Best practices: Working with Glossary

As course builders and facilitators we recognize that many components must come together smoothly in order to have a productive and energetic online classroom. Few would argue that one of the most critical is student engagement.

Content creation is not only an effective method of assessing students but an engaging opportunity for students to develop high-order thinking skills and demonstrate mastery. What is it about content creation that students find so engaging? What are some ways in which you currently allow for this in your courses? Could any of these be more effective or efficient? How? In today’s blog we want to show you how to use Moodle™’s Glossary module to engage students through content creation!

The right tool for the job

Moodle™’s Glossary module with its multiple display formats can be a powerful tool for encouraging student engagement. It gives you the opportunity to assess student learning within the activity if desired making it a go to option for many course builders and facilitators.

Whether it is definitions information links or files the Glossary activity allows participants to collaboratively collect and organize information. (Glossary’s can also be built solely by the instructor for information dissemination.) Glossary entries can be searched or browsed alphabetically or by category date or author. Instructors can set the glossary activity so that entries are approved by default or require approval by a teacher before they are viewable by everyone. An instructor can also allow comments on entries.

Instructors can enable ratings on glossary activities allowing entries to be rated by teachers or students (peer evaluation). Ratings can be aggregated to form a final grade which is recorded in the gradebook

Benefits of Glossaries

Let’s look at some of the benefits the glossary activity gives both students and teachers:

  • Building community: The glossary activity allows students to share information about themselves their interests and their work providing opportunities for students in the online environment to build connections.
  • Increased student engagement: Students as content creators are more engaged in the learning experience.
  • Collect resources for future use: Content entered into the glossary can be used as resources in future classes.
  • Opportunity for group work: Using glossaries in large classes is an easy way to incorporate group work an important skill for today’s students.

Best practices for effective implementation

In looking to maximize these benefits consider the following best practices for effective implementation of glossary activities:

  • Design creative Glossaries: Just because it's a glossary doesn't mean it needs to be a set of terms you define. Search for creative ways to use the tool. You can make a glossary of favorite song lyrics authors mathematical ah-ha! moments whatever. Consider having students upload media elements or content they’ve generated and use ratings and comments to make the glossary activity interactive.
  • Structure glossary entries: Create categories when appropriate to aid students in finding glossary content and include directions to students regarding how their glossary entries should be structured. For example if students are asked to post a link to their favorite local restaurant as an icebreaker activity you may format your directions to include something like ‘Enter the name of the restaurant in the Concept field. The definition field should include the address of the restaurant along with 3-5 sentences crafted to convince others to give your favorite a try.’
  • Moderate student contributions: As a best practice we encourage you to moderate glossary contributions of your students especially early on in the course. This increased workload has multiple benefits. It helps highlight your presence in the online classroom. Letting students know you’re aware of the work they are doing can help encourage them to meet your expectations. It also helps ensure the content of the glossary is appropriate academic and inclusive. Lastly even if the glossary is ungraded moderating contributions helps ensure students have a clear understanding of your expectations increasing their chances of success.
  • Populate the Glossary: Once you’ve created your glossary it’s a good idea to add a couple of entries so that students have a model to work from when completing their own entries.
  • Vary the use: Even the most well designed activity can lose its effectiveness when overused. With the variety of formats and the multitude of uses glossaries can be utilized frequently without feeling repetitive.

Bright ideas

Apart from the traditional dictionary style definitions the Glossary activity has a variety of uses. When considering how to incorporate the Glossary activity into your classroom consider these ideas as food for thought:

  • Collaborative Glossaries: When students are responsible for creating the definitions they are much more likely to remember it. Consider incorporating collaborative glossaries in to your course. Each member of the class could be assigned to contribute a term and definition. Multiple definitions for the same word could be rated by you and by the students with the highest-rated definitions accepted for the final class glossary. Engaging in the process of learning debating and refining a glossary can go a long way toward helping students begin using new terms. You can also structure multiple glossaries over the course of a semester chunking them by the organizational structure of your course (week chapter unit etc.) In large classes consider using student teams to come up with definitions and answers making each team responsible for one units/weeks/topics worth of definitions while all the other teams rate and comment. Alternatively each team could be responsible for one definition per chapter and then rate and comment on the other teams’ work.
  • Credit for word use: This combination strategy uses the forum and the auto-linking feature of the glossary. After you and your students have defined the glossary terms it’s important for students to begin practicing using the words in realistic contexts. With the auto-linking feature enabled it’s easy to spot when a glossary word has been used in a forum. To encourage word use assign a portion of the credit students receive for their forum postings for correct use of glossary terms. As you or other students rate posts you can quickly scan for highlighted glossary words and award points for usage. You may even want to break the score down further. Perhaps award one point for using the word and two points for using it correctly.
  • Icebreakers: The glossary makes a great icebreaker activity. Have students put their name in the concept field name and a few sentences about themselves in the definition block. Consider having students complete a sentence such as "You might be surprised to learn that I....“
  • Language vocabulary: For language classes consider using the glossary to enter a word in the Concept field and use the definition field to add the translation and phonetics. As well add a link to an audio file of someone saying the translated word.
  • Collaborative research projects: Using the glossary for collaborative research projects allows each student or team to complete the research on their part of the assignment and then post the information to the glossary including photos and other graphics in an encyclopedia format. The entire class is then able to uses this combined resource to complete their individual research papers.
  • Review tool: Encourage students to create as many entries as they can in a given timeframe as an overview after completing a topic. Students can then use the glossary as a study tool before the test.
  • Student showcase: Consider also the possibilities glossary offers as a student showcase. Have students upload multimedia files to the glossary to share with classmates for rating and comments.

I truly believe that learning is not a spectator sport and I encourage you to formulate questions consider your classroom your content your students and your teaching style when filing these ideas into your teaching toolkit. For more professional development and Moodle™ training opportunities including information on using Moodle™’s tools (like you’ve read above) check out Open LMS ’ TRAIN Package to see if it might be the right fit for your institution.





Discover our solutions