This week I have organised, designed and facilitated my first online staff development course. I was inspired to used a bitesize approach having read an article by Colin Gray in the SEDA magazine ‘Educational Developments’ and from my own experiences as a participant in some of Chrissi Nerantzi’s flexible, open courses (FDOL, BYOD4L and FOS), Colin’s own ‘Podwhating’ course and and ARU’s ’10 days of Twitter’. It is proposed that there are four main benefits of bitesized learning: flexibility, accessibility, engagement and creativity (Gray, 2013). And this is what I wanted to provide from the Making the Most of Moodle 1 online course.
One of the issues I have found with offering staff development sessions is that busy time limited lecturers struggle to find time to travel to and participate in face to face sessions, even if they are only an hour long! This Making the Most of Moodle course used the format of 10-15 minutes per day over 5 days delivered online. Engagement during the week has been patchy, some of the staff that got involved were staff that are already leading the way on Moodle. Unfortunately there was still a failure to engage the staff who really need it. This is problematic as we already offer group and 1:1 training on developing Moodle so how do we engage those staff who still aren’t using it? Looking at how people used the course over the week, some people completed the activities as they were released and others played catch up in mid week. There were some ‘tourists’ or ‘lurkers’ who viewed material but didn’t take part in the activities.
The five themes covered this week were: embedding video, using different menu styles, engaging students with forums, using the glossary and finally the different blocks available. From the discussions in the tea room several people had a go at embedding video in Moodle after viewing the resources but failed to share their ideas in the forum. The forums had just enough people posting to get some interesting ideas and discussions going that ranged from basic tips on using Moodle to more strategic discussions. The highest number of people looked at the first day’s activities but interestingly the Moodle logs indicate that for the those members of staff that completed Monday’s activity stayed engaged all week. Tuesday saw the lowest activity levels but Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday saw similar levels. So unlike Gray (2013) who saw a fall in activity as the week progressed, the problem with Making the Most of Moodle was getting them started in the first place.
So what are some of the things I would do differently next time? I need to think about the layout and set-up of the Moodle Page as I am not sure that using the Flexible format is right for this course. I need to think more about the timing of this sort of course, the end of the semester when marking loads are high was probably not the best choice! I am still thinking about future content that lends it self to bitesize online delivery. My experiences this week with badges and leader boards this week has made me want to investigate uses of gamification further to improve engagement.
Overall this week has been a success, I have learnt a lot. Through the process of the week we have made site administration amendments to Moodle which will increase functionality (highlighted the need for appropriate development plans and strategies to be in place across IT and not just in learning and teaching). We have discussed ideas at a strategic level such as should we have a student selected consistent format for all module pages within a course. Feedback also tells me that staff have learnt new digital skills such as embedding videos and how to set up some of the blocks.
Follow up / evaluation
Obviously the main aim of this training was to improve staff practice an dI plan to monitor this in two ways. How successful it has been will be evaluated through our current Moodle audit system but also through a questionnaire to participants next semester to see what changes they have introduced to their Moodle pages.
Gray, C. (2013) Flexible, accessible professional development: Try bite sized! Educational Developments, 14.4, 14-17. Available online at: http://www.seda.ac.uk/past-issues/14.4 (Accessed 24 April 2016)