Moodle Development and Flipping the Classroom

I’ve started compiling my Moodle course over World History Revolutions.  Moodle is a very user-friendly LMS, I think.  I’m kind of a trial by error type gal when it comes to using new technology, and it really doesn’t take too long to figure out how to maneuver through the editing process.  I was surprised at the number of options available, and was pleasantly surprised at some of the small touches (like actually embedding the YouTube clip if you link to it, as one small example) that make both the user and developer’s experiences better.

I started with a blank outline with seven or eight weeks of course material.  From there I edited the intro to include a snazzy picture of an old skool world map, followed by a short introduction, then PDF files of the purpose, problem, and learning theory behind this course, plus another PDF file of learning goals and objectives.  The skeleton of the course came with a news forum in the introduction section, which I thought was probably a good idea for posting announcements and such, so I kept it. I then edited the title of each week to reflect what the learning focus was.  

Once the bare-bone template was complete, I started working on some of the specific aspects of each week’s instruction.  I started by uploading a file that lays out the week’s goals and objectives, plus accompanying TEKS, for each week.  Then I played with the Glossary feature.  After creating a Glossary for the first week – the Scientific Revolution – I figured out that you can duplicate and move the assignment.  So I went ahead and duplicated, then edited, then moved the glossary for each week, since I knew we would be doing glossaries in each week of instruction.  That was a cool feature which I think will probably help me be more efficient in my development.  I’m glad I found it!

Then I decided I would really focus on the first week, and maybe get through half of the second week.  I figured out how the Assignment feature worked, as well as how to edit and include pages, forums, upload files, and even how to develop a quiz.  For whatever reason, developing the quiz didn’t come as naturally to me as the other features did.  It felt a little convoluted, and not as intuitive as other features were (from a developer’s point of view, anyway).  But I finally figured it out after many attempts, and completed the first quiz (though I still feel like going back and editing it some).  The other thing I still need to sit down and figure out is how the heck all the grading works.  I’m certain I have it set up all wrong, so I need to spend some time fine tuning that.  

I haven’t yet given or received feedback on these Moodle courses, though I have looked at my partner’s (from this semester and last) for ideas and to experiment with different aspects.  Overall, though, I’m really excited about how this is turning out!  I still have a ways to go, but I am really excited about the possibilities that this course might offer in terms of incorporating technology into the classroom.  Visions of paperless classrooms, automatic grading and recording, absent students not falling behind or having to ask for work… all this and more are dancing in my head!  Can’t wait to actually implement this instruction and see how it goes!

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Flipping the Classroom

I am beginning my last semester of grad school, and with final classes come final projects.  I’ve decided to help one of my department’s teachers to flip his classroom for next semester.  After reading much about it, there are all sorts of studies that support this method of instruction, especially for “millennial students.”  So you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about flipped classrooms and various flipping techniques and strategies within this blog over the next couple of months.

I read an article by Roehl, Shweta, and Shannon article from 2013 which discusses the advantages of flipping the classroom.  The authors explain how technology is important for the “millennial student,” as is social learning.  Their draw to technology and social learning is causing a paradigm shift in the academic world as institutions move toward more active learning so as to “better engage these students.”  The article reiterates that lecture has been found to not be very effective, and yet still persists as the most common practice in teaching adult learners.  The research-based suggestion, of course, is that we move toward active learning, specifically using four instructional approaches: 1) individual activities, 2) paired activities, 3) informal small groups, and 4) cooperative students projects.  Flipping the classroom – that is, introducing the information at home via online lecture and activities – allows for deeper engagement and more differentiated instruction in the classroom.  They discuss specific case studies of how flipped classrooms showed improvement in student learning and engagement over tradition lecture-based classrooms.  Students also pay more attention to their own learning process when participating in flipped classrooms, and should have plenty of opportunity to reflect in order to take full advantage of this.  Flipping the class also helps teachers gauge their students’ progress prior to summative assessments.  Another benefit for both students and teachers is that it prevents people from falling too far behind should they be absent, because they can catch up with learning the material on their own time at home.

One thing I found kind of interesting is that the  only focuses on using videos for lecture for the at-home portion of a flipped classroom.  While that is certainly the main gist behind flipping a class, I have always personally felt that the at-home portion of the course could also include enrichment activities and opportunities to interact with other students and the teacher in an online, out-of-class environment.  The authors do not really discuss this.  I’m curious if other teachers refrain from these sorts of interactions and just use the online portion for video/lectured instruction?  Also, the authors note that the videos are generally only 4-6 minutes long, which I think is a decent length for me to aim for when developing the online modules and any lecture video.  It is long enough to cover a significant amount of information, but short enough to where a student could replay the video multiple times for understanding without it taking up a huge chunk of their evening.

Also, a classmate reviewed an article by Lim and Michael from 2009 which emphasized the importance of a good teacher in a flipped classroom.  While the online videos might be great, your class will only be effective if you have a teacher who provides engaging and relevant connections and analysis in the classroom.  Her review also reinforced the importance of differentiating within the class and even in the online, at-home portion of a flipped or blended class, because differentiating encourages engagement.

Overall, both the article and my classmate’s review of another article scientifically reinforced my gut feeling that this transition to a flipped classroom will be a successful one, if not a interesting journey!  Have you flipped a class?  What are your experiences with it?  Any pointers?  ‘Cause I’ll take ’em!

References:
Lim, D. H., & Michael, L. M. (2009). Learner and instructional factors influencing learning outcomes within a blended learning environment. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 282-n/a. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1287037860?accountid=7113

Roehl, A., Shweta, L. & Shannon, G. (2013) The Flipped Classroom:  An opportunity to engage millenial students through active learning.  Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 105(2), 44-49.  Retrieved from  http://libproxy.library.unt.edu:2055/docview/1426052585