Webinar Overview – Teaching With Moodle

This week’s Edublogs Webinar (recording here ) presented by Tomaz Lasic was a terrifically informative session that opened my (and I think many others’) eyes to the myriad ways of using Moodle in teaching.

The Webinar

This was a well attended session with our usual global mix from Australia, the USA, Canada, South America and Europe. There was also a variety of Moodle experience ranging from none to very experienced, with almost half of us falling into the “novice” group.

Tomaz began with a look at the principles underlying Moodle …

PrinciplesOfMoodle… and two questions to ponder during the session.

He then moved on to take us through the processes involved in building a course. This part of the session was packed with information! Tomaz used examples throughout from a course developed in his recent teaching role, showing us how the learners had become part of the development process and thus shared ownership of the course. A superb teaching strategy and fascinating to see how it can be implemented with Moodle – a huge contrast with the way many people use Learning Management systems (LMS) of any type ie as a repository for documents. To my relief (as a Moodle novice) most of the questions arising in text chat were ably fielded by the more experienced Moodle users in the audience. This meant that Tomaz was able to maintain the flow and his train of thought giving us a fascinating insight into the thoughts behind the development of the course. As a couple of people said at the end it would have been nice to see the options in action, but there would have been the inevitable trade-off in terms of covering less ground. If Tomaz had done this the focus would necessarily have been on a far smaller part of what is available and we would not have had such a clear picture of the many options available in Moodle.

To take us full circle at the end of the session Tomaz returned to the underlying principles of Moodle and the questions he posed at the beginning. He invited whiteboard comments on several aspects of using Moodle including how best to approach teaching with Moodle.

BestApproachFinally there was some excellent and extremely positive feedback. This was a great session all round with much food for thought and exciting strategies shared.

Next week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs Serendipity – unconference session so bring along your hot topics and burning issues (what makes you spit with anger or thump a tub with passion) and throw them into the melting pot for the poll to choose our topic in the first ten minutes.

Join us on Thursday April 1st at 23:00 GMT/UTC  (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday April 2nd at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

Also next week I am also doing a webinar on Wednesday March31st at 09:00 GMT/UTC (5am USA EST, 10am BST, 11am CEST, 5pm West Aus, 8pm NSW) depending on your timezone. This is  “E-blends and Regional/Remote Students”  in the LearnCentral public webinar room

This will be an interactive session aimed at exploring some of the challenges (and some possible solutions) of using e-learning blends for flexible delivery to a highly diverse and geographically scattered student group across four AQF levels of literacy, numeracy and study skills.

  • Context – where is this happening?
  • Who are the students?
  • Blending the learning – how and why
  • Some of the challenges.
  • Meeting the challenges.
  • Where to go next?
  • Feedback

Although this is under the banner of eT@lking in the Australia Series it is likely to be of interest to anyone working with distance learners wherever they are in the world.

Virtual hijacking?

We had an interesting issue before we started the most recent Edublogs webinar “Teach to the Test?” in that we were “hijacked” by at least two and more likely three or more quite disruptive children (or at least they purported to be, and sounded like, children). One gave “her” age as “seven” and another gave hers as “ten”, at least one of them seemed to be using an alias and also logged in at one point as “KILLLER”. Luckily we identified and dealt with this largely before the session started and were also ready for any additional invasions during the session.

This sort of occurrence gives food for thought and raises some questions. For me my main thought was about how several children had got the link on this occasion when this has not happened in any of our sessions before. The link is posted in a variety of places (three events calendars) and is also Tweeted out (and often retweeted) several times just prior to the session. So perhaps it is surprising that this has not happened before rather than surprising that it happened at all. The voices were very “young sounding” and in my opinion the accents were North American. I have a concern that these quite young children apparently had sufficient access to enable them to join a live adult session with no supervision and that this could pose a risk to them in the future.

Would you recognise/identify non-appropriate participants? How would you deal with them and with behaviour that disrupted the session? It was something I was already very well aware of as a possiblity because some of my students are “Youth at Risk” and may have behavioural issues that manifest in face-to-face situations. So I had already thought of some strategies for identifying and managing potential problems of this type when thinking of transferring some of these students to an online context.

Thankfully Elluminate has some features that make it a bit easier to deal with issues of this kind (look out for a post on this soon). Moderator control over access to tools is very useful and as a moderator it is also possible to remove someone from a session, although unless you block access to all new participants you can’t stop them joining again. Blocking access to all is not an option for me because we have people joining throughout sessions. This might be something for Elluminate to consider – perhaps when someone at a particular IP address is removed then to not allow that IP address to rejoin for 2-3 hours.

Identifying that these participants were not really appropriate was probably relatively easy in this case because two of them were in the room very early and were talking at times. Also one had started video with the camera pointing at their body rather than their head. On hearing the voices I was alerted as they sounded very young. I removed video access and then spoke to them but did not get a proper response. They then started to draw on the whiteboard, my instant response was to remove their access to whiteboard tools and to say this was because we were loading the presentation. I had no wish to offend legitimate participants who were just experimenting because I am happy for people to do this. The immediate response was variations (in audio and text) around a theme of asking/demanding to be allowed to draw with one very rude response to the effect that “you must die!” (if you don’t let me draw). I then removed audio permission. At this point we were joined by Shelly Terrell who has Elluminate experience. I told her of the situation – we agreed that the children should be removed. I did this and then gave Shelly moderator status to help me deal with any further issues. She provided fantastic support for the rest of the session, when we again had these or other children joining.

As a further strategy for monitoring and identifying any children I was then a liittle more pro-active than usual in encouraging participants to tell us about themselves and what they did either in text or by audio.

We had one apparent child who remained quiet and to whom we gave the benefit of the doubt – ie we didn’t remove her because she was causing no issues. She chose to leave on the basis that the session was for “grown ups” and a bit weird so she would like to find one for “kids”.

This in itself raises another issue – should we be doing sessions that are aimed at including very young students, but in a planned way? I have run sessions where I moderate (from elsewhere) physical rooms of people who are all in Elluminate with only one microphone available to each room through a “room moderator” but where everyone has access to text chat, whiteboard, polling etc. Alternatively I have used Elluminate in group sessions where no-one has microphone because we are all in the same room but where we use the Elluminate features. I find these strategies are great ways to get whole group participation in a large session. In my opinion they would be an excellent way to introduce children to virtual classrooms, and if anyone would like to give it a go I am happy to be your distant moderator (if we can do it when my timezone is awake!)

Please comment as I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on any aspect of this post.

Edublogs Webinar – Teach to the Test?

Wow! This was a session with a buzz! The Teaching to the test vs teaching to the learner’s needs debate is one of those perennial topics that always gives rise to a terrific discussion. Made even better by @philhart’s excellent facilitation, you should definitely catch the recording!

I don’t think Phil will mind me saying that he was a bit nervous. We have co-facilitated lots of times but usually with myself as lead doing most of the talking or in “Techie How To!” sessions where we took a section each. This was the first time that Phil had initiated and facilitated a discussion session, and in my possibly biased opinion he did a great job!

Phil has already posted about his feelings on the session  so it falls to me to give a bit of an overview.  The session included several polls and lots of whiteboard brainstorming, this combined with the strong contributions through text chat and audio made for a highly interactive session.  Whiteboards with stimulus questions were quickly filled with thoughts and ideas with the pace maintained by using the timer. This is not really the place to put up all those whiteboards but to whet your appetite for the recording I have made a Wordle  for one of them.  The question was looking for personal reasons for teaching to learners’needs.


Feedback at the end was very positive and everyone seemed to enjoy the session immensely.

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs Serendipity – unconference session so bring along your hot topics and burning issues and throw them into the melting pot for the poll to choose our topic in the first ten minutes.

Join us here in Elluminate on Thursday February 18th at 23:00 GMT (6pm USA EST, Midnight CET) or Friday February 19th at 7am West Aus, 10am NSW, depending on your timezone.


Did you know? Elluminate – Break out of the mould!

This post was prompted by the fact that if I had tried to put all of the “how to” of Breakout Rooms into the “Breakout with Elluminate” post  it would have been too long for anyone to read.

Breakout rooms are probably one of the Elluminate tools I have used least along with playing multimedia. This is mainly because in my work context in rural Western Australia we have students online from home with low bandwidth and often fairly old computers. In this setting both of these tools can be a bit problematic. However despite occasional issues I continue to use breakout rooms but I do think and plan carefully before I use them. I try to minimise the number I use at any one time and to have contingency plans in case participants have problems.

Breakout rooms bring an extra dimension to your Elluminate sessions by enabling several different activities to occur at the same time by providing extra “mini-rooms” within your virtual room. This lets you work in the virtual room in much the same way as you would in a real room, with one extra advantage – if you have people working in groups they can’t eavesdrop on each other either intentionally or inadvertently. Breakout rooms have: independent audio; whiteboard; text capacity within the breakout room; text capacity to all; hand-up capacity to ask for help; transferrability of whiteboard to/from main room, and the potential to Application Share just within the Breakout Room.

I have used breakout rooms for a wide range of activities including the following:

  • Individuals or groups planning presentations
  • Individuals or groups brainstorming ideas
  • Individuals working on the same activity eg wordsearch, drag and drop, or the same brainstorm, all coming back to the main room to compare outcomes
  • Individuals or groups rotating through breakout rooms with different activities and each making their contribution to the activity in the room
  • Individuals or groups Internet researching and reporting back
  • Peer tutoring
  • Individual feedback
  • Individual assessment (breakout rooms combined with application share and desktop control is a whole post in itself)

In addition I have found a breakout room very useful if one member of a group is having issues with audio or other Elluminate problems I can move myself and that person to a breakout room and help them troubleshoot without disrupting the session.

As the moderator you are in control (hopefully!). You create and name rooms and manage how they are accessed and used by participants.


The process of creating the rooms and accessing them is very straightforward:

  1. Go to the Tools menu.
  2. Mouse over Breakout Rooms.
  3. Click Create Breakout Room – at this point you will be asked for a name for the room. Short names are easiest but not essential. I usually try to use something that relates to the question or activity in the room.
  4. In the current version of Elluminate there is an option to give participants control over their own movement to Breakout Rooms. This has enabled much more rapid distribution of participants. In previous versions there was only “Distribute Participants” this was a bit slow as it was necessary to select each person individual and go through a couple of steps to move them to their room.
  5. Also in this version it is much easier for the moderator to move between rooms using “Send self to Breakout Room” again in previous versions this was done using Distribute Participants and was consequently quite slow.

One of the most useful aspects of the way Breakout Rooms work is the ease of transfer of pre-prepared whiteboards or outcomes of activities to and from the main room. This is done using Explore Screens which is accessed through: Tools, Whiteboard, Explore Screens.


Once you are in explore screens you can access all screens in the same way as you access file structures (using the “+” to move to the next heirarchical level). You see thumbnails of the screens which is very useful if you don’t have screen titles.


Once you can see the screens it is easy to select the screen or screens that you want to move. If you want to copy the entire group of screens you can select them using Select all screen peers. You can use simple copy and paste but there  is an option to copy directly to Breakout Rooms which makes the process much quicker. To copy from Breakout Rooms to the Main Room you just use the Copy and Paste on the menu – remembering to move to the point you want to copy to before pasting.

I find that when I am going to use Breakout Rooms it helps to plan thoroughly:

  • allow time to explain how the rooms work & that you will be “visiting”;
  • have a Main Room screen with the steps/activities;
  • pre-prepare and place screens for the rooms;
  • have copies of the room screens on the main room whiteboard;
  • be very clear in my mind on how I am going to allocate groups to rooms;
  • use the timer and bring everyone back to the main room promptly;
  • have a contingency plan in case you don’t have enough participants for your activities and/or some of the group have bandwidth issues.

Hope you have a great time when you “Break out of the mould”

Breakout with Elluminate!

Our recent Edublogs webinar, (watch the recording for the whole session) 3rd or 4th of December depending on your timezone, was another in the occasional series about some of the features of Elluminate. As you probably all know by now I love Elluminate and am always happy to show how powerful it can be as a teaching and learning tool.

A few weeks ago one of the possible topics that was suggested for our webinars was “more on Elluminate”, someone else had also mentioned that they would like to know about breakout rooms. This made for a simple choice of topic and one to make me think! Using breakout rooms when you have no idea how many participants, or what level of Elluminate experience they will have, can be quite challenging. For me it’s also important that these sessions are interactive for the participants – I very much dislike sessions which are “death by powerpoint” transformed into Elluminate. That approach seems to me to waste the potential of Elluminate and to perhaps be better served by just making a ‘cast of the slides with voice over and not using Elluminate at all.

We were a little late getting underway – being a very small group – we hoped others might join. However the conference season is in full swing so we remained a small and select band. I started the recording – I almost forgot and was reminded (many thanks!) by someone in the group. We began with a quick poll on usage of breakout rooms. This was followed by a  rundown of the features of breakout rooms and the moderator’s role in managing them.


Then before everyone could fall asleep we moved on to trying out breakout rooms. I had pre-created two rooms each with a whiteboard question about possible uses for breakout rooms. See “Did you know? Elluminate – Breakout of the mould!” for more detail on the how, when and why of breakout rooms. The current version of Elluminate allows the moderator to give participants access to move themselves to rooms, so after inviting participants to put their virtual hands up I asked them to move to a room based on the order hands were up. They had ten minutes to brainstorm ideas in response the their question. A busy ten minutes for me – “flitting” between the rooms to check that they were all OK with the features. At the end of the brainstorming time I “beamed” everyone back to the main room.

Oh dear! All that lovely brainstorming was on the whiteboards in the breakout rooms. Never fear Elluminate had the answer. We copied and pasted the complete whiteboards into the main room while application sharing so everyone could see how it was done. There were a variety of great ideas about the uses and contexts in which breakout rooms might be used. The next step was the anarchy phase – give everyone moderator rights so they could create their own breakout room and try a task and a copy of their whiteboard to the main room. As always this produced a few glitches but it’s always fun when everyone goes “feral” and “plays” without always realising how much power they have as a moderator. We ran short of time so didn’t get this activity finished – something that often happens when everyone is moderator.

For more detail on the “how to” of  Breakout Rooms see the related post “Did you know? Elluminate – Break out of the mould!

Feedback was very postitive – people always seem to greatly enjoy the interactivity and the opportunity to try things out. So there will definitely be more on Elluminate interactivity options in the future. Join us in the Elluminate room next week 10th/11th for a Serendipity unconference session and for our last session before the Xmas break on the 17th/18th December depending on your timezone. See the Edublogs calendar for information about the last session – our Elluminate end of year party, where we invite you to get interactive with party games! We’ll be back “virtually” after the break on 7th/8th of January 2010.

School of the future?

In online PD on Friday (all welcome each Friday West Australian time 09:00 – Elluminate link) one of the potential topics was “what will the school of the future look like”. Someone instantly added “cloud computing” as part of the same question. This was a term I had heard but knew nothing about. Our topic for the day is chosen on a vote for the suggestions and this was not the one selected – we discussed “managing our information overloads” through a great demonstration by Sue Waters. However afterwards I felt I needed find out a bit about “cloud computing” so did a bit of exploring. I still don’t know much but I found that there were many cross links with my recent thoughts as a TAFE (Vocational Education and Training) Lecturer at a college with many distance/flexible and school based (on vocational courses) learners. I have been working cross-college to encourage lecturers to use online/e-learning. In our context the focus is on supporting, and delivering learning to, students who are unable (for whatever reason) to attend face-to-face, This has given me much food for thought regarding the wide variety of configurations and application in students’ home computers and the complexities of working with these in an online context – especially when demonstrating something in the virtual classroom when students don’t all hve the application you are demonstrating.

Through my Twitter stream I have contact with teachers in schools and universities in Western Australia (WA), the wider Australian context and also worldwide (particularly Canada and the USA). A major concept that keeps surfacing in my mind as a result of these interactions is a likely shape for learning in the future. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before schools, colleges and universities worldwide are aiming for the majority of their students to be working online from home for one or more days per week. The advantages of this are huge in infrastructure terms for educational institutions and also potentially in environmental terms for the planet. If we build our infrastrucutre and provide applications virtually “up in the clouds”

this may be one option for providing necessary applications for learners who don’t have them on computers at home. However I think that one of the major barriers to the “virtual campus” – for schools at least – will be the huge outcry from parents who will suddenly become responsible for their school age children for at least one extra day per week. This itself may have economic implications.

I live and work in a regional context – on a personal basis I can see no reason for driving 45 minutes each way to work to do all the admin and class preparation tasks I can do perfectly well from home. Who needs to go to work?

Indeed many of these tasks I can do better or more easily from home as I do not have to contend with surrounding noise and interruptions from my colleagues in our large open office. Additionally I have better ie faster Internet access from home and do not have to waste time frequently contacting the IT department to unblock sites so that I can access them for learning resources. Because, as a college, we use virtual classroom delivery for our scattered students it is also feasible for me to deliver classes from home and I frequently do so as I have fewer connection issues from home.