Adventures In Moodle-land

From paullawleyjones blog by

Adventures In Moodle-landAbout a week before the semester started, the Dean of our department told my boss that he wanted to flip the classroom for all of our freshmen students.

Our department has 76 teachers, and about 5,000 Freshmen students taking a mandatory English conversation course in their first year. The students are taking same class spread out over the classes allocated to the teachers. Teachers will have between three and five of these Freshmen classes.

Of course, my boss said no, but suggested we run a pilot programme instead. The pilot was to have about 20 teachers.

He asked me to suggest a suitable system for providing a flipped classroom. With such short notice, I recommended Moodle. I’d been using Moodle with my classes for the last two years.

In my classes, I’m always trying to increase student talk time. I had wanted to move the grammar, vocabulary and the listening exercises in our book out of the classroom to make way for more speaking practice. Using a Learning Management System (LMS) was ideal for this.

I’m a fan of Open Source, and I chose Moodle because it seemed to be the most well known LMS at that time. There’s the added benefit of automatic grading of quizzes which I use for homework, and the ability to download all the results in a CSV file for further manipulation. Moodle is also massively extensible via plugins from Moodle and the user community.

I had only ever had one user—me—and about 70 students on the system, though.

Currently, there are 32 teachers and 1509 students in the pilot.

What follows is the setup of our pilot system. If you’re thinking of using an LMS to flip your classroom, it may provide a starting point on which you can build.

Server Setup

The pilot server is a desktop PC running Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS. I’m familiar with Ubuntu, having run it on my home PCs for over 10 years.

It’s set up with Apache, MySQL and PHP for running a simple web server. When it’s rolled out to the whole student body next semester, it’ll be put on a real server.

There isn’t anything else special that you need to do with the server, just make sure it’s accessible on your domain or sub-domain.

I installed a lightweight graphical user interface with a web browser and file manager so that I could grab the Moodle software directly from the website. You don’t have to do this, of course, but I find it more convenient.

Moodle Setup

The software is the Moodle 2.8 branch weekly build, as recommended by Moodle.

However, I also added the following question types to the install.

In Site administrationAdvanced features, I turned off everything except Web services, Messaging system,Statistics, and Conditional access.

Web services is needed to use the Moodle Mobile, and Statistics is on because this is a pilot and they’ll be useful.

Registration Setup

For the pilot, we want to allow teachers and students to register an account and enrol themselves in a course. We are using Email-based self-registration and Self enrolment to achieve this.

In Site administration > Plugins > Authentication, the authentication method is set to Email-based self-registration, and Guest login button is set to Hide. This allows users to register, confirm and create an account via email. We don’t want Guest users placing extra stress on the system.

Self Enrolment Setup

We are using two user types: Non-editing teacher and Student. To enrol the different users, we’ll need to set up the enrolment methods after we set up the course.

Related: The Extended Classroom

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Set up the course as you wish. We’re using Topics format.

However, in the Groups section of the settings, make sure that Group mode is set to Separate groups, andForce group mode is set to Yes.

In Site administration > Plugins > Manage enrol plugins, enable only Manual enrolments and Self enrolment. In Self enrolment settings, check Require enrolment key and Use group enrolment keys. Leave everything else as default.

In Course administration > Users > Enrolment methods add an enrolment method with Add method. Add a method for teachers and students. Make the first settings look like the images. The other settings can be left as default. Please note the different settings for Use group enrolment keys for each method.

The teacher Enrolment key is given to teachers so that they can enrol in the course Non-editing teacherscannot manage a course they’re not enrolled in.

Do not give the student Enrolment key to the students, though. Student enrolment will be handled when the teachers set up their class groups.

Non-editing Teacher Setup

Best practice is to give the users of any system the minimum permissions required, and then add permissions as needed.

A Non-editing teacher can, by default, view and grades students’ work, but almost nothing else. However, we want our teachers to be able to set up class groups and manage students within those groups. We also want teachers to be able to schedule class homework, manually grade homework, and download homework scores. To do all of this we need to alter some permissions for the role of Non-editing teacher.

In Site administration > Users > Permissions > Define roles > Allow role assignments tab, check Student inNon-editing teacher and save changes.

Non-editing Teacher Assign Role Student

Go back to the Manage roles tab and click on Non-editing teacher, and then Edit.

Set the filter to enrol, check Manage enrolled users, Unenrol users from the course, and Unenrol self from the course in the Self enrolment section and save changes.

NET Self Enrolment Permissions

Change the filter to assign, check Assign roles to users in the Course section, and save changes.

Change the filter to group, check Manage groups and Access all groups, and save changes.

NET Group Management Permissions

Class Groups Setup

The teachers will set up their own class groups before inviting their students to the course and class groups.

In Course administration > Users > Groups select Create group.

For our university, the classes are identified with four digit numbers. We use the class number as the Group name.

NET Create Class Group

You’ll see that the group can be given an Enrolment key. This is the key that the teachers give out to their students when they invite them to the course and class groups. The students will be enrolled in the course and join the group at the same time. The key we set earlier in the student enrolment method is a kind of master key that is required by the system.

This is the basic setup. It will probably be added to and tweaked as I become more familiar with running an LMS for many users. It’ll also be interesting to see what our students make of it and whether it makes a difference to their learning. I’ll keep you informed of our progress on this project.

Are you thinking of setting up a flipped classroom? Has this been helpful and given you that extra push to give it a go? Have I missed anything or not explained anything well enough?

If so, hit reply below and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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