Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Overall thoughts on MootIE13

Overall, the 3 days have been great.  The sessions on Tuesday (day 2) were of more interest to me than Wednesday largely due to the amount of 'upgrade' and 'technical' sessions (whereas Tuesday seemed to have a lot more practical uses).  The event has succeeded in meeting my expectations again.  It continues to be an excellent source of information and networking to get ideas for the next things you want to do using Moodle.  

The range of organisations, perspectives (user, teacher, technical) and levels of skills makes it quite a challenge to meet everyone's needs. However, there are a few areas where I think we can do something a bit different to make this an even better event!

In the spirit of 'Moodle' I think that delegates should be able to 'apply' ideas (eg: the use of the tools, use of plugins, application of findings from research etc).  I did see at least one session where someone showed some heavy customisation to a Moodle 1 course layout that they hadn't released to the community. I am not really sure what I can take from this session!! 

I was also a bit disappointed of how many workshops were based on changes and uses in Moodle 1. I was part of the programme committee and read the abstracts but didn't notice these and assumed that unless the sessions were about 'upgrading' they would be based on a Moodle 2.x considering this has been available for 2 years now!

Chatting to various people throughout the days it is clear to see the range of skills and expertise in the room.  I watched Michelle's 'Why Moodle' Pecha Kucha and thought 'we are all convinced and already use Moodle' but I did find that there were a number of people looking to move to Moodle so this did have a place at the event.  However, for me, I wanted more sessions on application in teaching and learning.  Maybe streams of content would be useful such as beginners / new to Moodle; developing use for learning / advanced; technical; heavy customisation.

As I have mentioned, the Moodlemoot continues to be THE place to look at developments for the use of Moodle and this year has not let me down. I have picked up some new ideas for supporting learning using Moodle as well as further developed some plans already in action or ways to use something in a different way.  Even if some of the workshops are not always that relevant, having a couple of days to devote thoughts to Moodle helps to develop use and that has certainly been the case for me.  I have a big Moodle jobs list to get going on.....

MoodleMoot IE 2013 - part 2

Workshop day 1 had lots of nice things to think about and use.  Michelle Moore's workshop outlined how she has developed her Moodle training course to meet the social constructivist model of teaching.  I realised that this is a model I use for the development of my Moodle courses without realising!  However, there are other elements I want to look at building into future courses to develop this further.

Theming was also a big feature of the sessions I went to (largely because I want to look at a new theme for us).  Bootstrap seems to be the tool of choice for developing themes now and I have lots of ideas for development for our future themes.  In his first session, Alex Walker talked about the content of the theme and a few tools that were used to review current themes to inform development such as a heatmap to show where users click. (He showed us ClickHeat and Piwik for heatmaps and analytics).  Alex provided further advice on this topic on day 2 (but of a more technical nature).  Linked to this theme development, City College London presented a Pecha Kucha on usability testing and undertook a number of tests to get feedback from users on how Moodle is used, frustrations and most useful features.  This was used to inform development.  One piece of advice that was given though was that prior to undertaking a review, decide which elements you are willing to change and which you are not.  Future proof yourself for upgrades without the need for lots of changes for each new version.  
User testing and feedback to inform development of our theme is something I definitely want to undertake in the next few months.

Pieter Van Der Hijden delivered a presentation highlighting the options for Moodle maintenance and archiving.  Although it would have been nice to be given an answer, we can't find a one size fits all approach within our organisation so I guess it's impossible to do this across all Moodle sites.  We have a protocol for use at the moment but I think the key message here is to continually review your processes and work with other staff in your organisation to ensure you know what the requirements and future access to archived courses are.

The Pecha Kucha sessions were good providing a quick overview of lots of new ideas! Two of real interest for me were '10 things you can do with roles' from Moodle Helen.  Lots of ideas such as giving students editing or moderator rights to activities (such as glossaries, forums & quizzes). Giving students grading rights to assignments as a form of peer assessment if the workshop tool is too difficult to develop.  A naughty student role was even mentioned to temporarily remove privileges in Moodle!
Another Pecha Kucha was from Mid Kent College who talked about their ILP block.  They support their students with tools such as a flight plan and showing achievement on the ILP as badges.  The ILP collates all the 'minutes late' and the students need to 'buy back' the time!

A new 'panel' based concept was held called the 'fishbowl'.  A few people start having a discussion (in this case efficiencies with Moodle) and there are places for 5 people.  Anyone can come up and add to the discussion and one of the current panel leaves.  This is a nice way to share good practice and I will try this in the future.

Gaming in Moodle was another very interesting session and something I really want to try.  I think Moodle activities with activity completion can be used to develop games based on levels. Paul Vaughan has given me the idea of linking it to the LRC induction. I am going to give this a go!! 

Wednesday morning started with an update from Martin Dougiamas (live this time instead of via Skype as usual).  Twitter is the best place to look for the content of this session from a range on moodlers (#mootie13).  Martin showed the developments so far of the Moodle app and talked about the coming developments for Moodle 2.5 and 2.6.  These include new core themes, course listings redesigned, assignments further developed (better GUI, offline on mobile), and they are continuing to review the forum and wiki from OU. 
Also, there will be new app based plugins which will be able to be downloaded and installed straight from Moodle plugins site.

Martin concluded his presentation to summarise his vision of the 'Future of Moodle'.  This includes:
- A system that is open yet private
- It should scale & extend easily 
- Capable toolset for local implementation, research
- Contributes to community and further development

One of the real benefits of having Martin here in person is that he has been able to contribute to general conversations rather than just provide  an overview and Q&A. Also, general conversations help to understand his vision and he is constantly bringing the system back to the learning which is always positive.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

MoodleMoot IE 2013

It is time for my annual blog!  
I spent yesterday in a Moodle Assessment workshop delivered by Mary Cooch.  Her session provided a lot of detail of the various tools that can be used for a range of assessment opportunities including formative, peer and summative.  The use of the ratings functions for teacher and student use provide a range of opportunities for assessment.  It could also enable a good starting point for developing collaboration and peer review and help students to consider the quality of the work they submit and review the quality of others.  This is something I will look into for study skills development.
Other areas covered within the session were the Gradebook and outcomes, the new assignment tool in 2.4, rubrics and marking guides and using quizzes.  This was all promoted as part of a reality TV show which was a good way to enable the delegates to join in and make their own version.  Throughout the session Mary encouraged the delegates to discuss uses of each of the tools.  One area I think I am going to consider again is the use of outcomes.   Generally I don't like them for the simple reason that they do not present well in the Gradebook.  We had some discussion about outcomes versus rubrics.  I think there is a good place for both.  Rubrics are self-contained criteria within the assignment or workshop tool whereas the outcomes can be considered course, or even site, wide.  I am going to trial the use of just 3 outcomes in a course to link to core themes that should be part of all programmes.  An outcome for English, Maths and Employability will be created to state how assignments and tasks help to develop these skills.  It will highlight to the students how their core programme links to these skills and help us to review a course using the outcomes report to ensure all elements are being covered throughout.  I have a teacher willing test so we can build this in quickly after half-term to see what happens!

As a result of being in Mary's session I had re-read my book to refresh my memory.  I had forgotten how much I knew about the uses of the Gradebook and the options for customising it (although I am in no way an expert!)   Also, I had the pleasure to have a quick discussion with Martin Dougiamas before the quiz in the evening and he mentioned that I should put together a top 10 things to improve on the Gradebook.  The only two I can think of off the top of my head is 1) to turn the activity titles to present vertically rather than horizontally to make the Gradebook columns as thin as possible and 2) adapt the gradebook to utilise the full page width rather than fit inside a frame on the page.  Any way to help to reduce the horizontal scroll would be good.  However, I will have a good play to see if there are any others or let me know anything you can think of!  
For me, the use of the activity and course completion reports with the Gradebook from Moodle 2 really helps to encourage gradebook use and really helps students and teachers to review and track progress to aid learning.  The role of assessment in the future of online learning also featured in the opening panel discussion on day 1 of the official moot.

5 panel members gave a brief overview on their views of the future of online learning followed by delegates sharing their input.  Key messages shared included:

Martin Dougiamas: The use of social media can only be considered as surface learning.  It doesn't provide the deeper learning required.  Still a place for formal and certificated learning (whether online or face to face). Computer aided learning has the possibility to provide opportunities to learn more & be more efficient.  Things change and there will always new ways of learning.  "Before moocs there were books" (new phrase of the day!) We shouldn't forget about the important role that teachers play in online learning.  

Smith - Hibernian College: As learners we want credentials and to be part of a community.

Ross McKenzie: There is a lot of activity of traditional online learning and moocs.  The future is in assessment.  Monitoring and tracking. Accrediting what students are doing.  

Michelle Moore: Assessment, automation, adapting to learners needs (based on performance and / or interest) are all important to the future.

My view!! Education is about developing the knowledge and skills to use a range of learning tools - including online learning.   Teachers need to utilise all tools to provide a range of learning opportunities.  Online learning will continue to develop if only to provide additional opportunities for learning (but I think it will continue to develop as part of the core learning programme and has real potential to offer differentiated learning).  As online learning becomes more embedded into daily life we need to develop the skills of our younger learners to use the social media tools to learn 'on demand' and effectively access just in time training. We can use online learning linked with traditional teaching to develop learning skills AND offer efficient delivery to support student personal interest.

2 days of workshops follow to learn from others about how they use Moodle.  More to come on some specific things I have found interesting and will be looking to apply.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Moodlemoot IE and UK - my summary!

Day 1

I had an excellent first day at the Moodlemoot in Dublin with loads of new ideas learnt and ready to apply, lots of tweets sent and read, and lots of networking!

The day started with Martin Dougiamas telling us about developments for the future. This is always a really good session to get the latest information hot off the press and some direction for the next releases! See my previous blog post for notes from this.

Following the keynote it was onto workshops where many moodle users (including myself) presented how they use Moodle, case studies or how to's. There are too many things shared during the day to write about here but I have recorded some of the most interesting things (from my point of view) below.

Davo Smith shared some plugins that he has created which sound really useful!

Real time quiz: A live quiz that can work a bit like voting pads but via moodle screens. The teacher sets up the quiz. Students in the class login to Moodle (via own device / PC / shared netbook or iPad per group?) and the teacher controls the quiz to work through one question at a time and work with the class to discuss the answers after answering. Within the quiz you can have questions and polls. I think it would be worth a try!!

Checklist: I really like this! It enables teachers to create a list of tasks to complete. These could just be a list OR could be activities or resources from within the course. It can go into the gradebook and we can also use it with activity completion. The teacher can view the checklist, tick things of take full control over it. My initial thought is that it could be used for assignments or NVQ criteria for students to record how they are getting on with some tasks. It could contain all the criteria for an NVQ unit. The students use it to say when they have achieved each element and put all the portfolio information into an assignment or Mahara (or within the specific task list activities). It could also be used for students to make sure they have covered all elements in the assignment. Could even use with restricted access. The students need to check the assignment against the checklist. When they say it is complete, the assignment upload area becomes available.

Drop and drop upload: WOW! Allows you to drag a file from the computer onto the course page and it uploads it! This is definitely something to try out! I think this was the plugin of the event!!

Davo also talked about the lesson objectives and upload PDF (which we already use at SDC). A quick tip from Davo is that use the keyboard keys N (next) & P (previous) to move though each page quickly. Also, uploading response files might be looked at within 2.3 as the way assignments and files will be stored will be different.

Another excellent session was with Michelle Moore (@michelledmoore) where she outlined a range of moodle resources and activities. There wasn't much new for me here but it was still really interesting. She also spoke on day 2 about the glossaries and workshops. The main things from the two days from Michelle that I want to use are auto-linking and the games plugin for the glossary.

We need to turn on autolinking! It will link resources and activities automatically (if you haven't already guessed!) You just need to type the exact name of a resource / activity for the course into a book / page or in any moodle resource or activity (eg: read the "course handbook") and it will create a link straight to it!

Within the glossary use the ratings and comments options. You can take entries from secondary glossaries and put them into the main course glossary.
There is also a games module plugin for use with the glossary which will enable games based on glossary entries (such as hangman, snakes and ladders).
Some new uses for the glossary includes video collections (students to add). We could also use the glossary for news / objectives (one entry put in per week). Set random glossary entry onto course page and set for 1 per week. Put glossary into an orphaned section. Learner projects - for group work.

Also, i need totake a look at the blogs again in M2 - can they be course based?

My final session of the day was on the Big blue button. This is an open source web conferencing solution for distance education that can be integrated as a moodle activity. It can be used as a virtual office (1-1), small group collaboration, remote teaching (1 to many (c.25) rather than hundreds).
In can be used to share slides, desktop sharing, chat, whiteboard, video and audio. When integrated with Moodle it uses the course roles to assign students as viewers and teachers as moderators. It can also be recorded and shared as a video.
You need a server (conferencing capacity would be based on the server capacity). Big Blue Button say it can be set up within 30 minutes. I am really keen to try it so I might have the beg Paul to give it a go. I tried to capture all the technical information for Paul but it was too much for me. Thankfully they have a very good website with all the information needed ( They also have a demo site which can be used as well. I need a real time virtual space for an LSIS project so I would like to try it out for this (if it is possible in the timeframes of the project).

There was a pecha kucha session at the end of the day which I didn't have the energy to attend but it is definitely a concept I want to try out in college. The idea is that presenters share a topic but are only allowed 20 slides which are set to automatically move on after 20 seconds (google it to find put more). This keeps the presentation focused. It could be used with staff for sharing good practice or students for assessed presentations showing how topics or concepts can be summarised. Definitely worth a try!

Day 2

It took a while to get started on day 2 following the gala dinner the night before. The day started with a panel about moving to Moodle 2 (of which I was one of the panel). A few questions asked but it was a much smaller group of people than the previous morning!
Following the panel, Helen Foster (@moodlehelen) told us about a range of Moodle sites from The one that teachers might be particularly interested in is the Mooch ( to find shared Moodle courses, activities or resources that could be downloaded and uploaded to our own site. We can also enrol into communities of practice. Worth a look!

The rest of the day was filled with more workshops.

I presented about conditional activities and this was followed by Pieter about how he is using this and groupings to create individual learning pathways. He referred to digital didactics to enable studying, working individually & together, and assessment. Some nice ways to engage learners but too much to explain here. There is presentation (I don't think you will be able to access this. I will update when I can get to a real computer

There were also sessions on the workshop and glossary activities which were useful and also a demonstration of the University of Sussex's page course format which looks very good. I don't think we can download this yet but there is a possibility that it could be part of 2.3.

I learnt loads more but these are the main things and the ones I will make sure I apply.
I now follow lots more moodlers to enable me to carry on learning and sharing ideas from others. I will also try and capture all the #mootieuk12 tweets to collate all the other useful content that was shared from other sessions. I also really need to go through the other presentations that I couldn't get to (I am not sure when though!).

It really has been a fantastic, if tiring, few days with lots I can apply straightaway. I was really chuffed to have both a retweet and tweet from @moodler (Mr Moodle himself). I have blogged, tweeted, competed in quizzes and presented. I wonder if that will be enough to win a prize from the event (fingers crossed for the iPad3)!

Thank you everyone from the moodlemoot for a great event and Gavin for organising it (@ghenrick). See you all at #mootuk13!!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

My notes on Mr Moodle's keynote!!

Martin firstly spoke about the Blackboard takeover of 2 Moodle partners
The staff in the 2 companies are very committed in Moodle.  There are two ways of looking at it.  We can see it from the point of view that Blackboard has taken some of the market OR that there are now moodle people within Blackboard.  We will wait to see what happens!  Moodle remains independent and does not rely on anything in blackboard's control.

Then he moved onto developments!!
There are 68000+ installations around the world.
Martin can see that there is a move from traditional teaching to open web.  There is still a need to be online spaces for school / work / college.  "There is no one tool that suits everyones's needs" but moodle tries to be a "Swiss army knife"!  Moodle started is a revolution but it is now in a evolution stage.
Martin believes that these need to be a flexible and customisable environment (rather than open / social web).  For what it's worth - I agree!  

For developments there is a focus on: 


Usability: Including solving user frustrations, some scroll of death solutions to hopefully be in place for 2.3 (course setting option: course sections on one page or one per page).  Every release from now on will have some focus on usability)

Integration. Some work on repositories for the future.  It will be possible to select a file to be chosen from a private repository (such as alfresco) and it will be linked to but not copied (live updating - yey).  It could also be possible to put a file in private files and put into 3 courses.  When you update in private files it will also update the other files!
Portfolios, especially Mahara integration, will continue development.
Open badges - enable certification (where validity can be checked) is something being looked at.

Book going into core in 2.3! 

Possibly the option to backup and restore user data from 1.9 to 2.x in 2.4 but it is a lot of work and would have to be the sole development. A quick poll in the room suggested this is needed by many.

Some good stuff to look forward to!!

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Moodlemoot UK and IE

Hi! (if anyone who is reading this!)  Long time no see!  I am re-starting by blog in honour of the MoodleMoot (nothing to do with some points on offer) and in honour of my Moodle book about to be published!!

I am tres excited about both or should I say "Tá mé ag tnúth go mór leis an dá!" thanks to google translate!!

I have booked my sessions at the moot, planned the sessions I am delivering, read a guidebook about Dublin and planned my sightseeing.  My euros have been purchased, my passport and bags are packed and i'm ready to go!
I am really looking forward to catching up with my Moodle pals and hoping to learn lots of new things.  I love using Moodle anyway and have really enjoyed the past year following our upgrade to Moodle 2.  (In case any of you don't know - I LOVE Moodle 2!) It has been really good applying some of the new things in M2 - especially tracking and conditional activities and I hope to be able to share some of this at my presentations (Tracking student progress with course completion on day 1 and Managing Learning with Moodle 2 on day 2).  However, I am also really looking forward to learning lots more from others at the Moot.

I think the Moot might also coincide with the release of my first book!  It feels so cool to say it (and my family and colleagues are suitably impressed!!)  It is being published by PacktPub and it is about the Moodle Gradebook.  It is based on Moodle 2.2 (although Moodle users will know that a lot of the gradebook is also the same in Moodle 1.9).  You can see it here:  I think the Moodle gradebook has loads of potential for supporting learning and also to efficiently track progress for staff and students.  If you are not sure how - check out the book (what a shameless plug!  Here is another one!....)  Another thing that is great about this book is that if you are using Moodle 1.9 and moving to Moodle 2.x then this book can help you with both.  What better value is there than that!! 

Anyways - that's my new start for my blog.  Hope I get to meet someone who has read this at the Moot.  If so - say hi!!

PS - my twitter account is @bbarrington so I will aim to report back a bit via that too!  Search #mootieuk12 to keep up with everything at the Moot!.

See you soon Dublin!!

Monday, 1 August 2011

4 - Moodle 2 is live!

Our Moodle site is now officially Moodle 2.1!

I have come back from holiday today with a new install of 2.1 available with over 475 courses up and running on it!!  

Big thanks needs to go to the excellent support and management from @clareHW Lead Moodle Administrator, and the technical support from @SDCMoodle (aka Paul Vaughan) along with members of the LTRS team for getting it all done!  They have made Moodle 2 live on our normal moodle ac address, linked it with shibboleth to authenticated login and individually restored 465 courses.  The tracking sheets (explained in previously blog posts) that have taken me hours to develop and the team hours to populate have helped to manage the process.  They tell me that:

  • 117 courses were restored from moodle 1.9  with 4 issues identified.  These are courses they won't restore.  We are not really sure why they are not working but it may be to do with  back-up size (one was 4.4gb!) and others may just be corrupt back-ups.  The next step with these is to try to restore the Moodle 2 version and then re-do any changes made since April.
  • 355 courses were restored from Moodle 2.  Only 2 issues were identified here.  One included all scorms / NLNs which we kind of expected and we can re-create that easily enough if we decide to.  The other just won't restore - it freezes during restore.  I tried to manually back-up the version on beta Moodle 2 and it freezes then as well.  Even importing the data into a new course results in a frozen page.  This one just won't work!  We are re-creating that one from scratch.  
  • There were 10 newly created courses in Moodle 2 as well.
As administrators, a few of us still have access to the beta Moodle 2 server and the 1.9 server, and we have a full back-up of the original courses off-site, which means we can access things again to check and restore if required.  However, it is not a good use of time to check them all and just restore them so any SDC staff reading this - don't expect me to go and get your course just because you didn't tell us you wanted it before the upgrade!!  We are only using these where there have been issues with the upgrade process.

What is happening this now?
First we need to fix the issues and get the 5 courses listed above working!
There are no users automatically in Moodle 2 (yey - no more students who left 4 years ago!!) but this means that no-one can really do anything in Moodle until we let them!  When teachers login for the first time their Moodle account is created.  We then need to manually add the teachers to the courses.  We are doing this by request so teachers will email me (or my staff) to request access.

There are also lots of new things to set up such as new gradebooks with specific grading, plus also some wikis to recreate for users to be able to carry on using them when they come back.

The LTRS team spent so much time helping the rest of the college staff to get ready for the upgrade they now need to develop their own courses ready for September.

What others things didn't work and need addressing?
The main issues have come from courses upgraded from Moodle 1.9:
  • They don't keep the topic headings correctly to populate the navigation and course menu so these need to be manually changed to put them into the section name box.
  • Courses don't have any enrolment methods so they can't be self-enrolled and teachers cannot be manually added.  We are amending this as we go to add teachers to the courses.
  • The blocks also did not come across so they need to be re-added to the courses.

PLUS - more training of course!  We did lots of training prior to the upgrade but many teachers will want more so we need to continue to offer introductory training as well keep up the training on new features as usual.
We are also offering a level 4 qualification to our staff (and will also be available as distance learning soon so contact me if you are interested!!).