Archive for July, 2011

Cool things about Moodle – Help (and quiz review options)

Friday, July 29th, 2011

A hassle with Blackboard/WebCT is trying to figure out what things do what.  Most processes are fairly simple, and some are fairly intuitive, but there are so many of them (and the BB Help is kind of crappy).  If you can’t remember how to do something you’re pretty much stuck (except for the sterling Accounting and Finance Basic BB manual).

In Moodle, next to most functions is a yellow question mark.   When you click on it you get a description of the function. I’m finding most of these quite useful and they definitely make using Moodle easier.

Quiz review options-help

While you’re here, have a look at the quiz feedback controls.  The layout and terminology are different but they provide much the same options as Blackboard, and I think they’re are easier to understand.

Cool things about Moodle – Invigilated quizzes

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Generally speaking you can’t use online quizzes for significant summative grading because you can’t take reasonable steps to ensure cheating doesn’t occur.

The features described below don’t change this but we do have a few people using Blackboard quizzes for invigilated mid semester tests located in computer labs.  For those people Moodle has some useful tricks.

If you upload a class list that contains student photos (we should be able to do this but I haven’t checked it yet) you can choose to have the student photo displayed on the quiz screen so you can see if someone has brought in a ringer to sit for them.

Quiz display photo

Moodle also has a quiz setting that limits a students ability to access other parts of the computer and prevents cut and paste.  This should prevent most quick and sneaking cheating attempts.  I suspect a tech savy student could probably figure out a work around, but in an invigilated setting it probably wouldn’t be worth the risk.

Quiz browser security

Cool things about Moodle – Adaptive questions

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Some of the terminology in Moodle is a bit awkward, but don’t be put off.

One of the things you can do in Moodle is set up a question so the student gets the result and feedback as soon as they submit a question, rather than at the end of a the whole quiz.  There is something to said for this level of immediacy.  The student can have another crack at an answer while the question is still fresh in their mind.

Question Behaviour

This may also provide a prompt for those students who are not particularly engaged and are just clicking through the quiz.

The other thing you can do apply a penalty for a second (or third, or fourth) guess attempt.

Cool things about Moodle – Quiz feedback

Monday, July 25th, 2011

I have just started playing with Moodle and as I find things I’ll post them in the “Cool things about Moodle” category.

One of our clever clogs academics (Red Cheglowski) used the Blackboard function that allowed groups to be created based on the values in a grade book column to provide more personalised feedback for students.   Basically, he could auto-create different groups based on quiz results.  He then used these groups to send targeted feedback emails to students.  Like I said, clever.

Well Moodle has a quiz setting that does this without all the messing around.

In the Overall feedback section you can set a Grade boundary so a student will get feedback based on their actual mark.   On top of that there are a number of formatting options  available, so you could record audio feedback (or video using a webcam) to further personalise the feedback.  You could embed a You Tube video of an international expert explaining the basics concepts underpining the quiz questions.

loser feedback

More to come.

Is Google+ the new Studio 54?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I have always maintained that social networking sites are like night clubs.  It’s about the “new” and the “now”.  They are at their peak for a few years then fade, perhaps reappearing in new guise later.  They are not like a good local pub were people come back year in and year out.

A sure sign that the end is nigh is when parents start showing up on the dance floor (I thought the Blitz would never go out of style, but apparently I was wrong).

I’ve made my concerns about Facebook pretty clear in the past, and I’m not alone.  Facebook numbers have begun to decline for the first time and I suspect the exodus will increase on the back of the rise of Google+ .  After just 2 weeks in closed (invite only) beta testing Google+ has 2 million users. googleplus

Some people, who perhaps haven’t been around as long as I have, (or perhaps are just less cynical) have said to me, “Facebook is different, look at the numbers of users”.   To these people I say look at previous “too big to fail” online monsters – AOL, Geocities, MySpace.  Facebook may be different, but I don’t think so.

I haven’t had a good look at Google+ yet and I suspect there will be some problems, not the least being how much of our lives do we want Google managing for us.

Anyway if  Google+  isn’t “it” (or even if it is), something else will come along and the technogeeks and hip kids will jump ship desperately trying to stay a step ahead of their dancing parents (“Come back, I’ll show you the Macarana”).

A good example of a student info resource

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

We are getting on the Turnitin bandwagon.

In hunting around for info I found this video from CQ Uni.   Some of the transitions are a bit Star Wars IV (just because a feature exists doesn’t mean you have to use it) but overall it provides a good simple explanation of what is required.

Turnitin explained for students
Turnitin explained - for students

Turnitin explained – for students

I wouldn’t want to be a printer just now – eText book rentals

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Ebooks are on the tipping point and publishers are getting damp in their trousers, and not in a good way.   Things have changing fairly rapidly in the book world but it seems in the past 6 months things have gone boom.   No one is sure what the future will look like, but it will be different.

  • Amazon recently announced that digital books now out sell hard covers (although not paperbacks).
  • Many high profile paper book stalwarts are now professing their love of ereaders.
  • The price of a basic Kindle has dropped to about $150 AUS.
  • Amazon, Google and Apple are starting to do deals directly with authors, by-passing traditional  publishers (and in some cases author agents).
  • There are self published authors making $40K a month on ebooks sold via Amazon and Smashwords.
  • Authors can now make more money selling their digital books themselves online for $3 than they can via a publishers for $14.

Interestingly, while the iPad is partly to blame, it is not the preferred ereader.  The Nook and Kindle are what people are buying to read books.

Textbooks are not immune.  Amazon is stirring that pot too.

College Students Can Now Rent Textbooks Electronically From Amazon

A month or so before back-to-school season begins in earnest, Amazon has jumped into the lucrative college textbook market with Kindle Textbook Rental.

Amazon claims students can save as much as 80% off textbook list prices by renting from the Kindle Store. The company is offering tens of thousands of textbooks, which students can rent for periods ranging from 30 to 360 days. Amazon has also extended its Whispersnyc technology so that students can access all their notes and highlighted content in the Amazon Cloud, even after the rental agreement is over.

As always, I’m sure there is a devil or two in the detail, but to be perfectly honest, as a student why would you buy another textbook.

Remember that dodgy Facebook photo you deleted? The guy interviewing you is looking at it now..

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

This is a U.S. story but it sets the benchmark for Australian companies.

“The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has given the thumbs up to Social Intelligence Corp, which keeps files of Facebook posts as part of a background-checking service for screening job applicants.

Even if you delete an embarrassing photo or bawdy status update, the material could stay in your file for seven years, during which time it might be used against you if a prospective employer were to use the agency’s services to screen applicants.”

Fix up your privacy settings.

Bitcoins, the made up money that became real – shenanigans ensue

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

“it’s one of the first attempts to create a real-world currency with no governments, no central banks, and no rules. More than 6,500,000 Bitcoins are in circulation, in an online economy, which was worth over $180m”

The $180 is no longer accurate.  There was an online heist and a run on the exchange in June.

Bitcoins are kind of the next evolution of World of Warcraft Gold and Second Life Lindon Dollars.  But whereas these are game currencies that have leaked into the ‘real’ world, Bitcoins are a digital currency targeted at the real world.  Read the Guardian article, it explains it better than I can.

I suspect Bitcoins will be a fad, having said that, they have already been around long enough to royally stuff up some people.

I don’t think the concept of a feral digital dollar will go away.  It will probably be a moving feast for the technogeek underground for some time to come, but who knows, a single model may gain acceptance.  Maybe in the not too distant future we will see  rises and falls in digital dollars being reported alongside the Euro and USD.

I can certainly see it being an issue for some accountants when an online business holds a percentage of their cash in a currency not recognised by the Tax Office.

Using Video to reinvent education

Monday, July 4th, 2011

One of the big ‘takeaways’ from this video is that ‘Student to Teacher’ ratio is not the issue.  ‘Student to Valuable Human Time With The Teacher’ ratio is the target.

The tech analytics is interesting but it’s not going to be avaliable to us anytime soon (although there are some interesting add ons for Moodle).

A related option is the micro lecture.