A new Moodle course begins with a blank slate and a buffet of assignment and activity choices. Teachers have to make the main course page easy to navigate.
Moodle can be used by diverse people for various reasons to accomplish a variety of tasks. Unfortunately, that cornucopia of tasks can be overwhelming for teachers who simply want to make assignments easily accessible to students. When the Moodle site is first set up, the empty page can be a daunting sight, but teachers should focus on trying to adapt the site to their own teaching styles.
Do Not Forget to Turn Editing On
To edit the course main page, click the button at the top of the page (usually the top right depending on the chosen theme) that says “Turn editing on.” Several icons should appear, and the first icon to deal with is the hand holding the pencil in each of the topic areas. Regardless of which type of format the teacher chooses in the course settings, organizing the sections first may streamline the rest of the process.
Labeling the Topics
After the course settings are submitted, teachers should label the topics or weeks to organize the site. Clicking on the first icon that shows a hand with the pencil will bring up several choices, but teachers should notice that these choices are not mandatory. For this reason, most teachers will want to click the box that says, “Use default section name,” and write nothing in the “Section name” box. Whatever teachers want to call the sections, whether by topic or by week, should be written in the “Summary” box. The reason for this is that either box will put something on the page, but the label or information in the “Summary” box is customizable.
Looking ahead, this customizable feature may be important to teachers who want to use the site a lot. Think of the labels in terms of an outline. The major section name that, again, should be written in the “Summary” box should also be written as a “Heading 1.” Of course, the html heading code will be the same as usual: “<” (left corner bracket), “h1”, and “>” (right corner bracket). In the word processor, the headings fall under the third drop-down menu that may, at first, say “Paragraph.”
This heading will come in handy later because many teachers will want to subdivide the format boxes. For example, teachers who chose the topics format will want to break the major section in subsections. If the first section is titled “Course Information,” the page may be subdivided into “Syllabus” and “State Standards” as subsections. If the weekly format has been chosen, the sub-sections may be as simple as days of that week so that students might find the assignments easier. If the topical format is chosen, teachers may want to divide the Moodle by standards and subdivide them by elements or levels. In fact, it may be helpful to color code and underline the headings because once the teacher uploads or creates several assignments, all of the words seem to run together, especially if they are all the same size and color.
Subdividing the Sections
To subdivide the sections, find the drop-down menu at the bottom of the first section. The drop-down menu on the left probably will say “Add a resource…,” and one of the items in the list says label. Drag the cursor down to label and let go. There’s no other button to click and the teacher does not have to press “Enter.” The page should change to a form titled “Adding a new label.”
Incidentally, this box and several others will have question marks beside the box. In some cases, the question mark is helpful. This is not one of those cases. It simply gives vague statement that says basically that some stuff can be added and that adding stuff is good. In other areas, the directions for the question marks can be very helpful, and the pop-up comes up fast. Also, if these boxes do not appear, remember that the “Turn editing on” button at the top must be clicked so that changes can be made.
When the “Adding a new label” form appears, only the big box appears. There is no place to just put a name. For teachers who want to give some instructions, a brief explanation can accompany the label, but that should probably be in a different text type. Begin by writing the name of the subsection. The example above has two subsections for the section name: “Syllabus” and “State Standards.” In the box, this example would simply include the word “Syllabus” first. If a description were needed, it could be written after pressing “Enter” twice. At that point, the word “Syllabus” should be blocked off by dragging the mouse across it and highlighting it. Then, the “Heading 2” should be selected under the drop-down box that begins with “Paragraph.” This would also be a good time to click on the “U” to underline and the palette to change the text color. Teachers should intentionally use a color to clash with the theme but, also, a color that does not appear to be black because that will simply blend in with the rest of the text.
To complete this form, leave the “Common module settings” as visible, and make sure the “Enable” boxes beside the access dates are not checked. These options at the bottom probably do a lot of wonderful things, but a teacher could create a lot of content for a Moodle without ever using this stuff. Simply click “Save and return to course.”
By doing this, the teacher has set up one of the sections and has some experience setting up the page. At this point, teachers should probably name the other sections and add some labels to subdivide the page. Often, the section labels are much easier to decide at this point, and the subdivisions can be made later.
Add the First Content
To get used to the site, teachers should probably add something simple to begin with. A syllabus is a good way to start. Most teachers have a syllabus saved through a word processor. Make sure that the syllabus is easy to find. If it’s buried deep within layers of folders, the teacher may want to place a copy on the computer’s desktop.
Under that same drop-down menu called “Add a resource…”on the main page, select “File.” If this is the syllabus, simply type syllabus in the “Name” box. Then, give some kind of description; writing something in this box is mandatory. In this case, a teacher may want to explain how the syllabus was uploaded. Is it a Microsoft Word file saved as DOCX? Did the teacher save it as a PDF? Is this a first semester syllabus or one that is valid for the whole year?
After writing the description, teachers have to decide in the check box just below the description if the description is vital and if the description will make the front page seem more cluttered. In some cases, the description can make the page seem less cluttered, and in the case where many assignments seem to be similar, the description can actually make the site easier to navigate
The files and labels will all have icons beside them as long as editing is still turned on. The first t-cross will allow the teacher to move the uploaded content and the labels. Each new activity or resource that is created will, by default, appear at the bottom of the section. The label or the uploaded document should be dragged from the bottom to be placed in order.
After several sections are named and a few documents are loaded, the teacher at least has a useful website. The site is not interactive yet, but the empty space has been defeated and the teacher’s content has been compiled to create a new home on the web.