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Maggie Geselbracht, Reed College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:00am

How do you use Moodle in your teaching? (Course Management Systems)

I have begun to use Moodle in my courses both as a content delivery tool and to foster more interaction amongst students and between faculty and students.  I notice that I use different features depending on if I am teaching our large intro course or my smaller inorganic courses.  I would love to hear how different folks are using tools like Moodle in interesting ways in their courses.  Last spring, I tried a few assignments where I had students create a wiki.  And this fall, in our large intro course, we set up a Database to collect lab results from all the different lab sections.  I've got some ideas for how to improve it this year, but I would also like to try some other new uses of tools in the Moodle.  How do you use wikis, forums, and other interactive features in your course management system?

By the way, visit our poll and tell us which course managment tool you are using.

Adam R. Johnson, Harvey Mudd College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 10:55am

I tried to use a blog/discussion board feature on Sakai last Spring for a senior level discussion course to try to move some of the discussion/prep for class online.  It really didn't work.  Need carrots or sticks or both.  The students weren't engaged in the blog.  It was very open ended.  When I posted more guiding questions, responses improved a little.  Some students *really* resisted using the blog, and weren't shy about telling me so.

For my analytical laboratory, students need to share data and procedures for monitoring ions in the fishtank.  We use a group file sharing area so that all have access to the information they need.

Mostly, I use Sakai as a content delivery tool for supplemental materials (readings, example problems) and an archive for problem sets and keys.  I don't do nearly as many handouts as I used to.  Saving trees.

Adam

Hilary Eppley, DePauw University
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:03am
Great question Maggie! I'd like some ideas too! I've used Moodle for several years, mostly in my introductory class --both simple things like file storage (course handouts and answer keys) and few "more advanced" things. One thing I've found very useful is the advanced grading module (not something standard but can be added by your campus Moodle administrators)--it has a number of advantages over the standard grading module that comes with Moodle. I do all of my grades online so students can look at any point in the course and see what their overall percentage is. I've used the forums as prelab assignments--students have to pose a question based on the lab and then answer one of their classmates questions. I also post my web links for the class there. I tried a wiki assignment after their Modern Materials lab where they had to find an inorganic material and report on it in a wiki table for the class. This semester that had major problems because the table function is a bit funky and one of the students messed it royally and I had to go reconstruct the table and ask the students to reenter their information. Last year in my inorganic class, I have them upload photos of point group objects. This assignment was based on a posted VIPEr learning object "Point Group Scavenger Hunt" https://www.ionicviper.org/class-activity/symmetry-scavenger-hunt contributed by Lori Watson. I also use the calendar feature on a regular basis and the announcement forum to communicate with the class.
Lori Watson, Earlham College
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Mostly I use moodle simply as a convenient file storage place for problem sets, web resources, and the like.  But I've also had pretty good success with the forums when I've set them up as a "peer help" type place.  In both gen chem and inorganic, students (usually the "quieter" ones) seem to like asking questions and getting help from their peers.  I don't offer any carrots (or sticks) but point out several times at the beginning how this is a great resource.  I monitor them too, but usually wait about a day before I post an answer (often another student will post an answer first or correct something wrong that was posted).  I have not found forums a very useful place to continue a discussion from class, however.  Something about typing just seems to sap their enthusiasm!
Joanne Stewart, Hope College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:05am

I really like Moodle and use it for a lot of different things in my class. As an ice breaker, I set up a forum and ask the students to interview a prof about the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry (because most of the students are coming out of a full year of organic). My faculty colleagues are very cooperative and come up with a wide range of both serious and humorous answers. The students post the answers to the forum and we spend a couple minutes discussing and laughing about them in class.

I ask the students to write a short chemistry autobiography, which they upload to Moodle. I grade it and give then feedback all electronically, which is nice.

I post links to useful web sites (The Orbitron!), including links to papers we're using for literature discussions.

I put all of their grades up on Moodle, so they always know where they stand. I used to have "invent" an assignment in order to post their test grades, but I think the advanced grading module has made that easier.

I used the wiki function to have students prepare a class study guide for the final exam.

I have also used the photo gallery for putting up pictures of class activities, but that seems to have disappeared from our current installation of Moodle.

All in all, I found learning to use Moodle to be very straightforward, and we have good support on campus when I have questions.

Anne Bentley, Lewis & Clark College
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I've used moodle in the past couple of years for online office hours (in addition to the usual posting of websites, assignments, solutions, etc).  Last year for gen chem I had a standing "Monday 9-10 pm" chat session.  Attendance was not consistent (between 0-5 people out of a class of 60-80), so this spring I changed it to an "as needed" basis.  What that has turned out to mean is that I do an office hour one or two nights before each midterm.  When the chat is held the night before a midterm, I've had as many as twenty people log in at once.  It gets busy, and they do answer each other's questions, which is very helpful.

This spring I've also used it the night before a Monday inorganic exam, especially because the students in that class tend to live all over the city.  Good attendance, and those who couldn't "make it" can always read the transcript after the fact.

Education research has shown that students do more of the talking in an online format vs face-to-face.  Women are more likely to contribute, too.  I've really liked that I can carefully think about how I'm phrasing the questions I ask students in response to their questions.  I can take the time to guide them through a problem, sometimes better than I can in person.

Hooray for moodle!

-Anne


Chip Nataro, Lafayette College
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Joined: 04/14/2008 - 9:10am
I just don't get into the whole chats/post sort of thing for my classes.  I would much rather the kids come see me.  We have a good culture of that in my department and the last thing in the world I would want to do is discourage.  I do give my upper level students my AIM screen name, so I will get an IM once and a while.  What I find as Moodle's greatest feature is that you can set it to count say the top 10 out of 14 quizzes.  With Blackboard (at least when we had it) you could only drop the lowest one.  What a life saver Moodle was.  Yes, I do post my grades on Moodle and I think it saves a lot of 'how am I doing' questions in gen chem.  The other fun thing we use Moodle for is our online general chemistry placement exam.  Last year was the first year we did it, and it went pretty well.  
Nancy Scott Burke Williams, Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College
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I've struggled a bit with making the most of these tools. To be honest, they mostly act as big, dumb file servers in my classes. I've used a blog for my Inorganic Chemistry course, which was a qualified success. The magic formula was that students were assigned a post, and all students had to comment on it (we were discussing an outside reading). This wouldn't work for much else. I like the idea of virtual office hours and as a chat space for students to help each other. I will definitely try both those ideas. 
Maggie Geselbracht, Reed College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:00am

While browsing through the "Moodle Museum" today, I came across an interesting idea for how to use the Glossary tool in Moodle.  Glossary items can contain text and/or images, and they can be created by faculty and/or students in the course.

It would be interesting to have an assignment where the students in the class collectively create a Glossary.  For example, they could create a Glossary of the elements or some subset of elements (say, the Lanthanides) where they enter in specific facts or bits of descriptive chemistry for an element.  Or they could create a Glossary of characterization techniques used in Inorganic Chemistry or one of its subfields.  Or new and unfamiliar terms in Organometallic Chemistry...or any number of ideas.

The other interesting idea is that if you pull in Glossary as one of the side blocks on your course front page, then it randomly displays an item from the Glossary (although not the image if there is an image as part of the item).  So, it is a nice way of highlighting the class Glossary.

I would love to hear how this works if someone tries it or has tried it before.  Please post!

Lori Watson, Earlham College
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Does anyone have experience/use Chime type plugins for moodle?  I have this idea that it would be great to do moodle point group quizzes WITH rotatable molecules, but the "moodle czar" on my campus is having issues with it.  Any good resources (or other plugins) that I could direct him to?
Maggie Geselbracht, Reed College
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Joined: 11/17/2007 - 11:00am

Lori, yes!  There is a Jmol 3-D molecule viewer resource for Moodle that needs to be "enabled" or loaded by your campus "moodle czar."  Once it is part of your Moodle, when you edit a course page, you can choose to "Add a resource..." and choose "Display a 3-D molecule viewer."  The input file is a pdb file.  I have a separate block with "Cool structures" that lists all the Jmol structures that I have uploaded for students to look at.  Some of the molecules I used to create a Point Group Jeopardy game on Moodle that we played in conference.  Others, I used for problem set questions where the students had to assign the point groups.  They all liked the fact that they could "control" the view themselves.  I also loaded the structure of K2[V(enterobactin)] to use in class when we talked about siderophores, chelation, and assigning delta and lambda names to optical isomers.

I would be happy to share pdb files of some classic and novel molecules if you get this up and running on your Moodle!