Tag Archives: Moodle 2

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.

Miscellaneous

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.

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.

Copying content from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2.2

The majority of the staff at Glyndŵr have now logged in to our new Moodle 2.2 site, which will be live for our students from 4th September 2012, and issues of access to courses are being resolved. Our next big task is to help our staff to populate the new site, as we have started off with a fresh Moodle 2 environment, rather than upgrading. The main reason for this was because we are taking the move to Moodle 2 as an opportunity to reorganise our Virtual Learning Environment. This post outlines how we are copying across content and some of the issues we have come across.

Course backups and restores for support sites

We have begun to help staff to copy across their content from the current Moodle site  to the new one and for the student support and staff support sites we can back up a Moodle 1.9 course and then restore it in Moodle 2.2. It is then a case of advising the relevant staff members that from now on they need to start updating information on the new site and be prepared for the go-live date for students in September.

There are, however, a few things that a Moodle administrator needs to bear in mind when doing a course backup in 1.9 before restoring in 2.2:

  • There are a number of non-core Moodle modules that won’t copy across, for example the Journal, or for us, Turnitin assignments (we are moving from a basic integration to a native integration). You need to remove these elements from the list of what’s included in the backup file; otherwise when you come to restore you will simply get an error message.
  • For Glossaries and Databases, the core settings and a link will appear, but you will find that the entries don’t copy across. For both modules your best bet is to then go back to the original activity in 1.9 and export the entries. You can then import entries into the glossary or database in your 2.2 course.
  • Your topic headings from Moodle 1.9 will appear as labels in 2.2, so you will need to copy them into the appropriate places using the ‘Edit summary’ icons.
  • Staff should be encouraged to check any files and links – we have found that sometimes what displayed as a file in 1.9 will appear as a URL in 2.2, or vice versa. In particular, you need to check any links to files located elsewhere on the course, to other topic areas or to other courses on your Moodle site – some will invariably be broken.
  • Given that there is no longer a files area, and we are not using the My Private Files function at Glyndŵr, you may need to re-upload pictures (they may be fine in labels or pages, but not display correctly in, for example, quiz questions). Again, encourage staff to check.

Options for copying content across for academic sites

In spite of the issues outlined above, if you are doing a simple backup and restore to a new version of the same course, it is relatively straightforward. However, copying content across for the academic sites is not so simple, as we are changing how we organise our VLE. In our current Moodle site, different departments have organised their courses in a variety of ways, but from September we are moving to a system whereby every module delivered has a space on Moodle (one space per module code, per campus, per academic year) and there are also programme spaces for each programme delivered. Courses will be created automatically, based on the data held by Student Data Services in SITS, and students will be enrolled automatically.

There are very few courses, therefore, where we can do a straight backup and restore. One way we’ve been getting around this is to restore 1.9 content into a 2.2 programme site, and then use the Import function to copy content relating to specific modules into the relevant module spaces. (You can see a video tutorial of how to copy content from one course to another here).

Some staff, of course, are going to use the move to Moodle 2 and the reorganisation of the VLE as an opportunity to review and rethink how they present  their content and deliver their learning online, and we would encourage them to do so. However, for those staff members who want help moving their content across, we are therefore giving them two options:

  1. We can do a backup of the Moodle 1.9 course and restore this into a Moodle 2.2 space (as discussed above). This is the more appropriate option if they have resources other than files (such as links to websites, labels etc.) or activities (such as forums, assignments etc.) on the site.
  2. Download the files they have uploaded to Moodle 1.9 and then upload these to their new Moodle spaces. This is the more appropriate option if they only have files and folders on their current Moodle space, and/or if they want the opportunity to rethink how they organise their Moodle space.

The video below outlines these options to our members of staff:

Access to Courses in Moodle 2

We are now encouraging staff at Glyndŵr to log in to our new Moodle 2 site, if you haven’t already done so. From September 4th the link ‘Log in to Moodle’ on the university home page will point to the new Moodle site, but until then staff need to use the URL: http://moodle.glyndwr.ac.uk. There will be a link on the front page of Moodle 2 pointing back to the old Moodle site, which will be available until at least December 2012.

Once you have logged in for the first time, then you will be assigned the appropriate access. The diagram below explains what you should see under the My Courses area, and also how your access will be assigned:

  • For the programme sites, staff support sites and student support sites, you will be given editing rights manually, by Alicia Owen or Dave Mosford in Web Services; if you cannot access the sites you need to, please contact us.
  • Access to module sites will be dependent on the data held in SITS by Student Data Services. If you are listed as a module leader, you will be given the ‘course leader’ role, which means you will be able to assign teacher access to other users, but you will not see this until 24 hours after logging in for the first time.
  • Students will have access to modules and programmes that they are enrolled on in SITS. If they cannot see your modules (24 hours after logging in for the first time) then they need to contact Student Data Services.

The video below demonstrates what you should expect to see:

Course formats in Moodle 2

The way that we organise content within our VLE at Glyndŵr University is going to change from September 2012. We will be moving to an automated system whereby programme spaces and module spaces are created automatically, using data from Student Records. At the moment, we have some course sites that are very large, and also therefore display a lot of content when the student first logs in, presenting us with the issue of what Mark Drechsler coined the ‘scroll of death‘. Once the integration takes place, we are hoping that this will be less of a problem.

However, for those course sites where there will always be lots of information presented on the front page, with Moodle 2 we will have some new course formats which have been designed to combat this problem:

Single format

With the single format, when the student first enters the course, they will only see one topic, but they can move to other areas of the course by using the dropdown menu that appears next to ‘Jump to…’ underneath the current topic. They can also choose to display all topics again by clicking on the ‘Show all topics’ icon. However, whichever whey choose to display the topics the student won’t see topic ‘0’ at the top of the screen, as they do in other formats. This doesn’t mean you can’t use the News forum with this format, but it does mean you should probably make sure you show the Latest News block on your site to display any news items.

Single format

Collapsed Topics

In the Collapsed Topics format there is a ‘toggle’ for each topic section (apart from topic ‘0’), which makes it easy to hide or display each topic, reducing the amount of content visible on the screen. Moodle remembers the state of the ‘toggle’ the next time you log into that course site with the same account.

Collapsed topics screen print

Collapsed Weeks

The Collapsed Weeks works like the Collapsed Topics, in that there is a ‘toggle’ function again, but of course the sections are divided into weeks rather than topics. The current week is highlighted in yellow, but the student can choose to look at previous or future weeks’ content by clicking on the appropriate ‘toggle’.

Collapsed Weeks screen shot

The video below explains how to change your course settings and course format, as well as explaining the different course formats available to us at Glyndŵr.

Forums in Moodle 2

We’ve been enjoying exploring our new Moodle 2 site, and this week we’ve been looking at forums. Most of you will be relieved to hear that not much has changed in terms of how they work – a forum is still a useful tool for encouraging communication and collaboration between tutor and students, and between students. However, there are a few changes on the Glyndŵr Moodle 2 site that we are pleased to see.

A new forum type

First of all, there is a new forum type available. We still have the forum types Single simple discussion, Each person posts one discussion, Q and A forum, and Standard forum for general use, but we also now have the Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format. This is an open forum, where anyone can start a new discussion or reply to posts at any time, but in which discussion topics are displayed in a blog-like format, with a link to ‘Discuss this topic’ on the main forum page if others want to make comments:

Tutors also now have the option of exporting forum posts, which you may want to do in order to archive evidence of students’ contributions, for example. We can either use the Export whole discussion option, or alternatively, you can export an individual post by clicking on Export to portfolio:

You can choose to export as HTML or as Leap2A, a format which makes it easy to export to Mahara Eportfolio.

The News forum

Another improvement is that the admin settings on the News forum have been changed so that students no longer automatically have the permission to reply to posts there. In general, staff have always found it useful to be able to post an announcement here if they want all students to read it; all students receive email notifications of any new posts because they are all automatically subscribed to the news forum on their course sites. However, in Moodle 1.9 students also had the ability to reply to news forum posts (unless you overrode the permissions on the student role), which would then also generate an email to all course participants. This was not ideal when some people were already complaining of being swamped with emails from Moodle. The change in Moodle 2 mean that this should no longer be an issue, and gets another thumbs up from us.