Moodle 2 Frustrations

With over ten Moodle 1.9.* installations that all need upgrading, the next few months are going to be exciting.

I have a clean Moodle 2 install, and a test 1.9 -> 2.1 install, and have been frustrated by some of the changes. I should note that I am also pleased at other changes, but those things I like will get less air-time than those I don’t, ’tis the way of things.

Some of the things I don’t like are:

Category Enrolments

I have not fully understood how these differ from Moodle 1.9 yet, though I am assured they do. Firstly, site-wide and category enrolments do not work the same – I’m not quite clear yet exactly how. There is a new enrolment plugin type called ‘Category enrolments’ that seems to be involved that supposedly restores old behaviour if enabled. This interacts with the new capability ‘category:synchronised’. I believe this specifically synchronises roles at a category down into a course level. I believe it does this as a proper enrolment rather than as an ‘other user’.

What I don’t like about this is that it has changed, I don’t understand it fully, and it becomes difficult for me to ensure desired pre-existing behaviour is maintained.

Hidden Assignments

Another thing that annoys me, is the removal of ‘hidden’ role assignments, replacing them instead with the concept of ‘other users’ in a course that will have access but not be listed as a participant.

On face value this seems to make sense, but one of the way we used to use ‘hidden’ enrolments was when enrolling site-wide users. We would set someone up with Teacher permissions site-wide, and to prevent them showing up as being a Teacher on every course we’d set the role as hidden.

If someone needs site-wide permission levels there is no way to do this as an ‘other user’. Where this Teacher role is granted site-wide because there is no ‘hidden’ option, that person is then listed on every course as a Teacher.

A solution is to tweak ‘course contacts’ so that Teachers aren’t listed as Teachers of a course, or better to duplicate the Teacher role and make sure they aren’t a ‘course contact’. Where multiple roles are used in both visible and hidden ways, this means duplicating those roles and them essentially being identical in ALL WAYS except for which are listed as ‘course contacts’. These roles may then be synchronised back down into courses if ‘Category enrolments’ and the ‘category:synchronised’ capability are enabled. I could easily see this then requiring even more duplicate roles.

Viewing Enrolled Users

In a course when I view enrolled users (course administration->users->enrolled users), I can choose to filter by enrolment method, but not by role. Ditto for ‘other users’. It isn’t easy to get a quick look at who is enrolled as a Teacher. For this functionality I specifically have to use the Participants link in the People block – which doesn’t show up ‘other users’ anyway. I can click on ‘enrol users’ to get the traditional side-by-side view of those enrolled and not enrolled. But (1) there is not a separate view per role, (2) if there are ‘too many users to show’ you’re out of luck.

Display a Directory vs Folder Resource

This is one of my largest frustrations.

In Moodle 1.9 we had a the following workflow.

  • Publications would update up to hundreds of course files (in a neat folder hierarchy) on a network drive,
  • A script would rsync these files with a folder on the Moodle 1.9 server,
  • Within an ‘all course materials’ course we would ‘display a directory’ that allowed students to navigate the neat folder hierarchy and access the hundreds of course files.
  • Because these files are synched when updated, we never need to go into Moodle and delete old files and replace with new ones.

Moodle 2 have changed the way files are handled. Repositories are a new and ‘good’ way to handle files in Moodle 2. As a consequence to the ‘new way of doing things’ the ‘display a directory’ resource. This has been replaced by a ‘folder’ resource.

When creating a ‘folder’ resource there is no way to point it to a folder within a repository. If all your hundreds of files from the server sit in a file-system repository, you can one-by-one add the files to your course ‘folder’, but not in bulk. Once a file is placed in your folder from the repository it is replicated into Moodle’s database. Presumably if the original file in the repository updates, nothing happens to Moodle’s database copy, and so every time a file is updated, you need to go into the ‘folder’ to remove the old one, and add the updated one.

What is the point of a repository if we can not update documents in there, and know that Moodle is picking up the update?

What is the point of a ‘folder’ if we can’t bulk select files from the repository? And no, adding zipfiles and unzipping them into the folder is NOT a suitable alternative.

Upgrades

Yesterday saw the first upgrade of the first of our live installs, and there were mixed results.

Capability – folder:view

More ‘folder’ frustration as it turned out that in my fresh M2 install, my test M2 upgrade, and the live M2 upgrade that the capability ‘folder:view’ is not set to ‘allow’ for students. What does this mean? It means that the ‘folder’ resource, presumably intended for students, is not actually visible to students!

I don’t know if this is a default Moodle 2 setting, or just something wrong at our end – but it certainly got me kicking, screaming, and pulling my hair out about folders all over again!

Capability – course:view

Going back to my frustration with site-wide and category enrolments, imagine my frustration when everyone with our ‘College Admin’ role (site wide) who had previously been able to see all courses, was suddenly unable to see any courses! It turned out that this was because their role did not have the ‘course:view’ capability. In our other 1.9 installs this role does have this capability, so either something took it off in the upgrade or this one install didn’t have it set (I don’t believe this!).

Summary

While I am pleased at some of the new features (cohorts!) of Moodle 2 I am really disappointed in the loss of some Moodle 1.9 features.

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Closing Keynote

Closing keynote/plenary: Geoff Rebbeck, Thanet College

Moodle brings teachers and ‘technicians’ together. Moodle removes the technical barriers for teachers when properly implemented.

First challenge: the wider world of technology

We used to think the institution needed to be the host of the learning technology, and use it by the institutions rules.

But students now have their own technologies and devices, and we need to know how to incorporate those learning technologies.

Best way to use Moodle is to put very little content in, and give students the power to put their own content in. Moodle is organise and grows as part of the life of the course it is supporting. If you set it up you’re making assumptions about how the students should behave.

Personalised and social learning. Need to make sure we capture those. Moodle consolidates what ‘we’ already do as teachers. Moodle isn’t simple, but it is intuitive.

When we think technology can do everything for us can let us fall into the trap of becoming passive teachers. Getting the set up of your course right is more of an art than a skill.

Using Moodle to save money, is the wrong way to approach it.

Need to develop experts who are capable of managing their own learning. That’s where we need to go with Moodle, it shouldn’t be just a repository.

Skills we need to develop:

  • have to have a drive to be able to think reflexively, not just one way to do things
  • have to have the ability to adapt technology to purposeful pedagogy – make do with deficiencies of software and bend it to work  the way we need it to
  • need vision to be imaginative in using blended learning

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Mahoodle

Our Mahara Honeymoon

Southampton Solent University

Why Mahara?

  • met all requirementts
  • easy to customise
  • integration with Moodle
  • LEAP2A
  • No commercial tie-in
  • If it breaks, they can (hopefully) fix it

In Mahara tweaking the helpfiles so instead of being ‘what button to press’ instructions, becomes a structured/scaffolded way to guide and advise students on what and how to do it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOFSrV3QOWM

There is an unbranded  version of the video available, and Solent are happy to give the source files to people wanting to tweak it. Might be good promotional video for Kent’s Mahara launch.

Created a ‘sample student’ with portfolio and other shared resources to act as a guide for what can be done.

Angela Jay – Lewisham College

New users, only been using for several months. Use Mahoodle for entire student portal.

Uses:

  • reflective log
  • self-promotion
  • community
  • communication

Taking good practice from the pilot year to use as a showcase once they go live to give other staff ideas of what they can do with Mahara.

Examples of e-portfolios available on Mahara.org

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Afternoon Keynote

Afternoon keynote: Philip Butler & James Ballard

Learning spaces: bridging the gap between personal and professional discourses

As we evolve within a more ‘knowledge-based’ society, knowing what to learn next becomes more relevant than what has already been learnt. This is evidenced in the recent focus on higher-order thinking or trans-disciplinary skills in the literature of personalisation, professional development, employability, PLTS and other strategic agendas.

Development of such skills requires complex dialogue and is difficult to measure. How can we ensure learners engage with a sufficient range of discourses for their development and where does Moodle ‘fit’?

Three phases for Harnessing Technology: Enabling, Capable and Confident

Helping learners to learn individually – personalisation. The systems should conform to the learner, not the other way round.

  • Lifelong learning is a process, not a product.
  • Edubcators have a responsibility to make this an inclusive process.
  • This is not a technical issue, technology provides new affordances for personalisation but is not a panacea
  • The 21st Century learner requires us to understand where Moodle fits in within their learning discourse.

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Moodle Showcase

Carol Wrycraft – MidKent College

Been using Moodle assignments for 18 months, combined with using forums, wikis, glossaries, and quizzes to create a web 2.0 feel to course assessment.

Continually modified methods to suit their users.

Assignments used to be handed in on paper, returned with feedback, then work resubmitted. Admin overhead huge. Students didn’t like paper hand in. hand written comments can be hard to read for students. Students lose original work at times.

Use Moodle Advanced file upload assignment. Marking/commenting can be done with Word track changes and can even use audio feedback by attaching sound files.

With online submission students can submit from anywhere, don’t need to be on site.

Can do more exciting types of assignment submission, not just text but can submit powerpoint or audio/video files.

Online submission provides a much better audit trail.

60% of students submit outside of college hours. 33% submit between 6pm and 11:55pm.

Improved meeting of submission deadlines from 50% to 96%.

First marking takes about same amount of time as paper marking, but second marking is much faster, about 50% faster.

Supplementing Moodle with Live and Recorded Webinars – Dominik – Dyslexia Action

See slides on slideshare.

Blended e-learning, 400 students, 3 main e-courses, variety of smaller courses.

Have tried: GoToWebinar, Elluminate, Webex, Adobe Connect, and DimDim.

DimDim found to be a bit bumpy and not reliable. As DimDim and Adobe Connect use flash, it isn’t suitable where flash can not be guaranteed.

Getting audio from participating students not always reliable, no matter the tool, so mostly is presenter only speaking.

they chose GoToWebinar. Why?

  • Simple interface
  • easy screen sharing mode, remote control and collaboration
  • virtually unlimited audience
  • automatic registration system
  • international phone numbers

Problems:

  • Does not have video support
  • no break out rooms
  • limited polls and quizzes
  • recording is not linked to presentation

Lessons learned:

  • it works
  • works just as well as in-person meetings/lectures
  • test many times and have a backup plan
  • explain interface to users
  • expect 30-50% attendance and 1% failure

Sharing recordings

Use drop.io, viddler.com, youtube, etc

Irene – Cumbria Children’s Services

Moodle and 14-19 collaboration.

Moodle for every secondary school, over 2000 instances.

Prettification of modules using images.

Essentials: safeguarding, naming conventions, quality documentation, ongoing support

Antonella – UCL

Used meta-courses to create a generic subject module and draw in students to it from other courses.

Not entirely impressed with UCLs Moodle theme.

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Day 2 Welcome

Welcome to day two by Martin Dougiamas

Moodle 2.0 Overview

Over past ten years code has grown, features been added, and came to the time  when it needed an overhaul. By 1.9 was inevitable to go to 2.0 rather than 1.10. Been working on 2.0 for about two years now.

Have resisted all sorts of features that sit outside of a VLE, instead woorking to make it easy for people to integrate it with their own peripheral systems.

Moodle has 49,000 registered verified sites in 210 countries. Registered sites contain 34 million users, 3.4 million courses, and 1.2 million teachers. At least 500 sites have more than 10,000 users. Interface translated into 75 languages and there are 54 specialised Moodle partners.

UK has 3rd most Moodle sites in the world (US 1st and Spain 2nd).

Moodle 2.0 has some major rewrites and some major new features.

New flag to mark courses as complete (will be useful for our archived modules).

Cohort enrollments (will this be like enrollment streams?)

Files 2.0 will move from on-disk normal storage to database storage. 1.* to 2.0 upgrade process will take hours if you have a  lot of files.

Files have a licencing system where it can store and keep track of licence information on files (e.g. will automatically pull in flickr licence information when adding files from a flickr repository).

Greater flexibility on the design – as design and functionality more divorced from each other. Can change design via PHP templating as well as just CSS.

New roles 7 permissions system. Far more visually understandable permissions overrides.

New comments block that can be stickied on every page in a course to allow back and forth commenting/feedback between students and teachers.

Web services API. SOAP, XML-RPC, REST, AMF

External systems can now remotely control Moodle. Bridge could now use the API to do enrolments rather than DB injection?

Community Hubs: every Moodle comes with a hub that can be turned on, and will turn it into a course repository that can feed into other Moodles.

Moodle 2.1 won’t have code refactoring, will instead focus on pedagogy, education, and usability.

Thoughts on Moodle 3.0 flying around, and some quite radical, but too hazy to go into details. 🙁

Beta release end of April, rough but usable for testing and trying out themes. Full release will be in July, even if they have to cut features.

Book tool is very popular, but possibly won’t be ready for integration in Moodle 2.0, worst case will be updated to work with Moodle 2.0 even if not integrated. Will be in Moodle 2.1 as standard module.

Moodle 2.0 plans to use the tango icon set which is open source and has clean naming scheme so easy to add more icons to it.

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Closing Keynote/Plenary

Closing keynote/plenary: Philip Badman, Vice Principal Funding & Planning, Newham College

Starts by saying Newham College are not mature users on ILCT – as in they are not at the end of the road, just part way along it. One of largest FE centres, and 6th most deprived area in England. Most culturally diverse FE college, 33% born outside the  UK.

4 years ago. had technology but no pedagogical strategy. So was going nowhere.

moving forward

  • have a 3-year £8.3m ILCT plan with coroporation approval
  • with joined up information, communication, and learning strategies
  • 78 point development action plan. Supervised bi-monthly by ILCT committee.

Principles driving the strategy:

  • upgrade the network
  • modernising software
  • staff training
  • on-call responsive classroom support
  • investment
  • innovation and trialling
  • senior management buy-in
  • linked to classroom quality system (with a view to next ofsted)

Actions towards this

  • ditch their VLE
  • adopt Moodle with robust staff development
  • within a year matured moodle into an integrated VLE with mahara
  • established an elearning development centre
  • devices for all teachers
  • on-call classroom technicians
  • Audits of teachers against required ILCT competencies
  • ILCT in classroom  observation schedule
  • ICLT training towards CPD
  • surveyed student home ILCT access
  • support to student use of ILCT by study coaches
  • technology investments (IWBs in every room, etc)
  • teaching and learning innovation projects

None would have worked without buy-in by teachers, so yearly they have an Annual ILCT fair. Required CPD day for teachers. They have an ILCT Champion, called Zod (looks like a bright red morph wearing a tuxedo). Have a team of 4 e-learning advisors, 1 per faculty.

Latest quality report shows innovative use of technology in the classroom, and an increase in engagement by learners. Basis of that technology is Moodle, Mahara, and their other learning technologies.

2003 ofsted much better reports.

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Moving to Moodle

Laura Widger – Waterford Institute of Technology

in 2008 were using WebCT 4. At a point where they had to move. So either upgrade webct/blackboard or go open source.

Evaluated others having taken same decision. people with commercial were happy. people with open source were excited.

Open source is like a race car, need very skilled mechanics.

Ran a pilot in parallel to help get management buy-in.

One of the factors on their timeline was webct licence expiring in may 2009. Couldn’t get a several month extension to cover exam resit period.

3 years of content – what should they move? 60,000 modules in webct.

Content migration process: staff requested what they want moved.

8.5GB of data moved (files moved en masse with ftp, and staff relinked manually). When licence expired, LDAP logins all broke.

many staff generall happier with their moodle installation than the old WebCT one.

Tightly integrated with internal systems to reduce admin work. End of each year take snapshot and move to another archived moodle installation.

Use redmine for tracking teamwork and managing project, issue tracker, etc.

Also use RT, a web-based ticket management system for support.

Looking back:

  • Not as stressful as they thought it would be
  • The more you do the more you reallise you need to do
  • Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference… the right team

Susanna Quincee – City University

When found webct was losing support, realised they needed to change. Due to timescales, had to bid for funds before decided on VLE. had to get buy in from their users, and support for their staff.

change in lms has let city uni drive a rethink of teaching practice – good excuse to shake things up

Chose OUWiki over default moodle wiki.

Evaluation docs available at: http://www.city.ac.uk/ldc/projects/VLEEvaluation.html

Moodle Moot Uk 2010 – Enhancing Moodle (e-portfolios)

Two sessions, one by Newham and one by TDM.

Newham

Purchased Moodle from ULCC  Nov 2008, launched for staff Dec 2008.

Live for students and staff Mar 2009 (MIS integration).

E-learning advisors in place to develop VLE and provide staff support.

Over 200 staff given 1 hour of 1-2-1 compulsory training. Followed by 2 hours group sessions.

Developing podcasting (videos in Moodle course) and e-assessment.

Nice use of images through the moodle course makes it look more interesting and more accessible.

Held off mahara to not introduce it at same time as moodle. Mahara fits into Newham’s ‘progression and employability skills’ subject.

10MB of storage space per student.

Derrin Kent – Mahara for Beginners

http://www.tdm.info

See this presentation online at: http://www.slideshare.net/tdmslides/moodlemoot-uk-2010-presentation-3703363

very simplistic youtube video explaining what an e-portfolio is

Mahara not just a presentation tool but also creates a personalised learning environment.

Learners set their own learning agendas, build their own content and their own stories.

Open data standard, Leap2a – approx 15 organisations involved. Zipfolder with atom manifest.

http://www.mahara.me

Moodle Moot UK 2010 – Morning Keynote

Morning keynote: Professor Sugata Mitra, Newcastle University

The Future of Learning (or A future of learning)

Everywhere on Earth, there are places where, for various reasons, good teachers do not want to, or cannot, go.

We have the above problem even in this country.

How would poor children get to work with computers?

The Hole in the Wall.

Can’t get teachers to go into slums (India) and teach children. you can’t in principle have a good computing teacher at the primary level.

Sugata wanted to know what would happeen if you put a computer in a slum, and see what the children do. Where to put it? Where to put a computer outdoors, let alone in a slum?

Built a computer into a wall, glass screen over front, bricked in securely, like an ATM. Then asked a colleague to walk around, keep an eye on it, and see what happens. Video of 8 hours later shows kids excitedly playing with it: 8 yr old boy teaching a 6 yr old girl how to browse the internet, even though the boy didn’t know himself. Assumption was a passing adult must have shown the boy to start with.

What would happen if it was put in a place where no-one could pass by and provide that initial teaching. So another hole in the wall in a small north indian village.

Adults showed no interest, men walked past, women kept eye on the children. Video shows excited children again. 10 yr old boy and 12 yr old girl, and they ask him 9when he returns a few months later) for faster processor and better mouse. Asked how they know this, and girl says, you gave us a machine that works only in english, so we had to teach ourselves english to use it. Adult response in same situation would be “can’t understand language, so can’t use the machine”. When do the 2 positives of childhood turn into the 2 negatives of adult hood? Who is responsible? teachers? Our processes reinforce that learners need teachers.

Groups of children can learn to use computers and the internet on their own – irrespective of and and where they are.

Graphed child IT literacy from his holes in wall, and from a posh Delhi school, and results were the same. Worrying from a teacher’s perspective.

Putting hole in wall in a public space,, with large screen visible to community, and computer use/misuse is controlled without any controlling software needed.

Between 200-300 children can share 1 computer and become computer literate in 3 months.

hole in wall process:

bullies take over, can’t work things out, and then leave it.

then 8 yr old hackers take over and play

eventually 12yr old girls invest organisation and administration to provide order and fair use for all (e.g. getting taller boys to hold up smaller kids to use machines)

Costs approx 3 US cents per child per day.

Design of ‘new’ hole in the wall such that uncomfortable for adults, and comfortable for children.

Groups of children, given the appropriate digital resources, can attain educational objectives, on their own.

Gave children computer with speech-to-text software.

Pre-trained the software with accent neutral british accents, then disabled training feature. Gave to children and it wrote gibberish when they spoke. he left them to it, and told them to make themselves understood. When asked how, he said “I don’t know”. He left them, isn’t sure what they did.

Video of girl speaking english before and after. barely understandable before, much  more understandable afterwards.

During the time he was away they downloaded some examples (speaking oxford dictionary), and then grouped up testing and correcting each other.

Around same time, Pascal Monteil (French) did experiment with new media art. Sugata took him to his children who didnn;t even know where france was. He spoke to the kids aand they understood nothing. He send pascal to the hole in the wall, showed kids stuff, and they copied him.

Can groups of children complete their schooling on their own? (phase 2 research)

He proposed experiment: let’s show the sorts of things that children can not teach themselves. Can Tamil speaking children learn Biotechnology in English – on their own?

Downloaded biotech material from internet, and loaded it into the hole in the wall computers.

Two months later, asked them what they understood, and they said nothing.

Asked how often they looked at it, they said, everyday.

He asked how they can look at it every day and no understand.

One girl said, well apart from improper replication of dna can cause genetic mutation, we learned nothing.

In 2 months test scores went from 5% to ~30%.

Still 30% is a fail. So what would it take to make them pass? he extended experiment and got a local NGO person to teach them more biotechnology by hanging around as they learn and admire them while they self teach. 2 months later their scores were up to 50%.

No longer ‘just’ computer literacy, but proper real hard science.

Next The Gateshead Experiment, Feb 2008.

Rule: make groups of 4, only 1 computer per group, can look over the shoulders of other groups – see what they are doing – and claim it as your own work. The gave the 10 year olds 6 GCSE questions. Then took teacher away for a cup of tea and left kids to it. Took 20-45mins to get all questions right.

SOLE – Self Organised Learning Environments (cyber cafes for children working in groups of 4)

Self organisation gets kids to 30%, but getting to a pass takes friendly mediation.

Remote presence by retired people with broadband. Beams in his Granny cloud wherever they are needed.

The Future of Learning

  • Need subsidised broadband and electricity in developing world.
  • SOLE as part of timetable.
  • Clouds of mediators.
  • Change curriculum, make it based on questions.
  • Change assessment structures.

http://solesandsomes.wikispaces.com/