RSC London Moodle Round Tables 2012-13

                 “It is by far the most motivational and informative group I belong to”

Julian BreamGetting together with colleagues to share what has worked and to seek ideas to problems in a safe and friendly environment, has proved yet again, to be a compelling and rewarding formula.  This term 80 enthusiasts from 48 London learning provider organisations came together across a series of six, half-day Moodle Round Table workshops.

“We would not be moving forward as quickly or creatively without this forum.”

Each month an RSC London Moodle Round Table gathered to look at Moodle from a different perspective using the experience and expertise of participants in a variety of roles across FE, HE and Adult Learning providers.  We have travelled a varied and enlightening journey that ranged from ‘Moodle for induction’, via ‘(Re)designing the curriculum’ and finally to the last session, ‘Planning for the new year’.

In Moodle for Induction, the importance of really grabbing our (prospective) learners’ attention early was seen as an opportunity that’s too good to miss. Newham’s 6th form college trailed a very successful summer induction that prepared learners by making them aware of what the expectations for the course were going to be as well as offering them early support. Other providers also discussed how they did inductions; this included creating simple virtual tours, with tools such as Prezi and embedding them into Moodle.

In sessions on ‘Looking after your teachers’ and ‘How to convert a teacher to Moodle’ we saw some great show and tells and inspirational video evidence on supporting teachers in their use of Moodle. Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) and Richmond upon Thames College, among others, emphasised the importance of collaboration and teamwork to successfully implement Moodle in a truly effective way. This included mentoring, good systems of support in place and staff given time to develop and work as a team.

The emphasis is always on the learner or rather the ‘active learner’-which was the session where we thought in depth about the issues surrounding the engagement of learners and facilitating  them to support themselves. Again, some fantastic presentations on e-ambassadors projects at Barking and Dagenham College and  Barnet and Southgate College where learners are recruited to help in the development of new ways of teaching and learning – other exciting stuff was also presented by Croydon College who have made some help videos for learners as well as getting the learners themselves to set up and run forums.  The learner voice is always so important so we also explored the use of the Mobile Moodle app for voting and evaluation– and we feel that this will continue to be a dominant theme for the coming year.

With learners actively engaged, how can we gather the evidence that this is happening and encourage other learners to really come on board?  This is what we talked about in ‘Incentivising learners while capturing evidence’. Possible ways of doing this were discussed, including the awarding of Open Badges, maybe as part of a ‘gamifying’ course, to increase participation. Mobile Moodle themes came up again as having a strong potential for engaging the more reluctant learner. Another great example was the use of audio feedback, at St Mary’s University College, where the general consensus was that hearing your teacher’s voice giving you ‘constructive’ feedback using appropriate and encouraging intonation was a lot more learner friendly than a written feedback which could at times be perceived as being a bit harsh. Croydon College also showed us an example of the Moodle rubric. This feature in Moodle 2.2 onwards provides a grid template for structured marking, allowing teachers to give feedback on a learner’s current understanding and prompts to what they need to do next as well as providing the final score, which we all thought was a real incentive.  Additionally, there were also some creative tools such as Voki and Go animate used by Barnet and Southgate College to liven up Moodle and bring fun into learning. The overall consensus was that in all these things it is vital that there is rigour in ensuring that innovative features are subject to the same planning as normal classroom activities which brought us back to the idea that it is team work, collaboration and support across the board that is key.

We decided to grasp the nettle and tackle the idea of a complete revolution in curriculum design in the session on ‘(Re)designing the curriculum’; particularly in view of the changing landscape in education such as funding and the rise in participation age. Peter Kilcoyne, ILT director of Worcester College of Technology, was the star turn. Peter explained how the college had responded innovatively to an unavoidable 15% cut in face to face provision. This involved setting up online modules (known as Personally Accountable Learning packs), using simple templates to help their teachers. Is there going to be more of this in the future?

Mobile learning was also discussed in this session as Newham Sixth Form College presented their findings from their Mobile learning pilot and their conclusion was, yet again, the vital importance of rigour in planning, particularly at course level.

Two of our perennial questions are always, “What makes a good Moodle activity?” and “What makes Moodle look good?”  Barnet and Southgate College and Bromley College showed us some tips and tricks including the use of QR codes and Wimba Create for a more navigable experience.  Different providers had different ideas and approaches about improving the visual experience; consistency and clarity being the main ones. However, the majority concluded  that it was best  to avoid the ‘toilet roll of death’ (you heard it here first!).

The final session for this year focussed on what worked last year and what didn’t. There were some great ideas and everybody was asked what they would take away. Favourite ideas were the use of video for self-reflection, exploring  Xerte, using the Moodle book resource, as demonstrated by NewVIc and its brilliant learning design template, using the Grid plugin to make Moodle look more ‘webby’ and creating interactive induction templates.

So that was a whistle-stop tour of the Moodle forum sessions here at RSC London.  Join us after the summer where suggested topics include: Mobile learning, Flip classroom delivery, Social Media , Xerte, Open Badges and more.

To read the Moodle round table reports in more detail please click here