Monday, December 1, 2014

Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part Three: Tips for Creating Questions

This is the 3rd article in a series related to using the Moodle Quiz Tool.

Tips for Creating Effective Quiz Questions

Assessments are critical to teaching because they allow instructors to evaluate if students have met the course objectives, and to identify areas in the course where improvements need to be made. The Moodle quiz activity is an essential tool for assessment. This article lists tips for writing effective quiz questions.

General Suggestions

  • Follow the three-step process for creating quizzes: First, create or upload from a textbook quiz bank all of the questions to the question bank. Second, add the quiz activity to your course with the settings for timing, feedback, randomization of answers, etc. Last, add the questions from the question bank into the quiz you just created. Creating the quizzes in this manner will make it easier to reuse questions in the future.
  • Make sure your questions align with the level of Bloom's taxonomy set in your course objectives. This will help avoid making questions that are too hard or too easy.
  • Organize your questions in the question bank into meaningful categories. You might group them by chapter, topic, or learning objective depending on the types of quizzes you give.
  • Naming questions: Be consistent with your question names so that it will be easier to locate questions later. The question bank organizes questions first by type and then alphabetically. Only you see the question name so be descriptive enough that you can tell what the question is about without having to preview it.
  • Shuffle the order that answers appear (this is the Moodle default setting). You may have a tendency to place correct answers in the same position, but you can allow Moodle to automatically reorder these for you. You can also enable this in the question behavior setting for the quiz in the "shuffle within questions" setting.
  • Moodle allows you to add images into both questions and answers. The trick is to first save the image to your computer and then upload it into your question and/or answer with the text editor tool.
  • Weight your questions in the Quiz. You don't need to match the total points to the maximum grade of the Quiz - you can let Moodle scale it for you. For example, multiple-choice questions might be weighted as one point, and the weight for matching questions would equal the number of matching items (i.e. 5 items to match, a weight of 5 for the question).
  • Avoid tricky questions. You don't want to confuse your students. If students are consistently missing a question, then evaluate it and find out why.

Feedback Tips

  • General feedback: If you are going to use a question for a low-stakes test you might want to provide information on where a student would find the correct answer. When the student reviews the quiz, they will be given this information or if you turn on the option for deferred feedback in the quiz settings, this information will available during the quiz.
  • Feedback for incorrect responses: If you are entering feedback for incorrect responses, provide specific reasons for why an answer is incorrect.

Matching Questions

  • Avoid having too many items to match in one question. This can be overwhelming for students when presented with too many items at once in the drop-down answer menu. It can also cause unnecessary scrolling, which can affect usability. A general guideline would be about 4 to 6 matching items per question.
  • Avoid having long answers within matching questions because that is what is placed into the drop-down answer choice menu. This can make it hard for students to read when trying to match the terms. In Moodle, the correct answer and distracters should go into the Answer area and the matching item should go into the Question area. You might consider reversing the two for readability. For example, if you want students to match terms to their definitions, then it would be best to write the definitions in the Question area and the terms in the Answer area.

Multiple-Choice Questions

  •  For multiple-choice questions with multiple correct answers, make sure that you give distracters negative point values so that students are penalized when selecting an incorrect response. If you do not, then students could select all answers and receive full credit even though they selected an incorrect response.
  • You can use the multiple-choice question type for fill-in-the-blank questions, but with choices instead of requiring the entry of a short answer (which creates problems for automatic grading). If you decide to create a fill-in-the-blank question, always use a standard number of underscores to indicate the blank so that the length of the line does not give any indication of how long the answer should be. You can also use two fill-in-the-blanks in a sentence, but avoid using a blank at the beginning of the sentence. Instead, have the question stem appear first.
  • Avoid using the option "All of the above" when using randomization. 
  • Make the length of distracters similar to that of the correct answer. The correct answer is typically longer.
  • Avoid creating question distracters that are obviously incorrect. Well-written distracters should be plausible - this is one of the most challenging parts of question writing.

True/False Questions

  • Avoid using the words "only", "never", and "always" within questions - especially True/False statements.
  • Avoid using too many True/False questions. Make sure that you are assessing the intended level of learning.

Essay Questions

  • Remember that essay questions require manual grading. If the answer will require more than a few sentences, you may want to evaluate the question in an Assignment instead using the Online text submission type.
Coming next: Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part Four: Reports

This information is from the resources blog: Best Practices: 30 Tips for Creating Quiz Questions which can be viewed at:

Monday, November 17, 2014

Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part Two: Quiz Security and Cheating

This is the 2nd article in a series related to using the Moodle Quiz Tool.

Quiz Security and Cheating

Online testing presents opportunities for students to be creative in their attempts to "game the system" when it comes to taking quizzes. Most online quizzes are meant to be taken outside of class and for that reason the instructor has limited control over the students' conduct during a quiz. Students can download the questions and print them out, take pictures of questions with their mobile device and send them to other students, have other students take the test for them, use their notes and textbooks during the quiz, and the list goes on and on!

The anonymity of the online environment may open up new avenues for cheaters, but it's not really much different than your face-to-face classes. A few people will go to great lengths to cheat, but most students will be honest as long as it's not too easy to get away with cheating. A few creative strategies can be employed to eliminate most of the easy cheats and to make cheating more trouble than it's worth for students. Read on for a few strategies for countering cheating schemes.

Printing and Sharing Questions

  • If you have the quiz enabled to display feedback and correct answers, students can print the results page from their web browser or take a picture of it and share it with others. Or students can print the quiz questions directly from the quiz while it is in progress (by using the print feature in the web browser or screen capture). According to Moodle, the key to discouraging this behavior is to randomize the question order and the answer order. This makes printouts a lot less useful because students will have to look through the printout for the corresponding questions and pay attention to what the correct answers are instead of just the letters corresponding to the answers.
  • Another strategy is to create larger question banks and use subsets of questions and let Moodle randomly choose questions from each subset. With this randomizing it is less likely that students will be delivered the same test and it will discourage them from attempting to share tests.
  • In the quiz settings, under layout choose to have every question delivered on a new page. When this setting is enabled, the student would have to print a separate page for each quiz question which will use up their time limit on the quiz and also deplete the balance on their student print account.

Using the Textbook During the Quiz

  • During an unsupervised quiz, students have the opportunity to look up the answers in the textbook or their notes. There are ways to make the textbook and notes less directly useful. Timed quizzes are the single most effective tool for eliminating the temptation to use the textbook. A timed quiz requires students to complete the quiz in a certain amount of time. If you add enough question to the quiz and make the time short enough, students won't have time to look up every answer. recommends about 30 seconds per multiple-choice question.
  • Designing questions that require students to synthesize and apply information will also discourage them from trying to look up answers. These types of questions require that students understand the material and be able to apply it creatively to answer the question. So while students may still take the time to look at the book, they will need to understand what they have read to successfully answer the question.

Working with Friends

If your students are on the same campus, they may get together in a lab and try to take the quiz together. Random question order, random answer order, and questions randomly pulled from subsets of the test bank will discourage this behavior. If one student's screen doesn't look like the other person's it is harder for them to quickly compare and answer the questions together. A timed quiz also makes it hard for two people to cheat if they have different questions and only a short amount of time to answer.

Having Someone Else Take the Test

It is sad to say, but students will sometimes pay their classmates or others who have already taken the course in the past, to take online quizzes for them. There are two ways to counter this cheating strategy:
  1. Have an occasional proctored exam where students are required take the test in a lab or testing center and show their student ID in order to take the quiz. In the quiz settings, require a password (in the Extra restrictions on attempts section) so that students cannot enter the quiz without the proctor entering the password into Moodle. If students have not taken other quizzes or done the work until then, they will do poorly on the proctored exam.
  2. To eliminate current classmates from taking each others quizzes, only make them available for a short time. You could require everyone take the test within a 2 or 4 hour block. If the test is properly randomized, it will be very difficult to take it more than once during the open test period. The test taker will worry about their own grade first, then about the other student's grade.
Coming next: Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part Three: Tips for Creating Quiz Questions

This information is from the document: Effective Quiz Practices which can be found at:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part One: Introduction

This article will be the first in a series related to using the Moodle Quiz Tool.


The Moodle quiz engine is a powerful and flexible tool for assessing certain types of outcomes in a course. Using this tool effectively can boost the effectiveness of your teaching practices and promote student performance.

In this article you will learn about computer-scored quizzes and how to incorporate good strategies into their design and use.

Quiz Strategies

Using the Moodle quiz engine effectively takes some work and practice. The first step is to use question design strategies in order to ask good questions that will result in an assessment of your students' understanding of the material. Below are a couple of tips:
  • Tie each question to a course objective or learning goal.
  • Try to ask multiple questions about each important idea in the material. This will give you more data points about student understanding.
  • When writing a multiple-choice question, be sure each wrong answer represents a common misconception. This will help you diagnose student thinking and eliminate easy guessing.
  • Write questions that require your students to think at different levels. Include some recall questions, some comprehension questions and some application and analysis questions. This will help you to determine where students are having difficulty with the material, for example can they recall the material, but not apply it?
  • Test your questions. As you develop your question bank and incorporate questions into exams, use the system reports to determine which questions are useful and which aren't.
  • Once you have a few well-written test banks, be sure to use the quiz reports and statistics to monitor your students' performance. The detailed reports and statistics available to you are valuable tools for assessing student comprehension of the material. (Watch for more on this in a future blog.)

Creative Quiz Uses

The Moodle quiz engine makes it easier to utilize educationally sound assessment strategies that may have been more difficult to implement with paper and pencil. Instead of thinking of tests as a high-stakes activity - like a midterm or final, a better strategy is to incorporate frequent, low-stakes assessments so that your students are guided through the material throughout the semester. Creating a series of smaller quizzes gives you a flexible system for gauging performance and keeping students engaged in the class. Below are a few ideas for quick quizzes that you can use as part of a larger assessment strategy.

Chapter Checks

  • As instructors, we know that reading the assigned materials is critical to the understanding of the course content and crucial to success in class, but getting students motivated to complete the reading can be a challenge. Creating a short test for each reading assignment encourages students to do the reading so that they can score well on the quiz, but it also gives students feedback on how well they understood the material. The instructor is provided with information about what aspects of the reading that students found confusing so that you can focus your class lectures on those topics.
  • For a reading mini-test, set the time restrictions and only allow students to take the quiz once. Because it is a low-stakes activity and you want students to use it for self-assessment, enable the settings to display the feedback and correct answers  once the quiz is closed. If you are concerned about students sharing answers after they have taken the quiz, randomize the question and answer order. If you have a test bank with extra questions, make some of the questions random as well. 
  • As an additional assignment, you could have your students view their test attempt and write down one question they have about a quiz question they missed.

Test Practice

  • Many students have anxiety about taking tests - especially high-stakes tests. This is often caused by not knowing what to expect on the test. You can help alleviate some test anxiety by creating a practice test that students can take in order to get used to the format of the test, the types of questions that might be asked, and how detailed the questions will be. These tests are usually based on old questions similar to the current test questions such as last year's final exam.
  • To set up a practice exam, create a zero point test with questions from the year before in random order with random answers. Allow students to take the test as many times as they would like so that they can test themselves as much as they need. Enable the settings to display feedback but not correct answers so that it presents more of a challenge. In the question feedback, give the students an indication of where they might find the correct answer (page number of book, lecture, etc.)

Data-Gathering Quiz

  • A data-gathering quiz is similar to a chapter check, but it takes place after a class meeting or lecture. Your goal is to quickly obtain some feedback on your students' understanding of the material that you presented. This will help you to gauge what concepts your students found difficult and what they may have found so easy that they were bored in class.
  • Set up the quiz to open for a limited time, such as opening an hour after class meets and closing an hour before the next scheduled class meeting. Allow students to take the quiz once and display feedback and correct answers after the quiz closes.
Coming next: Effective Quiz Practices in Moodle - Part Two: Quiz security and cheating

This information is from the document: Effective Quiz Practices which can be found at:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Building Rapport with Students in an Online Course

Creating an online community and building rapport with your students is essential to an effective learning environment. The concept of social presence is a psychological sense of being "real" and connection with others via technology. We want our students to feel that we value them as a real person in order for them to be satisfied and successful in our courses. This article provides suggestions for building rapport with our online students.

  • Introduce yourself to the class by providing the following information:
      • Your teaching philosophy
      • Teaching experience
      • Personal information such as interests, travel, etc.
      • Office hours and location (real or virtual)
      • Contact information (email, Skype ID, phone number, etc.)
      • Photograph so students can put a face to the name and/or voice
  • Provide an ice-breaker activity during the first week of class in which students can introduce themselves. Your students need a way to get to know you and each other. A good student introduction helps to create a supportive learning environment and a sense of community. Students who are new to online learning may be anxious about this method of delivery and will appreciate the chance to get to know their classmates and settle in to the routine by posting and responding to discussion type activities early on in the course. Ideas for student introductions:
      • Have students find a digital image that represents who they are and upload it to the discussion and explain why it represents them
      • Have students write 3 things about themselves - two are true and one is false. The class tries to guess which thing is false.
      • Post a quote and ask students to comment whether they agree or disagree. Or require them to find a similar or contradictory quote and post it.
  • Send a video chat inside an email to each student introducing yourself and welcoming them to the course. is a program for creating video emails that offers a free trial version. is a program for creating animated messages that can be emailed to students or placed directly into a course (there is a charge for this site).
  • Model the behavior you want from your students. If you want them to log into the course 4 times a week - you should log in 4 times a week.
  • Set up a discussion or wiki in which students can ask general questions not related to the subject matter. You can call it the Question & Answer Room, the Watercooler, etc. Give clear directions to the students that this is the location for conversations unrelated to the course materials. Encourage students to answer each others' questions.
  • Front-load your course with "low stakes" assignments or activities such as a syllabus quiz or introduction forum so that students can get used to the technology.
  • Think outside the box when grading assignments - use a technology like Screencast-O-Matic (a free online screen and audio capturing software) or Camtasia to record yourself talking as you grade a student's assignment. They will receive visual as well as audio cues and it makes the feedback more personal.
  • Communicate with your students often through announcements, tweets, emails, etc. so that they know you have a presence in the course and the expectations for participation are clear.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tips for Flipping Your Class

What does it mean to "Flip Your Class"? 

The flipped classroom inverts traditional teaching methods so that face-to-face class time is used to create, collaborate, discuss and make connections as a result of students being introduced to content and the review of concepts outside of class through online content such as video, game simulations and other forms of content delivery.

The flipped learning model shifts the classroom from being teacher-centered where the instructor is the sole content expert delivering information to students, to a student-centered approach, where in-class time is meant for exploring the subject in greater depth through the creation of rich, interactive learning experiences (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom).

"As flipped classroom pioneer Jon Bergmann says, 'The flipped classroom helps teachers break the habit of lecture.' Flipping provides a mechanism to transition toward deeper learning, opening up avenues for exploration and experimentation by freeing up class time. Beyond supporting teachers in their transition from "sage on the stage" to "guide by their side," what really happens in a flipped classroom is that the students become empowered learners with a host of tools to demonstrate their understanding. If we see flipped as an opportunity to break the habit of lecture, then a whole new set of learning opportunities begins to emerge" (Holland, 2013).

Another aspect of the flipped classroom is called "Just-in-Time Teaching" (JiTT) and is a technique for getting students to prepare before coming to class. JiTT uses formative assessment to determine student's understanding of course material so that class time can be planned and/or modified accordingly (Schaffhauser, 2014). For more information on JiTT, read Schaffhauser's article: 2 Great Techniques for the Flipped Classroom.

Research supports flipped learning

A recent literature review, "A Review of Flipped Learning" which is based on teacher reports, course completion rates, and supported methodology research indicates that flipped learning is more than just a fad for teachers and students--it's improving student achievement in classrooms across the country (Stansbury, 2013). According to the review, active learning has been shown to improve the academic performance of students in the areas of engagement, critical thinking and attitude (Stansbury, 2013). "A Review of Flipped Learning" - includes a review of how the model serves diverse student populations, the role of technology, and the research base that the flipped learning model is built upon. It also provides an analysis of implementations and results in higher education (Stansbury, 2013).

Evidence indicates that the type of active learning that occurs through the flipped learning environment improves academic performance, increases engagement and critical thinking, and improves the attitude of students (Hamdan, et al.).

Tips to Flip Your Class

  1.  It is not an "all or nothing" deal. Instructors do not have to present all of their content online. Holland and Morra (2013) recommend that you start small and build a library of resources for your students, choosing carefully when it is appropriate and reasonable to have your students learn independently. Once you get started, momentum will build and it will be come easier as you locate resources and add them to your teaching material.
  2. Recording Lectures:
    1. Smile - even if your face is not on screen, people can hear you smile, your video will have more energy, and your students will hear your passion and excitement for the subject.
    2. If you aren't enjoying the process of creating the video, then your students probably won't enjoy listening to it. Seek out a better or different way to present the material.
    3. Test your video once you have placed it into your course to make sure it will play.
  3. Use technology such as mobile devices to allow students to respond and give feedback during class. is a free tool that can be used to turn any mobile device into a personal response system.
  4. Have a plan for how you will use the in-class time with structured activities and objectives. For an explanation of the Flipped Classroom Model, see Gerstein's article, "The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture".
  5. Create opportunities for peer instruction. The instructor might start with a short lecture that introduces or reviews the topic and then let students take turns leading class discussions. This encourages students to read the materials before coming to class and in order to have their topic prepared. 
  6. For more great ideas on how to flip your class read Beth Holland's blog, The Flipped Mobile Classroom: Learning "Upside Down".


Flipped Learning Network. A website containing case studies, white papers, resources, events, and support for flipped learning.

Gerstein, J. (2011, June 13).  The flipped classroom model: A full picture.

Hamdan, N., McKnight, P., McKnight, K., & Arfstrom, K. (2013). A review of flipped learning. Flipped Learning Network.

Holland, B. (2013, October 30). The Flipped Mobile Classroom: Learning "Upside Down". Retrieved from:

Holland, B., & Morra, S. (2013, August 14). 5 Flipped Classroom Issues (And Solutions) For Teachers. Edudemic. (This article focuses on using video lectures to present material outside the classroom. It lists free apps for the iPad that can be used to create videos and other types of lecture materials.)

Infographic on "The Flipped Classroom"

Schaffhauser, D. (2104, August 13). 2 Great techniques for the flipped classroom. Campus Technology.

Stansbury, M. (2013, September). Does research support flipped learning? eSchool News, 16(8). p. 6. Retrieved from:

Stansbury, M. (2013, October). Creating videos for flipped learning. eSchool News, 16(9). p. 26. Retrieved from:

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Should be in your Course Syllabus?

Every academic course has a syllabus that lists at a minimum the course objectives, schedule, textbook requirements, and how to contact the instructor outside of class. In an online course, a detailed course syllabus serves as an essential tool for the communication of expectations and requirements to the students enrolled in the course. In addition, the course and/or institutional policies with which the student is expected to comply should be clearly stated in the syllabus. Below are a list of suggestions for an effective course syllabus:

  • Instructor Information - how can students contact you? What are your office hours?
  • Textbook Requirements - provide a link to the bookstore or a website for renting or purchasing the book. Is the book available as an e-book?
  • Course Objectives - what will the student learn in this course?
  • Communication - how should students communicate with you and when will you be available? How should students communicate with each other? When are students required to log into the course to view announcements and updated course information? How long will it take for you to respond to an email message or question posted to a forum?
  • Attendance - how will this be tracked? How often do students need to log into the course?
  • Participation - clearly state the time commitment with detailed course pacing, due dates and requirements for participating in activities.
  • Technology - what skills are necessary to be successful in the course? What is the policy if their computer fails or their Internet goes down? What software will they be required to use outside of the LMS? Who do students contact for technical support with the LMS?
  • Policies - what is the institution's policy and what is your policy on things such as academic honesty, late work, absences, etc. Provide a link to the institutional student handbook or webpage.
  • Student Services - provide specific information on how to find student resources for disabilities, counseling, tutoring, etc. Provide phone numbers, locations, and a link to the website for each service.
  • Student Conduct - explain to students how you want them to behave in the course and what the consequences are of any unacceptable behavior. Provide information on student netiquette - don't assume that your students know how to communicate properly with technology.
The Importance of Policies in E-Learning Instruction by Waterhouse and Rogers provides excellent examples of the types of student policies that should be covered in an online course; a student code of conduct contract; and examples of intellectual property rights policies.

Need Help Developing Your Syllabus?

The Instructional Technology Resource Center at Idaho State University is available to assist you with utilizing tools within Moodle such as the Book or special blocks to deliver the syllabus information in an effective and efficient manner.

Additional Resources for Examples:

Online & Hybrid Course Syllabus Example provided by Pasadena city College

Netiquette Guidelines - Santa Barbara City College

Technology Support - Walden University

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking Back at Previous Courses to Improve Your Next Online Course

The countdown is on for the start of the Fall semester, and with that comes the work of getting our courses ready to go live. This article is about looking back at previous semesters and finding information that will help us improve our future courses. Below are tips for where to look for clues on how we can improve:

  • Student Evaluations: read them and take note of the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are often so involved with our teaching and trying to get all the information covered before the end of the term that we overlook items that are important to the students. Evaluations can often reveal the missing pieces.
  • Student comments and emails: Look back at student emails and forum posts for additional insight into what needs clarification. For example, if numerous questions were asked about assignments, grading policies, etc., this would indicate that further explanation is needed in the course. Also take note of positive comments from students that indicate what activities and resources they especially liked and use this as a guidepost for designing future ones.
  • Activity reports: Look at the activity reports within Moodle to see how often students viewed specific resources or utilized tools that were included in the course. This will indicate resources that could be eliminated or improved and also emphasize the types of resources that students found most useful.
  • Take note of the "unexpecteds" that occurred during the previous semester. Were there activities that did not go as you planned, or assignments that took too long to grade, or quiz questions that seemed to stump the entire class? In the future, start a file or document where you can collect these items and your responses to them so that the next time one pops up you will be prepared and you can spend less time and energy dealing with it. This will also serve as a reminder of what to go back and fix the next time the course is offered.
  • Check your syllabus for items that need to be added, clarified, or updated. If students had questions about your late work policy, add this information to the syllabus. If you received numerous poorly written emails, include a section on netiquette.
  • Conduct an honest self-evaluation and look over and learn from your mistakes, oversights, and inconsistencies. Look for activities that you did not like or could have run smoother and improve them.
  •  Do a thorough check of your course for any broken links, layout problems, or inaccessibility issues. Be sure to test all url's to make sure they still work - Internet materials can be there one day and gone the next!
  • Keep a file of positive comments, new ideas you come across and student interactions that went especially well. The comments will serve as a reminder of your positive efforts and how they were appreciated by the students. The documentation of new ideas will help you to remember what you wanted to add in the future. The transcript of student interactions can be used as guide for future students who may need assistance with the project.
  • Set aside enough time to look over your course before it goes live to update due dates, textbook information and lectures. 
Remember that you may have taught this course dozens of times, but "to each of your students this may be a first experience having you as an instructor and thus having a course that works well in all aspects--layout, technical, explanation of assignments, correct dates, working links, and an engaged and concerned instructor--is what that student expects..and deserves. And only you can make that happen" (Sull, 2010).

Sull, E. C. (2010, January). Use end of an online course to better your next online course! Online Cl@ssroom.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Get Your Online Course Off to a Great Start

The first few weeks of an online course are a critical time for establishing instructor expectations, setting the tone for interaction, and showing students how to navigate the course. Below are some tips to help you get your course off to a great start:

  • Contact your students via email a week before class starts to welcome them, pass on textbook requirements and introduce yourself. This is a good time to encourage students to test their browser settings and to make sure they can get logged in to Moodle. A welcome email sets the tone for instructor to student interaction.
  • During the first week of class, direct students to resources that will help them be successful in the course. These resources might include the Student Success Center, the IT help desk, the Student Support menu located at the top of the Moodle window, and your course syllabus. The ITRC has many helpful resources for students on their website including a Student Guide to Moodle ISU, the survey "Are You Ready for Online Learning?", and a handout on software, browser and plugin requirements for Moodle. Feel free to incorporate links to any of these items into your course.
  • Establish expectations for participation in the course during the first two weeks of class. Use the News Forum to send announcements to students letting them know what the activities are for the week; explain to students how to use the communication tools; designate where to post questions about the course; and establish a connection with the students.
  • Begin with a few low-stakes activities. It helps to have some ungraded or low scoring practice activities during the first week of class to give students the chance to try out the course tools such as the forums and quizzes and to establish a routine for logging in to the course. For example, give a short quiz or design a scavenger hunt over the content of the course syllabus.
  • Have students introduce them in a discussion forum during the first week of class. The introductions help to establish a community of learners, breaks down some of the barriers to getting started, and gets them used to using the discussion tool. Start by introducing yourself first to set the tone. Provide specific criteria of what you want the students to talk about in the introduction such as their major, why they took the class, and something interesting like a favorite book or movie. Require students to make an initial post and then respond to at least two of their peers.
  • Add a question and answer forum to the first block of your course and designate it as the place for students to go to post general questions about the course. Some instructors call this the Cybercafe' or Water Cooler. 
Biro, S. C. (2010, May). Get your online course off to a good start. Online Cl@ssroom.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June Workshop Offerings in the ITRC

Please join us for a workshop in the Instructional Technology Resource Center during June. All workshops take place in the ITRC lab, Library Room B17. To register, visit the ITRC Calendar at and click on the link for the workshop you wish to enroll in. All workshops are free.

Voice Tools in Moodle - June 3, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop will show you the Voice Tools available to use in your Moodle Course. You will learn how to record an introduction, send verbal feedback via email, and set up a verbal discussion board.

Course and Module Objectives (QM 2) -  June 4, 2:00-4:00pm
At the heart of any course are the objectives. Writing course and module objectives that are measurable, precise and appropriate for students is critical in meeting the QM Rubric Standard 2.

Tracking Student Activity in Moodle -  June 5, 10am - 12:00pm or June 26, 2-4pm
Having trouble engaging and managing students? This workshop will show you how to track student activity using the reports. We will also be talking about some strategies for dealing with cheating and encouraging student engagement.

Moodle Quizzes -  June 10, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop will cover the new features and improvements of the Moodle ISU quiz tool and how to use it effectively in your teaching.

Assessment and Alignment (QM 3) -  June 11, 9:00-11:00am
Good course design is exemplified by the alignment of your assessments, materials, activities and technology to your course objectives. With a focus on assessment strategies we will discuss alignment and how to meet the QM Standard 3.

Creating Narrated Presentations Using Office 2013 - June 12, 11am-12:00pm
Learn how to narrate, design and publish PowerPoint presentations using Microsoft Word 2013. Learn how to export a presentation movie file and upload it to Moodle.

Using Moodle Forums - June 17, 3:00-4:00pm
Learn how to add, manage, and communicate using Moodle ISU 2 forums. This workshop will show you how to set up a basic forum, use the forum tool for class discussions, create forums for groups, and allow the forum posts to be rated.

Engaging Your Students (QM 5) - June 18, 9:00-11:00am
Using the Community of Inquiry (COI) framework we will look at strategies, tools and options for engaging your students. Looking at ways to improve teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence aligns with meeting the QM Rubric Standard 5.

Introduction to Collaborate Web Conferencing - June 19, 9-11am or June 25, 9-11am
The Collaborate web conferencing interface has many tools to offer. In this workshop we will walk you through getting a Collaborate meeting set up, checking your system and moderating your meeting. We will also demonstrate several of the features available to you within the Collaborate environment.

Creating Course Materials (QM 4 & 8) -  June 23, 2:00-4:00pm
There are many tools and options available to create instructional materials that support your students in meeting your course objectives. We will look at various tools and discuss the benefits of each in additional to considering the needs of all students as we strive to meet the QM Rubric Standard 4 & 8. 

Minimizing Accessibility Barriers in Moodle - June 24, 9:00-11:00am
This workshop presents solutions for the creation of accessible Moodle content.

For additional information, contact the ITRC at 282-5880 or by email at

Monday, June 2, 2014

Interactive Uses of the Moodle Feedback Activity

 Moodle's Feedback activity may not get a lot of attention, but there are many interactive uses for this tool within a course from simple quiz creation to class discussions designed to keep students engaged in the learning material.

 Creating an Ungraded Quiz

One of the biggest issues with the Quiz activity in Moodle is that the quizzes must be graded. However, sometimes you may want to gauge how well students are understanding concepts without grading them on that knowledge. This type of feedback activity can be used as a pre-test study guide; to measure attentiveness to a guest speaker/movie/field trip; or understanding of a topic covered in class the previous day. The Feedback activity allows you to ask more than one question and do so in an ungraded format.

The Feedback activity does not have the ability to know the "right" answer and because of that it cannot tell the student that they know or don't know the material. One way to circumvent this issue is the put the correct answers on a page that is displayed after the student has submitted their feedback (conditional release).

Sharing Input

One feature of Feedback is the ability to share answers with students by setting the option that allows the analysis page to be shown after submission. When this box is checked, the student will see their responses upon completion along with all others. You can choose whether the responses will be anonymous or with user names. This activity could be used to gauge/share the most meaningful topics of a discussion (ex: what are three take-aways from the chapter); to nominate officers for an election; to pull out mistakes found in a text or sentence structure; to list Web sites with supplemental material, etc.

Getting a Conversation Started

Feedback can be used before or after class to facilitate discussion. If your goal is to flip your classroom, create a Feedback asking students to respond to a question, video or other meaningful content before coming to class. This will give students time to respond and prepares them for a guided discussion in class because they know what the topics will be ahead of time. Feedback can also be used to continue or redirect the discussion after the class is over by restating the same question from class in another way.

Allowing Students to Create the Feedback Activity

By allowing students to create a class survey or produce class content within the Feedback activity you are empowering students to teach each other. Begin by adding a Feedback activity, naming it and adjusting the desired settings. Once saved, return to the course page, and with editing still on, select the last icon next to the Feedback activity (a person with a plus sign). Choose the instructor role and assign the student. The student will then be able to click on the activity and add questions and access the analysis page to see responses.

Assessing Student Perceptions of Course Components

Use the Feedback activity to assess students perceptions of an activity, assignment, or website that you have added to the course. This is helpful if you are trying out something new and would like to gauge how your students feel about it in order to determine if it was worthwhile, easy to use, and/or useful from the students' viewpoint, etc.

More Information:

If you would like assistance setting up a Feedback activity, contact the ITRC or view our Feedback Tool handout.

Dulaney, E., & States, T. Building Ungraded Feedback Activities in Moodle. (April 2, 2014). the Journal.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Utilizing Personal Response Tools and Software


A personal response tool is a device used to encourage interactivity between a presenter and his/her audience. The first technology introduced required a hand-held remote control type device that is often called a “clicker”. However, new software has been introduced that allows responses from the audience utilizing personal devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. There are many personal response tools available. Some are free and utilize personal devices while others are fee based and require a special remote.

Cloud-based software enables the presenter/instructor to create questions or polls that can be sent to the participants/students during the presentation or lecture or integrated into a PowerPoint slide deck. Results are instantly tabulated via the Internet, and can be displayed by the presenter to the audience either as anonymous responses or linked to the participants.

Benefits of using personal response tools

  • Improved attentiveness and engagement during the presentation
  • Increased retention of presentation materials
  • Facilitation of private student responses
  • Tracking of individual understanding so that the instructor can identify students who are not comprehending the material
  • Adaptation of questions written on-the-fly according to the direction the class takes
  • Immediate display of polling results to facilitate discussions and question and answer time
  • Creation of an interactive and fun learning environment
  • Confirmation of students’ understanding of key points immediately instead of waiting for an assessment activity
  • Gathering data for reporting and analysis

Response Products

Learning Catalytics: A “bring your own device” student engagement, assessment, and classroom intelligence system by Pearson. Students use their web-enabled devices to interact with open-ended questions that ask for numerical, algebraic, textual, or graphical responses. Instructors can access a question library with thousands of questions. Free instructor account and a student fee of $12 for 6 months.

Turning Technologies (TurningPoint): Offers instant management of polling participants, content, sessions and reports. Provides a simple interface in PowerPoint, or through a floating interactive toolbar. TurningPoint allows several response options ranging from clickers to smartphones and/or laptops. Pricing varies depending on use.

Poll Everywhere: A web-based application that allows participants to respond via any web-enabled device by sending text messages, visiting the web page, or using Twitter. The poll can be embedded within a presentation or web page and updates in real time. The free plan limits the number of participants to 40 per poll with higher-ed price plans available. Take a tour of Poll Everywhere.

Socrative: A student response system that empowers teachers and/or presenters to engage their audience through a series of educational exercises and games via any web-enabled personal device. For more information, view the 4 minute video produced by Socrative at, and the narrated slideshow “Using Mobile Devices as Personal Response Tools”. Students can use the Socrative app or access it through the Internet without creating an account or login. The student response service is free for everyone but only 50 participants can be logged in at one time - but you can have as many as you would like throughout the day.

QuestionPress: A classroom response system that provides polling, surveys, forms, and online assessments through live interaction with the students. QuestionPress can gather a digital show of hands and more, whether the responders are in the same room or across the globe. Fees are based on sessions and the number of responders per session.

Google Docs: Several tools available in Google Docs can be used as to create quick assessment surveys for students. Instructors can use Google Forms to create a quick exit-ticket type survey of their students’ understanding. The Google spreadsheet can be used to watch students’ work in progress. The spreadsheet can be revisited by the students in order to gather information or to check their progress. Google Docs allows up to 50 multiple users to access a doc at the same time. Docs can be accessed by any web-enabled device through the shared link. Visit “Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment” for an excellent article on how one instructor uses Google Docs for instruction.

Moodle: There are several activities available in Moodle that can be adapted to use as personal response tools such as
  • The Feedback activity can be used to create multiple, ungraded questions for assessment and polling. The Feedback activity will keep track of individual student’s results or can record responses as anonymous. See “Building Ungraded Feedback Activities in Moodle” for more information.
  • The Choice activity allows instructors to create one question with a number of options as the student’s choice. The publishing features available in Choice allows the instructor to choose when and if the results will be released and whether they will be anonymous or with names. See “Interactive Uses of the Moodle Choice Activity” for more information.
  • The Quiz activity can be used to give students instant feedback through graded questions. Instructors can set the quiz grade to 0 if they do not want the grade to count. With the many settings options available in the Quiz activity, multiple attempts can be allowed and adaptive attempts can be integrated.

Online Survey Tools

There are also many free online survey tools available for quick web-based polling. For more information about online survey tools visit the article, “A Few Good Online Survey Tools”. The article features information on SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, and many others.

Getting Started - Preliminary Questions to Think About When Incorporating Response Tools into the Classroom*

  • How do you plan to use the product?
    • what type of questions (multiple choice, true/false, other) would you like to use?
    • how would you like to collect students responses (anonymously or not)?
  • In which classroom are you going to teach (if already known)?
  • What is the expected enrollment for the class?
  • What response devices would you like the students to use (clickers, laptops, smartphones -- note: not mutually exclusive)?
  • How early in the class would you like to poll the students?
  • In what format would you like the results to be displayed?
  • Do you want the results to be available to students? 

 *Harvard University’s Academic Technology Group webpage provides an overview on using clickers and a pedagogical background for their use in the classroom. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Open Education Resources (OER): What, Why and How

 The What, Why and How of Open Education Resources

What are Open Education Resources? 

Open education resources (OER) are learning materials released under an open license that allows for their free use and repurposing (New, 2014). Unlike electronic versions of textbooks sold by publishers, open source resources are made up of materials gathered from various sources and are not protected by copyright. They are often designed to be interactive, with links to source materials and multimedia elements with the materials being licensed openly so that anyone with an Internet connection can access them (eCampus News).

Why use Open Education Resources? 

Textbook prices have risen an average of 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, about three times faster than the rate of inflation, according to a report from the U.S. Governmant Accountability Office (eCampus News). "Textbooks are the largest out-of-pocket expense for students and families," said Ethan Senack, higher education associate for student advocacy group U.S. PIRG. College students spend an estimated $1,200 a year on textbooks, and the costs are often higher in fields like science or mathematics (eCampus News). Open educational resources give students more control over the learning materials they use and can drastically lower the cost of their education.

Another advantage of using open-source materials is that they can be updated immediately when new information and/or studies are released instead of waiting a year or more for it to show up in an updated version of a printed textbook.

How can faculty use Open Education Resources?

There are many high quality, free resources in existence. New (2014) recommends that faculty take advantage of OER by engaging with the OER community through conferences, online resources (such as the ones listed below), and by tapping the knowledge of the college librarians.

Sources for Materials

Textbook publisher Pearson has launched the OpenClass Exchange platform with almost 700,000 educational resources compiled into an easy to search catalog. The resources include videos from TED-Ed, Kahn Academy, and YouTubeEDU as well as courses from the Open Course Library. Scot Chadwick, vice president and general manager of OpenClass, said the expansion of Pearson's online learning environment addresses the difficulty that educators have had in locating the best open educational resources and integrating them into existing learning management systems (New, 2013). A search bar is used in OpenClass to search for materials with an option to preview material before it is added to a course (New, 2013). Educators can choose which of their courses they want to have connected to OpenClass (New, 2013).

MERLOT is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials and faculty-developed services contributed and used by an international education community. Membership is free in MERLOT but is required to contribute to the Community and to build custom content-loaded webpages.

Lumen Learning assists institutional leaders and faculty with addressing the major challenges of OER adoption by helping to find quality content and mapping it to course learning outcomes; incorporating OER into academic strategy and curriculum decisions; training and supporting faculty; and improving student outcomes. Lumen also provides Open Course content with free digital access for students to 100% of course materials. Instructors have the freedom to adapt learning content to their instructional preferences and students' needs.

The OER Commons website is a network that brings together over 44,000 OER tools for sharing curriculum. It also provides a host of world news and training on the amazing arena of open education.

The article, E-Curriculum - Exploring 24 Free Open Education Resources, explores twenty-four sources for open education resources.

More Reading:

There are important points faculty should consider when building digital open source learning content. The article, E-Curriculum - 12 Points to Consider, Part One brings many of these considerations to light. 

There are some great tools that can be used outside of the learning management system to  compile and share resources with students. The article, E-Curriculum- 7 Key Tools Uncovering A Goldmine of E-Resources, talks about seven of those tools in great detail with links to the tools.

When considering using open education resources, it is important to know the laws surrounding copyright. The article, Staying on the Right Side of Copyright in Education which first appeared in T.H.E. Journal gives a primer on copyright laws.


New open-source strategy would drop textbook costs to $0. eCampus News. April 9, 2014.

New, J. (2013, September). Pearson creates searchable OER catalog. eCampusNews, 6(8). p. 10.

New, J. (2014,  April). Will book publishers go the way of ice delivery? eCampusNews, 7(4). p. 22.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Interactive Uses of the Moodle Choice Activity

Moodle's Choice activity is often one of the most overlooked tools in the Moodle toolbox. But the publishing features and restriction options available for Choice make it one of the most robust and useful tools to promote student interaction within an online course.

Choice allows instructors to create a number of options from which students are limited to choosing but one. Limits can also be set on the number of students who can select a certain option and date ranges can be set during which students might be able to change their responses prior to closing (as opposed to locking them in with their first choice). The publishing features available in Choice allows the instructor to choose when and if the results will be released and whether they will be anonymous or with usernames.

There are a number of creative ways that the Choice activity can be used in a course:

Limiting Group Size: Choice can be used when you need to limit the number of individuals who are able to make a selection and are willing to do so on a first-come, first-served basis. Examples:
    • You are giving a proctored test to 150 students but the testing lab only seats 40 students at a time. The students must choose and commit to the day and time that they will come to the lab to take the test. The Choice is set up with the date and time options and with the restriction to only allow 40 students to pick each option. A report can be printed out and given to the proctor to use as an attendance sheet in the lab.
    •  You are assigning students a research paper with a limited number of options for topics. You set up the Choice with each topic option and limit the number of individuals to 4 per topic. This will ensure that there are enough research materials available on each topic.
Using HTML Options as Choices: In addition to using text options with Choice, you can use anything that you can supply a local or Internet path to. Examples:
    • You are assigning students to write an essay on visual images such as pieces of art, a historical figure, or something related to medical or dental disease. You post the actual images as the Choices and limit the number of students who can choose each image to write about.
    • You are assigning a speech made by a political figure, or a section of a film or a musical piece and you provide links to the videos on YouTube.
Assessing the Composition of a Class: It may be helpful to determine what teaching resources resonate with a unique group of students; to discover individual learning styles of your students; assess student's familiarity with technology; or determine which lecture format they prefer - written or audio. For example:
    •  Begin by pasting the URL to a web-based learning styles inventory in the description box of the Choices setting page, highlight it, and use the hyperlink icon to make it active. Be sure to set the webpage to open in a new window in the Appearance section of the Choice settings page. Set up the Choices inputs to reflect the three learning styles. Set the responses to anonymous and post the results after everyone has voted on their learning style. Use the results to start a discussion or to assess what additional types of learning materials you need to provide to your students.
Track Progress of a Student Project: Choice can act as an accountability tool for students completing semester long projects. At various points throughout the semester, insert a choice activity to track and document student-reported progress. Choice inputs for student selection can reflect the various stages required by the teacher toward completion of the project. Publishing options allow responses to remain unpublished or posted anonymously as a potential motivator for students suddenly realizing they are lagging behind the rest of the class.

Allow Students to Vote on Course Content: Inserting a choice early in the course and allowing students to pick from several future topics provides a level of ownership over the learning process. For example, what 21st century artist or musician would they like to learn more about or what cultural event would they like to participate in as a class?

Flip a Video: The choice activity allows a video to be "flipped" into a simple lesson, making a video interactive rather than passive. To begin, add a content question in the description box on the choice settings page, then embed a video below. To embed a video, click on the HTML icon in the text editor toolbar of the description box, and paste the embed code of the video in the HTML source editor (to find the embed code for a YouTube video click on the share link under the video, select the embed link, and copy the code). Student comprehension of the video can be assessed by their responses to the content question you posted previously.

A Note on Display Options in Choice: Choice allows you to choose whether you want the options displayed horizontally or vertically. Owing to space constraints on the screen, it is easier to fit larger choices in by choosing vertically but students may not choose options lower on the list because they have to scroll to see them. It is recommended that you try size options to experiment with where they all appear on the initial screen.

Conclusion: The Choice activity is one of the simplest tools available in Moodle, but its implementation is limited only by your own imagination. We encourage you to experiment with it and find creative ways to integrate it into your online curriculum. If you would like help setting up and using the Choice tool, contact the ITRC and we will be happy to demonstrate it to you and/or assist your with setting it up.

States, T. & Dulaney, E. (March 12, 2014). Creative Applications for Moodle's Choice Activity. Campus Technology.

Moodle ISU Handout: Choice Activities

Monday, April 7, 2014

Useful Features in Google Drive that Everyone Should be Using

Google Drive is a powerful productivity suite with huge potential in education. Google Drive empowers users with the necessary tools to do everything from store documents to create presentations. Besides the basic features of Google Drive, there are lots of tips and tricks you can introduce to your students to make their Google Drive experience even more productive. This article will introduce you to just a few of the useful features in Google Drive that you and your students should be using.

Research feature

While composing a paper in Google Docs, students can conduct research on any highlighted word or phrase without having to change tabs or open a new window. To use the research feature, highlight the word or phrase that you want to research and right click on it then select "research". A window pane will open on the right-hand sidebar with the search results of your query.

Search for scholarly articles and images:

In addition to doing a web search for a query, you can also search for images, scholarly articles, and quotes related to the word or phrase that you highlighted.


Instead of emailing documents back and forth, they can be shared by typing in the email addresses of the people you wish to collaborate with and giving them editing permission. A link to the shared document will be emailed to them by Google. All collaborators can also see the shared document listed in their Google Drive. Collaborating on a shared document ensures that everyone is working on the same document since it allows multiple people to be in the same document at the same time to make edits.

Brainstorming and Mind-mapping:

The drawing tools featured in Google Docs are perfect for drawing shapes, arrows, text, and importing images to build a visual map for any task. By sharing the document with others, it can also become a team collaboration tool for brainstorming and idea development sessions. The revision history uses colors to highlight and track changes to the Google Doc which makes it easy to see what each person has contributed to the big picture.


Using the comment feature provided by Google Docs, students and instructors can leave feedback on other people's documents. They can also include audio feedback. The student first must share their document with their collaborators and give them permission to edit. To add a comment, right click on the line where you want your comment to appear and click on "comment".

Spell Checker:

Students can correct their spelling and check for errors in Google Docs by clicking on "Tools" on the menu list and then select "spelling" and a pop-up window will display the correct spelling of that word. Google Docs also underlines misspelled words in red as they are typed. To correct the spelling, right click on the word and a pop-up menu will appear with a list of correct spelling options. Click on any word from the menu and the misspelled word will be replaced with the correct word.


There is an embedded dictionary within Google Docs which makes it easy for students to check the definition of a word by highlighting the word and after right-clicking, choose "define". Or you can click on the "Tools" menu and choose "Define".

Equation Editor:

Math and science teachers and students can now use Google Docs to add equations to a document with having to go through an overly complicated process. To access the equation editor, select the "Insert" drop-down menu, and click on "Equations". A pop-up entry box appears where you can enter your formula and/or equation. All the mathematical symbols are grouped in five separate drop-down boxes. A preview box below the data entry field displays what the equation will look like on the page. Once the equation is inserted onto the page, the text editor treats it as one whole unit which can be dragged anywhere within your document. Note: the equation editor is for note-taking only - it does not perform computations.


In addition to text, a wide variety of multimedia materials can be inserted into documents such as web links, images, tables, footnotes, videos, bookmarks, a table of contents, headers and more. To insert, click on the "Insert" menu and then choose the type of media.

Saving in Other Formats:

Google Docs can be downloaded and saved in other formats including: PDF, Microsoft Word, Plain Text, or Rich Text Format. To choose other formats, click on the File menu and hover your mouse over "Download as" and the list of options will appear. Click on the option you wish to use and a new document will be created in that format and saved to your Google Drive.


You can invite others to view a presentation you have made at the same time that you are presenting it by sharing the link to the presentation with them. Students can embed a link to their presentation in their portfolio or resume' by sharing their presentation with anyone who has the link and then embedding the shared link.

Create Surveys Using Google Forms:

Students and Instructors can use Google Forms to create surveys to be used for research, project evaluation, self assessment, instant response during a lecture or presentation, anonymous surveys, story creation and collaboration, and much more. For more ideas on using Google Forms view the slideshow at 80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom.

For More Information:

9 Things Every Student Should Be Able to Do With Google Drive. (March 8, 2014). Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

6 Steps to Add Voice Comments to Google Docs. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

100 Ways to Use Google Drive in the Classroom. (Feb. 7, 2014). TeachThought.

80 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom. (April 30, 2013). TeachTought.

52 Tips and Tricks for Google Docs in the Classroom. (Nov. 16, 2012). TeachThought.