Best practices: Lowering the learning curve for new Moodle users.
Moodle is the most widely-used Learning Management System in the world. With more than 63 million users and 70 thousand registered sites in over 200 countries Moodle gains hundreds of users every day and many of them are completely new to online learning.
In today’s post I want to call attention to a few proactive measures that instructors can do to lower the learning curve for new users. The following best practices highlight proactive measures that help students become comfortable with Moodle faster while reducing the number of questions they may have along the way.
- Learn how to navigate in Moodle as a student. When your students first arrive at the Moodle site they view the front page and many times they don’t know what to do next. In order to help them you should become familiar with how your students will navigate the site. Switch your role to student to understand the location of the features and the steps they need to take in order to complete a particular activity. Create a journal to track your findings and share your insights with students. The questions you had as an end user will most likely be the same questions you will receive from students as they ask for navigation support.
- Create methodical instructions and use images whenever possible. Do not presume that students know how to complete activities around Moodle. Create step-by-step directions on how you want students to interact with a particular feature of the system. Tell students where to start and make sure you include a chronological sequence of every link or button that they need to use in order to complete the desired interaction. The use of screen shots can facilitate the process and help students identify the features easily. Feel free to reuse our Clickables tutorials as part of your help documentation.
- Highlight the importance of user profiles– Every Moodle user has a profile page. Students can control how much information to share as well as add a profile picture and a brief description about themselves. Explain that the user profile contains several settings to define how they interact with features within the system and that the user profile is a crucial area for social interaction within Moodle. By visiting other peoples’ profiles students will be able to learn more about their instructor and other students enrolled in their courses.
- Recommend students to visit and customize their My Home page. Each user has a “My home page” that is accessible via the Navigation block and they can customize this page by loading it with the blocks that are most convenient to them. This space is an excellent resource for students as it becomes a “feed” displaying course information like unread forum posts upcoming assessment activities activity due dates and submission notices.
- Encourage students to update their messaging settings. Moodle allows students to send and receive messages and receive notifications via different channels. With so many options inside the system it is common to see new users overwhelmed with the amount of emails and notifications received as they start their courses. Instruct students to update their profile and change their message settings so they can control the flow of incoming messages.
- Keep a consistent method of communication. Moodle has numerous features for user communication. It is up to you to establish which communication tools you will use with your students most often inside the course. To avoid confusion keep a consistent communication pattern. For example do not to mix multiple channels of communication when your course begins as it is easier for newcomers to learn one tool at a time. That means if you use the News Forum for general class announcements stick with it instead of using standard Moodle messages. In the end it does not matter which tool you select as long as you make it clear to the students how they can access the information and contact you.
- Explain how students can view their grades. Grades are scores that are granted to a participant based on work that is submitted in Moodle activities. As there are several pathways for students to access their grades in the system make sure to tell them the best methods on viewing their grades and reading your feedback.
- Highlight the importance of Forum subscriptions. With subscriptions to forums your students will receive a copy of each new discussion post in their email. Teachers can define the subscription mode when selecting the settings of each forum activity. Subscribed students can keep track of what is happening in the forums without continuously logging in throughout the day. However it can overwhelm students as they may receive multiple emails at once. Inform students they can change the digest email type in their profile settings to reduce the amount of incoming email messages and that they can unsubscribe from a forum as well.
We want students to be engaged in their learning experiences and successfully use the many features of Moodle. The recommendations listed in this post are just a start; there are many other proactive steps that might assist students in becoming competent Moodle users. Moodlerooms offers a one-day onsite training workshop for those who are interested in learning more about how to introduce the essential tools in Moodle to new users.
Have fun moodling around!
– Marcelo Mendes