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What happens in a ‘Moodling’ session?

CarolineWood29 August 2013

BCT Taxonomy Student Moodle site

Designing learning activities in Moodle

On Friday 16th August, my student (Harveen Kaur) and I (Caroline Wood) met with one of our ELDG mentors (Vicki Dale) and Moodle expert Mira Vogel, E-Learning Facilitator, for a Moodling session. Mira has developed a site in Moodle for UCL users called An Elf’s Lair, and this, alongside the Moodle Features Demo by Rod Digges and colleagues, provided a focus for discussions about what is technically possible in Moodle as well as what is pedagogically advisable.

We are using Moodle to design an interactive, online resource as part of undergraduate teaching about the Behavioural Change Technique taxonomy (BCT). Students will be asked to review some introductory material on the Moodle site before exploring core theoretical foundations in two lectures. After the lecture, they will be expected to explore BCTs in action and build their skills on the Moodle site.

Mira encouraged us to think about what students will see when they first log on. As well as the site being visually stimulating and engaging, students need to be informed about learning objectives and other introductory information about how the resource fits into their programme. That is quite a lot on one page already, so we discussed how we might alternatively store some of this information as a course handbook or a downloadable file and just have the link to it available on the home page.

We also discussed different options for displaying content (text or other media) in pages, books and lessons. Pages are useful for displaying short sections of information. Books are useful for displaying information in a linear page-turning way. Lessons facilitate a non-linear experience; they can be used in the traditional ‘programmed learning’ sense where students’ progression is limited by their ability to complete tasks or questions successfully, or to offer a ‘Choose your own adventure’ experience to allow students to explore the ramifications of their actions in relation to a case simulation.

We also explored the possibility of controlled release of material in Moodle, and decided that the interactive components should be made available on the day of the lectures so that students can immediately apply theory to practice. On the Moodle site, students will be guided through a relevant example of a behaviour change intervention – the development of effective study habits. Throughout each of the exercises, students will be encouraged to revisit elements of the BCT Taxonomy framework; this will be facilitated by use of the Glossary tool.

One of our key discussions was how we could use quizzes for the interactive components. Our complete training programme, on which the Moodle site will based , involves a lot of discussion and opportunities for trainees to ask experts to explain anything they do not understand. This can be difficult to simulate online due to the fact that there are often no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers. Although students will be able to ask questions during the lecture, detailed feedback in the online quizzes is essential to further student understanding and clarify misunderstandings during independent learning. There are several ways in which we could do this. One solution might be to incorporate graphs of student responses from a previous face-to-face workshop, so that students can compare their own answers to those of a larger cohort.

Handy tips we picked up from our session included:

  • Tip #1: The ‘Paste from Word’ icon strips out unnecessary formatting when copying content into Moodle from any of the MS Office applications.
  • Tip #2: You can switch between teacher and student views of the course by going to the settings tab on the left hand side of the screen.
  • Tip #3: We could have entries from our glossary appear on the right hand side of the main screen to highlight definitions for different BCTs in the taxonomy.

We will be experimenting with the different features in Moodle and mapping out our content over the next couple of weeks before starting to commit to particular activities. We would really welcome useful suggestions and other handy tips, so please feel free to comment on which features you have found most useful in Moodle!

We are tweeting! @UCLTaxonomy

Student-produced e-learning videos – which tools should we use?

VickiDale19 August 2013

Domi Sinclair and I have met twice with Dr Adrien Desjardins, of the Department of Medical Physics and Bioengineering, to discuss options for a project funded under the E-Learning Developments Grant (ELDG) initiative. Adrien – who is also the recent recipient of a Provost’s Teaching Award – successfully bid for an ELDG for the second year in a row, for his project ‘Development of an iterative framework for e-learning video creation’. This involves students creating instructional videos in small groups, and then peer-reviewing other students’ videos, with a view to critiquing them intellectually, pedagogically and technically. The students then revise their own presentations in response to peer feedback, and then a postgraduate student appointed as an e-learning coordinator refines the presentations for subsequent upload to YouTube. An example of Adrien’s former students’ videos can be viewed on the UCL Medical Physics YouTube channel.

Previously, the students used PowerPoint to design their presentations, and then would use the Camtasia screen capture system to record a voice-over track to add value to the presentation and convert it to video format. However, this creates a very static resource which is difficult to subsequently edit, should the e-learning coordinator wish to make revisions. This year, Adrien has been exploring alternative options such as Prezi and PowToon. Prezi is free for educators and offers the advantage of a more creative, non-linear presentation. It also allows presenters to record or import an individual audio track for each frame; however, although presentations can be made available online, they cannot be exported to video formats. PowToon is another commercial, creative presentation tool which facilitates some impressive animations including its hallmark ‘handwriting’ animation, where the presenter writes some text and when the frame is played, a hand appears to write the text in real time (see Domi’s example PowToon). A limited version of PowToon is free but its features are limited. These can be unlocked for a modest annual subscription for educators. However, although PowToon files can be exported to video formats, it currently only permits one audio track per presentation.

Our experiences of exploring potential tools raise some important issues for educators (and their students) wishing to create online learning resources. While third-party software can be very appealing in terms of the opportunities for increased functionality, flexibility and creativity, there is the risk of relying on an external system where the data is stored ‘in the cloud’ and where the future existence of the tool is not guaranteed. Some tools like Prezi are increasingly becoming embedded in higher education and are therefore less risky; however, there is a danger that other tools which are new are being produced by small, independent companies who have yet to establish a foothold. At the same time, there is the need to equip students with digital literacies , which means knowing how to use emerging tools in addition to standard office applications. Other considerations include how ‘high stakes’ the materials are (for example, if they contribute to summative assessment) as well as how important it is that materials can be edited and re-purposed in the future. We have not made a decision yet; whether we go for PowerPoint, Prezi, PowToon or another presentation tool, we need to ensure that student learning is not compromised but enhanced.