Archive for October, 2011

What Bloom’s iPad might look like

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

One of our clever academics, Kerrie Woodhouse, found this and sent it to me.

blooms ipad

Even if you don’t have an iPad this provides a good guide to the sort activities needed for good teaching practice.

Interesting to note that essentially passive, content apps aren’t listed e.g. YouTube, wikipedia

The very clever Kathy Schrock also has one based on Google apps

Check out her site at

Cool things about Moodle – designing better navigation templates

Monday, October 24th, 2011

One of the strengths and weakness of Moodle is it provides ‘many ways to skin a cat’.  Great for the innovative and technically able teacher, but perhaps less so for the average lecturer just looking for somewhere to upload their notes.

One of the problems I see with Moodle is it just doesn’t look that inviting, the other is the risk of creating a single massive scrolling page (often referred to as the “Moodle scroll of death”).  Well here is my solution (made up of ideas pinched from a range of other sites).

To upload a file the lecturer clicks on the week in the menu.  That week and only that week appears.  They then upload their files. Each weekly section will also have labels (e.g. lectures, reading, tutorials) to provide a bit more consistency and structure.  Student’s will, by default, only see the week they want and not be automatically confronted a massive and unsightly list of files.   They still have the option of clicking the ‘Show all weeks’ icon if they wish.


The first block on the right is the ‘Activities’ block allowing student to navigate to the major action areas of the site.  The Copyright warning block is just below it but still fully visible before student access the content.

Drafttemplate edit

The visual menu is created in the Introduction / General section which is the first section at the top of the list.

Leave the first 2 section name options blank.

I created a 4×5 table then merged the cells in row 1 then in row 2.  Row 1 became the heading.  In row 2 I uploaded images of numbers from 1 to 12.  I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted on the net so I created these in Fireworks.

In the next rows I put in images and labels based on the typical folder structure used in most basic Blackboard sites.

Setting up the links is fairly straight forward.   You can add urls to any text or graphic.  To find the url for a week or activity (e.g. Forums) go to that week or activity and copy the url at the top of the screen.

This design supports a very traditional approach to LMS use and I think at an institutional level there should be at least half a dozen or so other templates structured around different teaching approaches.

Using images in tables like this can be a problem for iPad or Android tablet users as the layout changes depending on the end users screen size and resolution.

Disclaimer:  I’m not sure how the back end template design structure works in Moodle so I don’t know how easy it is to roll out multiple templates across an organisation.

Cool things about Moodle – Uploading multiple files using ‘Folders’

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Another “Not So Cool thing about Moodle” is the inability to do massive file uploads.   It may be our current configuration or my rudimentary understanding, but file management seems to be a weakness of Moodle 2.

The following process is most useful for people who have a lot of pre-existing content and  are happy to organise their site using folders.

I used it to do a bulk upload of content from a very large Blackboard site.   I find it more convenient to quickly shift already loaded files (like video) from place to place on my site than wait (forever) for individual video files to upload from my computer.

Anyway here is how I uploaded all the files from a Blackboard (Vista 4) site into Moodle.

Stage One – Getting the files off Blackboard

  1. First go into the BB file manager and select all files by clicking the tick box in the blue header.
  2. At the bottom of the page click the Zip button.
  3. The Browse for location dialog box opens up.
  4. Select My Computer. The zip file downloads to your computer.

Stage Two – Getting the zip file onto Moodle

  1. Open Moodle.  Add an extra week in the Settings>Edit Settings>Number of Weeks/Topics section.  I renamed the week “Uploaded files”.  Hide this new section.
  2. In the new “Uploaded Files” section, click on the Add a Resource drop box and select Folder.
  3. Name the folder (I named mine ‘Upload Folder’) and upload the zip file from your computer in the normal way.
  4. Click on the icon next to the file name and select Unzip.    The original folder structure of the files will be maintained.  You can now delete the original zip file.
  5. zipupload_openzipupload_open2

  6. Now you can go to whichever section you want and select Add a Resource>File. Go through the usual add file process but select Server Files. All of your folders will be visible.  Select the file you want from your upload folder (I personally find the View as List option better for finding files).

zipupload_open4_server files

The file will be moved from your folder into the section.

As I said, people wanting to use folders on their site, or people wanting to do large file pre-loads will get the most from this process.

In general, I can’t see any major advantage in this method for small file uploads as you still need to go to through the process of adding the files to the individual sections.

As always, comments and suggestions are more than welcome.

Crowd sourcing to create a text book in a week

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Ok, it is not a refereed book and the total project took longer than a week, but it does raise some interesting questions about the process of publishing in academia.

Two academics put out an online call for material. In one week, they had a book’s worth.

Hacking the Academy, an edited volume about academe in the digital age, was compiled from blog posts and Twitter messages posted during a single week. The project was organized by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt, of George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media, as an experiment meant to challenge the conventional university-press system.

It also taps into my own thoughts about the value and purpose of traditionally published academic material.   We now have much more immediate access to information.  Certainly in my field, by the time something is published it’s largely redundant.   In most cases I have read the blog, downloaded the presentation, watched the video and have even had the opportunity to throw my own comments into the debate around the work.  All this before final draft is even complete. In my area (which I admit is atypical), a lot of published academic material is just (outdated) historical record.

From human or computer – Feeback is good!

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

“NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — It may seem paradoxical, but educational technology as a supplement to face-to-face learning could personalize the educational experience. That is, at least according to a presentation on student assessment and feedback here at the Blackboard annual conference Thursday. Two professors from the University of Westminster in London explained research finding that use of educational technology such as blogs and online questionnaires, combined with personal tutors, could enhance the feedback loop while also making face-to-face communication more efficient.”

Radical (yet somehow bloody obvious) way to get a degree.

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

“An expanding online university that allows students to move through coursework based on competency, not just class credits, received a $4.5 million grant that will be used to bolster its web-based programs in Indiana, Washington state, and Texas.”

This is an accredited university, it’s online, you can enrol any month, and you can fast track your degree by proving you  know the work.

As someone who completed a grad dip just so I could get a piece of paper to validate what I largely already knew I think this fantastic.