Moodle Ninja: How to Design an Awesome E-learning Course
Learning languages might be one of the least eco-friendly things you can do. Think about it: people fly across the globe to spend time collecting stacks of photocopies in well-lit and air-conditioned classrooms. Then they fly back home.
If you’re a course designer – in languages, or in anything people want to learn – at some point you will consider giving e-learning a go. And if you do your research, one name will show up over and over again:
Moodle can become the best thing that’s happened to your teaching. Or the worst. Here’s why it matters, and how to get good at it.
Reasons why Moodle counts
Talk to anyone with a mild interest in Moodle development, and they’ll give you dozens of reasons why their platform is so awesome. Today, I’ll just name a few: there are plenty of resources around to convince you of the goodness.
1. It’s free.
You need a place to host your platform and your database, that’s for sure. But apart from that, you don’t pay a penny for Moodle. Once you install it, you’ve got it.
2. It’s flexible.
There are Maths, Psychology and English courses running successfully on Moodle. Engineers, teacher trainees and teenagers can use it equally well. Moodle’s flexibility allows for any well-designed course to flourish.
3. It’s community-supported.
This may not sound like much, but it’s a real benefit. Moodle’s development relies on its user community. And as for troubleshooting and support, engaged users beat demotivated call centre workers anytime!
How to create an awesome Moodle course
Now that you’re sold on Moodle, you will probably start thinking of hundreds of course ideas to develop on that platform. Before you start, though, here’s a handful of tips. These come from experience: I’ve had to manage and prepare several Moodle courses so far (and I’m preparing something big for bravelearning.com in this respect as well…).
As usual, comments and suggestions from fellow Moodlers are welcome!
1. Think of user outcomes. This is crucial. Moodle will daze and confuse you with all its options, and then you’ll start adding resources and activities to your courses simply because you can. But as with so many other projects, less can sometimes mean more. So the most important questions to ask when designing a Moodle course are “what do I want my students to achieve?” and “how does this activity / resource help my students achieve the outcome?” If you don’t know the answer to the first question, step away from the computer and go work it out. If you can’t find an answer to the second one, consider modifying or getting rid of your activity.
2. Play a little, test a lot. Before your course goes public, make extra sure you know how it works. Create a few user accounts and have your buddies test out the contents. Fiddle around with the settings. Consider adding two or more resources aimed towards one outcome, and then choosing the one that works best. Moodle courses should not be considered a finished product: there’s always room for improvement.
3. Liven it up! A really successful course is one in which students want to participate. Make sure you give them every chance to do so. Forums are good, if you know how to moderate them: inspire, ask questions, nudge a bit, don’t dominate the conversation. Moodle’s unique quality is its international potential: make the most of it!
4. Backup. Right now you’re probably thinking “oh yeah, I’ll make a backup copy later.” Do it now. And get in the habit of doing it – schedule it if you must. Losing course materials doesn’t have to be irretrievable – but using details of student interaction is a pain, and puts a damper on the entire course. It’s especially important for paying customers.
5. Ask for help. The Moodle community, as stated above, is active and ready to help. They can support you with technical problems, but also give you interesting advice when it comes to optimising your course. Ask specific questions, and you’ll get amazing results.
How else would you make your Moodle stuff awesome? Share your thoughts below!
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