A letter to a Physics teacher who wants to add media to his Moodle course

Source: Moodle’s official web page

As part of a Moodle certification I recently finished, I had to reflect upon how to enrich visually a Moodle case. I thought I would gather all those pieces of advice and good practices and addressed them in the shape of a letter to a fictional Physics teacher named Archimedes that uses Moodle as a tool for teaching.

We are so used to digital platforms and beautiful digital media and web design that is very hard that a text-based course with some decorative images only is visually pleasing to the average learner. So Archimedes is right to want to add some multimedia to his course.

I would encourage Archimedes to try out software for creating audio and video. Podcasting is a trendy delivery method of information and it is relatively easy to create. I would recommend Archimedes to get a decent microphone or use his phone and record some audio. Here is the checklist I would suggest to him.

  1. Do your investigation on the topic. If you use or remix OERs or other online contents, be careful what can be used and what not and be sure to check the licensing permissions.
  2. Write down a transcription or, at least, a list of the main themes you plan to record.
  3. Estimate how long it would be. If it is going to be more than, say, 15 minutes, consider splitting it into several clips.
  4. Record it. If you use your phone, please go to a very quiet place.
  5. Use Audacity to trim out the coughs, silences or anacolutha.
  6. Export it to MP3 and save the project. Keep the project files just in case you want to upload it elsewhere (there are a lot of podcasting services now, and educational podcasting is a hot topic) or want to make some additional edits.
  7. Upload it directly to Moodle, embedding it into some other content. Additionally, I would suggest uploading the mp3 file separately and stating its size, just in case there’s users with low bandwidth. Don’t forget to mention the license of the mp3 file somewhere.

Since Physics is a relatively abstract topic, I think it’s very important to provide a transcription of the audio.

Audacity is a good piece of software because it’s free and open source and pretty straightforward. He would need to make sure that the exportation is to an MP3 file (additional codecs may be required, but they are free) because WAV files are huge and that could be a nuisance to low connections. If he exported to MP3 and still the size was large, I would say to him that he considers exporting it again but reducing the bitrate or uploading it elsewhere and then embedding it to his Moodle course.

In addition, Archimedes could consider video as a powerful addition to the course. Video is as well a trendy way to convey information. Some recommendations for audio apply here too. That is:

  1. Plan in advance what you will be showing in the video. Be careful here too when using online contents from third parties. Check the license.
  2. Storyboard or at least write a list of the essential ideas of the video.
  3. Estimate how long it would be to ascertain the number of video clips.
  4. Record it. OpenShot is a very powerful video editing tool and it’s free and open source.
  5. Post-production. Edit the video.
  6. Keep the project files and the original, untrimmed recordings. Maybe some time in the future you consider uploading and sharing it elsewhere.

Some other specific recommendations for video:

  • Consider hosting the video elsewhere, that is outside of Moodle, if it is too long or too big. The unlisted option in YouTube for hosting your video on their server but still keeping it unsearchable to the public. If you were to upload the mp4 directly to Moodle, consider mentioning the file size.
  • Consider attaching closed captions to your video. You can use YouTube Studio tool for subtitles or Headliner. Both of them are free at least to some extent. I would make the subtitle file (.srt or .vtt) available for download somewhere inside of Moodle.
  • State the license of the video.

I would end these recommendations to Archimedes saying that is important to spend some time creating quality products (pre-production, investigation, good recording and editing) and then keeping the project files because maybe those learning objects can be reused in OERs, educational blogs and databases, etc. and other tools that can be a valuable contribution to the community of Mathematics educators.

Both sets of recommendations rely heavily on my work as an instructional designer and on the teaching methodology I saw and used while tutoring online courses and MOOCs for the Ministry of Education of Spain.

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