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Should I stay (in Moodle) or should I go - Examining outside tools

Fri Aug 5, 2022 at 11:33 AM

Should I stay (in Moodle) or should I go - Examining outside tools

Moodle offers plenty of ways to engage students, enhance course communication and develop creative course content. However, some instructors are going outside of Moodle to find tools to complement their online courses. We spoke with Christina Moore, virtual faculty developer for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), to learn more about discovering resources that work for online courses and what she recommends when it comes to implementing tools from outside Moodle. 

Where to start

When it comes to implementing tools outside of Moodle, Moore’s most important piece of advice is to consult with e-Learning and Instructional Support’s instructional designers. She said the instructional designers know the tools in Moodle well and can make recommendations for external tools that work well. 

“If you are looking to accomplish very specific goals and Moodle doesn’t offer anything for those goals, run it by e-LIS. Tell the designers what you are attempting to accomplish. Many times they can bring up concerns, show potential solutions and give their expert opinions on the situations. I encourage instructors to lean on them to do the research, because that’s their job. Lean on the professionals,” said Moore. 

Moore said the instructional design team has insight into what other instructors are doing, what  software will work with Moodle and if there are other options. 

“e-LIS has done a good job of encouraging people to master the tools available in Moodle, but also realizes that inviting faculty to share how they are using different tools outside of Moodle is valuable,” said Moore. 

Discovering tools - Mobile Access and Social Reading Annotation

In an earlier blog, Helena Riha, special lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and International Studies, described using text messaging to connect with students outside of class and share announcements and reminders. CETL has also used the information as a Teaching Tip in the CETL weekly newsletter and on their website.

“Helena Riha is a really good example of someone who uses the Moodle suite of tools to their greatest extent possible. She keeps it very simple for herself and for her students. If she implements something new, like text messaging, she does it because it makes the learning process easier for her students,” said Moore. 

In the case of texting students, Moore said it is something that can be done from within Moodle, however it requires the students to use the Moodle mobile app and receive push notifications. Riha knew not every student would use the mobile app. Using a texting tool was a simpler way to handle the situation, according to Moore.

Besides the Online Learning blog and the CETL weekly newsletter , Moore said instructors can learn about additional tools and resources from other instructors–either through the OU Faculty Teaching Community eSpace or through virtual or in-person training sessions. 

“One way to learn about new tools is to attend teaching and learning workshops. Many times, someone will mention a tool they use. It starts to ignite curiosity. Through discussion, you can learn about shortcomings and possibilities. There are also discussions about tools in CETL’s ongoing Adventures in Teaching Learning Community,” said Moore. 

The exercise of social annotation in course reading has come up several times over the last several years, said Moore. We also had a blog highlighting the work of Greg Allar, a Special Lecturer in International Studies, and annotated reading in his courses. 

“Everyone in the course has a reading assignment, but they are able to collaborate by highlighting and learning comments. The entire class can see each other’s highlights and comments. This really feeds into the curiosity and interest of those who are participating in the reading. This makes doing the reading more engaging and makes it more conversational,” said Moore. She said the students can add links to other articles and videos from the annotations. 

Moore said she had come across the tool Hypothes.is, which is used by Allar, but a nursing faculty introduced her to Perusall, another annotation tool she had integrated into Moodle. Years prior in an e-LIS Lunch Bytes discussion, Cinema Studies faculty Brendan Krennan introduced faculty to VideoAnt, a free tool for annotating video. Then, someone discussed how annotated video could be used in other areas, such as a School of Nursing staff member using it to show videos of procedures and activities to nursing students, like a live birth. This evolution of ideas gleaned from formal and informal idea-sharing has helped build faculty curiosity and experimentation with tools beyond Moodle.

Weighing when to use outside tools

If tools outside of Moodle support the course goals, it’s worth exploring the possibility of using them. 

“I think it’s important for faculty to stay curious and have a sense of what’s possible with Moodle and what isn’t, so they can determine what is missing from their courses to support their learning goals accordingly,” said Moore. 

Faculty should make sure their courses are up-to-date with relevant information, said Moore. When considering what to update, she encourages instructors to use student feedback to establish a course design. 

“Every so often, instructors will get a sense that things in their online courses need to be freshened up. Collect feedback from students. Find out if they like consistency in the class or if they find it repetitive,” said Moore. 

However, Moore cautioned that instructors should ensure they aren’t switching to a new technology too often. 

“Students tend to get tired of their professors asking them to download a new program. A lot of times they are juggling different programs for different professors and each program may require them to sign up for different things and it can be a lot,” said Moore. 

She also said faculty should be aware that e-LIS may not be able to help with applications outside of Moodle. 

“One thing about using Moodle is the ability to get support. If you encounter a problem with Moodle, you can call Moodle Support or try to search our help documents or send students to support if they are having trouble. With a third-party application, that support may not be available,” said Moore. 

Moore said it’s important to remember that Moodle is the base of the class. She said external tools should be situated in Moodle so that everything is in one place. 

Start with e-LIS

Whether you have a specific tool in mind, or are exploring options for additional resources in your classes, Moore said e-LIS instructional designers should be the first step in the process. 

“e-LIS IDs can help with making decisions about using Moodle tools or going beyond these tools. They’re not going to automatically steer faculty away from exploring other tools, but they can help faculty save time and not have to reinvent the wheel,” said Moore. 

To learn more about the Instructional Designers, schedule an appointment or sign up for a workshop, visit thee-LIS Instructional Design website. For collaboration with other OU faculty members, check out the OU Teaching Community eSpace or the Adventures in Teaching Learning Community from CETL.