Learning activities presented in Moodle Practical examples from teachers

Teachers of BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg present how and with which intention they use different Moodle learning activities in their teaching/learning scenario and report about their experiences.

The Forum (with Prof. K.-H. Himmelmann)

T. Falke: Why do you use the learning activity "Forum"?

Prof. Himmelmann: With the forum we have the possibility of feedback from the students. They are invited to activities:On the one hand to the individual learner's own activity,on the other hand everyone can see what their fellow students are saying and can comment on these statements of the others.

T. Falke: What is the didactic concept behind the use of the learning activity?

Prof. Himmelmann: Overall, e-learning is an extension of the didactic possibilities by certain functions. That is, students can work at home, they can respond to assignments in writing, and they can also develop something together. These are things that, in my view, extend classroom teaching. If the learning activities that Moodle offers are used appropriately, they also bring variety in terms of the didactic possibilities in the course.

T. Falke: Can you describe an example where you have used the forum?

Prof. Himmelmann: Forums are set up as a standard feature here, so that every lecturer has access to them. Häug uses it to have corresponding papers that are created by the students posted there. This makes them accessible to fellow students who might want to use them again for exam preparation, or to particularly interested students who want to take a closer look at the other topics they don't cover in their own papers. But I also use the forum for special assignments. Last semester in the seminar "Communication and Media Competence" I chose to start with a forum. Parallel to the seminar, there was - more or less by chance - a radio college on the topic "Media Reality 2.0 - Media Culture in the Digital Age". There, I picked a timely unit to the seminar that fit thematically, put a link to this radio college - a podcast with a half-hour radio show - in Moodle. I then set the task for students to listen to this radio program, which was about computer games, role-playing games, and the like, and then asked three questions for students to answer regarding statements in this podcast. In addition, students were asked to make two other comments regarding statements made by fellow students. I defined this as a mandatory performance component of the course, as there are always a few students who are a bit sloppy with such assignments when they are not facing any negative consequences.

T. Falke: What problems can be described when dealing with the forum? What should teachers pay attention to? What are stumbling blocks?

Prof. Himmelmann: Clearly formulated questions and tasks must be set that leave little room for interpretation. You have to get used to such formulations. One should be able to estimate the amount of work that the students are expected to do. One must also keep in mind that as a lecturer one should comment on this forum, which certainly makes work. One should not leave the forum to oneself, but evaluate it both in the forum and in the seminar. For advanced seminars, every single post should be commented on. In introductory events, particularly applicable forum posts should be highlighted, thus evaluating the quality of the statements.

The task (with Prof. E. Stein/ S. Schmidt)

T. Falke: Why do you use the learning activity "task"?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: Because it is an alternative to the former classical exercises in paper form and it can be corrected relatively easily on the computer.

T. Falke: What is the didactic concept behind the use of this learning activity?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: I want the students to deal with the material once again outside of the lecture. If they have to hand in e-learning assignments, this is one way to do it.

T. Falke: Are the students obliged to do this?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: Yes, this is a prerequisite to be allowed to take the exam. They have to achieve a certain number of points for this.

T. Falke: Is this anchored in the study and examination regulations?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: No, but you can define admission requirements. This is written in the module handbooks as part of the semester.

T. Falke: Can you give me a concrete example of how you use the learning activity "task"?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: It varies a lot. In the basic lectures, the students receive a question every week, usually about the current material, which is then evaluated in the next lecture. They have to explain something or do some calculations. It is a good way to deal with the material without much effort and at the same time the students get feedback. But there are also other subjects, for example "Computer-aided measurement data acquisition", where the students sometimes have to write a program. For this, I give them a task, for example a file to be read in and analyzed, and they have to upload the program. But you can't do that when there are 60 students in the course.

T. Falke: What are hurdles/stumbling blocks/difficulties in using this learning activity?

Prof. Stein/ S. Schmidt: What bothers me is that a few setting options are missing. For example, I have my lecture on Wednesday and the students have to hand in their assignments by 11:55 p.m. on the following Monday. I can't set that up like that. For this I have to enter the date and time by hand every time, even though it is the same every week. The formatting sometimes looks a bit weird, but that has improved with the new version. One big hurdle is that students don't check their university email addresses, so they don't notice when I inform you of a new assignment or an addition to the assignment. So they don't get any feedback either.It would also be nice to be able to compare answers. Because it is becoming more and more common that students "copy" from each other or use the same source. This is not effective. I had it in the extreme case in the last semester, when 30 of 40 students handed in almost the same word solution.Then the learning effect is not there. I have one more criticism. Moodle was probably programmed by someone who has a large screen. When I want to look at the assessment summary of a larger group, I have to scroll all the way down to get to the "category total" column, and then back up to sort. If there was a scroll bar at the top too, that would be good. And when I correct assignments, I only ever see the 0 to 18 point range on the "Assessment" menu. Fortunately, most students' scores are near 100 rather than 0, but to get there I have to scroll again.

The vote (with K. Robel)

T. Falke: What is your goal in using the learning platform?

K. Robel: I use the learning platform to communicate with the students. On the one hand, I save on notices, and on the other hand, I know that the information also gets to the students, that the forum contributions I create are also sent to the seminar participants personally by e-mail.

T. Falke: Why do you use the learning activity voting?

K. Robel: Well, the aim of the voting is that the lecturer can arrange appointments with the students, so that students can choose appointments within the framework that I have given them. In addition, I also have the learning activity voting in use for enrollment in elective modules. The nice thing, unlike the paper lists, is that students also have the ability to easily change their mind. They can sign in, sign out, change their mind, up to a deadline that I set. You also don't have the problem that the access to the paper lists used so far is restricted. This is easier to organize via the learning platform, which is available 24 hours a day.

T. Falke: What functions does the learning activity "voting" offer you?

K. Robel: All participants can vote on a question. It is possible to specify an infinite number of voting possibilities. In addition, a limit on the number of answers and a time limit can be specified. Beyond the end of the voting, students can see at any time which selection they had personally made in the voting. The decision whether the result of a voting is always or never published during the announced period for participants is up to the lecturer. In addition, lists of participants can be exported and printed from the voting modules.

T. Falke: What added value do you see in using the learning activity "Voting"?

K. Robel: The added value for students lies primarily in the time- and location-independent processing of organizational tasks that are necessary for the respective course. This can sometimes be more, but also sometimes less. It is important that no time is wasted in the seminar for these organizational tasks. Thus, the students can form the groups they want to work on a project topic in peace and quiet and, if necessary, according to a need for discussion among themselves, for example.

The vote (with K. Roesler-Istvánnffy)

T. Falke: Why do you use the learning platform?

K. Roesler-Istvánnffy: Well, I use the learning platform for my own teaching. The easiest thing, of course, is that you can post materials that students can then access from home, and I also use it in the course organization for choosing courses, where students can then choose courses from home and don't have to stand against a wall and sign up for lists.

T. Falke: Why do you use the learning activity "voting"? What is your goal with it?

K. Roesler-Istvánnffy: So that the fight for places shifts to the online level and does not take place in reality. This means that the choice can also be made before the start of the semester, as many people are still working or are on vacation when they make their choice of courses. It is also practical after the election, the lists are ready and you can pass them on to the teachers. So it is primarily for me a work relief, it saves me a lot of time and the students are also satisfied. The instructors no longer have to worry about assigning students to individual courses, they don't have to do a lottery to weed out students when courses are overcrowded.

T. Falke: What added value does it have for the students?

K. Roesler-Istvánnffy: The students benefit in the way that they don't have to come here to register for the courses for the coming semester, they get the complete information via Moodle. They are much more flexible as a result. In addition, it's also our goal to be a family-friendly university.

T. Falke: What are pitfalls in using "voting" or what problems could arise?

K. Roesler-Istvánnffy: Unfortunately, problems do occur from time to time, but they are rare. If you don't have a good computer or a bad Internet connection, you might have the problem that you can't access the Internet at the time when you can vote, for example. These are really problems where then also some come afterwards "I couldn't dial in because ...". Another problem for me is that multiple selection is not possible in the learning activity "Voting". This is a problem every now and then when I create it, but the e-learning team members then showed me ways to implement this. In the end, there are also many possibilities and ways to map certain things in Moodle.

QuestionType (with C. Steinert)

T. Falke: Let's jump in generally. Why do you use learning platforms?

C. Steinert: The learning platform offers many possibilities to help students, to promote your own teaching and to post your own stuff, especially in the field of natural sciences, but of course also in other areas. We mainly use the learning platform to create tests or e-assessments.

T. Falke: Why do you use the Question Type learning activity? What is it anyway?

C. Steinert: The learning activity Question Type is used to create an e-assessment, which is part of the module Tests in E-Learning. The module makes sure that you can test the knowledge of the students. The Question Type module is for giving students tasks with changing variables. This is especially useful in the mathematical area, because each student gets his own tasks or can train a new task again and again.

T. Falke: What is the didactic concept behind the use of the Question Type learning activity?

C. Steinert: That what has been learned can be repeated again and again. A kind of try and error. If you've made a mistake, after reading through the solution in the detailed feedback system, you can try the same task again with the newly acquired knowledge. And you can try that as many times as you want until you understand it and then that's what the module or the feedback shows you at the end, whether you understood it or not.

T. Falke: Are solutions also shown?

C. Steinert: A solution is always shown. There are many different ones. We show a solution. At the end, the students compare the result and then, if they want to recalculate the task, they use our solution path or one of their own. You can show solution paths.

T. Falke: What added value do you see in using this learning activity for students?

C. Steinert: The students can train themselves independently at home, especially in their problem areas. Through the assessments, the students are shown where their problems lie, and they can train these problems over and over again by simply being given a new task each time and being able to look again and again to see whether they have understood it or have not understood it. Students can do their own self-monitoring calculations and get their feedback. There's really nothing better than that if you really want to learn something. If you sit at home and write something on a piece of paper, you still don't know if it's right.

T. Falke: And what added value does this Question Type learning activity have for teachers?

C. Steinert: Teachers can also use it actively in their teaching, for example by giving students homework. You don't have to collect and check the homework manually. You can automatically provide the homework to the students one-to-one live in e-learning and simply have them check it. So the manual work is simply lost. And this module has the advantage over other test modules that each student gets their own assignment by different numbers and furthermore, cheating can be avoided because everyone has different numbers.

T. Falke: What problems can arise when using it?

C. Steinert: The Question Types module is formulated or written in a relatively complex way. Many of the problems that can arise are currently more with the user, because he cannot yet use the module properly or know how to use it. You have to invest a little time to really figure out how to define which variables or where to put something. Furthermore, this module with an algebraic system in the background already catches many errors. For example, if you look at a normal test by simply entering an answer as a word, this module would simply catch the word by simply comparing the syntax behind it. For example, if the answer is a*b and you enter b*a, factors can be swapped, the module would recognize it.

T. Falke: How complex is the whole thing and how long do you think it takes to learn it?

C. Steinert: Of course, it varies from person to person. If you have an affinity for e-learning and have already created many of your own tests, it works faster. It took me about a week to understand all the basic functions, or about an hour a day to really be able to create it and then really see a result at the end that you have created your own test with changing variables.

T. Falke: You work for the e-learning team. How do you support the teachers then? What kind of service can you provide?

C. Steinert: We produce these tests together with the teachers, which can then be used with the teachers. It is very complex for teachers because they have other tasks than just creating tests and we help the teachers in that we create that and make it available to the students or partly take notes for the teachers and create instructions for it.

T. Falke: Thank you very much!

The Chat (with Dr. K. Mengel)

T. Falke: How and why do you use the learning platform?

Dr. K. Mengel: I use the learning platform for the students of the German-Polish course of studies (social work) in an online seminar, specifically the possibilities of group and individual chats as well as forum tasks. Why? I have to elaborate a bit to make the application clear. In our company, practical study sections are important and central components in application-oriented studies and form the basis for the required teaching of a theory-practice relationship. In the third semester, students complete a 20-week practical study semester in social institutions in Poland; they receive professional support in weekly accompanying seminars at the university.

T. Falke: What is the didactic concept?

Dr. K. Mengel: The general learning objectives of the practical part of the training are the acquisition and development of professional and personal skills. The professional supervision and monitoring of the internship by the university is an important curricular component of the application-oriented studies. The online events also focus on topics such as professional role, professional competence and self-reflection.

T. Falke: What does the online support look like in concrete terms?

Dr. K . Mengel: The topics and contents of the "online practical support" are essentially the same as those of the practical support event for domestic internships at the university, but they differ in form and methodology due to the lack of on-site presence of the students. The time and content of the chats and forums are specified. In concrete terms, students have to answer weekly forum tasks, among other things. In addition to the above-mentioned topics, the social or legal system of the host country can also be discussed - and here the comparison to Germany is of particular interest. They can view the other contributions and enter into a professionally supervised exchange with each other. Thus reflections of the forum answers take place. In addition, there is an overall chat with the group participants, here in particular important current practical experiences and problems are discussed or open questions from the forums are discussed "live". For more in-depth discussions, the individual chat is again available.

T. Falke: What added value does this have for the students?

Dr. K . Mengel: It is only possible to offer this form of practical support via the learning platform. The students deal with the topics much more intensively through the online seminar. Surveys of the returnees showed that the seminar form of a virtual practice support has a positive effect on the achievement of the personal learning goals of the practical semester set up according to the individual training plan. Particular emphasis was placed on the space for timely discussions and individual reflection, for example in crisis situations.

T. Falke: What are the hurdles/difficulties/prospects?

Dr. K. Mengel: Of course, it is not easy to maintain structure, especially in a joint chat session with many participants. Each participant must remain focused and must not disturb the overall process with interjections, for example. To this end, we drew up chat rules together with the e-learning team. This worked quite well from the second or third session onwards. One option would certainly be a video chat. We have already tried this, but it is very susceptible to disruptions, often due to the technical possibilities abroad, and was ultimately not very practical. In addition, both the concentration of the students and the professional quality of written chat contributions seemed to me to be higher overall. This is also noticeable in the individual chat.

MindMaps (with K. Kisters)

Chris Blankschein: You use mind maps in a creative way. Why do you use this learning activity?

Katja Kisters: I was provided with such mindmaps by fellow students at the time I took my psychology diploma exam. I am a very visual person and therefore like to work with mindmaps in addition to moderation cards, as they offer the possibility to prepare content knowledge and material in this way. In addition, the connections and sequences are presented more clearly. I have to admit, I have never worked with digital mindmaps myself, at most on paper. However, they are not quite as super equipped in Moodle, as options are still missing.

Chris Blankschein: What is the didactic concept behind your use of mindmaps?

Katja Kisters: My concept is to visually represent a meaningful structuring of what we are working on and to make it directly visible.

Chris Blankschein: Can you give me an example of the use of mindmaps in teaching?

Katja Kisters: The first mindmaps were used to process what they think they already know and can do in the context of interviewing; what they still need and what direction they are leaning towards in the context of social work and where they might want to do internships. We then created this through moderation cards and the mind map so that we could continue to make additions and ask specific questions about the topic areas.

Chris Blankschein: What added value do you see in the mind maps for the students?

Katja Kisters: For me, the strongest form of visual presentation. Certainly this will not be the case for all students, as they are structured differently.

Chris Blankschein: What added value do you see as a teacher?

Katja Kisters: It's the easiest way for me to make clear what it's all about.

Chris Blankschein: What problems or pitfalls are there?

Katja Kisters: Basically none. It would be nice if there was still an increase in functions. About a third of the students already had experience with it. The training is time-consuming.

Chris Blankschein: Do you have any further comments on e-learning, mind maps, etc.?

Katja Kisters: I am curious whether the idea of using the material to work together will work. So far I have not been able to determine that. How is it used by others? Is Moodle a one-way street to just provide materials or is it being used to collaborate with each other? If I'm the only one expecting students to do this, I can't ask for the knowledge needed to work with it.

The Wiki (with Prof. K. Bromberg)

Tobias Falke: What is your goal in using the learning platform?

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: Basically, it is first of all a kind of minimum supply for the students to work with texts and materials. My hope that it could become a kind of forum through which we as teachers could exchange ideas with the students, or the students with each other, has not yet been fulfilled.

Tobias Falke: It came to my attention last semester that you were using the Wiki activity. Why and with what motivation?

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: A wiki is, after all, a learning activity that allows users not only to read content, but also to change it online in the browser. The idea behind it is to increase participation in the seminar and to stimulate other learning processes as a result. Students have another opportunity to build their own knowledge and see how knowledge can evolve.

Tobias Falke: Can you describe an example in which you have used the learning activity Wiki?

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: This was a seminar that I held for the first time. In contrast to other seminars, in which I follow a fixed roadmap from which one can still deviate, but consider it a basic framework for the time being, I had deliberately not set a roadmap for this seminar, because I actually wanted to implement community work with the students in a practical way through this form of participation. Therefore, the learning activity Wiki seemed to me to be particularly suitable for community work on a content-related and didactic level.

Tobias Falke: What is the didactic concept behind its use?

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: It is important to me to engage in conversation with the students, but that alone would be a bit little. From my point of view, I act as a model, so to speak, of how one can socialize in science and ultimately also learn to act socially. I try to make clear how this can work through such discourses in the seminar. However, even that would not be sufficient, because students also learn from each other. I think that with the introduction of the bachelor's and master's degree programs, a very strong homogenization has developed within the student body. Some years even call it classes, because there is a kind of timetable structure, so to speak, in which first and third semesters no longer come together the way it was before in the diploma programs. There, the possibility of choice and the coming together of students from different semesters was significantly greater, almost on a par with the possibilities we have in the natural unit of the family, where the younger students learn from the older ones. So we have to think of didactic tricks how to do it differently. I try to do that in different ways. This wiki is from last semester and is also available to students from the current semester. That means we have a cross-year didactic option. Whether that will be used is another question. That's actually what I have in mind didactically, because the wiki enables learning processes.

Tobias Falke: Do you also have concrete added values from it or do you see this more with the students?

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: A seminar does not only live from the lecturers, but in the best case a dialog develops. I think that if this dialogue is promoted among the students by means of certain signals that I send out, the honing of the seminar talks and the discussions would also profit from this. For me, this is a kind of contribution to what I have in mind, what studying should actually be. If that succeeds, if communication between the students succeeds, so to speak, then I would feel better.

Tobias Falke: Are there any problems or pitfalls in using such wikis? Have students often asked you, "How do I handle this?"

Prof. Kirstin Bromberg: Well, I had to deal with it myself first, I think technically there were only small uncertainties that certain folders were not visible as we had thought about it or that the students could not upload or post anything at certain places. But those were minor issues. A big help for me, however, was also the short-term guidance from the e-learning team, since I first had to deal with it myself. Here I am glad about the support of the e-learning team.