodle or digital learning in general.

Using Moodle forums for blended training

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Allison Miller is the director of Vanguard Visions and an important member of a team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks. Allison is passionate about interactive learning and knows how to use the latest technology to make it happen. Here you will learn how to use Moodle forums in a variety of ways to support training both on and off campus.

Does less campus time mean less training?

Paul is a building and construction teacher. Paul needs to change his current training program because he has been given less time to run his block training sessions on campus. He would like to do this by extending his training with his apprentice learners between their block training sessions. He has recently discovered Moodle, but that’s just for storing course content, right? How is that going to help his learners do some of their training when they’re not on campus?

Introducing Moodle forums (yes plural!)

If you haven’t introduced Moodle forums into your blended learning strategy it’s time to join the revolution. Moodle forums offer so many options to make training relevant and interesting, and you can tailor interactions to the nature and stage of your courses.

  1. Getting to know each other forums

Starting a Moodle course with an icebreaker is generally a good idea. The ‘Two trues and a lie’ icebreaker asks learners to share three things about themselves, two of them true and one of them a lie (or a fib). Learners then guess which piece of information is a lie. A good way to kick-start this forum is for the facilitator to share two truths and a lie. This activity can be done before learners come to their first class or during class, to help them get used to using the forum space with the facilitator’s guidance.

  1. Question and answer forums

Q&A forums act like the physical classroom whereby one learner asks a question and the teacher responds so that everyone else in the room knows the answer. This type of forum means that teachers only need to respond to similar questions once via the forum rather than repetitively responding to the same questions via email or telephone. It also encourages a learner community, allowing learners to offer answers and support each other. This both encourages learners to get to know one another and reduces the teacher’s workload.

  1. Group sharing forums

Group sharing forums mean that learners can access ubiquitous information through the internet and share it so that teachers don’t need to give all of the content to learners individually. But this isn’t just about saving time for teachers – the best way for learners to retain information is by teaching someone else. By asking each learner to research a topic or theme and share it via a forum post for other learners to read and comment upon, learners will understand the content more thoroughly. Learners also generally put more effort into writing when it is published to the whole group rather than written for the facilitator’s eyes only, so the quality of learner output also improves.

  1. Debate forums

In debate forums each learner is given a topic related to the course and then asked to post information on either the ‘for’ or ‘against’ of that topic. Learners need to ensure that they don’t use the same information as other learners, encouraging them to read and learn from other people’s posts before submitting theirs. Once all ‘for’ or ‘against’ posts have been made, learners then need to give a rebuttal or reply to at least two or three other learners’ posts who took the opposing side of the debate. For a final post, learners are then asked to sum up why they felt their side won the argument. There is nothing quite like arguing a case to learn the ins and outs of a topic.

  1. Reflective forums

Getting learners to really think about how their training is impacting them can help them to understand the relevance of what they are learning back in the workplace. Reflective forums ask learners to share a situation in which they have been involved. For example, learners could share how their workplace health and safety procedures could be improved or changed, and how these changes would impact upon them as individuals and also the people in their workplace. Asking learners to read over the posts of their peers and respond as to how fellow learners’ suggestions could improve their own workplaces will reinforce the learning

  1. Peer review forums

Having work critiqued by managers and customers is part of most jobs. A peer review forum, where learners post work for review and critique by their fellow learners, is a great way for learners to develop these skills – and to get used to being reviewed themselves. A teacher or facilitator will make this process efficient and effective by providing clear criteria according to which the work of their peers is judged. Learning to respond to criteria is yet another skill applicable to the workplace, as well as applying for jobs in the first place!

Keeping it nice

We have all seen online forums move off topic, and even get personal and rude at times, so it is important that facilitators establish clear expectations about how learners Moodle forums. Fortunately this isn’t difficult. Simply provide your learners with information about online etiquette or ‘netiquette’ during a training session, then use a forum to ask learners to share what they should and shouldn’t do on these forums – plus the likely consequences if learners don’t toe the line. This activity could be undertaken in class so that learners learn how to use the Moodle forum function, and so that the facilitator can moderate initial activity to ensure that it meets good netiquette.

Want to spread the word?

Here is a nice little summary which will help you explain how useful Moodle forums can be to your colleagues or the powers that be.

Forum Ideas Learner Activities
Getting to know each other forums Learners participate in ice breaker activities to learn more about each other.
Question and answer forums Learners are encouraged to ask questions about their course or their work.
Group sharing forums Learners need to research and post information on a topic related to the course.
Debate forums Learners present the fors or againsts on a particular topic related to the course, and reply to their counterparts’ posts.
Reflective forums Learners share how an activity can be improved in their course or their workplace and how it can impact them and others.
Peer review forums Learners post their work for critique and feedback from their fellow learners.

Are you making the most of your Moodle forums? Contact eWorks to find out.

Some great advice for RTOs – your learners need clarity!

John Collins

John Collins is passionate about cloud-based e-learning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. He also believes in keeping the learner experience front and centre when designing a digital learning strategy. How? Read on…

Learners come first

We all know that Australian education and training organisations are continuing to evolve their services to incorporate online and blended course delivery modes. This shift to a digitally-enhanced service has the potential to transform the businesses by delivering:

  • efficiency gains
  • increased profits
  • growth opportunities.

It’s important to remember, however, that consideration of the student learning experience should always be at the forefront of decision-making processes.

A considered approach

In planning your digital evolution, it is crucial that you consider:

  • how to balance online and face-to-face learning
  • the effect of a blended approach on students and staff
  • how your online courses will be designed (including assessment and learning activities)
  • how resources will be delivered and managed.

Standards for RTOs

Adherence to a client-centric approach to learning and system design is not only good business practice, it is in fact enshrined in the new Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) 2015. Standard 5 (of 8 standards) is explicit in its purpose, “that each learner is properly informed and protected”. This standard defines the RTO’s responsibility to provide the prospective learner with clear information about:

  • where the training will be undertaken
  • where assessments will be undertaken
  • how long the training and assessments will take
  • the delivery mode/s involved.

This is especially important where new learners are trying to navigate their way through their online courses for the first time. With this in mind, and as the manager of an Australian cloud-based LMS, it has been really encouraging to watch the rapid uptake across our client base of a new version of a Moodle plugin – the Moodle progress bar. The plugin has been designed to specifically support learners to manage their learning activities and course assessments.

The Moodle progress bar

The Moodle progress bar was originally developed by Michael de Raadt, a development manager at Moodle HQ. Although this plugin has been available for a few years, the latest version is changing the way many clients are setting up their Moodle sites. We are seeing a strong shift towards using the My Home page as the default LMS landing page.

The My Home page is a personalised and customisable Moodle landing page for providing learners with links and information on their enrolled courses and activities. By adding the progress bar for each enrolled course, the My Home page is transformed into a personal, visual dashboard. The logged-in users can view required activities and assessments at a glance, across all of the enrolled units or subjects in a qualification.

Not just for learners

Overview of students with progress bars

Each course’s progress bar is colour coded so learners can quickly see what they have and have not completed/viewed. The teacher selects which pre-existing activities/resources are to be included in the progress bar and when they should be completed/viewed. Ordering can be done by times/deadlines or by the ordering of activities in the course. There is also an overview page, which allows teachers to see the progress of all students in a class and is helpful for finding students at risk. Furthermore, a course designer can authenticate as a learner to the My Home page to gain a holistic view of all required assessments in a qualification. This can be quite a revealing experience and may even prompt a change in the assessment strategy across the qualification.

How do you activate your progress bar?

Easy! Simply contact eWorks.