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Engaging language students with H5P in Moodle

Fri Dec 10, 2021 at 10:03 AM

A week before the Oakland University campus switched to remote learning because of the pandemic, Aldona Pobutsky, professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, met with e-Learning and Instructional Support’s Nic Bongers, senior instructional designer, to learn how to make a basic quiz in Moodle. Now, she’s using Moodle on a regular basis to enhance the classroom experience for her students. She’s since learned more about interactive activities the learning management system can offer, including those created with H5P. 

Dr. Pobutsky said the concept of using Moodle for foreign languages classes came because the textbooks were expensive and didn’t always offer the resources the students needed. She added, textbooks and workbooks have become egregiously expensive and they were not always that good. The best method is one’s own, where the material can be adjusted to the instructor’s specific teaching and updated accordingly.

“In languages, we had the option to either go with the expensive textbooks and workbooks, or use free online materials which present pedagogical challenges to organize in a coherent manner. I opted to build my own course using free resources in Moodle. The students don’t have to buy a textbook and a workbook because I create everything on Moodle,” said Dr. Pobutsky. 

This semester, Pobutsky has one fully online course and two hybrid courses. Dr. Pobutsky said she likes to teach her classes in a hybrid format. She introduces concepts in person and then the students have a day or two working on activities in Moodle. 

Using H5P in Moodle, Dr. Pobutsky said she can develop a whole section on a given class subject. She said during class, she can explain a topic, such as past tense, and the Moodle activities supplement that, much like a workbook, but tailored specifically to the class (often mentioning students’ names or the subjects we discussed previously in class) to create a sense of learning community and immediate relevance. 

“If the activities weren’t interactive, the students would be bored and overwhelmed about having so much information thrown at them. So, I design my coursework to make sure they have a little more fun and feel there is a relationship with what they are learning,” said Dr. Pobutsky. 

She said H5P lets her transition from the basics activities to advanced in one single presentation mode, all while being instructive, fun and interactive. Dr. Pobutsky said, for example, she can begin a given subject module with  pictures and matching for new vocabulary recognition, only to move onto more intermediate crossword-puzzle activity, then the drag-and-drop exercise, to eventually arrive at filling-the-blanks function, which requires more than recognition and repetition, employing instead student-centered critical thinking.

“If you introduce new material only verifying rote knowledge afterwards with a True/False activity, then it is uninspiring to the students.  ,” said Pobutsky. Using Moodle and H5P, Dr. Pobutsky said she can put together a lot of material in a way that is not overwhelming for students, but interactive, creative and fun 

Recently, Pobutsky particularly enjoyed learning  about crossword puzzles in H5P frome-Learning and Instructional Support’s Instructional Designer Jess Tess-Navarro, who happens to be in one of her intermediate Spanish-language classes. This activity breaks with the usual format, adding dimension and aesthetic variety. Besides fun and interactive activities, students can also record themselves responding to a variety of questions with increasing levels of difficulty growing. 

Dr. Pobutsky commented that the process of developing the online material involved a lot of time commitment, and of  tweaking at first, and it greatly improved through practice.  She indicated it is a matter of personal preference whether students should be graded on their H5P homework with the application of the highest or an average grade, where the first assures a quicker perfect grade but the latter provides sufficient practice to master a given topic. Likewise, offering a copy H5P activity wherein no grade is assigned, allows the students to practice different language points prior to the exam, while not altering their original homework grade for this very activity. . 

“I felt that I was on my own when it came to H5Ps  because few people were really using them. I was inspired by one other colleague in my department who quit using textbooks and fully embraced H5Ps, but I was on my own when it came to developing the material for my language. However, I attended workshops, watched videos, and practiced a lot through trial and error. I’m still learning and adapting. e-LIS has been so helpful as well,” said Pobutsky. 

Finally, it is above all through student feedback, that Dr. Pobutsky said she is able to perfect the online components as she moves through each class. She can judge the effectiveness of the H5Ps through the student outcomes, meaning their exams, their speaking abilities, and their advancing knowledge of material. 

“It’s really good to have activities like this. In languages, you can’t learn something by reading about it once or twice, you need to interact with the material in a variety of ways, employing creativity both as the instructor and the student” said Pobutsky. 

To learn more about H5P, visit the e-LIS Help Library section on Moodle or schedule an appointment with one of e-LIS instructional designers.