Category Archives: Best Practices for Moodle

End of Semester Moodle Course Tips

Online Testing for Final Exams
DCCC’s Moodle is set to time-out a user when there has been 4 hours of inactivity.  When creating your final exam, it is good practice to have Moodle display your test with a few questions per page, as opposed to unlimited questions.  This is good for two reasons:  One, when the student navigates to the next page, the page is refreshed and the computer counts that as activity.  Second, navigating to the next page also forces the computer to save the student’s work up until that point.  This can be beneficial if there are technical issues.  It increases the likelihood that the student’s work will be saved.

Exporting Your Gradebook
When closing out a course for a semester, there are some data that every instructor should be pulling from Moodle.  After your gradebook is complete, it is good practice for an instructor to export it for record keeping.  To do this, navigate to your Grades link and click on the Export tab.  For a more detailed look at how to do this, click on the following link titled: help document.

Saving Online Entry Assignment Data
Distance courses were required to include an online entry assignment to denote when the student “Entered” the course.  As an instructor, it is a best practice to keep the Moodle record that shows when the student submitted the designated assignment.  For a detailed look at how to do this, click on the following link titled:  help document.

Help with Moodle Gradebook
Now that the semester is coming to a close, the attention of faculty and students is focused on the gradebook.  You’ll want to make sure your Moodle gradebook is setup appropriately.  To see some examples of how to set up your gradebook, click on the following link titled:  help document.

Help with Moodle Gradebook

We are still continuing to learn more about the Moodle Gradebook and how it fits in with Starfish and the varying grading schemes used across the school.  Our department has been trying to help individuals on a case by case basis.  However, we have seen that most folks use one of three methods:  Weighted System, Points System without categories, or Points System with categories.

Scenario #1:  Weighted System.   

Tests = 25%
Projects = 20%
Discussions = 30%
Final Exam = 25%

Weighted Mean Example

Weighted Mean Example

Scenario #2:  Points System (No Categories)

Test #1 = 100 pts
Test #2 = 100 pts
Research Project = 80 pts
Final Project = 80 pts
Discussion #1 = 60 pts
Discussion #2 = 60 pts
Discussion #3 = 60 pts
Discussion #4 = 60 pts
Final Exam = 200 pts
Total Points = 800 pts

Points System (No Categories)

Points System (No Categories)

Scenario #3:  Points System (With Categories)

Test #1 = 100 pts
Test #2 = 100 pts
Research Project = 80 pts
Final Project = 80 pts
Discussion #1 = 60 pts
Discussion #2 = 60 pts
Discussion #3 = 60 pts
Discussion #4 = 60 pts
Final Exam = 200 pts

Points System (With Categories)

Points System (With Categories)

This is by far not the only way to set up your gradebook.  You are certainly free to do what is needed to match your grading scheme.  The only method that is not allowed is the Sum of Grades method.  This method is problematic for Starfish as it always treats empty grades as zeros and those assignments count against the student.  If you would like for someone in the Office of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology to review your gradebook, do not hesitate to contact us.

Not Including Dropped Students in Course Emails

Several instructors have asked me how to email their class but not include inactive students.  The inactive student role was one that DCCC created by copying the student role but changing a few settings so that students cannot access the course and they are not seen in the gradebook.  This role is what instructors should change their students to when they drop a course.  There are two ways that you can email your whole class, through the Course Announcements forum (we have renamed our News forum) and the QuickMail block (part of our school’s template).

The Course Announcements forum can be used as a way to send mass emails.  However, it all depends on the subscription setting on the forum.  If you have forced your students to be subscribed, then all active students (not inactive) and instructors in the course will receive an email of the forum post.  If you have not forced your students to subscribe and you would like to, you just need to update your forum.

Course Announcements Forum

Update a forum to force subscription

The QuickMail block can also be used to email the whole class.  There is a trick to making sure that you do not include the students who have been changed to the inactive student role because they do appear in the list of users in your course within the QuickMail block.  After you click on Compose an email within the block, you will be taken to a screen to create your email.  Click on the Students Only option under Role Filter.  Then, if you do not have any groups, click on the Not in a Section option under Potential Section.  This should highlight all active students in the course.  You can then click on the Add button to send them to the Recipients list (see pictured below).

QuickMail Block

Emailing all students except inactive students

If you are using Groups, then you will follow the same steps as above but when you get to the Potential Section area, you’ll want to hold down your Control button as you select all the groups that you would like to send the message to (see pictured below).


Emailing all students except inactive ones when you use groups

Click on the following link for a help document on how to execute the steps described above.

Delete Test Attempts in Moodle

Now that we have more and more online testing through Moodle, it appears that instructors are running into the scenario where they need to clear out a student’s attempt on a quiz or test.  This is a fairly easy process to do.  The first thing you need to do is click on the quiz itself.  You do not need to have editing turned on.  Once you click into the quiz, you’ll need to navigate to the bank of attempts.  This can be done by clicking the word “Attempts,” which is a live link, or you can go to the Results tab across the top.

Getting to the Attempts

Once there, click on the check box next to the name of the student’s attempt.  Then, scroll down and click on Delete Selected Attempts.

Delete Selected Attempts

Removing Unused Topics/Weeks

After working in Moodle now for several semesters, there is this one thing I see over and over again with instructors that leads me to believe they either don’t know they can change this or they don’t know how.

Your course design is either based on Topics or Weeks.  Each course may need a different number of topics or weeks.  When a new course is generated at DCCC, we automatically generate 16 weeks for a normal 16 week semester.  This, however, is not something that is set in stone.  It is our hope that an instructor would map out their own course design and then choose the appropriate number of topics or weeks that they need.  However, what we see is that instructors start populating the topics or weeks and just leave the ones they don’t use out there.

One may ask why this is problematic?  I think this can be confusing to the students.  If I saw several empty weeks in my moodle course, I might start to wonder if there will be additional content or work that my instructor has not yet posted.  I also think that it takes away from the consistency of the design of your course.  If you aren’t using it, it’s not serving a purpose and needs to be removed.

So, how do we fix this?  Good news:  it is a fairly simple process!  Here is an example of a course that has extra unused Topics.

Example of Extra Topics

Example of Extra Topics

To change the display of the number of topics, you simply need to access the Settings link within your Administration block.  Once you are there, find the option that says Number of Weeks/Topics.  Choose the appropriate number from the drop down menu.  Save your work and all is fixed!

Adjusting Number of Weeks or Topics

Adjusting Number of Weeks or Topics

Copying and Pasting into Moodle

A warning about copying and pasting into Moodle:

I am certainly a fan of not recreating the wheel, as they say, and working more efficiently when you can.  However, when you are copying and pasting something into Moodle, there are a few things to be aware of.

When you highlight text and choose to copy, often times you are copying more than the eye can see.  Copying and pasting can carry over some unwanted coding that can have the potential to cause havoc in Moodle.

If you copy and paste text from a website, then you should always paste this text into a Notepad file to strip the text of any additional HTML coding it might have.  Keep in mind that to the naked eye, it may appear to be doing absolutely nothing. However, it is getting rid of problematic stuff.  Then, highlight and copy the text from Notepad and paste it into Moodle and format it from there.

If you are copying and pasting text from one Moodle resource/activity to another, it is important to copy from the edit page (see the image below).

Do Not Copy From Here

Do Not Copy From Here

Do Copy From Here

Do Copy From Here

If you copy and paste text from a Word document, you can use the clean word HTML option within the WYSIWYG editor (see the image below).  Simply highlight your text and click on the clean word HTML icon to get rid of the extra HTML coding.

Clean Word HTML

Clean Word HTML icon

You should NEVER copy and paste an image into Moodle.  The result will be that the image appears to be properly loaded when in fact, it will only show up for you and no other user.  All images must be saved as an image file and then uploaded using the Insert Image icon within the WYSIWYG editor.  For additional help with uploading images, see the following help document link.

Finally, if you happen to forget about these helpful hints, you could find yourself with a topic summary, label, or webpage that is seemingly “locked” because you can’t click on the edit icon.  To undo this, I have found the following clickable helpful from MoodleRooms.

If you have run across any issues similar to this, please share through a comment.  Thanks!

Tips for Creating a Moodle Course

Please consider these top ten tips when creating your Moodle course.

1.  Use your Moodle Course as a Launch Pad for content.
If you put content on your course page, it can become cluttered very quickly.  The course then becomes overwhelming and can be a scrolling nightmare.

2.  Decide on a weekly or topic format before you get started.  If the topic format is chosen, consider chunking your material by Modules, Chapters, Units, etc.  When using topic format, post assignment due dates clearly.  If assignments are due weekly, then the weekly format works best.  The weekly format helps the student visualize what they should be working on when.

3.  Consistent course layout is key.  It is helpful to map out your course outline on a word document prior to actually working in Moodle.  Make sure that the way you chunk your material is consistent throughout the course.  Use similar names for similar assignments.  If a student can easily see a pattern, navigating the course does not impede learning.

4.  The Course Template is Required.  Every DCCC online course must use the Course Syllabus (book resource) and Course Announcements forum.  Please include a title to your course in the Topic 0 or Week 0 summary.

5.  Be mindful of the Blocks you use.  Additional blocks beyond what the template provides should be added because it brings value to the course.  Too many blocks can be distracting.  You can add/remove blocks by turning your editing on.

6.  Name links appropriately.  If links are too long, that could be problematic in the gradebook.  Students should be able to differentiate between items in the course.  Keep link names short but purposeful.

7.  Consider requiring the Moodle Orientation.  If students complete the Moodle Orientation, they receive a certificate in the form of a pdf document with a unique code on it.  They can provide that document for proof that the Orientation was finished.  All students are loaded in the Orientation every semester.  It can be a great resource for students on technical issues with Moodle.  Instructors should go through the Orientation themselves to get a feel for what is covered.

8.  Embed YouTube Videos.  There is no requirement that courses must have YouTube videos.  However, several instructors are making use of this video repository.  There are several ways to get YouTube videos into your course.  An external link to a YouTube video takes you to the website where other suggested videos that you have no control over are also displayed.  Embedding a video in a Moodle webpage or book keeps the student within Moodle and it only shows the one video you have selected.  The end result allows you more control on the display and it does not take students to the YouTube site where they could be distracted by other videos.

9.  Open External Links in a New Window.  There are many times when it is appropriate to have your students visit another website you deem appropriate.  However, if the link opens in the same window, Moodle is replaced with the new web location.  And if students close the window when they are done with the external link, then they have also closed Moodle.  Generally, it is a good idea to have any non-Moodle resource (Ex. word, pdf, excel doc)  open in a new window so that the student can easily find their way back to the Moodle course.

10. Images should bring value, not distraction.  Images can be used to help create division in content, emphasize a point or idea, or create symmetry.  You should ask yourself what role the image will play before you add it to your course.  Too many images can make a course too busy and overwhelming.  Sometimes less is more.

Test/Quiz Videos for Moodle

During the week of February 20-24th, we held training sessions on Tests and Quizzes within Moodle.  We focused on how to create a test in Moodle from scratch and then how to use Respondus 4.0 to create tests, import test questions, and move tests from Blackboard to Moodle.  We had created videos and found other helpful videos for our instructors who are participating in online training.  However, we have found that our face to face participants could benefit from those videos as well.  So, here is a compilation of those videos below.

Note:  Several of these are JING videos and will be too large for the screen.  The best thing to do is press play and then find the full screen icon in the lower right hand corner to have the video fit your screen.

Full Screen Icon
How to Create a Moodle Quiz from Scratch within Moodle

Helpful Hints for a Quiz with Multiple Essay Questions

How to Download Respondus on Your Home Computer

How to Create a Moodle Quiz in Respondus
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3 *This video includes how to “connect” with Moodle.

How to Import Questions into Respondus

How to Move a Test from Blackboard to Moodle
Video 1
Video 2

A Closer Look at the Advanced Forum

Moodle has several different forum types within the Forum activity.  One of the extra features that MoodleRooms offers is a special forum activity called an Advanced Forum.  This activity has all the benefits of a regular forum with some added extra’s that you just might find essential.

First of all, probably the biggest advantage of the advanced forum is the ability to filter your view of posts.  If you require your students to answer your question prompt and then also require them to reply to three other students’ posts, then it would be very helpful to see all the posts one user makes at one time.  The advanced forum allows you to do this.  You can see this by going to the “View Posters” link in the upper right hand corner within this forum.  Here this view offers a summary of each users activity within the forum.  The number under total posts is a live link that will take you to all the posts that user made.

View Posters

The advanced forum also allows for easier grading.  In my opinion, the best way to set up the advanced forum is to set the grade type to “Manual.”  This will then allow you to turn the editing on within the “View Forum Grades” link that shows up in the upper right hand corner of this particular type of forum.  From that screen you can grade your student’s work.

View Forum Grades

Keep in mind that within the generic Moodle forum activity, instructors are able to select between different types of forums:  standard forum for general use, single simple discussion, each person posts one discussion, Q and A forum.  You’ll be happy to know that all of these forums are available within the advanced forum activity.

Unfortunately, there is no way to change a regular forum to an advanced forum.  You’ll need to delete it and remake it.  Be sure and select advanced forum from the top of the drop down menu list as opposed to the regular forum.

And finally, don’t forget that to force subscription on any forum means that all users in the course will receive emails of every post in that forum.

Now that you know what an Advanced forum can do for you, you may never have a need for a regular forum again!

“Mail Now” Feature on Course Announcements Forum

The Course Announcements forum that should be present in every MoodleRooms course is the Blackboard equivalent of the Announcements page.  This is a special forum that Moodle calls the News Forum and we have renamed it to be Course Announcements at DCCC.  Instructors are to use this forum to communicate announcements to their students.

Users can be subscribed to a Moodle forum and this particular forum is no different.  Subscribing to a forum means that users will receive emails of every post.  Many find this overwhelming and unnecessary and choose not to be subscribed.  However, the Course Announcements forum might be the one forum where it makes sense.  After all, if instructors make a post in the forum, it is generally of particular importance to the whole class.

An instructor can control who subscribes to the forum.  They can do what’s called “force subscription,” which means all users have no choice but to receive emails of the posts to that forum.  When an instructor posts to a forum, an email is sent to all users in the course with the content of that post after the 30 minute edit window passes.  All users have a 30 minute grace period to edit a post before it gets emailed to subscribers.  If a user is not subscribed, then they will have to actually log in to MoodleRooms and navigate to that forum to read the post.

There has been some confusion regarding the “Mail Now” option instructors see when they construct a post for this particular forum.  It was previously thought that selecting that option would send an email to ALL users in the course (subscribers and non-subscribers, alike).  However, this is NOT the case.  The only way users receive emails of a post to a forum is if they are subscribed.  The Mail Now feature simply by-passes the 30 minute window.  The email is still only sent to subscribers.

So, if instructors want users to get an email of an announcement, they will need to make sure that they force subscription.