One Year Really “A Moodle Project update”

MoodleImageFromMoodle_orgIt’s over a year now and where did that year go?2741_170MeStaffPhoto

180 Moodle courses later, numerous qualifications and lecturers right across the state of South Australia in the Business Services section of tafeSA, that’s where the year went right there!

What a ride is has been and continues to be.  All levels of experience, all types and styles of teaching, delivery and pedagogy, new skills, designs and activities are just some of the areas covered.

Design, Creation, Implementation and Review 

It is only with hindsight and reflection that it all becomes clearer, what worked what didn’t, which options have stood the test of time and now at this point reflection has shown many things including:

Templates, what really got used and what wouldn’t I do again?

These can be wicked things, you develop a template with examples of content to make it easier for lecturers with a wide range of skills to edit, adjust and use, to make it quicker.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Well may be not so good.

You create 40 new courses from a “Template”, quick easy and productive.  The issue is that no one uses the example content, mainly because they don’t know how or never have edited in Moodle.  So you write a Lecturer’s Guide Booklet to help.  Big topic, big job and constantly evolving, changing and growing as issues arise and are dealt with.

Now Lecturers populate the new template courses with their content, great progress as they fill up ready to be validated and run live.  There is a typo in the Template, now there is the same typo in 4o courses, not so bad, correct typo (a couple of minutes per course, 1.3333hours) All good.

Unused template examples, they show up in the Grade books because of Activity completion errors or setting.  40 more corrections to be made, each correction taking up to 15 or 20 minutes to correct going through each course and its settings.  (At 15 minutes each that’s 10 hours work) I think you can see where this is going!

Now there are 180 courses, the numbers and minutes expand exponentially and the courses are not all live yet!

The Template evolves as the team changes direction and agrees on new guidelines and conflict arises.  Starting to think that empty shells and no content examples would be a better approach now.  180 courses to follow-up and the Lecturer’s Guide Booklet to update and maintain.

That is only in the first 3 months

Feedback from Students and Lecturers, what did they say?

As the courses are completed and almost ready to go live, validation and feedback is starting to begin.  Certificate I, II & III courses are first as lecturers look at them and try to come to terms with new look, content and assessments.

Issues appear small at first, but then as time goes by the varying levels of experience in using, editing and administrating Moodle course becomes a huge factor.  Simple settings in assignments, upgrades of Moodle itself to 2.7 from 2.4 begin to surface.


They were great, patient, and freely gave their feedback as issues occurred, teething problems, Assignments Completion settings incorrectly set, hidden activities and resources, (a result of the upgrade process).  Broken links, missing images and Articulate presentation files, vague Task Lists and course flow problems, all these were expected and dealt with as promptly as possible.  Overall a good result and through communication positive.


The feedback highlighted issues with skills and confidence when using and setting up online courses.  Training session were initiated from day one of the project to up skill lecturers as the project proceeds.  The guide booklet was used and assisted some user, though the Lync live training sessions were and are the most useful tool to get issues sorted and skills updated.

Naming and consistency across courses is a paramount importance to keep the student’s experience as engaging and flows well and logically, using Task lists and similar styles across the courses.

Resistance is always present when change is happening, but overall a positive experience has been seen.  The common issues and “workarounds” agreed on and put in place and future actions standardised.

Content, Assessment, Completion tracking and Grading.  How well did it do?

Content was created using a standard format.  The training package unit was used as the anchor for each course and each course used Topics in line with the Elements of the Training Package units.  All the content added inside book resources and all assignments linked from the books.

Activity Completion setting set and only on submitted assignments and using PDF format to speed up grading using the PDF Editor function in Moodle 2.7.  The settings took some doing as each assignment was set by individual lecturers.  This challenged the team as student had submitted assignments with incorrect setting and they had to be rectified by creating new assignments, grading the submitted ones and hiding them until the courses could be reset.  The results were promising and as time passed the amount of feedback on issues subsided and to new courses operated well and with few issues.

Future directions.  What’s Next?

The final part of the project is the Cert IV and Diploma courses these are more difficult as they have still been running in old combined courses and as a result a method of handling the transition was devised.  The existing combined courses were left to run as normal with the new units of competency linked from them.  This way students noticed very little or no change to their course studies.  The existing resources were hidden and the new course took their place.

As more new courses were constructed and bought online more links added until all units will be completed and the combined courses shut down, backed up and downloaded to a secure safe location and the old courses deleted.  This is still in progress and due to finish at the end of Semester 1 2015.

Lessons Learned

Templates need to be perfect and only include the necessary shell items, no extra resources save one blank Book resources with its Activity Completion setting in place. The unit of competency Link should be correct in the first section and all information section text simple short and standardised.

Task Lists: Each course should have a Task List prepared prior to building the course or creating content, assignments and other activities.  The Task List should be clear, on one page and students should be able to follow it without confusion.  The Task List has all activities listed by actual name in Topics that reflect the Elements of the Competency.

E.g. Topic 1 Plan and Prepare

 ·        Read and Review Book contents

·        Complete Activity

·        Submit Assignment in PDF format where possible

Topic 2 Carry out plan

 ·        Read and Review Book contents

·        Watch Presentation

·        View Video

·        Complete Quiz

·        Submit Assignment

From this Task List the course content, links, presentation and videos can be added and in the correct order using the Training Package as the Mapping document and Books as the main resource activity.


Not all assessment needs to be submitted only the key assignments need to be graded and in the “Grade book” other activities are formative assessments, activities that are automatically graded like quiz questions, exemplars and competent examples can also be given, as well as self-checking assessment activities with solutions supplied.

PDFs are the fastest way to grade students work as they do away with the need to download word documents, add comments save and upload them to Moodle as feedback files.  PDFs can be annotated directly into them without actually opening them using the PDF Editor function.  Halves the time it takes to grade student’s work.


The team has complete a huge amount of work in the time frame, thanks and appreciation for their efforts and continuing support to complete the project are planned.

The act of reflection is focus.  Focus on what goals we had, what we achieved, what we wanted to achieve and how successful were we in reaching those goals.

Goals                                                                                      Achieved

1  Create a Home page course with induction for all Business Services Students √
2 Three different Moodles, Regional North and South all brought together.  √
3 lose Regional external Moodle site and salvage what resources we could. √
4 Update Documentation for all units of competency and solutions  70%
5 Standardise the filing system on the S Drive and reduce the number of folders for each competency  50%
6 Archive all old resources and back them up off the main RR&D folders on the S Drive 25%
7 Implement Student’s self-enrolments √
8 Use Groups to control students for each lecturer √
9 Implement a Group enrolment key to lessen the start-up burden on Lecturers at Counselling time.  Reviewing
10 Use a standardised template for the look and feel for the courses √
11 Have a separate course for each unit of competency 70%
12 Cut down the amount of marking done by Lecturers simplify the assessments 50%
13 Automate assessments where possible 50%
14 Use the same resources state-wide √
15 Have one main contact person for each course 60%
16 Lower the text content and make it more engaging 60%
17 Remove duplication of text in courses 50%
18 Regularly back up and download courses to protect from data and student information loss  √
19 Reset courses at the end of Semester.  End Semester 1
20 Mapping of all course to the training package and CIRegisters  60%
21 Update all courses to have resources inside the tafeSA Moodle framework and not rely on external LMS or bought resources  60%

The process was a large project and 75% has been achieved to date (May 2015) with a goal of completion by the end of Semester 1 July 2015.

These goals are still achievable and the next few weeks will tell.  The training of lecturers and reassurance of their own abilities to do the things that needed to be done has come a long way to realising our project goals.  The completion of the Lecturer’s Guide Booklet and the BJIT Training course are also close at hand and provide an excellent training resource into the future.

At this time there have been no student complaints about the courses during the transition and that in itself is a great achievement.

Stage two of the project should be the completion self-containing all training materials and resources and the reduction in maintenance of these courses.  Anything that can be linked to an external website where the website does the maintenance is to be encouraged.  The use of targeted YouTube or TafeTube videos content given precedence over third-party text-based resources or LMS’s.

We look forward to achieving all out project goals in the near future and then reviewing and setting new goals to take the Moodle on-line learning environment into a new and more engaging future.

This is a proud achievement for the BJIT team, its focus groups, lecturers and managers.

Rob Beckett BJIT Team New Moodle Project

About wallandceiling

I currently design, create and administer over 180 Moodle online courses as part of a project in tafeSA with the BJIT Business Services Team. This project has highlighted a need for training in Moodle and how to implement and maintain courses online. I have been a lecturer in Wall & Ceiling Lining (Drywall for Americans) in Adelaide South Australia involved in the CPSISC validation of the CPC08 National Training packages and the CBA Program to build capacity in assessment through the use of Action Learning and Assessment for Learning principles.
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2 Responses to One Year Really “A Moodle Project update”

  1. beckett5361 says:

    Just saw this post and it is now 2016. I really must look up from my desk a bit more often because life can pass us by so fast. Balance if only it was easy.

  2. It has been so long now that even the LMS ‘s name has been changed to LEARN from Moodle2. That make documentation interesting. Using a verb as a noun. Make some sentences confusing to say the least. I guess we learn on LEARN now.

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