Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Moodle for electronic assignments

Ron Sharma from USQ is at ANU talking on "Using Moodle, electronic assignment and other tools to support Engineering students" (after a general workshop yesterday). USQ changed from Web CT to the Moodle Learning Management System several years ago. ANU is still making that transition. One difference is that USQ has a central set of standards, whereas this is devolved at ANU to the colleges (Oxbridge style). At USW assignments are electronically set, submitted, marked and returned to the students. This is necessary as the external student numbers are increasing rapidly. It is therefore infeasible to have students submit assignments on paper. Also USQ has to respond to the needs of industry, such as the energy sector, for engineering education.

At USQ the same Moodle template is used for all courses at the university, with the same standard information resources, such as contacts for the course and assessment. This is provided at the top of the main screen for each Moodle course. The specific course content then follows below. This looks to me a very good approach, so that students knew where to find the information for each course . Having standard conditions for assignment submission saves confusion.

Professor Sharma reported that using the LMS resulted in a reduction in lecture and tutorial attendance from 70% to 30%. This seems in line with my experience. He suggested that just putting lecture notes and audio recordings online was not sufficient: it was necessary to also provide online tutorial materials. This makes sense to me and I was assuming that about 25% of the students would still want to attend in person. The issue then is from a business point of view is if the university can afford to support those students. My suggestion for ANU was to replace the large lecture theaters (which typically easiest 100 or more), with small ones which seat about 24 students. This would be sufficient students to have a class and provide an audience for the lecturer to perform to for audio and video recording.

Professor Sharma teaching energy auditing to the engineering students. This is similar to he green ICT energy audit I teach in Green Technology Strategies.

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