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Understanding student activity in Moodle

Steve Rowett7 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.

Table showing students enrolled on a Moodle course, including their most recent access to that course


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:

A Moodle course participation report, showing that some students have been much more active in a discussion forum than others

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.

Activity completion report in Moodle showing which students have completed which activity according to criteria set by the teacherThe video below explains more about activity completion:

There is a Miniguide on activity completion and also a case study from Jane Burns of using it in UCL teaching.

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.

Connected Learning – Teaching tools and platforms

Clive Young24 July 2020

Links to the UCL Resource Centres for tools mentioned at the Town Hall today.

Live Teaching

Blackboard Collaborate is UCL’s web conferencing or online classroom platform. It is integrated within Moodle as an activity, providing access to a range of different functions in a live, or synchronous, learning environment. UCL Case StudyUsing Blackboard Collaborate to teach students across the world.

Zoom is coming to UCL and support information will be available then.

Teams, now universally used at UCL for meetings and one-to-one sessions, is not yet recommended for group teaching. There is no Moodle or Portico integration and Digital Education do not have the expertise (yet) support in its use for teaching.​

Virtual Cluster Rooms will provide direct access to cluster room PCs for computer-based classes. They Mirror the physical cluster rooms in virtual groups that will be timetabled in the same way and accessed via UCL Desktop Anywhere. More information and guidance about planning for laboratory and practice-based activities is also being developed.

Live/Asynchonous

Mentimeter (polling) is an online polling, questioning and voting tool that you can use in your classes or presentations, whether they are face-to-face or online, synchronous or asynchronous. UCL has a site-wide licence. UCL Case StudyEngaging students asynchronously with Mentimeter.

Visualisers and graphics tablets can assist online teaching. ISD have a limited stock of visualisers for circulation to lecturers. You can read more about options for writing and showing objectson this digital education blog post.

Asynchronous

Moodle has many tools that can help keep your students engaged and learning in the absence of face-to-face sessions. UCL Case StudyMoodle tools to make your teaching more interactive.

  • Discussion Forums are often considered the mainstay of online learning. Many staff already use the News forum to announce important information. ‘Learning forums’ can be used for asynchronous discussion (i.e. not ‘real time’) and learning activities. They enable both staff and students to post and reply to posts and are usually are set to allow students and staff to choose whether to become or remain subscribed to a forum. We recommend that Q&A forums are set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes. Make the purpose of every discussion forum clear, including how students are expected to engage with it and how often staff will reply to posts (if at all). If you want to speak to students in ‘real time’, for example for virtual Office Hours, you might want to try Moodle’s instant messaging style tool, Chat.
  • Quiz is the other popular tool for online engagement. A quiz is a useful way to test or evaluate students’ knowledge and to keep them motivated by letting them see areas for improvement. Marking can be automated on some question types (such as multiple choice). Staff can see a detailed breakdown of results, as well as statistics on how easy or discriminating each question is. It can be used for both formative and summative (credit bearing) assessment, such as in class tests or examinations, but the latter is usually done in a ‘live’ classroom, so for online learning summative quizzes are more normal.
  • Hot Question used to create a list of popular questions or topics from a group. Participants may ‘rate’ others’ questions. The more votes, the hotter the question and the higher up the list it will appear.
  • Book displays collections of web pages in a sequential, easy-to-navigate and printable format. They are especially useful when you have a lot of web content but don’t want it to clutter the front page of your course. Pages can contain links, images, embedded YouTube videos, etc and feature a Table of Contents.
  • Lessons can be used to build structured pathways through learning materials and test knowledge as students make progress. Students usually make choices on each page area, sending send them to another specific page in the manner of a decision tree.
  • H5P is a simple-to-use tool now integrated into Moodle to create interactive content such as drag and drop, fill in the blanks, flashcards, image hotspots, slideshows, games and formative quizzes (the results are not stored) directly within Moodle. UCL Case Study: Creating interactive video training guides in Moodle.

Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal (screen recording) is a stand-alone application which can be used to create recordings (captures). Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Recordings can include slides (or whatever you choose to show on your computer screen), video of the presenter and audio. Lecturecast offers more than just video playback, though. With the Lecturecast Engagement tools,  tutors can set up interactive activities, to engage and support students.

ReadingLists@UCL is an online service that gives students easy access to materials on their reading lists, allowing academic staff to create and update their own reading lists.

LinkedIn Learning provides a vast range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

Box of Broadcasts (BoB) is Learning on Screen’s on demand TV and radio service for education. The academically focused system allows staff and students to record programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels, and search BoB’s extensive archive of over 2.2 million recordings.

Student-led and collaboration

  • Reflect(WordPress blog) is a form of WordPress, the industry-standard blogging and website-building tool. Blogs may be used to help students reflect on their experiences during study, build a portfolio of their work, collaborate on projects and create public-facing materials. UCL Case StudyMedical Science students use UCL Reflect to create scientific blogs for assessment.
  • MyPortfolio is a very flexible tool which can be used as a portfolio, for blogging, CV builder, social networking system, connecting UCL students and staff and creating online communities. MyPortfolio provides you with the tools to set up a personal learning environment and can also be used to support group work.
  • Office365​, is of course ubiquitous at UCL, but the educational possibilities are not always appreciated. LinkedIn Learning includes a useful overview ‘Office 365 for Educators’.

Learning to Teach Online [LinkedIn Learning course]

Clive Young6 April 2020

As you may know, UCL has access to LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), a huge range of video tutorials supporting learning in software, creative and business skills – all free to UCL staff and currently enrolled students.

One of these is Learning to Teach Online, a recently-updated 48 minute long introduction to help instructors and teachers to understand the approaches and skills required to teach effectively online. 

As we are going through what is likely to be a significant shift to online learning at UCL, would I recommend it? Yes, I would. Although some of the ideas should already be familiar to UCL colleagues, the course provides a practical (and quick) overview. Most of the main points you need to know to get started are covered, and the course neatly highlights the difference between face-to-face, blended and online methods.

The emphasis on online organisation and communication, ensuring teacher presence, fostering collaboration, accessibility and so on are all particularity sound, and align with UCL’s E-learning Baseline. Much of the advice is in bullet-pointed checklists and only two theoretical frameworks are mentioned, the familiar Bloom’s taxonomy for learning outcomes and the rather useful SAMR model to help us think about technology integration.

I’d obviously suggest ABC to help structure the course, too, but all in all a worthwhile use of 48 minutes (or much less if you speed up the video, as I do!).

Teaching Continuity – a Moodle Toolkit

Clive Young23 March 2020

Getting started

As we move our teaching materials online, we have is an opportunity to make more active use of Moodle. Moodle is already familiar to students and academic colleagues, but mainly as a repository for module materials and a place to upload assignments. Moodle has many other tools that can help keep your students engaged and learning in the absence of face-to-face sessions. The environment also provides student access to Blackboard Collaborate for online ‘tutorials’, Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal for short video recordings and the UCL reading list service. Both of these tools are key in UCL’s approach to teaching continuity.

UCL already has a well over 100 step-by-step Miniguides to help you set up and use all of the tools in Moodle, but as this may be a little overwhelming, this Toolkit focuses on a few simple enhancements can make a big difference to your students’ online experience.

Baseline

The first priority is always to check courses against the E-learning Baseline. Poor structuring of Moodle is an issue in terms of accessibility and student stress. The Baseline is now well-established at UCL and applying it helps students navigate online learning activities. Attention is particularly drawn to the first five sections of the Baseline;

Surveys show these are the elements of Moodle our students notice most and are often most critical of. They are also the easiest to improve.

How can we do more with Moodle?

This short (5’) video from an earlier post offers some excellent ideas.

The video has captions and a transcript.https://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Play/22870

In addition to Collaborate and Lecturecast Universal Capture Personal, both very important to replace face-to-face sessions, three Moodle-specific ideas are mentioned.

  • The first is Discussion Forums, often considered the mainstay of online learning. Many staff already use the News forum to announce exam dates and times; changes to exams, lectures or seminars; important information about coursework; and special announcements relating to events and when you post a message in the News Forum it will be emailed to enrolled students’ UCL email. The video refers to ‘Learning forums’ can be used for asynchronous discussion (i.e. not ‘real time’) and learning activities. They enable both staff and students to post and reply to posts and are usually are set to allow students and staff to choose whether or not to become or remain subscribed to a forum. We recommend that Question and Answer forums are set up for students to ask questions about the course work or assessment processes. As the video explains, make the purpose of every discussion forum clear, including how students are expected to engage with it and how often staff will reply to posts (if at all). If you want to speak to students in ‘real time’, for example for virtual Office Hours, you might want to try Moodle’s instant messaging style tool, Chat.
  • Quiz is the other popular tool for online engagement. A quiz is a useful way to test or evaluate students’ knowledge and to keep them motivated by letting them see areas for improvement. Marking can be automated on some question types (such as multiple choice). Staff can see a detailed breakdown of results, as well as statistics on how easy or discriminating each question is. It can be used for both formative and summative (credit bearing) assessment, such as in class tests or examinations, but the latter is usually done in a ‘live’ classroom, so for online learning summative quizzes are more normal.
  • Use of external resources will already be a familiar custom for many academic colleagues, but bear in mind YouTube is blocked in several countries, including China. The video also mentions LinkedIn Learning, Box of Broadcasts (log in with your UCL details) and ReadingLists@UCL, all useful enhancements. UCL Mediacentral can be used to host your own videos which can then embedded as links in Moodle.

Moodle: beyond the basics

As always, we recommend you keep it simple and prioritise the essentials, but don’t be afraid to go beyond the basics if you can. Here are a few ideas. If you want to dive a little deeper, the UCL’s ABC method of learning design can help plan how to move learning activities online in a more structured way. You may want also explore beyond Moodle, to Reflect, UCL’s blogging service based on WordPress.

Moodle Resources

  • Book displays collections of web pages in a sequential, easy-to-navigate and printable format. They are especially useful when you have a lot of web content but don’t want it to clutter the front page of your course. Pages can contain links, images, embedded YouTube videos, etc and feature a Table of Contents.
  • Lessons can be used to build structured pathways through learning materials and test knowledge as students make progress. Students usually make choices on each page area, sending send them to another specific page in the manner of a decision tree.

Moodle Activities

  • Glossary provides a course-specific list of terms and definitions. Entries can be linked to words that appear within Moodle, so the definition pops-up when someone hovers their mouse over instances of the word. A tutor may stipulate definitions or ask students to contribute.
  • Database enables tutors to set up form fields that students can then complete to contribute entries to the database. The fields may consist of images, files, URLs, numbers, plain text etc.
  • Hot Question is used to create a hotlist of popular questions or topics from a group. Could be used to seed a discussion forum or a Collaborate session.

Where can I see more?

  1. Colleagues at UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Learning Technologies Unit have put together a Moodle course Moodle Activity Examples – LTU (login required) showing you the tools above in use, together with several others.
  2. They are also in the process of  developing Moving online a very useful resource containing step-by-step workflows on how to move sessions online, with links to further support sources.
  3. The Miniguides site is the place to go to for detailed ideas and information on these and other Moodle tools. Support on other tools is available from the ISD Digital Education webpages.

Futurelearn How To Teach Online: Providing Continuity for Students (Join us!)

Clive Young20 March 2020

A new Futurelearn MOOC is starting on Monday 23 March designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-week course will explore practical ways to teach and support your students online.

Members of the UCL Digital Education team will be participating on this course and we hope the MOOC will stimulate ‘next step’ ideas for supporting our students..

To supplement the Futurelearn forums we have set up a UCL-specific Teams channel. Teams will be a place to discuss the ideas of the course from a UCL context and add a practical localisation to the UCL toolset. We hope you can join us.

To join the Futurelern MOOC, go to https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/teach-online/

To join in the UCL Teams discussion go to How To Teach Online (FutureLearn MOOC) – UCL community

ABC Learning Design Update

Clive Young19 December 2019

ABC is the effective approach to curriculum (re)design, developed at UCL four years ago and now used widely not only at UCL but across the HE sector. Well over a thousand colleagues have now had a chance to participate in an ABC workshop. For those still unfamiliar with this ‘sprint’ approach, programme and module teams take part in an engaging hands-on ‘design sprint’ workshop, usually facilitated by UCL Digital Education. In just 90 minutes using a game format, teams collaborate to create a visual ‘storyboard’ outlining the type and sequence of blended and online activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes. Assessment, cross-programme themes and institutional policies such as the Connected Curriculum can all be integrated according to the needs of the programme/module.

After running pilots in the 2014-15 academic year, ABC was launched as a service in 15-16 and has enjoyed steady growth in numbers of modules (re)designed per annum. As part of UCL’s 2016-21 Educational Strategy we committed to work with 250 modules by 2021. We have nearly reached this already, not counting workshops run by UCL academic colleagues.

Word of ABC soon spread beyond UCL especially as we provide workshop materials for free download. In 2016-18 we were funded by HEFCE Catalyst to both evaluate the ABC method and develop these materials onto a downloadable ABC Toolkit to help other institutions run their own workshops. We ran demos at several JISC Connect More events, ALT-C and international conferences and as a result ABC is now a familiar UCL ‘brand’ in the UK and beyond.

90% of ABC participants surveyed in the HEFCE project agreed their experience was positive and 71% that the workshop enabled them to enhance the curriculum. Many follow-up interviewees commented on the ‘buzz’ in the room and enjoyment of the workshops:

it’s just a fun workshop so it’s colourful, it’s paper based, you’re moving things around and you’re feeling things, people are excited, if there are tutors and there are many of those who actually have a fear of technology type things, well they don’t have to worry about it in a workshop like this, …  it’s alive, you can see it; people are talking and it’s great to see that….

In parallel we have run the workshops for 16 fellow-members of the League of European Research Universities, including at Edinburgh, Oxford, Imperial, Trinity College Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and the Sorbonne. This networking led to the current Erasmus + project ‘ABCtoVLE’ (2018-2020) investigating both how institutions localise ABC and link it to their online learning environments. This year the UCL Digital Education team have also run workshops by invitation in Warsaw, Zurich, Geneva, Reykjavik and even as far afield as Auckland and Sydney.

The global interest in UCL’s learning design method is wonderful but hard to keep up with, so next year we will focus more on building a sustainable network.