Moodle’s vast and varied uses can be one of the content manager’s greatest weaknesses. Creating a simple assignment may be the best way to start.
Once teachers login, they should click the button that says “Turn editing on” so that the page can be changed. Several icons should appear, and at the bottom of each section, two drop down menus will appear, one saying “Add a resource…” and the other saying “Add an activity….” (The second image in the images below shows where this menu should be on a typical page.) Go to the section where students should turn in an extended response and click on the “Add an activity…” menu. At the top of that menu, teachers should see four assignments: “Advanced uploading of files,” “Online Text,” “Upload a single file,” and “Offline activity.”
The process so far:
- Login to the Moodle and go to the course.
- Turn editing on.
- Click the “Add an activity…” drop-down menu and find the assignments at the top of the menu.
Advanced Uploading of Files
The first assignment type (Advanced uploading of files) is probably the most complex to set up and grade. The idea here is that students can upload several files and collect them in one folder that will be named on the Moodle site. Unfortunately, an entire folder cannot be uploaded at one time here. After teachers fill out the form by selecting “Advanced uploading of files” in the “Add an activity…” menu and have saved the assignment with one of the buttons at the bottom of the form, students will be able to click “Upload files” on the assignment page. Then, the students will be able to click “Create folder” to make a folder to collect the files. The files, then, have to be uploaded individually.
This type of upload would have several purposes. For example, if the teacher wants to see several drafts of something, keeping those drafts in the same folder would be better than creating separate assignments. Also, if students have had to create something where the files work together such as a web site, the folder collection would be useful. Regardless, students should be advised to title the folder on the Moodle the same as the folder on the local computer unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. This system will make sure that the folders are easy to synchronize and that files, especially web pages with images, still work together.
Just like on the local computer, files can be created within files. In other words, subordinate files can be placed within larger files. Also, the entire file can be downloaded as a zip in case the teacher wants to grade the assignments away from the Moodle environment.
The second choice (Online text) allows students to complete extended activities without having any additional software installed on a computer. The upload feature requires so type of word processor or text editor at least. With the online feature, students simply respond in writing to the assignment in the built-in word processor. While the word processor does not have as many features as a locally installed word processor—students may not be able to turn in an MLA formatted research papers—but it does have many of the more popular formatting options.
The online word processor is highly recommended, but it has one serious flaw: the Moodle server, depending on how it is set up, may log the students out while they are writing the response. Unless the student interacts with the page in some way—and typing does not interact with the main page—the Moodle server may log students out, erasing all of their unsaved work. Two methods can keep this from happening. The first is for teachers to select “Yes” beside “Allow resubmitting” on the settings form. That way, students can click “Save changes” at the bottom of the screen and return to the page as many times as they want. Teachers who anticipate that students will save an assignment several times should also select “No” beside “Email alerts to teachers” because the teachers will probably not want to get an email every time each student saves some changes. As a second method for keeping the Moodle server from logging students out prematurely, students may still want to write the response on a locally installed processor, but they may need help copying and pasting the information. Students can write, revise, and edit on a text editor or a word process and then copy the text from the computer. The most reliable way to paste the information into the assignment box is to press the icon in the second row of editing icons that has either a “T” for plain text or a “W” for anything coming from a word processor. A box will pop up telling students to press control and “v” to paste the information the the box.
Essays are certainly not the only assignment types that can be submitted using this feature. Short answer questions can also be used here. Students can copy and paste questions from the assignment to the online text box so that the questions are readily available. Although Moodle’s quiz feature can also be used for short answer as well as essay, the assignments activity may be easier for teachers to construct and may allow more flexibility when students answer.
Finally, the “Comment inline” feature may be the most compelling reason to use the “Online text” assignment type. When a student turns in a completed project, the written section appears in a comments box if teachers have chosen to grade assignments as online text and if the teacher has chosen yes on the settings form to “Comment inline.” Teachers will be able to suggest changes or offer comments within the assignment by changing the color of the text and writing the text in the comments section near the text in question. By placing the new comment in parentheses or in brackets and changing the color to red, the teacher has created a feature similar to Microsoft Word’s track changes feature. While this seems confusing at first, most teachers will understand one some assignments have been turned in.
Upload a Single File
Just like the other assignments, teachers simply find “Add an activity…” on the main page and select “Upload a single file” under “Assignments.” A form comes up that requires teachers to name and describe the assignment. In this case, teachers may want to specify that this will require an uploaded assignment so students know they might as well finish the assignment before they proceed past the directions.
The last two assignment types are more simple to set up, and uploading a single file may be, along with the online text, one of the two more popular choices. (In fact, the last online class I took as a student allowed only uploading.) One of this choice’s benefits is that it cuts down some of the other choices offered by the online text feature, thereby streamlining the process. Teachers do not have to consider inline comments because that feature isn’t offered. Another benefit is that students work on a computer the way they normally do without having to worry about saving changes online. They also have to save the file somewhere locally, thereby making a copy in case something goes wrong.
Another benefit to the uploaded files is that it helps students turn in group assignments. If three students work on the same document, it’s easier for the students to simply save the assignment to one flash drive and allow each student to upload the file independently. It’s just busy work if each student has to retype the same assignment. Teachers who use this suggestion should make sure that all three names appear at the top of the document. If students can share and turn in one document, teachers should be able to evaluate the assignment once and serve the grades to every student in the group.
On the other hand, the uploaded feature takes away the ability to comment on students’ work within the body of what they have written. Teachers still have a box to make comments, and they can still either use a rubric or assign a grade, but the comments cannot be anchored to the text in the uploaded document. Furthermore, students and teachers now have to worry somewhat about compatibility if the work has been done at home. Teachers are told that students are more tech savvy, and that may be true when it comes to smartphones and video games, but many students will still save the assignment and upload it using some special program that is not compatible with anything at school without knowing how to avoid this issue.
An “Offline activity” has a limited use with the Moodle except that it allows teachers to keep all of the grades together. The form is basically the same as the rest, but when the teacher saves the activity, it really is only a set of instructions. Then. teachers can assign a grade by rubric or by “Simple direct grading” so that students can keep up with their averages.
This assignment accommodates in-class debates, labs, performances, et cetera. It is useful mainly when teachers use the Moodle gradebook as their main grade recorder and when students check those grades often on the Moodle.