Understanding student activity in Moodle
By Steve Rowett, on 7 August 2020
The reduction of on-campus teaching and students studying remotely provides a greater emphasis on understanding how they are engaging with the learning activities within their course.
Moodle does provide some tools for this, and anecdotally they are less well known than they might be. The tools range from a quick check on whether students are accessing a particular course, to a much more detailed view of who has completed which activities within a course. They provide a window into how students are doing but of course are only crude proxies for engagement and learning, and should also be supplemented by other information to understand and support our students as best we can.
Here’s a quick guide to three options based on questions you might want to ask.
When did students last access this course?
You can get a quick report of the last time each of your students accessed your Moodle course. This is particularly useful at the start of term for highlighting students who have never accessed your course and might be having access difficulties and need further support.
To view this report, go to Course Administration -> Users -> Enrolled Users. The Last Access to Course header of this table is clickable so you can sort by this field (clicking once will show those students who have never accessed this course, or have not accessed this course for the longest times, at the top of the table.
Who has or has not viewed or participated in a given activity?
To understand engagement on a specific activity, use Course Participation reports. Find these at Course Administration -> Reports -> Course Participation. You will need to select an activity. In this case, we’re choosing an early activity where students say hello to each other. This is a forum called ‘Getting to know each other’. I select this from the Activity list, and select Students from the ‘Show only’ list, then click Go to get the following report:
This shows your students and indicates whether they have engaged with this activity with a Yes or No. The number in brackets shows the number of engagements, and gives a rough and ready guide, but I wouldn’t take it too literally as different people will normally use websites in different ways. Again the table headers are clickable, so clicking on All actions will order based on that column.
You can drill down a little further by choosing one of the options from the Show actions menu. In this case the options are View and Post. These terms are however slightly misleading, as they count other actions too, but give a broad measure of level of active contribution as compared to reading the work of others.
Finally you can quickly send a message to all students in a No in the actions column, but clicking on Select all ‘No’ and choosing Send a message from the dropdown.
How can I see if students have completed the activities across my course?
Activity completion is a tool in Moodle that lets you get an overview of student participation in all activities in your course. This does need to be set up in advance and is very flexible and configurable.
Once activity completion is turned on for your course, each activity in your course is marked either complete or incomplete for each student. Each activity with then be marked as complete based on student activity in a number of different ways:
- The student themselves mark is as complete, using a checkbox next to the activity;
- A simple ‘view’ of the activity marks it as complete;
- A more complex set of criteria is established to mark the activity is complete. This depends on the type of activity but might be getting a certain mark on a quiz, or submitting a document to an assignment, or posting a message in a forum. These criteria are defined by the teacher on an activity-by-activity basis.
An illustrative screenshot of the report available is shown below. Here you can see that one student has gone ahead of the others, two are up to date, one is a little behind, and one has not completed any activities at all.
Reporting across Moodle courses
A limitation is that these tools apply at the level of a Moodle course, which is normally a module, and this limits the ability to get an holistic view of the activities of any particular student. We are very aware of this limitation and are rapidly looking at options for providing a more holistic and student-centred reporting ability.