Re-Introduction to Moodle

Most of our HHS teachers were trained on Moodle at some time in the distant past.  If you remember everything about Moodle and use it everyday, you can stop reading and go watch TV or knit a sweater or something.  :)  This post is designed to be a refresher on the basics of Moodle, and perhaps a nice introduction to our newer teachers who are just getting started.

What is Moodle?

Moodle is a type of software called a Learning Management System (LMS). It is deisgned to be a way for teachers to create and post content online for students to access in an easy, secure environment.

Getting In

You can get to the HHS Moodle site by visiting the HHS Website and clicking the "Moodle" icon in the top right of the page.

On the Moodle Site, you will have to log in with your Moodle Username and password.  These were  given to you when you started.

After logging in, you are brought to a screen that shows, among other things, a list of all of the current courses.  Your courses are pre-loaded into this list in the appropriate category.  Click into the categories to find your courses.

Your Topics

When you open a course for the first time, it is a nearly blank slate.  The most important part of this screen in the "Topics" section. This is the main section where you "add stuff."  Lesson handouts, assignments, and links to web resources, and the like will go here. I think of "Topics" as "Units."  Each box is a unit that lets you group content together.

The first box is an unnumbered Topic with a "News forum" in it.  This unnumbered Topic is for general course-wide information. You could put in any handouts or information that is generic to your course (e.g. a course syllabus, a lab report rubric, a generic journal entry form, or something else that will be applicable all semester long).  You could also a short description of section such as " These are forms that you will need to complete assignments throughout the semester."  See Adding and Editing Stuff below for more details.

There is also a blank Topic #1 provided for you. In a similar way, you could add a brief description of the unit and whatever resources, assignments, and links that are appropriate.

[Some teachers, in the interested of time, simply put all of the course's materials in on huge unit.  While this is certainly acceptable, it will be easier on your students if you create a new Topic for each unit of study in your curriculum.]

Adding and Editing Stuff

When you first open your course, you are in a "view-only" mode.  When you want to add resources or activities, or edit topic descriptions, you need to turn on "editing mode" by clicking the button in the top-right of the screen.

All of sudden, your screen becomes full of hieroglyphics that are buttons for the things you can do.

These symbols are not too scary, once you know the code.

  • Indent to the right.  Literally, just push item to the right a little.
  •  Move up or down. This lets you re-order your items, or move them into other Topics.
  •  Edit. This lets to change the text or settings for an item.
  •  Delete.  This lets you, uh, delete the item, of course.  Not "undo"-able.
  •  Change visibility.  Students can only see items when the eye is open.  Hiding an item lets you put things online for future assignments before you are ready to reveal them to students.
  •  Grouping. No groups - There are no sub groups, everyone is part of one big community.  Separate groups - Each group can only see their own group, others are invisible.  Visible groups - Each group works in their own group, but can also see other groups. (The other groups' work is read-only.)

You can also add new Resources and Activities.  Essentially, Resources are read-only items, such as a link to a web page, an uploaded handout, or other things.  Activities are things that students do, such as participating in a forum, uploading a document, taking an online quiz, or other advanced activities.  There are obviously blurred lines here: a worksheet that students need to print, fill out, and bring back the next day could be added as either a Resource or Activity, generally, I would say that Activities are things with due dates.

The simplest Resource to add, for beginners, is a "Link to a file or website."  The simplest Activities to add are "Upload a single file" or "Online text." If you would like to try some of the other types of Resources or Activities, go ahead and try them out!  You can always hide or delete them later if you don't like them.
More detailed explanations about the different types of Resources and Activities will come in a later post.

Managing Students

Creating resources and activities is much more rewarding if you have students who will actually use them! When you first open a blank course, there will be no students assigned to it.  There are a few ways to get your students into your Moodle course.

Adding Students Yourself

In the Administration panel on the left, click on "Assign Roles" and then "Students."

This will bring up a list of every student at HHS.  You can choose each student, one at a time, by clicking their name and then clicking "Add."

You can imagine sitting down with a printout of your students, and adding each on into your course, one at a time, for each of your courses.  This may or may be a practical option, depending on the number and (ahem) technical proficiency with Moodle.

Letting Students Enroll Themselves

By default, students can enroll themselves in your course.  When they log in to Moodle, they will see the list of all categories and courses.

Fun fact: In most of North America, we prefer to spell the word as "enroll."  In other English-speaking countries, the preferred spelling is "enrol."  If your students ask, Moodle does not have a site-wide spelling error, but it does give a clue about where Moodle was originally developed (Australia).
When student click on a course name, they will be prompted to enroll automatically.  If they want to enroll, they should click "Yes."  Students will then be brought to the course's main page, where they can view any visible Topics, Resources, and Activities that you have already created.

This is obviously very easy for students, as long as they know their user names and passwords.  However, this easy enrollment has a drawback: it allows student who are not actually in your course to enroll online, view your resources and activities, and participate in your forums.

There are two main ways for teachers to prevent this behavior, if they choose.  First, in the course Settings (located on the course's main page, in the Administration panel), there are a few options (the defaults are shown below).

Teachers can set a start and end date for enrollment, so that after, say, two weeks, students can not longer enroll.  You can either automate this by enabling start and end dates, or manually shut off enrollment by switching "Course enrollable" to "No."

A slightly more sophisticated way to control enrollment is with an "Enrolment key."  This is a password that you tell your students in class; they can only enroll with the have the password.
This is also a useful way to give parents guest access to your Moodle site.  When parents come to school during the Parent Open House, you can set an Enrolment key, and change "Guest access" to "Allow guests who have the key."


I hope you found this post useful to help get you started (again?) with Moodle.  I will be posting more intermediate and advanced tips as the school year goes on.  Happy Moodling!


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