Building Better Moodle Rooms

These are my liveblogged notes from the Campus Technology webinar Building better Moodle rooms: Online strategies and best practices. My comments are in italics. Because it’s liveblogged, it’s mostly bullet points and some of it may be unclear. This webinar will be archived and should be available tomorrow; I’ll post the link then. Update: The archived presentation is now available.


  • Bob McDonald, Manager of Sales and Client Relations, Moodlerooms
  • Peter Lamothe, Principal Consultant, Harvest Road
  • Stuart Sim, CTO and Chief Architect, Moodlerooms

Underlying pedagogical structure for Moodle:

  • Constructivism
  • Scaffolding
  • Feedback

Step 1: Think Constructivism

  • Theory matters in your design
  • Social constructivism—learning from others
  • Many different avenues for learning: instructor led plus peer interaction

Step 2: Use Scaffolding

  • Context & coaching to involve students in learning
  • Student participation is important
  • Use ADDIE model to determine scaffolding


  • Analyze where your students are now. He’s talking about instructors figuring it out in discussion boards or activities with the live course, not in the design in advance like what we do.
  • Develop (he has the steps of ADDIE in the wrong order): Chunk content into manageable pieces.
    • Book (think of chapters, individual pages, etc.)
    • Glossary
    • Lesson
    • Resources
  • Design: Sequence and Organize
    • Rich content, multiple media types possible
    • Edit view of Moodle, showing how to add and organize content
    • Moodle blocks on the right can have widgets like a calendar, news, show who’s online, etc.
  • Implement: Stay involved in the course
    • Students and teachers learn from each other
    • Discussion
    • Chat
    • Wikis
    • Multiple views for discussions
      • Nested
      • Threaded
      • Flat
    • Discussions can be graded
  • Evaluate
    • Activity logs—what are students clicking on?
    • Gradebook
    • Assessment within specific activities

I’m not really convinced that he was talking about “scaffolding” here. It’s instructional design, certainly, but I didn’t really see that this was about student supports that are gradually removed. Did I miss something here?

Step 3: Provide Feedback

  • Targeted feedback helps you remove scaffolding so students do more on their own
  • Feedback from the community is equally important as feedback from instructors

Harvest Road’s Hive Digital Repository

Storing learning objects for different purposes

  • Personal Learning
  • Organizational
  • Knowledge Management

Content Reuse

  • Single instance of content—no duplication
  • Dynamically deliver to courses
  • Permissions and access more important than DRM

Open standards help “future proof” better than using proprietary systems

This demo includes screenshots in Firefox for Mac, so it clearly works there. Yeah for not being restricted to IE!

  • Version options available
  • Use a URL to link to the LOR—link, not copy content so it’s dynamic
  • Able to find dependent files and bring those in dynamically too

Q&A Session

(Several of the questions weren’t of interest to me, so I didn’t record them all.)

Q: Transitioning from Blackboard or Web CT to Moodle
A: Biggest challenge was changing from content-centric to activity-centric model. Hard to move from idea of presenting content to focusing on interaction.

Q: Can instructors be notified via email when students upload content?
A: Yes, in some modules.

Q: Can content (like for quizzes) be created on the PC and uploaded?
A: Yes, Moodle imports from multiple formats, so there are several ways this can be done.

Q: Will Moodlerooms really host for $1/student/year?
A: Yes, for a minimum of 500 students.

Q: What about synchronous interaction? Moodle seems biased towards asynchronous.
A: Moodle’s chat function is synchronous, and b/c it’s open source it works with others. Uses something called DimDim.

Q: Do we host ourselves or is there a central location?
A: Moodle allows either—depends on what you want and need. Lots of flexibility for how you can own your courses. Even if hosted, you still own your data and can take it elsewhere if you want to leave a specific vendor.

Q: Is Harvest Road a 3rd party vendor selling an add-on?
A: Yes, a third party adding functionality to support and work with Moodle.

Q: Can you display math equations?
A: Yes, Moodle has a math editor.

Q: Now that online learning is reaching millions of learners, what’s going to keep people involved?
A: Interactivity and interaction with community of learners and instructors. Rich opportunities for learning. Collaboration and closeness even though it’s online.

Q: What differentiates a great online instructor from an ordinary one?
A: Two elements:

  1. Learner-centered design
  2. Connecting and communicating with students

Q: Are good classroom instructors always good online instructors, or not always?
A: Online has different requirements, especially within design. Not always.

Q: Are you working on integrating Elluminate and DimDim?
A: Yes, they are—cuts down their own development costs to use existing open source. Better to not start from scratch—use the tools that are already out there.

Moodlerooms is working on ways to integrate just about any synchronous tool, even if they’ve never heard of it. They create adapters to bring it in.

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