Friday, May 27, 2016

How Moodle saves you time

Teachers who are "time rich" rather than "time poor" are not common. The list of things we HAVE to do includes teaching, planning, preparing resources, marking, moderating, reporting, analyzing results, PLG inquiry, meetings for faculty, meetings for pastoral issues, sport, cultural activities, following up on student issues, meetings for extra responsibilities, etc etc, and we can't forget that somewhere in amongst all of it, we need to fit in family, friends and ourselves. Very often e-learning stuff such as Moodle seems like yet one more thing which will take up time, and that time has to come from somewhere

And we're right, getting "up to speed" with any technology takes time. However, I genuinely believe that intelligent use of Moodle will give back, with interest, the time you spend up-skilling. And as a side benefit, you are giving your students more control over their learning and a better overall learning experience.

The two ways that Moodle wins you time are:

  • Quick and easy re-use of resources
  • Student independent access to “Just In Time” resources

Hiding and un-hiding

An example from my own practice. My year 13 class do some quite complex tasks in class, and I spend a lot of time and effort creating starter files for them to use, carefully worded instructions and links to extra resources that might help them if they get stuck. At the end of the year, I “hide” everything on my year 13 Moodle page, and then the next year when I come to the topic I often find that I can quickly check over what I did the previous year, make some minor modifications and “un-hide” them. No different from any other situation where you are re-using resources from previous years, but in this case, all the presentation and resource preparation has been done already and it can easily be a matter of seconds to get myself prepared for a complex activity.

This works even better when you do it for whole topics rather than single activities. Quite often when I start a new standard, I will spend half an hour looking over what I have got lined up in Moodle, delete some stuff, edit and re-order other resources and find that I’ve got the next few weeks of work all lined up and ready to go. This includes things like screencasts that I did, lesson-starter materials, extension materials, materials to consolidate learning and all the useful support materials that I’ve previously put time into creating.

Because I know I’m likely to be doing this, I really don’t mind putting in the extra effort up-front to make high quality resources, so there are significant wins for the students as well.

Just In Time resources

Let’s be honest, some of the time you spend has higher value. When you have a lively year 9 class with a large spread of abilities, sometimes you will feel like you need double the time in class, so you can work with students at all the different levels. By setting up Moodle beforehand with extension tasks and consolidation tasks, you can “process” some student requests really quickly “Look on Moodle, there’s a video linked there that tells you more about this” or “Have a look at the worked example on Moodle”. This can lead to short but very productive interactions with some students, freeing up your classtime for other students who will benefit from talking directly to you.

It costs a little preparation time to do this, but precious classroom time you gain can easily be worth it, and it means that your students are getting the right resource “Just In Time” for them to use it, which is one of the most significant benefits of e-learning across the board.

Final thoughts

For externals, presenting resources well when teaching the topic will save you time when it comes to revision - students can access what you posted without you having to re-present them.

One thing I do that makes it easy for me to re-use resources is that I present content in using the Moodle “Page”. This way, I can easily make the light edits I need from year to year. If I used Word docs, I would have to find the original in my file system, edit that and re-upload, which takes time. It’s good practice not to use Word docs anyway as students often struggle to view them (particularly on mobile), so this is just another reason to do things the “right” way.

All of this is using the most basic Moodle functions - presenting resources in topics. Realistically - the more high-powered Moodle features will probably NOT save you time. If you are using the complex features, you're using them because you think your students are going to get an enhanced learning experience. Look for further blog posts relating to the more complex functions.