Learning Management System (Moodle)
A Learning Management System (LMS) is a secure and private online space to post content and to facilitate online learning activities and communications for a course. Instructors can use an LMS to enhance a face-to-face class or as an integral part of blended or online classes. Concordia currently supports Moodle as its LMS for Technology-enhanced and Blended courses.
An LMS offers variety of functionality for instructors to display content such as documents and media. However, an LMS has much more to offer than being a repository for content. Instructors can also use the space to facilitate a number of course activities including, assignment submission and grading, discussion forums, peer editing, and collaborative spaces, such as wikis. These and other functionality mean many benefits, including:
- Anytime, anywhere access to course content and activities
- More accessible format for those with learning disabilities and language barriers
- Facilitation on course communications
- Facilitation of group activities
- Facilitation and management of assessment activities (including assignments and quizzes)
- Effective means of getting feedback on student learning
An important, yet seldom used feature of the LMS are the detailed user reports. Some instructors may find the student usage data useful in determining how often certain resources are being accessed, how much time students are spending in specific activities and detailed information about quizzes. Not only will this information shed light onto which areas students might be struggling with, but it can also help inform the development of future instructional strategies and resources.
Regardless of how little or much you use an LMS, it is clear that it can be a very powerful tool to help students achieve learning objectives, facilitate course work and communications, and improve accessibility.
Getting Started with an LMS: Step-by-step to getting your course ready
The following series of steps is a rough workflow for starting to use an LMS for the first time.
Find your course
Moodle course sites are automatically created for every course and course section each semester. Instructors and students are added to the sites by an automatic process.
Get training and consult resources
IITS offers training for Concordia faculty and staff on Moodle. For a complete list of scheduled training sessions and to register go to the Availability and Registration page of the IITS Web site.
IITS also provides documentation for using Moodle. Consult the Moodle LMS page for links to more resources. Another excellent resource is Moodle Docs, where you can find descriptions and step-by-step instructions.
Configure course settings
There are a number of settings that should be configured so that your course looks the way you want and does what you want it to do. You can access these from the Edit settings link on the Administration block of your course homepage.
Set up weekly or topic sections
Once you have configured the format of your course, you can customize each of the weekly or topic sections. You can optionally change the title to add the theme for the week, add or remove sections and add decriptions for each section.
Add course activities and resources
For each weekly or topic section, add your activities: quizzes, assignments, branched lessons, wikis, discussion forums, etc. and any electronic resources (i.e. lecture slides & notes, readings, links to videos and other resources, etc.). It's best to organize them with clear labels so that all activities are easy to find.
It is possible to customize which blocks appear and the order in which they appear on your course homepage. The HTML block allows the most flexibility in that you can add any content you want (text, images, links, etc.) and embed widgets from other sites (i.e. Twitter, news sites, etc.). Other blocks include: Activities, Calendar, Comments, and more.
(Adapted from: Steps to make your Moodle Course student-ready)
Getting Started with LMS Functionality
The following LMS funtions are amongst the most popular and most useful for facilitating and managing online activities, assessments and communications.
Online discussion forums, also know as discussion boards, are an environment in the LMS where students have the opportunity to engage with their classmates on course content in a series of messages that are visible to everyone in their class or group.
Most LMS typically allow for the option to put students into groups, which can facilitate any group work activities, and allow them to collaborate and build on each other’s ideas. Discussion
- Allow for equal opportunities for all students to participate
- Promote a discussion with different perspectives
- Give students the opportunity to think about topics and provide more thoughtful answers
- Give the teacher feedback about students’ thinking
- Promote peer learning
Tips for Using Discussion Forums
- Have clear protocols: A protocol is the goal of the discussion with step-by-step instructions on how to complete the task.
- Design questions that require critical thinking: discussion forums are an excellent opportunity for students to develop and demonstrate higher-order thinking skills. In the face-to-face classroom, students do not typically have the same opportunities to think deeply and respond thoughtfully to questions and make this thinking visible to the instructor.
- Be present: It is important for the instructor to be part of this discussions by checking in regularly and adding comments, posing questions to get students to dig deeper and clarify any misconceptions. Set expectations early so students know how often to expect you to check in.
- Use one forum for each topic: Discussion forums can have replies and multiple levels of threads, but they should all be focused on the same overall question or topic. Create separate forums for new tasks or topics.
- Use small groups: Designating groups of approximately 4-6 (but no more than 9) means that students can have meaningful dialogue with one another.
Resources for using Online Discussion Forums
- Protocols for Online Discussions by Joanna C. Dunlap
- Strategies for Creating a Community of Inquiry through Online Asynchronous Discussions by Aimee deNoyelles, Janet Mannheimer Zydney and Baiyun Chen in MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (March 2014)
- University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence’s Online discussions: tips for instructors
- Forming Ground Rules (for groups) by Marylyn Wentworth
- The Online Disucssion Board: Opening the Gateway to New Learning by Elwin L. Jones and Ronald C. Jones in Faculty Focus.
- Prompts that Get Students to Analyze, Reflect, Relate, and Question a short article by Maryellen Weimer in Faculty Focus that summarizes Dietz-Uhler and Lanter's (2009) four-question technique
A Learning Management System is a very efficient way of collecting and facilitating the grading of assignments. Once an assignment is set up, Moodle automatically sets up an assignment "dropbox" where students submit date-stamped electronic files directly into the LMS. Most of the benefits of using the Assignment feature in an LMS are administrative, but it can be very helpful in streamlining the assignment workflow in the following ways:
- submission and feedback/grade more accesible to students
- records for both students and instructors about assignment submission and status; no "lost" papers
- facilitates assignment and feedback
- more efficient grading
There are two ways for students to submit assignments:
- Online text: students copy and paste their text into a text box (not recommended for assignments more than 800-1000 words)
- File upload: students are required to attach one or more files. These files can be in any format.
There is a lot of flexibility for instructors to grade assignments using the LMS. They can either download files to their computer and do it offline, or they can do all the grading directly in Moodle. Grading for Online text assignments can be done right in Moodle without downloading attachments. Instructors can make comments directly in Moodle and assign a grade that will become available to the students at the time designated by the instructor.
Moodle also makes it very easy to grade attached files through the bulk download and upload feature. Once all assignments have been submitted, instructors can download all the assignment submissions as one zip file to their computer. Once on their computer, they can mark up the assignment as usual, adding comments and notes, etc. Once all files have been reviewed, instructors can re-zip the files and upload them all at once. Moodle then automatically returns the assignments to the associated student.
Instructors can create a rubric (or use one they have already created or import one another instructor has created) for any assignment. The rubric is available to students before they submit the assignment, and they can see exactly where they lost marks once graded. In some circumstances, instructors are also able to create a bank of commonly-used comments to select from while grading, making this approach very efficient.
Resources for Using Assignment
Online quizzes are an efficient way of testing student knowledge and understanding. Because they are automatically graded, they are particularly useful in large classes or in classes where there is no TA. Quizzes can include various types of questions including multiple choice, true/false, short answer and essay, amongst others. It is true that adding questions to your Moodle question bank can be time consuming; however, once entered, questions will be available to the instructor in any course they teach and can be exported and imported to facilitate sharing amongst instructors.
If set up appropriately, quizzes can also provide students with immediate feedback on their answers. Instructors have the option to provide specific feedback depending on which answer a student selects. For example, instructors could add some clarification about commonly confused concepts or refer students to a specific resource or page in the textbook for further review.
The quiz module also provides data about questions. Instructors can see which questions were most frequently answered incorrectly, but perhaps most valuable: they can see which incorrect answers were most frequently chosen. This data can be used to adjust instruction in the future and make additional resources available.
Tips for creating effective quizzes
- Ensure all questions are related to course learning outcomes.
- Choose distractors carefully.
- When possible and appropriate, design questions that require higher order thinking skills (application, analysis, evaluation) to promote deep understanding rather than simple recall questions.
- Add questions in bulk in the AIKEN or GIFT format (see note below).
- Consider creating a practice quiz for students at the beginning of the course to familiarize them with the tool and prevent any future compatibility issues.
For more tips on developing quizzes in Moodle, refer to the Effective quiz practices Moodle doc page.
Resources for Using Quiz
Instructors should contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for help using Moodle. If it is an urgent matter please call the IITS Service Desk at (514) 848-2424 ext 7613 and they will see that your problem is referred to the Moodle support team.
IITS also offers training for Concordia faculty and staff on Moodle. For a complete list of scheduled training sessions and to register go to the Availability and Registration page of the IITS Web site.
Typically, most learning resources and activities in the LMS are not discipline-specific. However, some lend themselves better to the kinds of tasks that might be required in certain kinds of courses. For example, NanoGong is an activity which allows students to easily upload voice files to Moodle through a recording interface. This tool might be particularly useful in language classes. The Glossary activity would be most useful in classes that require a lot of foundational conceptual and factual knowledge.
Absolutely. Moodle allows instructors to set different levels of adminstrative access to specific individuals. This means you can give your TA all the same privileges that you have in your Moodle course to add and edit content, grade assignments and use the communication tools, or you can limit their privileges based on your needs.
deNoyelles, A., Zydney, J.M., & Chen, B. (2014). Strategies for creating a community of inquiry through online asynchronous discussions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 153-165.
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