Best practices: Leveraging the Lesson Module for differentiated learning

The Moodle™ Lesson module has massive potential to assess understanding and help differentiate the delivery of content within Moodle™. In today’s blog I want to remind you why we differentiate present the potential benefits and possible pitfalls with implementing this module focusing on ways to maximize the benefits and minimize the impact of these pitfalls address several best practices for using Lesson highlight some tricks and tips and finally leave you with some thoughtful ways to use Lesson!

Why should I differentiate content anyway?

Differentiation is a philosophy of teaching that involves providing students with different avenues for acquiring content processing ideas and demonstrating understanding; in this way all students within a class can learn effectively regardless of differences in ability. It is important to always remember that not all students are the same even if they are in the same classroom. Students enter the online classroom with different life experiences and prior knowledge. Take a minute to think about some ways you differentiate content in your online courses now. Could any of those be more effective or efficient? If so how?

Enter the Lesson module!

The Lesson module presents a series of HTML pages to the student who is usually asked to make some sort of choice underneath the content area. The choice will send them to a specific page in the Lesson. In a Lesson page's simplest form the student can select a continue button at the bottom of the page which will send them to the next page in the Lesson. There are 2 basic Lesson page types that the student will see: question pages and content pages. There are also several advanced navigational pages that can meet more specialized needs of the instructor. The Lesson module was designed to be adaptive and to use a student's choices to create a self-directed lesson of sorts. The significant difference between a Lesson and other activity modules available in Moodle™ comes from its adaptive abilities.

Grading options

The lesson module provides a number of grading options including practice lessons custom scoring and multiple methods of aggregation. Instructors can even allow students to retake a lesson if desired. Lesson also gives instructors the ability to control the flow and display of the lesson with the ability to create navigational buttons and prompts with unique word choice and button structure. An optional Progress Bar that displays to students as they work in the lesson makes self-tracking quick and simple and an optional Lesson Menu makes lesson navigation intuitive as well.

Content question and navigation options

Teachers can add different types of pages to a Lesson including several question types content pages and differing navigation pages. Students only see Question and Content page types. Content Pages have content and buttons at the bottom that students can select. Content pages can serve as neutral pages that are never scored for grade or lesson completion calculations. The elements of a Content page are:

  • Page title: Used to locate and describe the page.
  • Page content: Where material is going to be presented to the student
  • Descriptions: Choices the student must make.
  • Jumps: Mechanism that determines what happens after a student makes a specific choice.

The Question Types available for use in lesson include:

  • Multiple choice single answer questions allow students to select one answer out of many. Each answer can have a default response a specific teacher response or no response shown to the student. There are jumps associated with a student answer including the default jumps of "this page" or "next page" or the teacher may select another specific page for each individual answer.
  • Multiple choice multi-answer questions are created using the Multiple choice question and checking the “multi-answer” box. Multi-answer allows the student to select more than one answer of many. In this question type every correct answer must have both the same jump and the same response. Every wrong answer must have both the same jump and response. A correct answer is one that receives a positive score or advances the student forward. There is no partial credit given for selecting some of the correct answers in a lesson question of this type.
  • True-False is another type of Multiple choice question except it is limited to only two possible answers.
  • Matching questions present students with a pull-down menu from which to select the correct answer. There is one response and jump for getting the entire question correct and another response and jump when the match is wrong.
  • Short answer questions ask students to provide a single short answer. The teacher uses a series of answer/response/jump/score as filters to evaluate the students short answer. Each possible answer can have a unique response jump and score. The last one in the series is always “all the other wrong answers”.
  • Numeric questions require the student to provide the results of a calculation in a single answer. Like a short answer the teacher uses the series of answers as a filter with the last one being "all the other wrong answers".
  • Short essay questions ask students to answer a question in several sentences or even a paragraph. This is the only lesson question type that is not automatically graded by the system. It must be manually graded by the instructor.

There are 3 navigational pages which can be added by the teacher as well. These pages are not seen by the students and are only used by the teacher:

  • The term branch refers to a series of pages. There are two types of branch pages in Lesson:
    • The ordered branch sends the student to a specific page every time.
    • The classic branch uses the more advanced navigation page called "End of Branch". The classic branch offers the teacher a way to randomize what the student sees next in a series of pages.
  • A cluster is a group of pages and could be considered an advanced feature. A cluster group starts with a cluster page and ends with an end cluster page.

How do I maximize the benefits and avoid pitfalls?

With the exception of Short essay questions lessons are graded automatically saving teachers time. Lesson allows for assessment opportunities intermixed with content delivery pages creating opportunities for quick learning checks. While lessons may take a while to set up once you’ve created your lesson there isn’t much management involved unless you have included essay questions. With this tool each choice the student makes can show a different teacher response/comment and send the student to a different page in the lesson. With careful planning the Lesson module can customize the presentation of content and questions to each student with no further action required by the teacher. The lesson module is typically considered the most complex activity type in Moodle™ and may require more upfront development time than many other types of tools. However once it is developed and you understand how to build them the benefits far outweigh the up-front time investment!

Consider these bright ideas for incorporating Lessons into your courses!

In addition to merely working through content the Lesson module lends itself to a wide variety of activities not all of which need to be graded. Consider these uses as you begin using Lessons in your courses: Use a branching simulation to test students’ knowledge at an application level. On each content page the student reads some information or looks at a picture (or both) then decides what to do next. For example a medical simulation may start out by presenting a patient’s complaint. Possible choices could then be to order a test or to do nothing. If the student orders a test each branch would present the results and ask the student what to do next. Each page could include an option to switch from diagnosis to treatment which would branch the student to a different set of options.

  • Use branch tables to create "adventure" or "maze" types of activities.
  • Use simple content delivery with a few questions built in for a chapter review or study guide.
  • Use the lesson to introduce a new topic. Learners start out knowing little to nothing progressing at their own pace reviewing what they are not sure of and moving on when they feel ready.
  • Use multiple content pages to deliver the same content in different ways according to how the students prefer to learn. For example an “I prefer to read.” button jumps to a page of text explaining the concept at hand. An “I prefer to watch a video." button jumps to a screencast of the same concept and an “I prefer to listen." button jumps to a podcast explaining the material.

I hope that this overview of the Lesson module and what you can do with it has inspired you to take a deeper look into using them in your courses. As support take a look at the following blog articles from the past:

For even more in-depth training on the Lesson and other Moodle™ activities enroll in our Advanced Course Building course today! Best, ~Laura Lea



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