How to improve collaboration and self-regulation in a Moodle course

Source: Moodle’s official web page

I recently finished a new Moodle course for educators. As a part of this course I had to think of better ways of teaching using this LMS. I wanted to share a few ideas I wrote regarding enhancing collaboration and self-regulation of learners inside of a Moodle course. These thoughts were aimed at an institution that used to deliver instructor-led and face to face training and then moved online. This institution deploys an ancient way of using Moodle: uploaded files mainly and a few activities.

So here are my thoughts:

This organization is using its LMS more as a CMS and is not taking advantage from the potential of Moodle. Self-regulation and actual engaging in collaboration are hard to achieve and they might not depend entirely on the instructional design of the course, but there are things that the instructional designer could do to promote them.

First thing, I would delete the uploaded files and instead change them into some resources or activities. I would only keep uploaded files for additional documentation or bibliographical references.

Making the contents less harsh

I am assuming those uploaded files are PDFs, so I would create Lessons instead and embed into them some media, along with the textual contents, created with free tools around the web, such as Genial.ly or H5P if this organization’s Moodle has it enabled (this way I don’t have to rely on external tools). This is not going to ensure engagement or self-regulation, but it sure make it less harsh for learns to read.

Road map

I would use a screencasting application for recording myself navigating through the course. It would be short video with the following purposes:

  • to explain navigation basics.
  • to show the road map of the course: describing contents and activities and presenting the road map of the course.
  • to clearly state deadlines and events that I don’t want them to miss.
  • to show them how and where to communicate inside the LMS.

The objective of this is that students know all the basics of the course so that it is easier for them to engage in self-regulated learning. They need to know what is ahead for planning.

Enabling communication

I would create topic-based forums. If the contents have three main topics, I would have three forums created to discuss the contents and for students to post questions on them. I would redirect all private messages with doubts to the forum, in order to promote peer help. Additionally, I would set up another forum for informal conversations, named Cafeteria or something of the sort. If the number of participants is appropriate, that is, is divided into separate groups if they are too many, I would encourage people to introduce themselves. A good way to do this, in my previous experience, is to disguise an optional forum task as a mandatory one. It also helps if I steer in some direction the contents of the introductions. For example:

  • My name is Alex
  • I live in Madrid, Spain
  • The last book I finished is The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt

I would consider blogs for keeping a journal. This would be mandatory and I would set up an Assignment graded with rubric to evaluate the blog and its contents. If it is possible to set the blogs to public (visible outside of the LMS), I would consider using Twitter as a means of generating conversations or to encourage users to share their work around a common hashtag. It has the shortcoming of relying on external tools, but it also can boost participation or networking/sense of community (at least it has worked with me training teachers).

Creating things

Collaboration is not going to spring up naturally from forums unless I encourage some team work around something. I would set a mandatory activity around creating something. It doesn’t have to be too difficult, only to serve as an excuse for students for working together. A small project on something. I would create a Forum only for the group to coordinate here. To avoid the use of WhatsApp or external tools for collaborating, I would consider setting a minimum of messages in order to pass this activity. I would set up a Wiki for the actual collaboration. My previous experience tells me that it is really hard to avoid that people use Google Drive, but I would make clear that only what is on the Wiki will be graded.

These thoughts are actually strongly influenced by the methodology used in the tutored online courses by the Ministry of Education of Spain in which I had the honor of being a tutor myself some time ago.

@alejandroglezf