Dear Lambda support community member,
For those of us who are new to Moodle, we have prepared a video that walks the viewer through the very basics of the system. We hope that this will help you save some of your valuable time in getting started:
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Below is a transcript of the video:
In this presentation, we will provide an overview of Moodle. If you are new to Moodle, and you and your organization need to get up and running with this system, then this video will help you do that.
The overview consists of 3 sections: Moodle's user interface; how we add user accounts; and how we structure new courses.
A Moodle site is basically a container for multiple courses and courses themselves are similar to physical classrooms in a lot of ways. There are students; learning resources; and activities. So in managing a Moodle site, you will not only be a manager of static content, but will also most likely be actively participating in a social space.
Let us go ahead and dive into our demo system here. At the moment we are looking at the front page. We have not logged in yet, so we are only seeing content made available to outside visitors. So let us login...we are now inside. We will first be looking at the user interface and navigation.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
The interface of a Moodle site is typically divided into 3 columns.
The middle column holds the main content for whatever page we are in... and in the two side columns we find blocks.
Blocks are basically containers for various functionality and information being made available to the user.
For example, here, we have a calendar block... and here, a block where the user can follow the latest news.
Two of the most important blocks are the navigation and settings blocks.
The navigation block provides an easy access point to various parts of your site.
The settings block provides access to the settings for the current page, to the user’s profile settings, as well as to site administration settings which you are likely to access routinely for various administrative tasks.
If you prefer, you can dock any of the blocks to the side, or collapse them, so that they take less of your screen space.
The front page is the first page any user will see right after they log in to the system.
The administration of the site can customize this page to fit their preferences after turning editing on from here. A very common option, for example, is to provide users with a list of courses available on the site, like we have done here.
The front page is also called ‘home’, and is always accessible from the navigation menu with a single click.
Notice that there is another page called ‘my home’ or ‘my moodle’ in the navigation menu.
This page functions in tandem with the frontpage. It is like a personal dashboard page for all users.
For example, on this demo site, the my home page is customized to offer quick access to enrolled courses, the messaging utility, information about upcoming events, and personal files.
You can set it so that instead of the frontpage, this personal dashboard becomes the default landing page for your users after login.
Now, in addition to this navigation block, there is another extremely useful navigation tool. This here is called the breadcrumb trail. The breadcrumbs will tell you exactly where you are on the site. As you click different links through your Moodle site, your new location is reflected, this way in the breadcrumbs.
The look and feel of your site is determined by your theme. The theme is like the clothing of a moodle site. It governs such things as how your headers and footers look, the colours, fonts, icons used - in short, the whole aesthetics.
Our same front page may look like this when it is dressed up in different themes...
The standard Moodle package comes with several themes you can choose from. Your organization may also prefer a theme customized to more closely reflect its branding image.
This completes our overview of interface and navigation. Let us now look at how we handle user accounts in Moodle.
Under site administration, you will find a menu for managing users.
Each user in Moodle needs to have an account.
In the current list of users, there is only one account, and that is the one we are logged in with right now.
There are several ways to create accounts, and you can choose the one which best suits your immediate context.
If you just need to create accounts for a couple of users, you can easily do this manually, by entering the information for each user one by one.
Let us create our second user on the site.
The items in red are compulsory. It is quite straightforward to fill them out.
Notice this choice here for an authentication method. What is authentication?
This term refers to the actual technical process of having your identity checked during login. Here it might be a good time for us to quickly describe the practical steps in getting a new user inside a course: Account creation, which is what we are doing now, is the first step. The second step, authentication, takes place when the user actually logs in using her account. And the third step will be enrolling users into the actual course itself.
We stay with ‘manual accounts’ here because that is what we are creating: when this user enters her username and password, her entries will be checked against what we are creating here.
A good idea is to tick this box here so that when the person logs in the first time, the system forces her to change her password to one she prefers.
Another tip is to take note of this selection for email digest type.
Let us also quickly add a user picture... and... we have a new user.
Once the account is created, you can simply share the username and password with the new user.
Each user in Moodle gets a profile page.
A user can at any time use the profile settings menu to edit her profile and to change her password if needed.
If you have a larger group of users, a much faster method to create multiple accounts is to prepare a plain text file called a CSV file.
This option allows bulk upload of the account data for all the new users at once. This CSV file will contain one line of information for each new user, with fields for name, email address, etc., separated by commas.
We simply upload this file and immediately get a whole new list of user accounts.
If your organization already holds account data for its members in other systems, such as external HR or student information systems, then you also have the option to bring this data in to Moodle using one of the many authentication plugins available.
Note that it is even possible to allow guest access for limited use or even full use of your site. By default this is not enabled so you can be confident that your site is reserved for your own learning community.
This completes our first look at adding users. Now let’s turn to looking at courses
We mentioned already that Moodle acts as a container for courses. And if you have more than just a few, you can organize them under categories.
Based on the particulars of your organizational context, you may have, for example, a subject-based categorization, or a level based categorization.
Under site administration, right under users, there is a menu called ‘courses’.
So let us create a new course, Math 401.
Course short name... what you input here is how your course name will be displayed in various locations on the site.
By the way, take note of these yellow question marks. They are all over the site, and there is often very useful information behind them.
The course format... refers to how a course is divided into sections. The default is weekly sections. I will prefer topic sections for this course;
...let us set the course to be unavailable for the time being, since it is not yet ready;
…in this role renaming section, you can change the default namings for various roles. So for example, rather than ‘teacher’ you might prefer ‘facilitator’;
...hit save, and we are immediately taken to the page showing enrolled users, as we can notice from the breadcrumbs here. The course name is a faint color, since we just set the course to be unavailable, and it remains invisible to ordinary users.
Let us quickly go to home and take note of our new course listed with the rest, just out of curiosity... OK there it is.
We are now inside our new course.
The main middle section of the page is divided into topic sections, reflecting our choice in course settings. It is pretty much a blank slate except for this course forum placed in every new course by default.
So how do we start structuring the course?
First, we have to make sure that editing is turned on.
When we do that, we get new buttons and links for customizing the course structure to our liking.
Notice, for example, how new icons appeared on top of each block, and next to this course item.
When editing is turned on, you also get a block to add new blocks offering additional functionality to your course page.
To add a learning resource or activity click on the link inside the section where you want to add it.
You will be presented with a popup window featuring all the available resource and activity types you can choose from.
Resources refer to static content you may share with the learners for their use. The simplest example is to share a file, or a url.
Activities, on the other hand, feature some action on the part of the user, such as completing a quiz, or participating in a forum.
Select any activity or resource in this window, and you will find very useful information on what it is, and examples of its use.
As an example, let us set up an assignment.
When creating an assignment or any other type of activity or resource, you have various settings to control how it functions.
For example, with the assignment, you can set due dates;
…determine if the assignment is to be completed online or if users will upload documents instead;
...or how it will be graded.
The setting available to you change to reflect the type of learning resource or activity you are creating.
We now have our new assignment on our page.
You can click this icon and hide any course element until it is ready or it is time to share it.
You can also move things around... learners will not see what you are doing behind the scenes, even though they might be looking at the exact same page.
Here is an example of a relatively well designed course:
… we have topic sections are headlined nicely;
… we have a nice course introduction at the top;
… we have some resources and activities;
… and we use labels to make them easier to identify.
Generally, we try to keep things simple.
Moodle has a highly modular structure, and a very active developer community. New plugins are developed all the time by the community for extending the available functionality. This includes many extra activity and resource types which you might discover to be useful for you.
Once our course is ready, we are ready to enrol some users.
Just like in creating accounts, you have a number of options: you can do this manually, use a CSV file, or pull the enrolment info from an external system.
Let us look at manual enrolment:
From the course administration menu, navigate to view the list of enrolled users.
Click on enrol users;
…make sure you have selected the correct role from here for the users you will be enrolling;
...select the users... one by one... let us enrol someone with a teacher role as well;
...done. We can immediately see the new enrolled users. There is a roles column where you can view their roles, and buttons to assign other roles as well.
Speaking of roles, it is worth sharing a bit more information about this subject.
Navigate to site administration > users > permissions > define roles. You will find here a list of roles available in the system by default.
From this page, you are able to modify the existing roles, as well as define new roles.Basically, a role is a collection of capabilities. A user may be a teacher in the context of one course. Outside that course, his or her role and capabilities may be that of an ordinary authenticated user.
So, let us assume that we are running our course. One of the things we are likely to be doing routinely is to keep track of our learners’ progress.
Under course administration, you will find a link to Grades.
The default Grader report you will find there will include rows for every user, and columns for every graded activity.
Depending on the settings, the slots for grades you see here will be populated automatically;
...or you can enter them manually.
Take a note of the dropdown menu here where there is a whole range of menu items relevant to
Alternatively, you can navigate to the item to be graded itself... such as this assignment... and access a link to a page where you are able to view and edit grades.
Finally, we want to point out to you that you have the capability to backup a course from the backup menu item under course administration. Taking whole site backups are typically the responsibility of your technology team, but a teacher can also independently take a course backup for her own records. The resulting backup file can then be restored on the same, or another Moodle site.
If you find that you need further information on what you are seeing on a particular page on your Moodle site, just scroll down to find a link to relevant information on the official Moodle documentation site.
Developing your Moodle skills is a process, and there is a wealth of information created by an active user and developer community.
Take a note of Moodle.org, where you will find extensive documentation and busy user forums which you can search to find the information you need.
This completes our overview of Moodle. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Lambda Solutions to support you in adopting Moodle for your organization.