Moodle Activity – Course as an Intranet

This time we are going to give the students full control.  Full control of a course that is.  Moodle has a strong focus on communication and this is also an important aspect of an intranet.  What we are going to do is allow our students a certain degree of freedom but in a way that we can manage. In doing so we will give the students ownership and motivate them to get involved.

This is ideally suited to a project that involves group work and a clear objective or target.  You will probably have to create a course for each group in order to give them the flexibility to do what they want.  What you are going to allow them to do is essentially create the structure that they will use to collaborate and maintain their work themselves. This is in opposition to the usual mechanism whereby we create the structure and in doing so dictate how they are going to approach it.

Think about it this way.  When was the last time someone asked you to do something and you started doing it only for them to interject and explain how they would like you to do it?  How did you feel about that? Did you find that your motivation for doing this task for them dropped?

I think a lot of students feel the same way when we tell them how we want them to approach and manage their work.  Everyone is also different in the way they like to work and work best in the way that best suits them.  A lot also may not have had the freedom to explore different ways of organising themselves to discover what works best for them (or indeed may not have thought to experiment but done only what teachers or others have told them to do).

So what we do is we create a course for each group and we enroll them in the course as teachers.  This way they can control what activities are put in there and how they are set up.  This may seem like a scary prospect but my experience has been that in doing so you are indirectly telling the students that you trust them to do the right thing and that you have faith in their ability to organise themselves. A lot of our students have surprised us in how maturely they have treated the work after this (even those that are normally problem students).

Some teachers have had reservations that the students will not be able to pick up how to set up the activities and resources but our experience has been that they pick them up very quickly and master them with confidence in a short period of time (no doubt due to their comfort with all things web 2.0).  Indeed we have been surprised on many an occasion by the novel approaches they have come up with. It is inspiring also to see their confidence grow as they master the tools but also make use of them to create some great work at the end as they know they were responsible themselves for all of it.

One of the things we stress to our students is that it is the process that is important,  not the product.  We don’t expect them to produce a perfect product as if they could do that then what is the point of them being at school.   We place a great emphasis on how they tackle the problem and also in experimenting. I tell my students that it is ok for the final product to be poor if it was due to trying something that turned out not to work very well.  As long as you can explain to me what you tried,  why you tried it,  why it didn’t work out and how you may do things differently in the future to improve on it you can still get good marks for it.

Another area that is required is monitoring of the groups to keep them on track.  This can be achieved in a variety of ways.  You can see the logs for the course to get an idea of how involved each student is.  You can walk around and ask questions (not done in Moodle but I don’t think the ideal solution should be entirely in Moodle).  You can have milestones which they must submit.  You as an administrator should be able to go in and directly see what they are doing.  You can also install an activity called Trackpad which is a todo list and encourage them to make use of it to keep track of tasks they need to do.  This way you can check up on their list to see how they are progressing.

Give it a try.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what your students product.

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