So, where to begin? Let’s talk about what you already DO know: your syllabus.

Every instructor has a “plan” for what content they are going to deliver to their students, what tools and resources they will be using, and how they are going to assess the learning of their students. This is the all-powerful “syllabus”. The syllabus generally has passed some sort of accreditation body – be it the NCLB, the campus curriculum committee, a certification committee – whatever this accreditation body is, it means your syllabus has passed the muster for you to deliver and teach said content in the classroom.

So now – let’s go one step further: Your syllabus is your CONTRACT with your students. Yep. It’s a living, breathing document – it grounds you and your students and sets the expectations for the course. So, let’s make use of this document in bringing you to the online world.

Your syllabus – your first tool in your toolbox

Okay, so look at your syllabus. How do you naturally organize your course? By weeks or by topics? By weeks with topics? By projects?  Do you scaffold your learning throughout the semester, or do you cover one topic and move on to the next – a skills mastery type of learning?

Let’s introduce concept mapping: look at your course, how you chunk your information, and the assignments you associate with each “chunk”. Map it out – break out a blank piece of paper and either “cluster” chart your info or flowchart it.

Why? Your course structure is the first building block in creating your course. You’ve a decision to make – how you chunk your content information for delivery.

Topics versus Weeks

Moodle uses essentially 2 types of visually displaying your course – by weeks or by topics.   Moodle is designed to layout your course linearly, from top to bottom, by either “topics” or “weeks” mode.  Essentially, all this means is that your content is chunked in blocks – and the blocks are pre-labeled by topic number or week date range. It’s an easy setting found by clicking on “settings” in your course administration panel. If you choose topics, then the main blocks for course content will be numbered – one number, one block, per topic. If you choose weeks, then the main blocks for course content will be headed up by a date range per week (you set the start day for the week by what you set as the “course start date” in the course settings found under the administration menu in your course).

That’s it as far as Moodle is concerned. But for you – it’s just the beginning. Because now you get to name your topics/weeks with a label – a label that indicates to the students briefly by keyword what they’re going to learn that topic/week.  There is a special section label in each week:  turn editing on and click the editing icon at the top of the weekly/topic block.  Type in a brief description of the subject for your topic/week.  For example:

  • Week 1: Getting Started in this Course

Don’t add more than a line to this special “section label”  as it will bog down your course and cause problems with course backups.  If you have more info to add, use the “add a resource” and choose “insert a label” option to type out a longer description for the week.

This is a visual structure – and it ties into navigating within your course as well.

Okay – back to your syllabus…

Activities/Assessment Meet Your Course Objectives

Alright – so now that you’ve chunked your course into topics or weeks, look at your course objectives. Your objectives will drive the interaction in your course which will also drive your assessment activities.  So, translate your objectives into interaction in your course.  The activities become grouped into the topic or weekly block for the subject matter you’re assessing on that week/topic.  You don’t have to “build” them yet – you just have to plan for them – they become a part of your “outline in Moodle” for your course.  Below is a list of some of the basic Moodle features and how you’d use them to assess your students’ application of your course objectives:

Use discussion forums for:

  • directed questions (you pose a question – they respond)
  • encouraging discussion on hot topics
  • group collaboration on projects
  • peer feedback on projects
  • posting rough drafts or final group projects for sharing/feedback

Use the chat tool for:

  • virtual office hours
  • student “lounge”
  • peer-to-peer support
  • group collaboration

Use the assignment tools for assessing individual student comprehension:

  • online assignment – great for short response or journaling activities
  • upload a file – great for submitting just one file for you to grade (but you can’t return the file to them using this type)
  • advanced upload a file – allows students to submit more than one file for grading and it allows you to return files to them with your feedback
  • offline activity – use for your on-campus activities such as midterms, fieldtrips, exams, or homework collected on-campus.  This activity allows you to post a notification that will appear in the calendar and adds a column to the gradebook for you to record attendance/grades for on-campus assignments.

The glossary tool:

This is just an amazing tool.  Go beyond the “glossary” definition and think of student collaboration and peer assessment.  Here are just some examples of how you can engage your students using the glossary tool:

  • Students build a class glossary of frequently used terms/definitions
  • Students post their projects to the glossary by subject
  • Students provide feedback on other students glossary entires using “comments” feature
  • Students “rate” each others’ work using the “ratings” feature

The wiki tool:

The wiki tool allows students to build group or individual webpages

  • Individual pages: can be used to create individual reports or keep a running journal that is public or private to the rest of the class
  • Group pages: can be used to share with the class group projects

The quiz tool:

You can use the classic quiz tool to generate quizzes and exams with all sorts of question types (multiple-choice, true/false, short answer, calculated, matching, etc.) to assess student knowledge, but you can also go beyond this concept with this tool in Moodle.  Take a look at these examples:

  • The Learner Agreement: Setup a quiz that asks students to self-certify they have read your syllabus and course policies.  You can add “scavenger-hunt” questions that test their knowledge of these materials.
  • Student generated quizzes: You can assign students to create quizzes to test other students.  This makes use of the “local roles” functionality of the quiz in Moodle.  Say your students have all created group presentations – well, then the students from each group can create a quiz on their content to deliver to the non-group participants.

These are just a few of the many options available to you in Moodle.

Now, go grab your syllabus and start building!