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Tag: Moodle

Moodle proposal

David Wees

Stratford Hall

Abstract

The British Columbia government recently strongly encouraged that all school districts must provide distributed learning for all interested students in their district. Although the private schools in BC have managed to thus far avoid this requirement, it is conceivably that all schools will eventually be held to this standard. Stratford Hall currently uses a distributed learning platform, but it is meant as an additional tool for a face to face classroom. I propose that we extend this platform to allow for students to take entire courses online if they so choose.


Moodle Proposal

As part of our desire to be an excellent school we have been providing the forefront of what is considered an excellent education. This is best done using sound educational practices and proven pedagogical techniques to best instruct our children. There are a few best practices which we should endeavor to use at our school, one of which is to provide a framework for students who have missed school to be able to catch up on work they have missed in a useful way (Govindasamy, T., 2002). Second, as many school districts in British Columbia have been accepting the initiative by the provincial government to produce distributed learning courses (BCME 2006), this is a new area in which to compete with the public schools.

Description:

Our current structure for our online learning is using the Moodle platform on an ad hoc basis. Some teachers utilize the system, others do not. No one uses the system to its fullest potential, and certainly no one at our school has an entire online course available for our students. We need to rectify this situation in order to continue to compete with the public schools in BC.

Evaluation:

When evaluating which direction to go with our distributed learning, we need to look at the following criterion: cost, time required, usability, and accessibility which are some of the criteria we have discussed as part of my Master’s degree program.

Moodle will be the cheapest platform for us to use in terms of licensing cost. As Moodle is open source we do not need to pay any licensing fee to use Moodle. Any proprietary LMS we might choose will come with an associated yearly license fee.

In terms of time required to work on this project, continuing to use Moodle is the best value as well. Since teachers are already familiar with using Moodle, there will be very little additional training time necessary in order to extend our capabilities. Learning a new learning management system (LMS) would only extend the amount of time this project would take.

Moodle has been shown to have some problems with usability, at least for first time users. There is a bit of a steeper learning curve than with some other LMS which will have to factor into our decision. Although most of our current teachers are trained in the use of Moodle, any new hires will have to undergo training upon arrival at our school. Of course any new LMS we choose would require all of our current teachers to be retrained.

A major factor in choosing to keep our Moodle platform however is accessibility. A major competitor to Moodle, the WebCT LMS, is not usable without JavaScript enabled, which screen readers for the visually impaired do not enable. Moodle has been designed with accessibility for the visually impaired in mind. Extending current British Columbia educational policy regarding accessibility to distributed learning, it is clear that this will be a requirement of our project.

What this project will require more than anything else is time from the teachers to place their course work online. Creation of an online course is quite time-consuming and we should expect that it will take the better part of a year, using teachers working part-time on this project, to complete one course for each teacher. We already have the server resources already allocated to our Moodle platform. We have also invested a fair amount of time training teachers on how to use Moodle, so there will be very little additional training time required.

Objectives:

In the past few years a number of prominent educational institutes have been putting up their courses on the web. This list includes MIT, Stanford, Harvard, and even our local university, the University of British Columbia (Cox, J. 2007),. Universities across North America are rapidly adding distributed learning packages to their services offered in order to compete in a rapidly expanding market. It seems that the number of online secondary programs is rapidly growing (Chen, G. 2003). It must become our objective to be part of this phenomena.

Conclusion:

If we do not join the other public schools in creating this initiative, then we will be lagging behind in our competition, even with the public schools. Our global economy is currently in crisis, the parents of our students are looking to save money wherever they can. One we can ensure that they continue to pay tuition to us and keep their students in our school is by providing more services than the public schools. Although parents value the overall quality of school, they are attracted to unique programs, hence the value of our current Taiko drumming and rock-climbing programs. A distributed learning platform would make us a very attractive deal indeed!

References

Bates & Poole. (2003). “A Framework for Selecting and Using Technology.” In Effective Teaching with Technology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

British Columbia Ministry of Education (BCME) policy, (2006), retrieved from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/policy/policies/spneed_distance_ed.htm on June 7th, 2009

Govindasamy, T. (2002), Successful implementation of e-Learning: Pedagogical considerations, Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science on June 7th, 2009

Cox, J. (2007), MIT digitizes its courses, throws them online, and asks ‘What now?”, Retrieved from http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/112907-mit-digitizes-courses.html on June 7th, 2009.

Chen, G. (2003). What is an online high school? Retrieved from http://www.publicschoolreview.com/articles/8 on June 7th, 2009

Assessment tools

So today I finished my first Moodle quiz. I found it relatively easy, although a little bit time-consuming, especially as my area of expertise is mathematics. Every equation needed to be carefully created as an image and uploaded.

There were a couple of aspects to the quiz creation which I really liked. The first was the feedback box underneath some of the answers boxes for the various answer types. Choosing answers for the multiple choice which were incorrect meant I had to think about the various ways students could make mistakes, then choose appropriate feedback based on what they did.

The second thing I liked was the fact that when students finish the quiz, they can be given immediate feedback about how well they did. Very handy. Students get to know which questions they got right, and which ones they got wrong, and some suggestions below the ones they got wrong on what they could improve. Relevant feedback, as Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005) point out is very important in the learning process.

One serious problem though is that for the types of questions which encourage higher order thought, as per Bloom’s taxonomy, you cannot give feedback to the students. Only the lower order skills appear to be directly testable.

The other difficulty is that with short answer, matching, and multiple choice questions it is difficult to see what types of mistakes the students are making. You can infer from their incorrect solutions what they must be thinking for a short answer or possibly a matching question, but the multiple choice questions leave a lot to be desired in terms of teacher feedback. Part of the point of assessment I’ve found is to inform the teacher where the students need more assistance.

Construction of questions was relatively straight forward, and the ability to re-use questions and to clone questions is pretty cool. I found this process easy to do, I didn’t need very much help. I did notice that adding images to Matching style questions was a bit difficult, and required an understanding of HTML. This is a usability problem, one that could easily be addressed by attaching a WYSIWYG editor to the textbook for the question in the matching style problems.

All in all I was pretty impressed, and I think the additional time spent creating the tests could be worth the time saved not having to grade them manually. This could be very useful for certain topics where there are very few ways students can solve the problems.

References

Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005). “Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning.” Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Accessed online 11 March 2009 http://www.open.ac.uk/fast/pdfs/Gibbs%20and%20Simpson%202004-05.pdf

Reflection on creating some modules for an LMS

For our ETEC course we are supposed to start working on a course built in our choice of LMS, between Moodle or WebCT. I haven’t discussed the reasons why I chose Moodle, but it was pretty simple: it’s what my school uses and it’s free. I figured I would be able to transfer over some of the work I did in Moodle, and bring it with me to my new school. For this reason I decided to work on a course I might actually use, IB Mathematical Studies, one of the courses I will be teaching next year.

We weren’t supposed to create a complete course as part of this exercise, presumably because of how time-consuming this is. Estimates of time spent per hour of course content ranged up as high as 40 hours of development time. Since the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) requires at least 150 hours of instructional time for a course, this would mean a full course would take me up to 150 x 40 = 6000 hours of development time. I couldn’t really justify putting that much effort in for a single course (nor could I find that many hours in the day!). I chose therefore to do the beginning introductory unit, and a sample unit on trigonometry.

I decided to evaluation my progress using Moodle with the SECTIONS framework.

Students:

As I was the student for this exercise, I found Moodle to be relatively easy to use, and it was an appropriate tool for what I was trying to do. I wouldn’t recommend a high school student (or an unmotived undergrad) try using Moodle, but the students in our class it worked.

Ease of use and reliability:

Moodle was easy to use, and I think that my course will reflect that. It was easy to set up a straight forward plan of action, separating each topic by units. Moodle makes it easy to organize your content. There were a few issues where I felt the interface could be cleaned up a little bit, especially on the JavaScript side of things. Rearranging resources within a unit is less than satisfactory, there are certainly much better widgets for doing this.

Costs:

It cost me nothing but my time, and not too much of that. I spent about 20 to 25 hours or so total working on my course. Part of the advantage I had here was that many of my diagrams and icons I had already created, so I didn’t need to “recreate the wheel” so to speak. I could imagine that this could have been quite a bit different if I was just starting out teaching, or if I wanted to have more interactivity in my course. I had a thought for a Flash widget that allows students to try and determine which method would be most efficient for solving a triangle for example, but decided this would take too much of my time.

Teaching and learning:

I think that having this exercise as a largely self-directed exercise is a really good approach. I find myself learning new technologies best by diving into them, and occasionally searching for help online. There are numerous resources for using Moodle, and with the help of my classmates (I read a lot of discussions about Moodle, and they definitely helped!) I was able to accomplish all of the necessary tasks.

Interactivity:

Moodle is reasonably interactive, in the sense that I take actions and it responds. In terms of providing interactivity for my students, my hope is that my course will allow them to respond to each other (using the forum posts), self-direct themselves through some of my content, and use the interactive applet I included. At some stage I could have a whole collection of applets, and since Moodle does not appear to filter the HTML I enter into its form, I can embed all sorts of fun Flash/Java tools within it’s environment.

Organizational issues:

Well in order to use my course, and therefore Moodle, clearly I will need a server to host it. A relatively basic server would be acceptable, given Moodle’s relatively low memory requirements.

Novelty:

Moodle is not a very new technology. I remember playing around with it in 2005 and enjoying the experience somewhat, but not being hooked. Had I realized the power it had to save my lessons, etc… I might have saved myself a lot of work now. At my new school I happen to know that the students are pretty used to Moodle, since many of the teachers appear to use it extensively. The novelty factor is probably going to be lost on the students, but perhaps I regain some of that with the additional tools I want to use.

Speed:

The UBC Moodle server was extremely fast and responsive, which was excellent. I hope the server I move this course to will be as responsive.

References:

Cavanaugh, J. (2005), Teaching Online – A Time Comparison, Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VIII, Number I, retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring2005/cavanaugh81.htm on July 26th

Lazarus, B.D., (2003), Teaching Courses Online: How Much Time Does It Take?, JALN Volume 7, Issue 3, retrieved from http://sloan-c.org/publications/jaln/v7n3/pdf/v7n3_lazarus.pdf on July 26th

Rumble, G., (2001), The Costs and Costing of Networked Learning, JALN Volume 5, Issue 2, retrieved from http://www.auburn.edu/outreach/dl/pdfs/Costs_and_Costing_of_Networked_Learning.pdf on July 26th

Bates, A.W., Poole, G., (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education, cited from course-work for ETEC 565