Tom Langston

MoodleMoot UK & Ireland is held each year; it is the main Moodle conference in the UK which focuses on collaboration and sharing best practice. This year MoodleMoot ran for three days between the 10th and the 12th April, I attended the two days that make up the main conference and missed the “hackfest” on the first day which is typically more developer-led.

The choice of sessions available to attend were diverse and interesting. I was able to visit a number of sessions that have some great ideas, which I can hopefully introduce to the team.

I’ll will try to highlight some of the most relevant or interesting information from the sessions that I attended. However I would recommend searching Twitter for the hashtag #MootIEUK17 as many people were tweeting notes, comments and observations from each session. It really enhanced the first day of the conference for me (until my phone with the Twitter account died, but that’s another story!).

The first session I saw was from the University of London. They reviewed Moodle from both staff and student perspectives, specifically looking at navigation and how to improve the user experience. An example they used was how it’s difficult getting feedback to the student when the gradebook only displays a grade and no indication of feedback. From the academic point of view they discussed how it wasn’t clear if work was marked, or whether the student could or couldn’t see it. They reviewed the new themes being developed at Moodle and the problems they may face rolling them out before they were ready.

Janice Button from Plymouth University implemented the grid format which is a Moodle plugin that hides all the topics and creates a grid view of icons. When they are clicked the relevant section of content is then displayed.

The next session I attended was presented by Lewis Carr. He demonstrated how well developed badges increase engagement, creating more gamified interactions, this was interesting at Portsmouth we have looked at creating badges within Moodle and a few in academics within the University are using them. Properly thought out achievements and goals can also improve how the student progresses through a course. It was pointed out by Janice Button that from entry courses to level 5 (second year courses) the amount of content increased dramatically, this made the progress bar more daunting and the revisiting of quizzes and similar interactions dropped off as the amount of work to be done increased. Lewis also highlighted the need of social interaction and engaging the students before, during and after the course to develop and build the learning experience.

The morning sessions were interesting and informative and gave us plenty to discuss over lunch. After we’d eaten, there were pico presentations (short and snappy when compared the the morning talks) which opened the afternoon sessions and were a great way to continue. Two sessions stood out: our own Mike Wilson spoke about Assessment Enhancement and the customisations that have been developed for our Moodle installation, and Rebecca Barrington put the “oo” back into Moodle by looking at how to keep academics on-board with the development of sites, explaining how embedding resources within Moodle is a great way to enhance and develop what you already have.

My turn to present was nearing, now, I am not normally a nervous presenter but the thought of presenting on a stage with the glare of lights and a massive screen behind me contributed to the nerves this time around! Whilst I got through it with positive feedback and managed to handle a few questions reasonably well, I felt I could have been better and should I be lucky enough to do another talk will endeavour to get those nerves in check and slow down!

Looking back, there certainly wasn’t a need to be nervous, the whole day was incredibly relaxed and just a creative hub for people who are keen educators, all looking at how we can approach our teaching, training and Moodle usage in a interesting way.

A panel discussion on getting rid of the desktop and turning to only a mobile solution ended the day. This was a very open discussion with questions from the audience and a range of views. A point that resonated with me, was the idea that we should always look at what we do for those end users on a mobile as the number of active mobile users is rising. The other side of this argument however, is that development from a mobile is not really practical. Whatever we develop should allow us to be flexible though, ensuring that our end users having the easiest and most simple experience of Moodle. The new themes and tools that are being added to the newer versions of Moodle show that this is also a concern for the ‘core’ Moodle team.

Day two of the conference saw my phone die, which meant that tweeting from the @TelPortsmouth account was curbed! The sessions I would like to draw on from the second day happened just before lunch as the second day was more sedate due to the evening festivities of the reception dinner the night before.

Mary Cooch, who is known amongst the Moodle community as the ‘Moodle Fairy’, did two sessions and I attended one entitled “10 user experience improvements since Moodle 3.1” of which I had heard of most updates. It was useful to see but essentially if you go through a versions release notes they will be highlighted there (I am sure many people don’t!)

The second session and my pick of the second day was “Competency based education a look at the features in Moodle 3.1 / 3.2”. This session was interesting, informative and above all confusing! Competencies are used to “describe the level of understanding or proficiency of a learner in certain subject-related skills”. Competencies are a new and growing feature of Moodle. TEL are researching Competencies so that members of staff in the University can possibly make use of them in the future.

MoodleMoot is a fantastic event that I would suggest to anyone involved with any aspect of Moodle. It was engaging, with a great range of subjects and everything from back end/admin level sessions to those designed to be understandable for the average user. It was also a great place to ask anyone a question, everyone was approachable and for the reception dinner, a great place to hijack the Moodle stage display and use it for photos!