Adding Branching exercises into your Moodle™ course
Branching allows users to have a unique experience based on their interaction within an activity. It is a great way to simulate decision-making scenarios of real life events. In today’s post I’m going to discuss techniques for designing branching exercises and suggest a few activities in Moodle™ to use for building them.
Designing the exercise
To design a branching scenario you’ll need to determine the flow of the activity. You’ll set the stage with a given scenario pose questions provide decision points with choices and consequences based on decisions.
You’ll first need to brainstorm a storyline/concept for the activity. Decide which concept in the course you want to immerse your students into experiencing. Once you determine this you are ready to start designing the activity and planning how students will interact with it. In addition consider how you will build the activity so that you can design within the technical capabilities of the tools you have at hand. Later I’ll discuss a few options in Moodle™.
No matter the tool you plan to use for branching it is critical that you plan the scenario before you start to build it. It can become complex quite quickly. As a best practice I recommend drawing a flowchart before starting to build the activity. It does not have to be created in a software program (although this is sometimes easier depending on its complexity) but can be created by simply sketching it on a piece of paper. What you are looking to create is a map for building the activity.
Each decision point will possibly jump the student into a different situation or perhaps one or more of the options might take the student to the same point in the scenario. It may also be possible that students will arrive at the same place eventually but it might just take a lot longer to get there because they had to first experience some consequences for poor decisions. Each way the student can flow through the map is called a path. The number of paths you include into the design can exponentially increase the complexity of the design and build.
It can sometimes be easier to design one path at a time rather than working from the top down. First you might design the ideal path for completion. Then you can work on desiging alternative paths. You’ll also want to consider if at any point a path will lead to failure.
Building the exercise in Moodle™
Once you finish designing the activity you are ready to build it. This is when your scenario will come to life. Two of my favorite activities in Moodle™ are Lesson and SCORM. Both are excellent choices for adding branching into your online course. Let’s take a look at each of them.
The Lesson activity allows you to create question pages with automated feedback and you can use it to remediate or incorporate conditional branching. Let’s say you want to make a scenario in your course so that students can apply a concept covered in the current week’s lesson plan. You would start by creating a Lesson activity. Then you would provide the students with the scenario and question. Each time the student answers the question it will branch/jump them to a different page in the lesson each having its own result. This means there will be multiple learning paths.
When using the Lesson activity in Moodle™:
- Hide the lesson menu on your pages. This will completely immerse the students into the activity and force them to make decisions rather than jumping to different pages using the menu.
- Enable a time limit when timing is critical to complete the exercise. It can also make the activity feel more like a game which can add a level of engagement.
- Display the progress bar to students if you want them to know how they are progressing.
- Allow retakes so that students can try again experience the different paths and learn from their mistakes.
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a standard that allows for cross platform integration. Packages that follow this standard can be uploaded into Moodle™ and allow for the tracking of user data. This allows for more complex branching activities.
SCORM activities can range from simple page-turners to more complex interactive modules. I won’t go into the details of how to create a SCORM activity as this varies based on your design and the tool you choose to use. Many tools allow for creating SCORM activities. Make sure you choose one that is SCORM 1.2 compliant as this is the version that Moodle™ currently supports.
When adding the SCORM activity into your Moodle™ course:
- Add it as an activity if it is an exercise within a course.
- Use the SCORM course format if the entire course is built in the package.
- If you need extra screen real estate design the exercise to display in full screen and then display the package in a new window. The “Display package” setting controls this.
- Disable the course structure player which allows the user to jump between SCOs. If you only have one SCO then this is not needed. Go ahead and set the “Display course structure in player” to “Disabled”.
- Set the content structure page to “Always” display so that users can attempt the exercise multiple times. The “Display course structure on entry page” setting controls this.
I hope that this post helps you in designing some great branching exercises into your Moodle™ and Joule courses. To learn more about the Lesson and SCORM activities enroll in our Advanced Course Building online course.
~Rebecca DeSantis, MSIT
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