Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is Moodle good for MOOCs? Let's inspect the question first.

Last week I had the pleasure of being a speaker in a webinar organised by eMerge Africa. My colleague and I spoke about MOOCs in the African context based on our experience running such courses on our Moodle site. During the lively chat one of the participants popped this question: 'Is Moodle good for MOOCs?' I didn't quite know what to say and I didn't want to start writing a 'yes, but...' response. Later I realised that the problem lies in the syntax of the question: 'Is X good for Y?' is not the best way to figure out the means to an end if the 'end' or goal is simplified or woolly to begin with.

Let's consider the Y in this case: MOOCs. What's a MOOC? A course with a large number of learners? Fine. What's this course about? What is this course made of - what kind of content and activities? What taxonomy levels do the learning objectives map to? What is the nature of student-student and student-teacher interaction? How will student work be evaluated, and how will the course itself be evaluated? Then, what does a 'large number of learners' mean? 100? 1000? 10,000? 100,000? We need answers to all these questions and more to make the Y concrete. After that we can take up the question 'Is Moodle good for MOOCs?', and there's a good chance you'll find that it is!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Prevent automatic linking in Moodle

Do you (1) have auto-linking enabled on your Moodle site, (2) want to keep it enabled for a given resource or activity, and (3) want to prevent the auto-linking in specific places within this resource/activity?

I use Moodle 3.1 and the advice on this page about adding a span element with the nolink tag did not work for me: https://docs.moodle.org/31/en/Autolinking

Sadly, the additional tips given here also did not work: https://docs.moodle.org/31/en/Nolink_tags

The web address that I wanted to display as plain text rather than as a link kept appearing as a link. Argh!

So I looked for a generic HTML way (not Moodle specific) to prevent auto-linking and came upon this thread: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/119801/allow-suppression-of-automatic-linking-of-web-addresses

Phew, problem solved.

You just have to add the <nolink> tag after the http bit of a web address, eg, http<nolink>://www.google.com/

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Moodling in 2016

About a year back I wrote my first 'annual review' of my adventures with Moodle. Now it's time to write one for 2016!
  • Last January preparations for the first MoodleMoot in India were in full swing and I was invited to be one of the speakers. Here's my Storify of the event.
  • In April the second AuthorAID MOOC in research writing got off to a start with a record number of participants.
  • In May I went to Dar es Salaam to facilitate a 3-day workshop for AuthorAID partners, and Moodle was high on the agenda.
  • The day I got back from Dar es Salaam I was on a Moodle conference! This was iMoot 2016, the annual online Moodle conference. My talk was about how to implement formative assessment using Moodle quiz.
  • From May to June I was involved in running a new online course on INASP Moodle for librarians in developing countries. My colleague Joanna later spoke about this course at PCF8 in Malaysia and we wrote a paper about it.
  • Early in July I went to Mumbai to run a Moodle workshop at Adhyayan, a company with the noble mission of improving the quality of leadership and learning in schools. It was wonderful to see the team coming up with innovative ideas to use their Moodle site.
  • In August I facilitated a workshop for an AuthorAID partner institution in Sri Lanka to help them include a Moodle component in their support programme for researchers. I went there again in October and was delighted to see them in action.
  • In September I spent a couple of weeks in the US and made a trip to UW-Madison, my alma mater, where I met Erica Hagen who is a keen Moodler. We spoke about the joys of using Moodle but I was sad to hear that UW is moving from Moodle to Canvas.
  • Soon after returning from the US I got ready for the third AuthorAID MOOC in research writing. I was at the INASP office in Oxford the day the course started, and Andy and I shot a welcome video standing together. For other courses we typically do this as a Google Hangout recording, with him in Oxford and me somewhere in India (I've been a little mobile lately).
  • In November it was time for more online conferences - I spoke at the mini iMoot and gave a remote talk for OpenCon Ranchi. Both talks were about Moodle and MOOCs. Then I went to Vietnam to run a workshop for an AuthorAID partner institution, and they made a plan to run an AuthorAID online course on their own Moodle site.
    Meanwhile, a poster I'd co-authored with Yaba College of Technology in Nigeria was presented at PCF8. 
  • In December I went to Dar es Salaam again for the annual AuthorAID project meeting, where I chatted about Moodle with our partner institutions in Dodoma and Dar es Salaam and presented updates to the AuthorAID team and partners on our MOOCs. And the second AuthorAID course run by Yaba College came to an end.
  • I had a learning itch to scratch last year - I really wanted to start exploring the treasure-trove of data in the Moodle database. The Moodle site I administer has thousands of users and we've run three MOOCs. There's a lot of data behind the front-end reports that were calling out to me. So I took the MoodleBites MySQL reporting course from HRDNZ through October and November. I have to say it wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be, but I did learn enough about the Moodle database to start getting my hands dirty with analysing forum ratings.
2016 was certainly an eventful year! Let's see what 2017 brings :-)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Getting to grips with the Moodle database

I've been a Moodler for many years and my work has been very much at the front end: web-based site administration, course creation and online facilitation. Every now and then, I do data analysis using Moodle reports and offer Moodle support to AuthorAID partner institutions. I've had a lot to do in each of these areas and I've been happily busy. But I had a nagging feeling about operating only on the surface of Moodle. So I decided to take the plunge into the world of databases with the unique 'MySQL Reporting for Moodle' course offered by HRDNZ, a Moodle Partner in New Zealand. I completed this course a couple of months back and I might write a course review at some point. For now let me just say that the main thing I got out of the course was an awareness and appreciation of the Moodle database.

Today I had the opportunity to work on the database of the Moodle site I administer. With more than 18,000 users and courses going back to 2011, it's not a small database. My goal was to get data related to forum ratings in a particular course, eg, how many posts were rated 'useful', which users received ratings, and which users gave ratings. The only way to do this, as far as I know, is to work with the Moodle database. There are no front-end reports that give you this information.

I actually made a post on a Moodle community forum yesterday asking for help, and today I posted a solution. It's not a detailed solution and definitely not the best. I'm sure there's a better way to do the whole thing using SQL queries. But for those who don't know SQL -- and those like me who have a smattering but would rather stick to CSV data for the moment -- my solution might be useful. Take a look if you're interested.