Planning and Designing Courses
with Moodle

Workshop Fall 2009

Nasreen Rahim


History of Virtual Classroom
The original Virtual Classroom program was launched by AT&T in the fall of 1996.
During the period of 1996 through 2000, over 19,000 students from dozens of countries
around the world used it to collaborate, communicate and learn about them, and about
the Internet.
Virtual Classroom is an environment designed to facilitate
teachers in the management of educational courses for their
students, especially a system using computer hardware and
software, which involves distance learning. A virtual learning
environment is often referred to as a Learning Management
System/ Course Management System where teacher and
students normally work over the Internet and provide a collection
of tools such as those for assessment, communication,
uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of
student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools,
etc. New features in these systems include wikis, blogs, RSS and 3D virtual learning


Best Practices for Online Learning
An online or virtual classroom can be effective when the teacher plays the role of a
facilitator. That role is identified by three functional categories:
"Guide on the Side"
Instructor or project leader
Group process facilitator
"Guide on the Side"
An online facilitator can be overwhelmed with online tasks such as email conversations
with each participant (unlimited office hours!) if the teacher is in the center of numerous
private conversations. The "guide on the side" model encourages interactions among
the students by monitoring and shaping conversations and refraining from extensive
direct interaction. When the instructor is the focal point of all communication, or the
"sage on the stage", teaching is cumbersome and less productive. As a "guide on the
side", the facilitator supports learning and communication among the participants
Instructor or Project Leader
Online courses will not replace teachers and does not change the instructor's central
importance in learning. As a content expert, instruction is enhanced if you are also
skilled at moderating. Content experts can deepen the discussion and maintain a
forward movement in the dialogue and enrich the learning with collaboration.
Group Process Leader
In addition to the two facilitator roles described, moderating a group as a whole is critical
for successful collaboration. As a facilitator, all participants must be drawn in and
focused on constructive paths of learning. An online community is only possible if its
members are active and posting.
A group process leader must take on or appropriately delegate:
Leading introductory, community-building activities
Providing virtual "hand holding" to the digitally challenged
Acknowledging the diversity of participants' backgrounds and interests
Infusing personality with tone, graphics, and humor
Maintaining a nurturing pace of responding
Keeping up with the pace set
Organizing posts and discussion threads
Balancing private email and public discussion


Content Delivery in Moodle
The two most frequently used menu for content delivery in Moodle are: Add an activity
and Add a resource drop down menus.

Add an activity drop-down menu
Adding an activity tool involves clicking the drop down menu for activities and selecting
the required activity tool. This will then open the settings page for that particular activity.
The choice of activity depends on the course and the teacher. There are a number of
interactive learning activity modules that you may add to your
Content may be delivered and supported using Lesson
module and SCORM activities. Key words can be added to
Glossaries by yourself or, if you allow it, your students.
Work can be submitted by students and marked by teachers
using Assignments or Workshops. Automatic marking can
be achieved by using Quizzes. You can even integrate your
Hot Potato quizzes by adding a Hotpot activity.
Surveys and Databases are also very powerful additions to
any course.
Communication and collaboration may take place using
Chats and Forums for conversational activities and Choices
to gain group feedback. Adding Wikis to your courses is an excellent way to allow
students to work together on a single piece.


Add a resource drop down menu

Moodle supports a range of different resource types
that allow you to include almost any kind of digital
content into your courses. These can be added by
using the Add a resource dropdown box when
editing is turned on.
A Text page is a simple page written using plain text. Text pages aren't pretty, but
they're a good place to put some information or instructions. If you are after more
options for your new page then you should be thinking about adding a Web page and
making use of Moodle's WYSIWYG editor.
Of course the resource may already exist in electronic form so you may want to link to
an uploaded file or external website or simply display the complete contents of a
directory in your course files and let your users pick the file themselves. If you have an
IMS content package then this can be easily added to your course.
Use a label to embed instructions or information in the course section.
Each course homepage generally contains blocks on the left and right with the centre
column containing the course content. Blocks may be added, hidden, deleted, and
moved up, down and left/right when editing is turned on. Examples of blocks can be see
in the Getting Starting image above. "Latest News", "Upcoming Events", and "Recent
Activity" are blocks.

A wide range of blocks exist that can provide additional information or functionality to
the learner or teacher. There are both standard blocks that come with Moodle and many
contributed blocks developed by Moodlers that an administrator can add to a Moodle

Administration Blocks
Settings in the administration block allow teachers to manage
student and teacher enrollments and their groups, view the
course gradebook, create custom grading scales, upload Files
and access the Teacher_forum. Some teachers will find the
Reset course, backup, Restore and Import (course data) very
handy tools when creating similar courses. Naturally a teacher will
want to define their grading scales , look at Grades and create
Reports. This block also gives access to a question database,
used in quizzes/tests or in Lesson module.
The links in the administration block are only available to teachers
of the course. Students will receive their own version of the block
which will display a link to their own gradebook and, if enabled,
their own course logs. As a teacher, you can change the way
students (and other teachers) access and view your course by
exploring the Course_settings option in the administration block.
For example the course settings allow the teacher format the course which determines
how the center sections appear. The weekly format is suitable for courses that have a
clear start date and activities are presented in weekly blocks. A topic formatted course
has no dates, so activities and resources can grouped by subject or for an open
enrollment class. The social format doesn't use much content at all and is based around
just one forum which is displayed on the main course page.
Another useful feature of the administration block is the Files link. From here you can
upload (rename, move, delete) any digital content for inclusion in an activity, resource,
or for a direct download by the students. You can also create a directory(s) for students
and link it as a resource.


Effective Class Interaction

Communication and Student Support Worksheet
Print and save this worksheet. This worksheet will help you determine the course
communication tools and course infrastructure tools and materials that you may need in
your online course. Check the tools/methods/materials that apply to your course in the
Include column. You can edit the worksheet to add any items. Add rows by using the
Tab Key in the last cell of the table. Use this worksheet to help you develop the Syllabus
for your online course.
Communication and Student Support Worksheet
Include? Page/ Component Description Tool, Resource, or
Email Email contact for instructor.
Student email roster?

Most course management
systems have student-to-
student and student-to-
instructor email features
Discussion Allows students to post and answer
CMS Discussion board or
third-party tool.
Chat Allows students/instructor to chat in real-
Most CMS have a
synchronous chat feature and
may include white board and
other real-time features.
Distance Learning /
Additional information may be needed for
first time online students such as self-
assessment quizzes/questionnaires to
determine if online learning is for them.
This information may already
be available through your
institution. Link to resources.
Introductory or Welcome
Home Page/
Introduction/ or
Welcome Page
This page may include a course
description, a general introduction or a
welcome to the course and can explain
policies, procedures, how to get around the
course and adds the “human touch”.
Some CMS have a Welcome
Page or opening
Announcement page or this
can be the opening HTML
page of a Web site.
Announcements This can be a way to give current, changed
information, and general announcements to
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file. Some
CMS have an Announcement
tool or area.
Policies Course policies or “rules of the online
learning community” may be helpful such
as netiquette, etc.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Requirements and
Grading scale, course requirements and
information on how students will be
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Course Goals and
List on own page or part of the home page
or syllabus.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Reading Materials /
Required Text
List on own page or syllabus. HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Prerequisite skills or
If your course has prerequisites, list them
in a separate are or page.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Hardware and
If you have special technology
requirements, list them in a separate area
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.

Requirements or page.
Course Calendar A calendar format may be useful to
structure your class and assignments.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Some CMS have a calendar
Syllabus Provides easy access to the class schedule
and syllabus.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file. Some
CMS have a Syllabus tool.
Study Aids/
Provide study aids and handouts if needed. HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Assignments Give students instructions on how to
submit assignments. An assignment table
may be helpful that summarizes
assignments by unit and date.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Library and
Provide institution resource information if
students need these resources to complete
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
External Resources
(Web links)
Provide external resources to enhance your
lecture material.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file. Some
CMS have an external link
area or tool.
Posted Student
Allowing students to view their grades at
any time may be helpful. This usually
entails using a CMS gradebook.
Most CMS have an area
where students can view their
FAQ If you have taught the class before, a list of
frequently asked questions and answers
may be helpful and reduce the instructor
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.
Faculty/ Staff
Office Hours
Email contact
Office Location
Policy on email responses
Web site link

Give the student all of the contact
information that they may need. This is
also a good opportunity to add the “human
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file. Some
CMS have a Staff
Information section or tool.
Quizzes/ Testing Give students any instructions needed for
taking online tests.
HTML page, Word
document, PDF file.

Add Discussion Forum
When you decide to use a discussion forum as an activity in an e-learning environment
it is important to be aware that your time will be needed in some sense in order to make
the activity successful. If your goal is to encourage discussion, the forum will only work
1. participants feel there is a need/reason to participate and they will gain
something from the experience. Incentives for learning, gathering support, etc.
should be explored and encouraged early on in order to clearly convey the
purpose of the forum to others. Anyone considering offering grades or marks for
participation is advised to think very carefully about the difference between
quantity and quality of discussions in forums.
2. a sense of community and purpose can be fostered amongst participants. This
sense of community can be fostered through tutor/teacher initiative and
scaffolding, or primarily through the students/participants themselves depending
on the intentions of the activity.
Moodle has four kinds of forums each with a slightly different layout and purpose.
Which of the forums will best suit your needs for a particular activity? In order to answer
this question it is useful to think how you might lead such a discussion in a face-to-face
environment. Would you throw the question out to the class and sit back to observe
them in their answers? Or would you break them up into smaller groups first and ask
them to have discussions with a partner before bringing them back to the main group?
Or perhaps you would like to keep them focused on a particular aspect of a question
and ensure that they do not wander away from the topic at hand? All of the above
approaches are both valid and useful, depending on your learning outcomes, and you
can replicate all of them in Moodle forums.
1. A single simple discussion
2. Each person posts one discussion
3. Standard forum for general use
4. Question and Answer forum


ADA Issues in Distance Education
As technology is used to communicate, it poses both benefits and issues for students
with disabilities. While the technology can be adapted or designed to include individuals
with disabilities, inadequate or lack of any accessible design can impose new barriers to
full participation in educational opportunities.
People with low vision, those who are blind, who have cognitive limitations, or who have
limited physical mobility may have great difficulty in utilizing these online learning
opportunities. While educational entities must comply with civil rights laws, such as
Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, many of these entities are designing inaccessible online learning
The beneficial effects of accessible distance learning using multimedia forms of
communication—text, video, audio, synthetic speech—is that with skillful integration,
they can meet the needs of different sensory disabilities, and, at the same time, they
can enrich communication for persons with different learning styles. This, it takes
thoughtful planning by the teacher (or online course developer) to use the technologies
to meet everyone’s needs.
Since most of these distance-learning courses are web-based curricula, the web design
must ensure that audio, graphics, and video clips are accessible to people with sensory
or cognitive disabilities. For example, a person who is deaf will not be able to access the
audio or video clip on a website unless the audio portion is also provided in captioned
format. A person who is blind or who has learning disabilities cannot navigate a web
page that is not coded to convey web content to text browsers and screen readers.
In fact, many providers on inaccessible online curricula may not be aware that their
materials are inaccessible, called "discrimination by inadvertence" by the National
Council on Disability’s report, The Accessible Future (June 2001).
To address the need for accessibility and distance learning opportunities, in August
1999 the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges released its
guidelines, Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities. This
action was in response to the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education,
Web accessibility complaints. These guidelines are now considered a model for the
Moodle Accessibility Specification
This accessibility specification has been developed by accessibility experts and Moodle
developers at the Open University (OU), UK. The OU has adopted Moodle as a core
component of its Virtual Learning Environment and is contributing to the continued
Open Source (OS) development of Moodle. Accessibility is an important for the OU
because: it currently has over 9,300 disabled students.

Accessibility is a term that has particular meanings in different contexts; here it refers to
design qualities that endeavor to make online learning available to all by ensuring that
the way it is implemented does not create unnecessary barriers however the student
may interact with their computer. Virtually anyone, irrespective of any disability, can be
enabled to interact effectively with a computer. Some people with disabilities interact
with the computer using methods other than the conventional monitor, keyboard and
mouse, some require special tools, usually referred to as “assistive technology”, and
some need the way content is presented to them by the computer to be appropriate to
their needs (for example in terms of font sizes and/or color contrast).
There are well established design principles for accessibility in software design and
electronic content. These promote compatibility with assistive technology and ensure
that different ways of interacting with the computer can be accommodated. This
specification highlights further development work required in Moodle if these principles
are to be considered effectively implemented across its various tools and modules.
This Accessibility Specification is concerned with meeting the needs of disabled people
who may be users of Moodle in whatever role they have, student, teacher, systems
administrator, etc. However many accessibility approaches also yield benefits to all
users and some help those working in particular circumstances such as working on a
small screen PDA or over a low bandwidth link.