Best practices: Tips for improving your online courses in 2013

As the new year begins it’s a great time to set new goals for improving our elearning courses. Are your courses lacking luster engagement interactivity or collaboration? How can you take your online courses to the next level? In today’s post I’m going to suggest some ideas for improving your courses in Moodle™ and Joule.

  1. Use advanced grading methods. Not only do advanced grading methods (i.e. rubrics marking guides checklists) make it easier to grade assignments and advanced forums but they also create consistency and transparency. If you aren’t using advanced grading methods yet in your courses then take some time to create a few forms. Be sure to create ones that can be reused throughout your courses. Share forms with other instructors by asking your site administrator to share it site-wide or you can backup the individual activity and send the file to another instructor to restore.
  2. Start using advanced forums. This forum type allows you to take advantage of the Moodle™ forum types but with added features such as allowing for anonymous postings sending private replies to students sorting discussions controlling subscriptions for each discussion post and grading using advanced grading methods and Joule grader! Set the Grade type to Manual in order to grade with Joule grader. For the Grading method select an advanced grading method if desired or just leave it set to Simple direct grading.
  3. Add videos to increase engagement. Videos can be a great way to engage your students and they reach a combination of learning styles. Try including a video as a way to generate online discussions by posting a relevant one into the Forum Introduction area and instruct students to post their reactions. Alternatively create a database activity and ask students to find videos that relate to a specific topic and add them as entries. Have them describe what the video is about and why it is relevant. You can even allow students to rate each other!
  4. Increase motivation and differentiate instruction by allowing for extra credit. Did you know that you can award students extra credit in Moodle™? The sum of grades and the weighted mean of grades aggregation methods allow you to integrate extra credit into your Moodle™ courses easily. You can set an activity as extra credit by checking the Extra credit checkbox in the Moodle™ Grader report. If the Unlimited grades feature is enabled on your site you can use it to give students extra credit without actually marking anything as "extra credit." This will allow you to give a student more than the maximum points for the graded item via the Joule gradebook or the Moodle™ grader report.
  5. Restrict access based on conditions. This is a powerful feature that allows instructors to release content to students based on conditions (e.g. date grade completion status). This feature must be enabled at the site level in order to use it. If it is enabled you will see the restrict access settings within the settings area for each resource and activity. Try using this to differentiate instruction by releasing content to students based on how they scored on a particular activity.
  6. Personalize your course by creating rules using the Joule Personalized Learning Designer. When you set up a rule you are automating actions in your Joule course. With PLD you can differentiate and customize the pathways of learning for your students with minimal effort. You can think of it as a design mechanism to save you valuable time. Create alert messages automate e-mails push students into groups based on performance and even send students to a specific activity or URL.
  7. Ask students and peers for feedback. Use the Feedback module to ask your students how you are doing. This activity allows you to create custom surveys to gain valuable information from your users and then to evaluate those responses. Consider asking a peer to review your course and provide insight. It is easy to get “too close” to a course and sometimes having another teacher instructional designer or instructional technologist take a look at it can pay off dividends!
  8. Give your course a makeover. Declutter the front page of the course. Is there a better way that you could be chunking content? Are you placing paragraphs of content on your front page? Are the graphics relevant? Are you using easy to read fronts and colors? How easy is it to navigate in your course? Step back and take a fresh look at your course. Don’t just continue to design your courses the same way just because you’ve been doing it that way!

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for improving your online courses in Moodle™ and Joule over the “course” of this year. If you’d like to learn more about these features and ideas then check out our online courses and webinar courses.

Thank you for reading and here’s to a successful 2013!




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