Learning Technology

Moodle Newsletter – July

August 5th, 2014

The University of Nottingham


The University of Nottingham
Moodle header August

This newsletter provides users with the latest information about moodle.Nottingham, and hints and tips.

If you have a query about using Moodle, visit the Moodle help site. Any issues, email Learning Technology.

In this issue:

Getting ready for the new Moodle

I’m sure you will be aware by now that the Moodle 2 project is underway to deliver a new Moodle infrastructure by the start of the 2014/15 academic year. The project is focused on a number of key areas including: responding to the needs of students; supporting academic staff use and adoption of Moodle; and delivering acceptable system response times at UNNC and UNMC. The vision for Moodle is of a robust, attractive, flexible virtual learning environment (VLE) which supports student learning and is embedded in the student experience.

To deliver these developments, there is a significant amount of software development, hardware upgrade and user interface design happening across both teams of staff and through external suppliers.

In order to get ready for the new Moodle, this newsletter provides information on a number of enhancements and opportunities. They are: new design, taster sessions, rollover of modules, changes and new features, meta and parent modules, and September training sessions.

Not only is Moodle being upgraded, it’s getting a whole new look

Student feedback on Moodle, gathered through focus groups and surveys, tells us that the design is dull and uninspiring. As a result, an external design company was commissioned to help improve the Moodle experience with a fresh new look and feel ready for September 2014. As part of this, we’ve consulted staff and students at workshops and conferences, and with the Students’ Union, the Disability Support Office and Marketing and Communications, agreed early designs for a new Moodle. An online survey in Moodle was then carried out – almost 1300 staff and students responded – and 80% of respondents were so enthusiastic about the new design that the Moodle 2 Project Board unanimously approved the new look.

New Look for Moodle

Background images will be included to add visual interest but not distraction and the My Home page is being overhauled. You’ll see a slideshow for news and events relating to Moodle or teaching and learning related items, and a greatly simplified Moodle Site Navigation block will now appear on the left hand side. My Home, Library search, study support, help and accessibility controls will be available on every screen along the top, alongside your user profile. Further improvements will be rolled out over the coming year with new tabbed content and collapsible displays appearing within the central learning resources block. Importantly the new design will also reflect your faculty and school and be compatible with mobile phones and tablets.

To those of you who took the time to give us detailed and honest feedback – thank you!

More on Moodle’s new look over at the Learning Technology blog

New Moodle Taster sessions

Would you like to get a sneak peak at the new Moodle Design and find out about the new features in Moodle 2.6 that will be available from the end of August? We are holding Taster Sessions throughout August, and there will be Moodle Update sessions throughout September. The session will start with a demonstration of the new look and features in Moodle and will be followed by an opportunity to try it out. (Note that the taster sessions will be using a beta version of Moodle which is not a live system.)

Moodle Taster Sessions

Dates below (booking advised to be sure of a space)

  • Tuesday 5 August, 2 – 3.30pm, University Park, Pope Building, Room A23
  • Wednesday 6 August, 3 – 4.30pm Jubilee Campus, Exchange Building, Computer Room B4
  • Monday 11 August, 10 – 11.30am, Sutton Bonington, Main Building, B09 Computer Room
  • Wednesday 13 August, 2 – 3.30pm, University Park, Trent Building, Room B16
  • Tuesday 19 August 10 – 11.30am, University Park, Pope Building, Room A24
  • Wednesday 20 August, 2 – 3.30pm, Jubilee Campus, Exchange Building, Computer Room B4
  • Tuesday 26 August, 1 – 2pm, Sutton Bonington, Plant Science Building, Room A17
  • Wednesday 27 August, 1 – 2pm, University Park, Pope Building, Room C15

To book, see more dates or find out more visit Central Short Courses.

Rollover of modules from 13-14 to 14-15

SATURN modules for 14-15 have now been created in Moodle and content copied across from 13-14 for staff to begin to edit (unless you have previously requested to start from scratch). Parent modules – where two modules are taught together – are still being created, so if this applies to one of your modules, please wait for the parent to be created (see below for explanation).

As usual new modules for the autumn session will be hidden by default (you will see them “greyed out”) and you can make them visible to students as soon as you are satisfied your edits are complete and the module is ready. There’s no need to wait for the new version of Moodle before preparing your module EXCEPT please do not create new Assignments (Turnitin or Moodle) before the upgrade (unless they’re needed before the end of August).

Please do not amend 13-14 modules as they are retained “as taught” for staff and students to refer to.If your module content doesn’t appear as you expect – and before you start editing – get in touch with learning-technologies@nottingham.ac.uk, we will most likely be able to quickly sort it out.

What’s happening to Moodle at the end of August?

The main changes will be:

  • Moodle version upgraded from 2.2 to 2.6 (this provides additional features as described below)
  • Attractive new look and feel for Moodle – more intuitive and easier to use
  • Improvements to the technical infrastructure supporting Moodle so that it is faster and more robust

What's happening with Moodle?

Our favourite new features in Moodle!

We have recently welcomed three new learning technology consultants to the Faculty and School Support Team, Alvaro Roberts, who joins us from Sheffield Hallam, Laura Fitch, formerly of Derby University’s online learning arm, and Angelique Bodart, who you may remember was with us when we launched Moodle. Anne Rockcliffe and Helen Whitehead are still in the team, led by Suzanne Wright.

Here are some of our favourite new features in Moodle from September:

Angelique: I like the new accessibility feature. Users will be able to set the look of Moodle to suit their needs, for example font size can be increased and colours set to be easier for those with dyslexia to read.

Laura: Clear navigation at the top of each page should enable users to easily move around and access key services and support

Alvaro: the new version of Turnitin is more versatile, easier to use and more reliable and it’ll be much easier to do online marking (Note: Please don’t create Turnitin assignments until after the upgrade if possible, to take advantage of the new features.)

Helen: There’s a new version of the Moodle Assignment which has lots of features I know staff have asked for, such as submission to Turnitin (while the assignments stay in the University’s system), group and collaborative assignments, anonymous marking, tracking of the workflow of markers, second markers and administrative steps, and online marking by annotating PDFs.

Suzanne: You can drag and drop files to add them to Moodle (if you have a recent browser) and students can drag and drop assignments too.

Time to upgrade your browser!

Some features in Moodle 2.6, such as drag and drop, will only work if you’re using later versions of Internet Explorer (10 or later) or other browsers, and it does not support Internet Explorer 8, so it’s a good time to consider upgrading your browser or adding an alternative such as the most recent version of Chrome or Firefox. Also check your browser is set to allow popups for the moodle.nottingham.ac.uk address.

What is a metamodule or parent module?

Often two or more modules are taught where the resources and activities are identical. Examples include Modules with different credit values but the same content, modules taught in different semesters but with the same content, modules taught at Level 3 and level 4 where both sets of students study the same content, or modules with the same code and content on separate international campuses but taught together.

If the content is used in more than one module it’s possible to share the content using an umbrella parent or “metamodule” in Moodle for the shared content. The separate modules also exist but may only be used to feed students enrolments from SATURN (and are invisible to students, who only see the parent module).

Metamodules can also be set up as umbrella modules for numbers of students, such as all students in Year 1 or all students on a particular MSc programme. They can be linked to core SATURN modules to feed enrolment.

Decide to use a parent module, before you waste time duplicating content: it’s a real time-saving feature. Do get in touch if you feel this might apply to you and you’d like a metamodule set up or, alternatively if you seem to have a parent module that isn’t needed any more (perhaps because one of the original linked modules is now dormant).

Find out more about metamodules at the Moodle Help website.

Training sessions coming up

As well as the Taster Sessions (see above) there will be other training sessions coming up.

  • Key Moodle Basics (a beginner’s introduction) Next date: Thursday 4 September 10am – noon, Tuesday 9 September 2014 2 – 4pm
  • Look out for Special Sessions in your Schools over the coming months as we are visiting Schools to update groups of staff about the upgrade of Moodle. If you’d like us to visit you and your colleagues, please let us know.
  • You can also call into B17 in Pope Building for a consultation – please email or call us first if possible.

We want your feedback

Let us know what you think of our newsletter and what features you would like to see in future editions.

Email us!

New academic year, New Moodle

July 28th, 2014

Not only is Moodle being upgraded, it’s getting a whole new look! Since the roll out of Moodle at Nottingham in September 2011, one of the more frequents requests for change has been around the interface design or look and feel. Through user focus groups and online surveys, the feedback has been fairly consistent: moodle.Nottingham’s design is too boring, cluttered and difficult to navigate; Moodle was in need of a facelift. With this feedback in mind, Libraries, Research and Learning Resources have commissioned an external design company to help improve the Moodle experience with a fresh new look and feel for September 2014.

To support the redesign, workshops were organised in April with the help of the Students’ Union and attended by both staff and students. Based on this feedback, initial concept designs were created and feedback sought directly from staff at the conference on  “Use of space and technology to enhance learning” and from students on all three international campuses.  Feedback was also sought from the Disability Support Office and Marketing and Communications. This feedback has been extremely helpful and a revision to the original concepts was made available via an online survey later in May. With nearly 1250 individual survey responses (78% student) and 79.97% approving of the revised designs, the enthusiasm for a fresh new design based on the concept proposals was encouraging.

Overall a look and feel using background imagery was favoured by 72% of respondents. However, there was a clear preference for simple University campus images and concerns that the images could be distracting if too busy. We have responded to this feedback with the design. Performance – speed and reliability – was also a concern – which we share. We are working closely with the external design team to ensure performance is not negatively impacted at any campus through the inclusion of background images and testing will occur throughout the summer to make sure this is the case. If however, performance is negatively impacting the design, it will be modified to replace the background images with an appropriate simple fill colour.

The online survey also presented a number of My Home page concepts for accessing your current modules, with an even split of opinions and no outright winner. In the end, the use of lists (as featured in the concept design below) was selected as it was felt it offers greatest familiarity to most users and is easiest to use while accessing additional module information.

Approximately 66% of respondents favoured the use of a slideshow for news and events, albeit feedback indicated this should be reserved exclusively for Moodle or teaching and learning related items and not an alternative for other news feeds such as ‘In the loop.’ We agree, and will ensure the slideshow is relevant to your studies.

For a powerful and feature-rich learning system like Moodle, decluttering the user interface while ensuring visibility of all the options is a challenge. However, Moodle does not help itself at times with duplicate information and repeated options. Overall, most respondents (with nearly half of the responses) preferred the existing three column layout which will persist as the default layout for September. Moodle navigation can, however, be confusing and improvements will be included within the new design. A greatly simplified Moodle Site Navigation block will now appear on the left hand side, allowing users to navigate between modules. When within modules, navigation (alongside other module specific blocks such as Module Resources) will now move to the right hand side of the screen.

My Home, Library search, study support, help and accessibility controls will now be available on every screen along the top, alongside your user profile. Further improvements will be rolled out over the coming year with new tabbed content and collapsible displays appearing within the central learning resources block. The new design will also reflect your faculty and school and be compatible with mobile phones and tablets.

Many thanks for all your feedback. We hope you will like the new Moodle design and feel this is a great improvement over the previous Moodle interface.

Moodle Newsletter June 2014

June 27th, 2014

This newsletter provides users with the latest information about moodle.Nottingham, and hints and tips.If you have a query about using Moodle, visit the Moodle help site. Any issues, email Learning Technology.

Annual Rollover

In preparation for the start of the next academic session, Moodle rollover has started with 2014/15 SATURN modules being created in Moodle. Do not edit 13-14 modules – we will let you know as soon as your 14-15 modules are available to edit.

In order to populate the modules, content will be copied from the 2013-14 version for you to then edit and amend for the 14-15 session. This has been discussed with your School Moodle contacts but if you would prefer to start from scratch and have not yet had a chance to say that you do not want your content copying for you then please email us.

New modules for the coming academic session will be hidden from students by default. It is important that you edit the material in the 14/15 modules ready for the new year before you make your modules available to students in September for start of session.

13/14 modules – ready for archiving

In the same way as last year, 2013-14 modules will still be retained with their current content for students (and staff) to access them for the duration of the students’ time at the university. Please do not amend 13/14 modules.

Moodle Everywhere

Please make sure that your modules comply with the Moodle Everywhere mandate that can be found on Workspace.

We have a checklist and some suggestions for how to implement Moodle Everywhere. Many Schools have their own guidelines.

Upgrade/new features

The upcoming Moodle upgrade will take place on 28 and 29 August (Moodle will be unavailable during this time).

Moodle will be upgraded and given a new look and feel. Some of the new features include:

  • Mobile-friendly
  • Drag and Drop files onto the Moodle page
  • Simpler editing interface
  • Easier to add new sections (topics)
  • More help with Add an activity or resource
  • Improved assignment, including: Built-in Turnitin check, Group assignments, Blind/anonymous marking, Bulk upload of feedback, Workflow monitoring

For more information check out Moodle Help on Workspace.

Training Sessions Coming Up

There are several training sessions coming up. Please follow these links for more information and to book.

Key Moodle Basics

Session dates:

  • Tuesday 29 July 2014 2-4pm
  • Tuesday 9 September 2014 2-4pm

You can also call into B17 in Pope Building for a consultation – please email or call us first if possible.

Look out for new sessions in your Schools over the coming months as we are visiting Schools to update groups of staff about the upgrade of Moodle. If you’d like us to visit you and your colleagues, please let us know.

We want your feedback

Let us know what you think of our newsletter and what features you would like to see in future editions.

Email us!

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Xerte Online Toolkits – some examples

June 11th, 2014

The Xerte community have shared some great examples of Xerte Toolkits that can be really helpful to see how they can be used and get inspiration for creating your own.



Case studies on using Xerte Toolkits

Other resources

ETAG (The Education Technology Action Group)

June 9th, 2014

The Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) was set up in February 2014 by three ministers: Education secretary Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock(Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for further education, skills and lifelong learning) and Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts. It is chaired by Professor Stephen Heppell, Chair in New Media Environments at Bournemouth University and includes as members representatives from JISC, ALT and Naace.

Matthew Hancock announced the creation of ETAG at the BETT Show in January. He said: “Today I am delighted to announce a new Education Technology Action Group. This group of experts will identify how learning technology can be best used – across schools, universities and colleges. I’m hugely proud that we have a distinguished membership – chaired by Professor Stephen Heppell – and that Anant Agarawl, President of EdX, will attend our first meeting.”

Professor Stephen Heppell said: “We were given an unequivocal steer by our ministers to be bold and ambitious; to clear away impediments and to be world leading. They reminded us that technology could and should help make learning fun. It was a wonderful brief to be given, from the heart, and we will be open and inclusive in achieving what was asked of us – an action group, not a faffing around group!”

The group covers schools, further education colleges and Universities.

Between now and 23 June 2014, ETAG is seeking your input to help shape their recommendations in the following areas:

  • connected institutions;
  • data and infrastructure;
  • understanding and accrediting learning.

To find out more and to contribute see: http://feltag.org.uk/etag/contribute-to-etag

ETAG core members reflect a wide range of experience from the education and technology sectors and include:

Professor Stephen Heppell (Chair, Bournemouth University),
Mark Chambers (Naace)
Ian Fordham – The Education Foundation
James Penny – European Electronique
Maren Deepwell – ALT
Professor Diana Laurillard – Institute of Education, University of London
Jill Lanning – Federation of Awarding Bodies
Phil Richards – Jisc
David Hughes – NIACE
Bryan Mathers – City & Guilds
Manoj Badale – Blenheim-Chalcot
Bob Harrison – Education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems UK Ltd
David Brown – Ofsted National Lead for ICT
Professor Peter Twining – Open University
Pauline Odulinski – Education Training Foundation
Professor Angela McFarlane – College of Teachers
Karen Price and Niel McLean – E-Skills UK
Geoff Mulgan – Nesta
Dominic Savage – BESA
Dawn Hallybone – Oakdale Junior School
Lizzie Noel – New Schools Network
Gary Spracklen – Head of Innovation and Technology at IPACA

Moodle Magic 2: An all-School community page

June 5th, 2014

There are often documents, policies, information, news and announcements about events and information of relevance to all students and/or staff in a programme, a unit or a whole School.  This example comes from the School of Economics where Charlene Hill created a module Community Page (Economics) (UK). The School wanted to have a single place for information for all students in the School. This information used to be in the Portal, while other Schools may have similar information in Workspace.

What we did: We created a module in Moodle that is a one-stop shop for all of our course information, including

  • timetable links,
  • exam office links,
  • whole-school presentations
  • news and announcements
  • Past exam papers and feedback for every single module for the past three years (as Moodle Books)
  • Term dates (a popular question in the office)
  • Learning Community Forum
  • RSS feeds from School’s website

How it worked: Students find it easy to find the past exam papers and feedback for every single module, for the last three years (as Moodle Books) It’s easy to edit and staff can see what’s missing and arrange to add it Can add answers to frequently asked questions to the page so it continues to become more useful as time goes on.

How it was received by students: Students wanted one place to look for everything – and prefer that this is Moodle.

The module is linked to core modules in each year so that students automatically have access to it (self-enrolment can also be made available).

Recommendations and tips

  • Simple to create: simply contact the IT Help Desk to ask for a module – remember to give the full name you’d like for the module, and details of any editing teachers.
  • The Moodle Book works very well for our exam papers

Further information

Video of Charlene Hill demonstrating the module:


Creating video to support teaching and learning – event at Nottingham

June 2nd, 2014

Creating video to support teaching and learning
(“Changing the Learning Landscape” insights) 

This Higher Education Academy (HEA) sponsored event will be an opportunity for participants involved in the creation of video for teaching and learning to share their experiences and insights and to network with other practitioners.

Location: C15 Pope Building, University Park, University of Nottingham

Date: Thursday 12th June 2014 (13:00-16:00)

The event will disseminate insights and lessons learnt from an HEA funded ‘Changing the Learning Landscape’ mini-project undertaken at Nottingham, to install a ‘self-service’ studio.

The event provides an excellent opportunity for participants to develop technical and pedagogical support networks.

Please register at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/creating-video-to-support-teaching-and-learning-changing-the-learning-landscape-insights-tickets-11735433999   or http://tiny.cc/nzfbgx

More information at http://nottingham.ac.uk/teaching/events/video-in-tandl.aspx

Changing the Learning Landscape events

May 30th, 2014

Do you want to know more about using digital technologies in learning and teaching? If you want to explore innovative uses of digital technologies to enhance your teaching practice, don’t miss out on this hands-on opportunity with CLL.

The three CLL workshops in June are aimed at academic staff, and others who teach and support learning in higher education. The events will showcase discipline-specific uses of digital technologies and explore how different approaches might transfer across disciplines. They will also engage with current advances in technology-enhanced learning and consider ways in which practitioners can take advantage of the opportunities they offer. By providing examples of teaching practice from across the sector, participants will discover how the implementation of technological approaches has enhanced learning and teaching, and will gain inspiration for their own practice.

Workshop dates:

*   10 June – University of Derby. Online assessment and feedback: Ensuring effective use of technology and innovative practice <http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events/detail/2014/10_June_Online_assessment_CLL>

*   11 June – University of Hertfordshire. Flexible and seamless learning <http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events/detail/2014/11_June_Flexible_Seamless_CLL>

*   18 June – University of Bradford. Simulations, virtual worlds and augmented reality – (currently being developed).

For further information on any of the above events and to book, visit http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/cll or call us on 01904 717574

Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL) is a HEFCE-funded programme supporting and encouraging higher and further education institutions to make a step change in how they adopt effective and strategic uses of online technology in teaching and learning.   The programme is a unique partnership between the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, JISC, the National Union of Students, the Association for Learning Technology and the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

TechDis webinars coming up soon

May 28th, 2014

30 May 2014, 13:00, Online workshop, Xerte Friday

Xerte Online Toolkits Installation and management - During this session we’ll look at what’s required, who should be involved and what you should know whatever your role.

10 June 2014, 13:00, Online workshop, TechDis Tuesday
Strategies for the deployment of technology to support learners - Kevin Hickey from Jisc RSC North West will lead this one hour webinar which will look at why it is important to have a plan.

27 June 2014, 13:00, Online workshop, Xerte Friday
Xerte showcase - Lisa Featherstone and the team round up some of their favourite examples of Xerte Online Toolkits used to teach inclusively.

Please note that while the webinars are free, it is necessary to register for them at least 24 hours ahead of time

Moodle Magic 1: Sending a message to students (Announcements / News)

May 19th, 2014

A common question to our Helpdesk is about the most appropriate way to send messages to students and other participants.  This post covers sending a message to students  via the Announcements / News forum. Other choices are covered in our Moodle Help website article on How do I send messages to students.

The examples detailed here come from Sally Hanford and my own Adobe Connect course for staff, and from Chris Walters in Biology talking about sending messages to students of a Microbiology module.

Adobe Connect course (online)

The Adobe Connect training course is entirely online. On one occasion we wanted to inform all participants about an Adobe Connect event so that they could experience one before the course starts. Students (participants) were already enrolled.

What we did: We used the News Forum (often now called Announcements) via the Latest News block. We typed in a message which was sent by email to all students.

How it worked:

  • The email was sent FROM the Moodle system – so it will have the module code in the Subject.
  • It went to some students after 30 minutes, and some at the end of the day. Editing teachers and students (participants) can re-read the message at any time by visiting the News Forum.
  • The Sender’s personal email is in the REPLY TO field which means that students can respond by email directly to sender

How it was received by students:

  • Students cannot turn off News Forum / Announcements
  • Users can edit their preferences in their profile settings to choose
  • One email at a time OR
    Digest of all emails – once per day at around 5 pm (can have just Subjects or full post content)

Email preferences can be edited in your profile (see screenshot, right).

So why didn’t we use the facility to message participants?  Here are the reasons:

  1. If users are online Announcements still arrive by email  whereas messages do not by default get sent by email if the recipient is online – they simply “po up”.
  2. With messages we don’t know how they will receive a message- a message is person-to-person not relating to a particular module.
  3. A message doesn’t have the context of the module so they might not realise that’s why they are getting it
  4. Students can turn off getting messages – but they can’t turn off Announcements emails
  5. Announcements posts are always there for them to refer back to (see Latest news block)

Microbiology module

The 11 am Microbiology lecture was unavoidably cancelled at short notice and we needed to let students know as soon as possible.   One way to contact students was to use the News Forum / Announcements but students may not have got that message in time (if they are set to Digest).

What we did: We used three routes for delivering this message:

  1. Sent out a message via Announcements (Still useful, because that puts a message clearly in the Moodle space for the module)
  2. Emailed all students via SATURN
  3. The lecturer in the 10am class also made the announcement

Further information