Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Good Practice in Moodle Course Design #1

Moodle can play a significant role in supporting students in their studies, so it's really important that Moodle areas are well structured to help guide learners from week to week, as well as organised to provide content in a meaningful way.

This post touches on two 'quick wins' in developing Moodle areas, and is informed by the CeLT guide: 'Good Practice for Building Moodle Course Areas'.

1. Week/Topic Headings - create a summary for each element of the teaching schedule

Whether your unit uses a weekly or topic based structure, it is important that the heading for each is clearly visible. You can insert a heading by clicking on the 'edit summary' button.

When inserting a Summary, there are two key things to remember:

1) Try to keep the text as short as possible (you'll see why shortly)
2) Select the text and format it to 'Heading 2'

By maintaining these basic principles, you will see that the Summary text is formatted to appear as white text on a grey background (right), and is also reflected in the 'Quick Links' menu (this is why it's important to keep the text as short as possible as the menu could get extremely wide).

2. Subheadings and text - using labels to organise week/topic content

It is often very useful for students if each week/topic contains contextual information, such as a description, and links to teaching resources, activities and further reading. Labels can be used to help with this structure - from the 'Add a Resource' menu, choose 'Insert a Label'.

In the example on the right, I have used labels to;
  • Introduce the topic
  • Use headings (H3) to identify 'Resources to accompany the lecture', 'Resources to accompany the lab session', and 'Further Reading'
  • Embed a Youtube video on the page
  • Add a 'Horizontal Rule' to help visually organise the content. 

So as you can see, just a few simple good practice steps can set you on the road to creating great looking, well organised and accessible courses.

If you have used headings and labels innovatively in your Moodle areas, or just want to share your views, why not use the comments to this post to start a discussion....

The full Good Practice guide, along with many others, can be accessed from within Moodle > Staff Resource Area > Moodle Training Guides. Furthermore, Catherine Wasiuk (eLearning Support Officer for Hollings) has created a great guide and accompanying short video to run through 7 top tips for 'Preparing your unit areas in Moodle'.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The New Look Moodle...

Finally, the new Moodle theme has been applied and all users will see the new colour schemes.

Staff can build their unit areas safe in the knowledge that they will not lose any information or resources. Some of the key things to look out for with the new theme are 'Sticky Blocks' - these are the blocks on the left and right columns that are permanent, or 'sticky'.

For example the 'Quick Links' jump menu (previously called the Course Menu) is an
excellent tool that enables users to jump straight to a particular section in the unit, rather than scrolling down the page. The other advantage is that all other week/topic content is hidden to simplify the screen and reduce disctractions.

The right hand blocks are dynamic in that they pull information from various places:
  • Notifications draw together information from within Moodle, including Announcements, Events and the Calendar;
  • Assessments identifies assessments from within Moodle, as well as information from the Coursework Receipting System including details of extensions and receipts (for students) and details of total submissions etc (for staff);
  • Resources brings together information from Reading Lists (further reading, items to buy, etc) and Equella files (past exam papers and other reusable content).

When logging into Moodle, all staff should see at least two areas - a personal Sandbox (where you can play about with the various tools available) and the Staff Resource Area (which contains excellent resources such as the Moodle Training Guides and How to Moodle Moodle).

Further to these two areas, you will likely see other areas that you will be teaching - you can use the WebForm to manage staff enrollments to these unit too.

Having said all that, there are still a few kinks in the system so if you do come across anything unexpected, please drop me a quick email to make sure we are aware of all problems, and of course if there are any questions, concerns or general points, feel free to contact me directly or share your thoughts in the comments section.

Creative Commons License
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Upcoming Moodle Training

I know we are getting to that time of year, but given the WebCT Vista shut-off deadline (31st August), I thought it would be useful to cram in some extra sessions over the coming weeks.
Three basic sessions (to introduce Moodle, orientation and essential building features), along with two more specific 'Migration training' sessions (focussing on backing up files and quizzes from WebCT and importing them into Moodle), are available from Tuesday 12th July through Thursday 21st July.

All of the sessions are held from 10.00am - 11.30am, and you can sign up below or using this link - http://www.eventbrite.com/event/1871139629
If you have any specific training requests, feel free to contact me directly or via the comments....


As this blog will primarily be used to keep people up-to-date with the many developments related to eLearning across MMU, and the Faculty of Science & Engineering in particular, it would be amiss to first not introduce myself.

My name is Peter Reed, and I have a joint role within the Faculty;
as well as lecturing within SCMDT I am also the Faculty eLearning Coordinator - so in short, your go-to man with any queries or ideas related to eLearning. I have a lot of interests related to how technology can be used to enhance learning and teaching, so please feel free to get in touch to discuss your needs, or even use the comments below each post to share your thoughts.

For the time being I am based in E436, but you will always catch me on email: p.reed@mmu.ac.uk or by phone 0161 247 2825.You can also add me on Twitter: @Reedyreedles