I’ve just done a series of mid-term tests, and for the first time I’ve run the whole thing off of the Moodle platform. I’ve marked assignments off Moodle for a few years now, and I really enjoy the functionality of the platform, the ability to view submitted work and give feedback and record marks without having to leave the application, keep separate mark books or worry about handing back assignments or whether a paper has been mislaid. The paperless environment is so clean and hassle-free! There is also an electronic record of exactly when assignments were submitted and assessed, which avoids any of those nasty little “lies” which some students specialise in, such as “but I did hand it in!”. The only bureaucratic issues I need to deal with are excuses based on network failure, and a simple instruction to email me details of any technical failure quickly reduces these to zero!
That in itself is a huge plus, but I believe there are advantages beyond the benefits of bureaucratic streamlining and what to do with assignments handed to you in a corridor. Firstly is the considerable benefit of allowing students to submit work from home, from a sick-bed or hospital ward if necessary. Very often teachers get requests to send work home for convalescent students. If students are used to accessing their course-pages from home, and most are, the need for this is obviated. Students do not need to wait until they see you in class before finding out what work they have missed, indeed sometimes work gets submitted from the sick-bed sooner than from the classroom. Looking at the times when work is submitted, a high percentage is actually submitted after school hours. For this reason I always set deadline times for midnight, giving students some leeway to finish off, or polish their work.
Another advantage is that, by allowing re-submission, students can post drafts for comments before formally submitting their work. This entails a great deal of extra work, but it is work that is individually directed and consequently, I hope, justified. If students are used to naming files draft or final, then the process of leaving suitable feedback is stream-lined. By encouraging a culture of drafting and polishing work, the process of assessment becomes a valuable learning strategy in itself. Some students will over-use this functionality, and others won’t use it at all, but generally speaking, in my experience there is a marked improvement in skills when students are encouraged to submit drafts of their work ahead of the due date, something the Moodle platform not only allows, but also makes easy to use.
Thirdly, and this is where I think it starts getting really exciting, are the possibilities that digital submission generally opens up. Because any kind of file can so easily be saved to a computer and uploaded onto the Moodle platform, any kind of file can be assessed, or rather used in the assessment process. For instance, in a technology class, during the design process, students can be encouraged to use their cell-phones, available net-books, or web-cameras mounted on the computers in the computer room to record a short video of their reflections on the process, to explain what they are thinking at that time. These can then be uploaded and stored for later viewing, assessment or discussion in class. The implications for teachers are quite staggering, and we have not yet really begun to explore the affordances that the platform opens up. We are used to assessing end product, rather than process, and this is a pity. If a student is required to submit periodic recordings of their reflection on process, either in short Word documents or short video clips, we can start to really move towards process-oriented learning models. Moodle is a valuable tool in this paradigm shift.
When used together with an interactive white-boards, the ability to base class discussion on work-in-progress that has been submitted allows for really valuable editing work which in the regular classroom is incredibly difficult to set up.
When you put this together with the quiz and choice module options available on Moodle, you have a pretty powerful package!