A lot has been written about the death of the VLE.
“VLEs are so old school!”
“Google Apps have replaced our VLE.”
“The students’ iPads are our VLE.”
Like an old racehorse that never quite lived up to its potential, many schools are putting their VLEs out to pasture and introducing newer and more sexy technologies. Let’s face it, how can a boring old VLE compete with the sleek lines of an iPad? But don’t be so quick to write off your VLE.
There are many VLEs and no doubt they all have their virtues, however I’ve been getting reacquainted with Moodle recently and been pleasantly surprised. If yours is one of the hundreds of schools with Moodle, here are 5 reasons not to get rid of it quite yet.
1. Collaborate using forums
Moodle has probably the most flexible and powerful range of forums available. My favourites are the Q&A forum and the general forum.
• With a Q&A a forum the teacher poses a question and each student has to answer before they can view the answers of their peers.
• A general forum can have many threads, and each thread can be set up with different start and end dates. This makes moderation much easier as students can only post responses within a given time frame.
There are also the news forum (read-only for students) and the single-thread forum (great for focussing attention on one topic). Time limited posting means you can set forums to be open for posting at times that suite you. And a big bonus is the way Moodle will alert a teacher via email when a student posts to their forum, meaning teachers don’t have to repeatedly check their forums just in case a student has posted.
2. Annotate and mark student work right within Moodle
I have valued the electronic submission and marking of student work using a VLE for many years. I have been genuinely surprised at the impact this simple tool has on student engagement compared to comments written on physical work.
The Moodle Assignment tool allows you to set work, receive student submissions, view work, annotate work, grade work, and feedback comments to students. And all within Moodle without having to export files or use any other software. Comment-only marking? No problem! Graded work? Just as simple. And you can also feedback to students just by speaking your comments into Moodle – how good is that? Read on for more details!
3. Use audio for student submissions and feedback
Of the several plugins to Moodle that facilitate audio, one of the most powerful is PoodLL.
With PoodLL you can insert audio as part of a label, to insert a recording of your voice almost anywhere you want. Some examples are instructions on how to complete an assignment, or on a language course to exemplify pronunciation.
PoodLL also adds features to the Assignment tool that enables you to set up audio submissions by students. With this your students can simply click a record button and speak their homework straight into Moodle.
As a bonus you can record your feedback as well. So you don’t have to type your comments, just speak your mind! You might be surprised how much students respond to this personal touch.
4. Differentiate using groups and groupings
Moodle enables you to set up groups within your course that allow you to target activities at specific students. So you can easily set different homework to different groupings, or have separate discussion forums all within the one teaching group. This is a great tool for differentiation, or for facilitating different forms of group work outside the classroom.
5. Construct complete online courses with built in assessment
If you are confident in using the features described above you might want to construct a complete online course. Powerful conditional access features in Moodle enable you to construct learning pathways to ensure students have understood certain concepts before progressing to the next stage. For example, students might need to access certain reading materials in a certain order, or obtain a pass mark in an assessment before progressing to the next module. Every action can be tracked so you can see exactly what each student has completed. Certificates of completion can be awarded within Moodle, or you can award Open Badges which are quickly gaining universal currency.
I can think of several examples where this might be useful in schools. What about an e-safety course, which every student (or teacher) has to complete? Or an induction course for new students? Or maybe a revision module with an assessment at the end?
Hopefully I’ve given you some reasons to go deeper with Moodle. There are lots of resources online to help you learn more about Moodle, especially on YouTube. I recommend searching for videos by Mary Cooch, a former language teacher from Lancashire who now works for Moodle HQ. And if you’d like some advice on using Moodle or a face-to-face training session in your school, please get in touch with me.