Instead of using Moodle as a passive repository for resources and submission links, Dr Alastair Smith created a guided and interactive student learning pathway for his students by directing them on weekly 'journeys' through curated Moodle pages. His module 'Environmental Principles of Global Sustainable Development' is structured into weekly learning 'themes', which comprise a sequence of Moodle pages, each containing a reading, learning resource, or exercise, after the completion of which the student can move on to the next linked page. Each page has an indicated 'time to complete task' value assigned to it, which helps students in managing their learning plans, and tutors in reflecting on the amount of workload they are assigning.
Creating such weekly learning 'journeys' allows a lot of flexibility and helps the tutor to ensure that students with different learning styles have the opportunity to choose their preferred way of consuming information. Furthermore, this guided experience helps the tutor provide a stronger structure to the learning process.
Alastair Smith, GSD
- Every week of the module has a corresponding tab on Moodle, which details the general schedule of the learning week and includes a review of ILOs, asynchronous learning activities, and synchronous learning workshops. For the sake of transparency, the students are invited to first familiarise themselves with the ILOs using a link to a separate Moodle page.
- Once the students have read through the ILOs, they are invited to complete the asynchronous learning activities, which have a 'total time to complete' value (in hours) assigned to them. The asynchronous activities are divided into two categories: directed (i.e. provided by the tutor) and self-directed (independent reading and study) tasks. Each of the categories contains a link, which takes the student to a corresponding Moodle page.
- Self-directed tasks are usually an invitation to the student to go through the assigned resources and reflect on them with certain questions in mind. Oftentimes, there is some degree of freedom with regards to how a student can approach their independent learning: for instance, they may be offered an opportunity to discuss a given week's reading in a designated Moodle forum, or watch a relevant documentary of their own choosing.
- Directed tasks take full advantage of Moodle's guided learning possibilities by providing a structured pathway throughout a week's learning materials. Instead of simply featuring a longer reading or a pre-recorded lecture, Moodle pages for directed tasks are often highly interactive and contain links to further pages. For example, a directed tasks page sequence will start with a page featuring some explanatory text and a link to a short video; after watching the video, the students may be invited to complete a short exercise, an activity, or proceed to a further page, which may contain more written text, and so on.
- After the tutor prepares the content for the individual Moodle pages, they are switched on using the function of conditionality on Moodle: for instance, in order to access the next Moodle page in the 'Directed tasks' sequence, a student may first be required to write a response to a question on a dedicated Moodle forum. Unless they do so, they are not given access to the next page and cannot complete the directed task. As such, the guided Moodle learning 'journey' contains a tree of pages, with each subsequent one triggered once the conditions of the one preceding it have been fulfilled.
From my point of view, I think that it is a much preferable pedagogical approach than just ... putting some resources up on Moodle and just saying, 'Read this. Watch this video'. I like it, because it allows me to embed rhetorical or active questions to try to have more influence on the student to think about the resources they are consuming ... to create a greater deal of structure, way more than we would ever get if it was a traditional lecture ... And often more than it would be possible in a workshop ... where the most confident students do all the participation, and a lot of other students sort of sit in the back, not needing to think.
The majority of the [students] like it; there's a minority of students who really hate it, but for all the right reasons from my point of view. Because they're finally having to do something that they can't just click through and get done... they have to think, and it forces them to think and to work intellectually... So, I'm even happy that some of them hate it.
If you have iterative learning, and you're like always reflecting on what you've previously done, and then you get a chance to research more and reflect again, then it's actually meaningful…