Using Moodle™/Joule for assessment: Addressing classroom needs in new ways

As educators we know that assessment is important in any learning environment and that assessment can vary wildly given our classroom need our curriculum our philosophy of teaching and learning and the mandates we are required to comply with. What are some ways in which you currently assess learning in your courses? Could any of these be more effective or efficient? How? In today’s blog we want to introduce you to two unique assessment strategies looking at familiar Moodle™ features from a new perspective!

Monitoring student progress

How might you use Moodle™ to monitor the progress of students as they complete tasks toward a final outcome? Consider employing the Choice activity to meet this need. In this instance students would enter the Choice activity to register which task or step they were working on within the scope of the project. Once they complete the step and are ready to move on to the next task students would return to the same activity and update their selection. This use allows you to monitor all students’ progress from one page and facilitate the process as needed.

Understanding the Choice Activity

The Choice Activity enables a teacher to ask a single question and offer multiple possible responses. Traditionally used as a polling activity this tool provides instructors with a number of setting options creating a multitude of uses for this simple to set up activity.

The Limits drop-down menu allows instructors to limit the number of participants who can select each particular choice. When the maximum number is reached no one else can select that choice. Instructors can determine whether they want to allow students to be able to update their choice or not and set date and time restrictions for when the activity is available. Instructors also have control over publishing the results determining whether and when students will be able to view the results of the choice activity as well as if publishing whether to show names of students under each available choice or merely the number who responded to each option.

Try creating a Choice activity for monitoring student progress by completing these steps:

  1. Add the Choice activity in the desired location of your course.
  2. Enter a name for the activity into the Choice Name field such as “Project One Checklist”.
  3. Enter instructions for the activity into the Introduction text area such as “As you complete each task in Project One use the checklist below to mark your progress.
  4. Do not check the Display description on course page setting.
  5. Leave the Limit the number of responses allowed setting as disabled.
  6. Enter project tasks into the Options text boxes. For example:
    • Option 1 – Choose Project Topic of study (by X date)
    • Option 2 – Create outline (by X date)
    • Option 3 – Create first draft (by X date)
    • Option 4 – Have a peer review first draft (by X date)
    • Option 5 – Make edits and turn in final paper (by X date)
  7. Do not use the Restrict answering to this period setting.
  8. Choose an option for Display mode. Vertical will most likely work best.
  9. Select any option from the Publish results setting. To keep progress private do not publish results. Optionally enabling this feature creates an opportunity for students to track their progress against others in the course. This feature may be useful as a motivator in game or role playing situations. If this option is desired consider using the Publish anonymous results do not show student names option to honor student privacy.
  10. Set the Allow choice to be updated setting to Yes.
  11. Set the Show column for unanswered to No.
  12. If applicable select any Outcomes this activity is mapped to.
  13. Set the Common module and the Restrict access options as desired.
  14. Set the Activity completion to Students can manually mark the activity as complete.
  15. Click the Save and Display button to preview the activity.

Best Practices In looking to maximize the possible benefits and minimize the potential pitfalls of this assessment consider these best practices for effective implementation.

  • Require it: Monitoring student progress isn’t effective if the results aren’t accurate.
  • Use the results: It expresses the value you place on the time students took to complete the assessment.

Student portfolios

How might you monitor a collection of student work representing their performance within a course using Moodle™? Consider the Glossary activity to meet this need. In this instance students would input/upload elements of their coursework required for portfolio submission into individual Glossary entries. This use allows an instructor to monitor student understanding and mastery over the scope of multiple assignments for more in-depth and substantive assessment. Options within the glossary activity allow student submission to be shared only with the instructor allowing for private display of the material.

Understanding the Glossary Activity

The Glossary Activity allows participants to create collect and organize resources or information. Instructors can build them or create them collaboratively with students. A teacher can allow file attachments to display in the entry as well if desired.

Users can search and browse entries alphabetically or by category date or author. Entries can be approved by default or require approval by a teacher before they are viewable by everyone. A teacher can also allow comments on entries. If the glossary auto-linking filter is enabled entries will be automatically linked where the concept words and/or phrases appear within the course.

Teachers and/or students (peer evaluation) can rate entries which can be aggregated to form a graded item in the gradebook. If you plan to grade a Glossary activity you will want to use the Full with author or Encyclopedia format as it displays the author’s avatars next to the entry.

To create a Glossary for building a course portfolio add the Glossary activity and configure its settings as follows:

  1. In the Glossary Name field enter the text Portfolio.
  2. Enter instructions into the Description text area such as This portfolio is for you to keep a record of your learning throughout the course.
  3. Optionally select to display the instructions on the course page by checking the Display description option. If the description is long consider not selecting this option.
  4. Set Entries shown per page to 1.
  5. Ensure Is this glossary global? is not selected.
  6. Select Secondary glossary as the Glossary type.
  7. Do not allow Duplicate entries.
  8. Do Allow comments on entries. This will allow you to provide feedback on student submissions.
  9. Determine whether or not you want to Allow print view.
  10. Do not Automatically link glossary entries.
  11. Set Approved by default to No. This will allow you to only approval final versions for the student portfolio.
  12. Select Full with author as the Display format.
  13. Set Approval display format to Default to same as display format.
  14. Do not enable the Show ‘Special’ link option.
  15. Set Show alphabet Show ‘ALL’ link and Edit always to Yes.
  16. The rest of the activity settings should be selected to meet your goals for the activity.
  17. Click the Save and Display button to preview the new activity.

Best practices

In looking to maximize the possible benefits and minimize the potential pitfalls of this assessment consider these best practices for effective implementation.

  • Structure entries: Include directions to students regarding how to structure their glossary entries. For example if students are asked to post a link to an external link they’ve created you may format your directions to include something like “Enter the name of the website in the Concept field. The definition field should include the address of the site along with 3-5 sentences to explain the submission.”
  • 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.

For more interesting approaches to commonly used features consider signing up for our Best Practices in E-Learning course designed to show you how to use the many features and tools of Joule to create effective interactive innovative and accessible online courses. We hope this article shed new light on some familiar Moodle™ features. Remember sometimes when looking to try something new the first place to start is your existing toolbox.

Happy Moodling!

~Tara and Janelle



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