We ran a workshop on using core activities in Moodle to create engagement. We chose this topic because of what we see in current practice, considering what we felt would be most beneficial to the particular audience (a Moodlemoot) and we can offer to this community.
We offered to run this as a full day interactive workshop at Moodlemoot NZ 2016 in Whangarei as a BYOD session with wireless provided. There were so many workshops offered that we were given a three hour slot (with a half hour break!) and arrived to find a lecture theatre with a desktop projector and whiteboards. Lecture theatres aren’t exactly our favourite spaces, but we do love white boards.
Numbers of participants to expect was indicated as fewer than one hundred, maybe ten. We think there were 36 participants (plus us!) as that is how many accounts were actively used during the session.
So our audience had everyone from newbies to the platform to experienced users, teachers, admins, managers, Moodle developers and plugin developers, instructional designers, accreditation bodies, from public/private/corporate sector…. Diverse is a good word here.
We did some planning, even painted our nails. We created a lesson plan after action mapping what we wanted to do with our time, so you can see we find whiteboards are still useful.
Developing the materials
We wanted a Moodle course to lead everyone through. This involved finding the appropriate Moodle installation (with a useful version of Moodle) and then developing the individual learning activities and their flow and order. We had to keep in mind the limited time we had to take people through the course – 3 hours is not long.
How to differ our thinking
The learning outcomes of the workshop versus the learning outcomes of the demo course – there is the common issue of teaching tools versus teaching a pedagogical approach, so we tried to keep focused on the pedagogy in how we designed the activities, knowing that we were giving examples of how to use the technology that would lead to understand the tool.
Testing and getting feedback
Before the workshop we showed our course and lesson plan to some peers to get feedback and make some changes where appropriate. This helped the workshop run more smoothly.
The freak out stage
What does it feel like to stand in front of a full room when you are an elearning designer? Well, we have all had teaching roles before, but it does definitely have a different flavour when you are amongst your peers. Good preparation and knowing you are bringing experience with you helps.
Using the room
We needed to work with the physical space provided as well as the online space we prepared, so we did try to find ways to best work in groups given it was a lecture theatre. We wanted to utilise the existing knowledge of participants so our plan did incorporate room for that to take shape. We had lots of group work and lots of conversations, and we were getting participants to help each other, and bringing group’s comments back to the room. In a room with less than ideal layout (lecture style), forcing people to gather into groups to break out of the lecture atmosphere takes a bit of extra effort. With more than one presenter we can notch up the excitement and enthusiasm, and work to make the atmosphere as relaxed and comfortable and safe as we can for them to participate, which I am sure we did succeed in.
Being prepared for anything
We took big paper/pens, used whiteboards (we took markers with us to the conference), used our own devices as well as the provided computer and projector. Remember that tech conferences can use “old school” resources, and actually using paper and whiteboards can make participation more comfortable and reduce barriers to entry for those less technically literate. For some people they find it easier then to transfer their knowledge and connect ideas and concepts first on paper then write them on the computer.
Three presenters – yay!
We get that this is unusual and not always possible, but it certainly made our lives easier. We were able to present in turns and wander around to help one-on-one where needed, monitor group discussions, monitor timeframes, deal with issues as they arose. The energy created by having three presenters that work well together is not to be underestimated as we positively bounce off each other and watch the mexican wave of smiles in our audience. We smile and laugh together and watch the audience relax, smile and laugh together too. A total atmosphere change from the lecture style it could have been in that space, and usually is at conferences.
Self reflection and feedback
Straight after the workshop there was this “thank god it’s over” and “that went okay, didn’t it? People seemed to enjoy it.” There were some issues we felt we had addressed promptly. It felt like we could have had more time – we used it well but it would have been nice to spend more time on some things to let participants go deeper into things we barely scratched the surface on (guess those are next steps for them).
Only one thing fell over – the workshop activity (it’s the name of a module in Moodle for those who aren’t familiar with Moodle) – and this was difficult to test beforehand because it’s a one-use timed activity. We could have made a duplicate to test, which in hindsight might have been better. Feedback from audience was kind, even about this issue – they said it was nice to see that things went wrong even for people who know Moodle well.
After we read the feedback we felt better because people were generally kind and enthusiastic and the criticism was constructive and often aligned with our own feeling of “this wasn’t long enough, could have had more time”.
Where to from here
Well, actually we ran another workshop (covered in a different blog post) that we used this workshop as a basis for. It gave us useful data to work with to run a workshop on monitoring and managing a course.
We would definitely be happy to run this workshop again, with minor amendments or adaptations depending on the audience. We are also happy to offer the workshop lesson plan and Moodle course for anyone else who would like to use it.
MOOTNZ16 Engagement Workshop Lesson Plan by Miriam Laidlaw, Miranda Verswijvelen, Tabitha Parker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.