Moodle: Instructor's Guide

Aurora University
Information Technology Services
Rev. 14 May 2008


Moodle is AU's official course management system, and provides to instructors a wide variety of tools for managing online course material. The purpose of this document to help instructors set up and use this system. (Students: for information on using this information as a student, see Moodle: Student's Guide).

 

Logging in

Moodle requires no special user account setup. All members of the AU community can log in to the Moodle server using their regular AU email username and password. The URL for the AU Moodle server is http://apollo.aurora.edu/moodle (or just click the Moodle link on the AU home page).

 

Setting up your course

Information Technology Services staff will create your course for you and assign you the role as instructor. When you first log in to Moodle, you should see a listing of the courses you are teaching on the first page under My Courses. Clicking on a link will take you to the main page of the course. At the center of this page is a wide center column containing the contents of the course, and to the left and right are two narrower columns which contain various information panels called blocks. As instructor, your view of this page is different in several ways from what the student sees. One difference is the Turn editing on button in the upper right hand corner, and another is the expanded list of options listed in the Administration block. (If you can't see the contents of this, or any block, click the + sign next to the label to open it.)

Before adding your course content, there are a couple of options that you may need to make in the Administration panel. Click the Settings option to bring up the course settings page. Most of the fields on this screen can be left at the default value, but you should at least take a look at the following fields:

  1. Summary. If it's not already there, enter a brief description of your course in this box. The summary is used in certain directory displays in Moodle. It may be the same as the standard catalog course description, but it doesn't have to be. Try to be as concise as possible.

  2. Format. This choice defines how your course will be broken up into sections in the middle column of the course home page. For a regular course you'll want to select either Topics or Weekly. The only difference between the two is that with the Weekly format the sections include date labels. (The Social format is useful for courses that are organized around a discussion forum but it has limited features and is not generally recommended to support regular classes.)

  3. Course start date. This setting affects how weeks are displayed if you have selected the Weekly format.

  4. Number of weeks/topics. This choice sets up the number of sections into which your course will be organized. For example, if your course meets twice a week for 16 weeks and you want to build a separate section for every class meeting, enter 32. If you're using the weekly format this option determines the number of week sections that will be created (starting with the start date).

  5. Availability. This is the all-important setting that determines whether your students will be able to find your class. We will normally deliver your course to you with this field already set to "available to students," since students will not be able to access it anyway until you supply them with the key. If you wish however you can switch it to "unavailable" while it is under development, or at any time you want to take it offline.

  6. Set a enrolment key. The key allows authorized students to enter your course for the first time (see next section for details). Typically when ITS sets up your course a key will be entered in this field, mostly likely a number. You may take this opportunity to change it to a word that will be easy for your students to remember but not easily guessed by unauthorized users. You can change the course key as often as you like. It is important that you set a private key for your course in order to block access from unauthorized users.

If you have questions about any field, click the yellow help button. When you're ready, click the Save changes button at the bottom of the screen to record your choices.

Enrolling students

Moodle features a self-enrollment feature for students. In order to enroll, students will need three pieces of information: the URL for Moodle, the official abbreviation and number of your course, and your course key. It is your responsibility, as instructor, to provide them with this information. Here is the enrollment procedure for students:

  1. Log in. Go to the Moodle server and log in using your regular AU student email user name and password.

  2. Select course category. When the Moodle home page appears, click the All courses... link under My courses. An index of course categories will appear corresponding to the standard course abbreviations used at AU.

  3. Select a course. Click a category to display the list of available courses in that category, locate the course you want to enroll in, and click on the course name to start the enrollment process.

  4. Enroll. Using the on-screen prompts, enter the course key provided by your instructor and click the necessary buttons to complete the login process. After your initial successful login you will not need to use the key again to access the course.

A separate student guide to using Moodle is available that explains in more detail how to access and use a Moodle course. The document is available online at www.aurora.edu/its/tb/48moodle-student.htm.You may want to direct students to this page, or provide copies as handouts on the first day of class (and it would probably be a good idea if you read over it yourself).

While the enrollment process depends for the most part on student action, there may be times when you will need to manage your own enrollment list. For example, when a student drops your course it is your job to manually delete them from the list, or you may want to add a colleague to your class as an observer or collaborator. You can accomplish these tasks from your Administration block.

To modify student enrollments, use the Assign Roles link.

In the next page you will see the students link.

Once you have clicked on the students link there will be two panels. The left panel contains currently enrolled students and the right panel is where the possible students are.

A) Search for the student you are looking to add

B) Highlight the students name

C) Click the left arrow to enroll them into the course

You may also add Instructors (Instructors may edit your course shell), Non-Editing Instructors, and Guests. Its the same process but instead of going into the student section in step 2, choose whichever role you want to give the user.

Creating and editing course materials

The center column of the course home page serves as the main index for the course. Links to the content you add will be placed in this space. To make any changes to your course content you must first activate the editing function by clicking the Turn editing on button in the upper right hand corner of the course main page. The display of your course will now include a number of icons with which you can make changes. A variety of content types are supported by Moodle. You can select them from the two drop-down lists, Add a resource... and Add an activity... The most commonly used functions are in the first category. Three of them support direct entry of data into your course:

  1. Compose a text page. Selecting this option presents you with an editing screen in which you can enter a name for the new resource, a brief summary, and a block of plain text. You can type in the text by hand or use your PC's copy/paste function to avoid retyping long documents. No formatting is possible in this text box.

  2. Compose a web page. This is almost the same as the first option, except you can create enhanced text using HTML formatting. Using this editor is similar to using a word processor and is easy enough to use that there is not much reason to use the text page option, unless you need the special features of a plain-text box.

  3. Insert a label. This is the simplest type of resource -- basically it's nothing more than a header, title or brief comment. The main difference between a label and the two options above is that anything you enter here appears directly on your course home page, while the text page and web pages options create a link on the course home page that only displays the actual content when the student clicks the link.

Linking to web sites or uploaded content

This section explains in more detail the option Link to a file or web site, which is selected from the Add a resource... list and can be used to accomplish several rather different tasks. The two main types of object that can be added using this tool are links to existing web pages from other web sites on the Internet, and links to files (such as PowerPoint presentations, Word files, or image files) that you have uploaded onto the Moodle server.

The creation of a link to a web site is very straightforward:

  1. In the course area where you want to add the link open the Add a resource... menu and select Link to a file or web site.

  2. On the next screen, enter a name and a summary. Then type the exact URL for your object in the box provided and click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen. The name you entered will now appear on your course page as a web link, and clicking on it will bring up the target web page.

You can also use this process to create a link to a file that you would like your students to be able to download and use. Key to this process is a file storage area on the Moodle server where you can archive files for use in your course. This file storage area is not available to students but is instead a holding area where you can store documents that you want to make available to students. Two steps are involved to give students access to a file: first you upload the document into your course archive and then you create a link to it. Here are the details:

  1. Click on the Files icon under the administration block on the left side of the shell

     

  2. On the Files next screen click on "Upload a File"upload

  3. On the upload screen select which file to upload and click "Upload this file"upload 2
  4. The "File Uploaded Succesfully"

    uploaded yes

  5. Turn Editing Mode On

    editing on

     

  6. In edit mode, go to the section where you want to add the link, open the Add a resource... menu, and select Link to a file or web site.

  7. On the Adding a new Resource screen, enter a name and click on "Choose or upload a file".

    upload

  8. A new window will pop-up, since the file has already been uploaded in the previous steps just click on "choose" on which file you want to display and the window will close.

    choose

  9. Finally scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "Save changes" At that point a window will pop-up asking to Save or Open the file, this is moodle showing that the file has been uploaded correctly you may cancel that window and go back to the main course shell.

Using the grade book

Moodle contains an system for recording and displaying student grades. The link to the gradebook is available in the Administration window (students see only their own grades, while instructors can see every student's grades). A variety of grade calculating and weighting features are available. Columns in the grade book can be created in two ways. One way is to create an online quiz. As with Blackboard, when the student submits the quiz it is automatically graded and results appear on the gradebook. It is also possible to create a column in the gradebook for an assignment that is completed outside of Moodle. The procedure is as follows:

  1. In an appropriate section of your course click the Add an activity... button and select Assignment.

  2. In the next screen, give your assignment a name and description. The description area is the place to enter detailed instructions to students on the nature of the assignment, as appropriate.

  3. On the same screen, assign the maximum number of points possible for this assignment, and (if you wish) set the date parameters.

  4. On the same screen, select the Assignment type that most closely matches the type of assignment. There are three choices. Offline activity creates a column in the grade book and a method for the instructor to enter a grade, but otherwise assumes that all the work will be done outside Moodle (example: a graded classroom presentation). Online text gives the student the ability to edit material online, which can then be edited and graded by the instructor. Upload a single file prompts the use to upload a file for evaluation and grading (example: course term paper). Follow the prompts to complete the process.

The spreadsheet option of the online gradebook can be used to download your data into Excel. This is strongly recommended -- you should never store your grades in a single location.

When the course is over

At the end of the semester you have several options.

  1. Archive your course. Moodle provides a backup utility that makes it possible for instructors to create an archival copy of a course compressed into a single file containing some or all the material in a particular course. This archive can then be used to retrieve materials that were part of, say, an earlier version of the course, and (with the help of ITS staff) the archive can be used to recreate a new shell for that course. To use this utility, click the Backup link in the Administration block.

  2. Reset your course. A convenient alternative to archiving and recreating your course is to make a few modifications to your current course to reset it for a new semester. This is especially useful if you're teaching the same course in two adjacent semesters. Working from the Administration block, make the following changes:

    • For security's sake, before you make any changes create a backup of the course content (Backup)
    • Remove all currently registered students from the course (Students)
    • Change the full name and short name for the course, using the standard AU naming conventions. (Settings)
    • Update the course start date (Settings)
    • Choose a new course key (Settings)
    • Make any necessary changes and updates to the course content. Remember you can hide any documents from students that you're not ready for them to see.

Getting help

Moodle is not difficult to use, and you can learn quite a bit just by experimenting. If you need more systematic help, try the following:

  1. Click the context-sensitive help buttons (a question mark in a yellow circle). Clicking on of these buttons will bring up a popup window containing concise information about a Moodle object or feature. At the bottom of every popup help window is a link to an index of all the available help pages.

  2. Take a look at a Moodle manual. Several manuals for instructors are located on the Moodle web site at docs.moodle.org/en.

  3. Enroll yourself in the instructor's help areas on Moodle. These have been created as Moodle courses on our server and are open to all instructors without a key. There are two courses of interest.

    • The first is a demonstration course called Moodle Features Demo that was provided by the Moodle developers. This course contains a number of examples of various features of Moodle along with guidelines for using them.

    • The other is a course created by ITS staff called Instructor's Resources. This is where we have posted local documentation of interest to AU instructors. Users of this area will be automatically added to the Moodle user's discussion groups which can be used to post questions and answers about using Moodle.

    To enroll yourself in either of these courses, go to the Moodle home page and click All courses..., look for the section entitled Non-Academic Resources, and then click Guides to bring up a list of courses. To enroll in a course, simply click its name and follow the prompts.


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