Author Archives: glyndwrtel

Using the Moodle Scheduler to set up appointments with students

In the past we have been asked by a number of our tutors whether or not it was possible to use Moodle to set up appointments with students. When we upgraded to Moodle 2.4 it seemed like a good opportunity to get the plugin for the Moodle Scheduler installed, having heard good things about this activity, e.g. Gavin Henrick gave it 4/5 in his review of the Scheduler for Moodle 2. (Our Moodle site is hosted by ULCC, who installed this for us, but Henrick’s review is a good place to start if you are thinking about installing this on a Moodle instance yourself).

You can use the Scheduler to set up one-to-one appointments with your students, but it is also possible to set up group appointments if you have created groups on your course. You can decide whether to allow students to book one appointment in total, or one appointment at a time, which would allow for multiple appointments over a period of time (useful maybe if you want students to book before attending general office hours). You can also award a grade for an appointment, but if you’d prefer not to, can still leave feedback in the form of a comment, after the appointment has taken place.

Scheduler multiple slotsOnce the tutor has added the Scheduler activity to a course they can then add appointment slots. You can, for example, specify the days of the week and the times when you will be available between particular dates, and ask Moodle to divide these into slots for you. You can include a location, and ask Moodle to generate reminder emails to students before the appointment. Another useful feature is that if there are multiple tutors teaching a course you can set up appointments for the different tutors, and these can overlap if need be. As well as adding multiple slots, you can add single slots.

Once the appointment slots have been generated, then you can allow students to book themselves on to a slot of their choice. When they click on to the activity, they see a list of available slots, click into the appropriate radio button to make their choice and then save it. They can also change this appointment time later if there are still slots available.

Student view of Scheduler

Upcoming Events SchedulerWhen an appointment has been applied for, the teacher receives an email to tell them this, and they would also see the appointment appear on the Upcoming events block on the front page of the course (as would the student). The tutor can view a list of their own appointments by clicking on the My appointments tab on the Scheduler activity, or can export the list from the Exports tab:

Scheduler My appointments tab

You could also schedule students on to appointment slots yourself if you’d prefer to, or if some students have not bothered to sign themselves up. To do this, scroll down to the Schedule by student area, and click on Schedule next to the student’s name. You could, however, also send an Invitation or Reminder email asking them to choose their own slot first.

Scheduler Schedule by Student

Once you have met with the student(s), you need to record their attendance at the appointment if you want to then leave a grade (if you have set this up in the Scheduler settings) and/or a comment. To do this, you would click on the Save seen option underneath the student name.

Next, to leave feedback, click on the student name. To leave a comment, click on the Comments tab. If you are grading the appointment, you can do this on the Appointments tab (you can only leave a grade after the appointment has taken place).

Scheduler grade and comment

One niggle with the Scheduler if you are using the grading option is if you are using a scale to grade your appointments; as a tutor you can select the appropriate level of scale (e.g. refer, pass, merit etc. on our pass/refer scale) for each student from the dropdown list. However, when the student views the grade within the Scheduler activity, they would actually see a numeric value (e.g. between 1 and 5 if there are five levels in your scale). They can go to the gradebook to view the actual word/phrase from the scale, but it’s a bit annoying that it doesn’t display as this in the activity itself.

Apart from that, it looks like the Scheduler is going to work very well for us, and a number of tutors have already started setting up appointments for giving feedback to their students on end-of-term assessments.

There is documentation available on the Scheduler on However, we have created a number of screencasts to help staff familiarise themselves with using it, and put them together in a YouTube playlist:

What’s new in Moodle 2.4?

On Wednesday 10th and Thursday 11th April our Moodle hosting provider, ULCC, are upgrading our Moodle installation from Moodle 2.2 to Moodle 2.4, during which time our Moodle site will be available only as read -only. The reason for the upgrade is to improve the stability of the system, fix some issues with course backups, improve performance and to move the installation to new hardware.

As well as improved performance, there are a number of new features that we are looking forward to, namely improved user interface for tutors and students, and the improved Moodle assignment module.

Improved user interface

One of the first changes you might notice is that the icons used have been improved, not only for the resources and activities, but also for the editing options.

Activities icons

Settings block

Edit title

One new icon that will really help to speed editing up for tutors is the Edit title icon. This means that you can now edit the name of any resource or activity directly on the course page.

FIle title

Add activity or resource

We also really the new activity chooser. Rather than two separate menus for resources and activities, you can now simply click on the link + Add an activity or resource in the appropriate topic area. You can then see a help section which explains what each resource or activity is.

increase or decrease topic sectionsIt is now also much easier to increase or decrease the number of topic sections. You no longer have to go to the ‘Edit Settings’ area to do this – you simply click on the + or signs at the bottom of the course front page.

Navigation warningAnother nice new feature is the Navigation warnings that display if you try to navigate away from a page without saving, thus ensuring that you do not lose unsaved changes.

Course layoutThere is also a new Course layout option (under Edit Settings) which lets you choose to Show one section per page. This collapses sections to their summaries, but by clicking on the section title you can see the whole topic or week.

You can navigate to the next or previous topics by using the navigation links that appear and return to the main course page by clicking on the link Return to main course page.

One section at a time

All in all, this is another clever way of avoiding the dreaded ‘scroll of death’.

Finally, blocks can now also be drag-and-dropped to new locations on the course page.

Drag and Drop File Upload

Speaking of drag and drop, we think our tutors are going to love the fact that you can now drag files from your desktop straight over to Moodle.  For example, a teacher can add files straight to the front page of the course from the Windows explorer window on their desktop.

Drag and Drop files

Similarly, a student can drag their saved assignment file directly from their desktop through to the assignment activity.

Select files

Unfortunately, drag and drop does not work with Internet Explorer versions below 10. If you do not have IE 10, you could ask the helpdesk to install it for you, or to install an alternative browser that drag-and-drop will work with, such as Google Chrome or Firefox.

Alternatively, you can continue to add files using the Add button and the File picker, as you could do in Moodle 2.2.

Improved Assignment module

In Moodle 2.4, rather than having four different Moodle assignment types, there is a new assignment module which combines all of the previous assignment types into one activity, with the available settings covering all of the previous options. This means you can combine options, for example asking the student to submit a file but also to produce an online text submission (perhaps with embedded hyperlinks or other media). (There will be little or no change to the Turnitin assignment as far as we know).

The new Moodle assignment also looks to be more student-friendly. In the past we have had issues with students who are not sure that their assignment has been submitted successfully (even when tutors had enabled the ‘send for marking’ button it was not clear to them). In Moodle 2.4, tutors can Require students click submit button, which requires them to click on Submit assignment when they are happy with their work.

On each assignment students see a Submission status which tells them whether the assignment is still a Draft (not submitted) or Submitted for grading.

Assignment draft

Added to this, they should also, in future, receive an email receipt to inform them that their assignment has been successfully submitted. This should make things easier for tutors, who have often been contacted by students who are unsure whether or not they have submitted their assignment correctly.

Assignment receipt

There are also some significant new features in the new assignment module, such as being able to set group assignments, so that groups of students can work collaboratively and receive a common or individual grade. You can see an example of this in Mary Cooch’s video: Group assignments in Moodle 2.4

It is also now possible to allow for blind marking, so that students’ identities are hidden whilst their work is being marked. Again, Mary Cooch has provided an example of this in her video: Blind marking in Moodle 2.4.

Other improvements include the fact that tutors can now set a cut-off date, beyond which submissions will no longer be accepted as late. However, they can also now grant submission date extensions to individual students. Also, it will be possible to include a submission statement, so that students have to tick a box agreeing that the assignment is all their own work before being allowed to submit it.

Basically, the new assignment means you just need to add an assignment activity and then configure the settings to your own needs, and the user experience is improved as it is much clearer to students that their work has been submitted successfully.


The main changes are those that have been outlined above. However, we also like the following new options in Moodle 2.4:

  • Conditional access to course sections – you can now restrict access to a course section based on dates or on completion of other activities on the course
  • Displaying file size and type – you can now choose to display the file size and/or type on the course page. This is particularly useful if you are going to upload a large file (students can decide whether or not to try and start downloading it from a data connection which may charge them for data download)
  • Quiz ‘Open attempts are submitted automatically’ –  a new setting allows the tutor to set the quiz so that any partially completed student attempts are submitted. This will solve the problem of the what one of our tutors had called the ‘Russian roulette’ game some students play when doing a quiz under exam conditions (waiting until the last possible moment to submit, and not allowing enough time to do so).

I have outlined some of these new features in the screencast below, using the test site provided by our Moodle hosts, ULCC. I hope to produce one on the actual site once our upgrade has taken place. To get the best possible quality, use the cog icon on the bottom right of the video to choose HD.

Using letters and scales in the Moodle gradebook

Following on from our first post about using the gradebook in Moodle 2, I’m going to look here at two ways of awarding students non-numerical grades: using letters and using scales. There are default letter grades and scales available across the University’s Moodle site, but you can also customise them.

Using Letters

If your department prefers to award letter grades to students until work has been second marked, you can use the letter grade scale in Moodle. The teacher awards a numerical grade when grading the work, which is then converted by Moodle into a percentage, and shown as the relevant grade letter in the gradebook.

Letter gradesThere is an existing letter grade scale, which is set as default for the whole of the University’s Moodle site (and is different to the default Moodle setting). To see this, go to Settings > Course administration > Grades. Then, from the dropdown menu on the top left, select Letters > View. So, if a student is given 70% or above, they would see an ‘A’ grade; if they get less then 40% they will see the word ‘Refer’.

If you wish to make changes to any of the grade letters on your course, click on the Edit grade letters link. Click into the tickbox next to Override site defaults to make the editing options available, and edit the grade letters and/or the boundaries as appropriate.

For students to see letter grades in the gradebook, you need to edit the graded item. So, from the dropdown menu on the top left, under Categories and items, select Simple view. Then click on the ‘edit’ icon next to the relevant grade item and under the Actions column:

Simple view

Grade itemOn the Grade Item screen, you may need to click on Show Advanced to see all of the options.

Next to Grade display type, select Letter from the dropdown menu. This would show the student the relevant letter grade in relation to the percentages set on the letter grade scale. Alternatively, you could choose Letter (percentage), which would show students the letter grade and the percentage in brackets, or Letter (real) which would show them the letter grade and the actual grade in brackets).

Using Scales

Another non-numeric way of evaluating a student’s performance is to use a scale, which would give the student a word or a small phrase as the feedback. When marking work, the tutor sees the scale options in a drop-down list, and can choose the grade to be awarded.

To see the scales available on your course, go to the gradebook and from the dropdown menu, select Scales > View. You will see the Standard scales which are set up as default for the whole Moodle site. The standard scale you are most likely to use is probably Pass/Refer (Fail, Refer, Pass, Merit, Distinction).

However, you can also create your own custom scale; click on Add a new scale. Give your scale a Name and in the Scale box, create the scale by listing the words/phrases, from negative to positive, and separated by commas. You can then use the Description field to help the students understand what their awarded scale means.

seminar participation

Save changes. You can edit or delete your new scale until you start to use it for an activity on the course, when the editing icons will disappear.

To make use of a standard or custom scale, when you create a graded activity (e.g. an assignment) you would choose the relevant Scale: option from the Grade dropdown box (where you will see both the standard scales for the whole site and any custom scales you have created for the course).

If you are adding a grade item to the gradebook (for example, for work completed outside of Moodle such as a presentation, or seminar participation), then you would choose Scale for Grade type, and then choose the relevant scale from the Scale dropdown menu.

Accessing the Moodle Gradebook, adding grade items and hiding grades

It’s that time of year when tutors and students are thinking about grades and feedback on graded activities such as quizzes and assignments. This week we’ve been looking at the gradebook on a Moodle course (find this via Settings > Course administration > grades), which is where the grades are stored and managed, and in this post we’ll look at accessing the Grader report, adding grade items, and hiding grades from students.

Grader report

By default, you will see the Grader report; you can use it to view and change grades (Turn editing on on the top right to make changes), as spaces are automatically generated when you add an assessed activity in a Moodle course.

Grader report

If you click on the student’s name it will take you to their profile, clicking on the name of an activity takes you to that activity, and if there is a magnifying glass icon next to the student’s grade, then clicking on it will take you to the student’s attempt for that activity.

Add a grade item

You can also add a grade item, as a way of giving a grade and some feedback for activities which have been completed outside of Moodle, for example an exam or a presentation. To add a grade item, choose Simple or Full view from under Categories and items on the dropdown menu on the top left, and use the Add grade item button. To enter the marks for a grade item you have created, go back to the Grader report and Turn editing on.

Hide grades from students

A question we’ve been asked a lot by tutors is how to hide grades from students. In Moodle, when you leave a grade and feedback for a students on an assignment, for example, the student receives an email to let them know. If you want to make sure that all students receive the grades at the same time, you might want to hide them until a specific date. To do this, choose Simple view from the dropdown menu. You can then either hide the grades for a particular assessment by using the eye icon next to it on in the Actions column; you would then have to remember to ‘unhide’ the item using the closed eye icon. Alternatively, to hide the grades until specific date and time, click on the Edit icon. gradeitemedit

Click on Show Advanced on the top right to display all of the options on the page. Enable Hidden until and choose the appropriate date and time before saving your changes.

By the way, for Turnitin assignments, you don’t need to do this. Just make sure you set the appropriate Post Date when you are setting up or updating the assignment.

In our next post we’ll look at using letters, scales and categories, and exporting grades.

How Santa Grades Millions of Letters

A Christmas-themed post from the Learning Technologies team at Solent – How Santa uses Turnitin and GradeMark to grade millions of letters. Enjoy!

Learning Technology - Unlimited!

A message from Turnitin…

“Every December, millions of children around the world write letters to Santa, explaining how they’ve been good boys and girls and letting him know what they want to see under their trees come December 25th. Over the years, the number of kids sending him letters skyrocket. His mailbox was flooded and he found himself buried in letters, unable to respond to all of them.  One day, a little elf told Santa about Turnitin—how he could use it to accept submissions from the children, check the letters for originality, give immediate feedback, and even use rubrics to help determine if they’ve been naughty or nice. So he gave it a shot.”

Take a look at this video…. Are you as good as Santa at using Turnitin!!!

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Assignments in Moodle 2 and through Turnitin

We’ve been having requests lately from staff members who have been setting up Moodle and/or Turnitin assignments for the first time who needed help to do so. We had already created some video tutorials to explain how to do this, but realised that one of the most common questions we were getting was – what does the student see? We do have the ‘switch role to student’ option available on our Moodle 2 site, but you don’t actually get a true picture of what the student will see (for example, you don’t see the ‘Upload a file’ button on a Moodle assignment).

We have therefore created two new YouTube playlists for tutors, which include our video tutorials aimed at students, so that the tutor can also see it from their point of view. These are:

Assignments in Moodle 2

Turnitin assignments in Moodle 2

In both playlists we explain how to set up the assignment and then how to provide grades and feedback. We also include the student videos on how to submit the assignment and how to view grades and feedback.

On the Turnitin playlist we also explain how to submit a paper ‘on behalf of’ a student. You could do this if a student has submitted a paper to you electronically, either through a Moodle assignment or via email, and you suspect plagiarism. You could set up a Turnitin assignment on your Moodle course and then submit the paper under the student’s ID to check the originality report.

Carrying out the Student Evaluation of Module (SEM) in Moodle

The Centre for Learning, Teaching and Assessment (CLTA) at Glyndŵr University have recently reminded staff that on many modules it will soon be time to carry out the mid-course Student Evaluation of Module (SEM). The usual option is to hand out hard copies of this questionnaire, made up of 18 multiple choice questions, with room for comments at the end. Guidance on getting the data from the questionnaire analysed is provided by the CLTA on their Moodle site, and for large cohorts tutors are able to send the hard copies for scanning using Optical Mark Recognition (OMR).

However, an alternative is to use your Moodle site to carry out the survey. This will be particularly useful for those courses where modules are delivered entirely online. To add the questionnaire to your Moodle module, use Add an activity…Feedback. You can then click on the Templates tab to make use of the public templates we have created on the University’s Moodle site, available either in English or in Welsh. As students submit their responses you can see the collated data using the Analysis tab, from where it is also possible to export the results.

The CLTA stress that it is important to get a high response rate or the quantitative data collected will be meaningless. One advantage of setting up the activity in Moodle is that you can set it so that responses are anonymous, but at the same time keep track of who hasn’t submitted their answers. To do this, you would need to enable Student Tracking at the course level (under Settings > Edit Settings), and set the activity completion on the feedback activity so that it is ‘complete’ once the student has submitted their answers. You can then use the Activity completion report to pick out those students who haven’t responded and encourage them to do so.

The video tutorial below explains how to set up your Student Evaluation of Module on your Moodle site: