This term I began teaching a fully online technical writing course on Moodle (still using a textbook, mind you), which has given me a much greater sense of just how much I can do on Moodle. As a result, I’ve added a number of resources to my Writing 115 OER shell, including discussion forums, video resources, external website links, and a slideshow Flash video.
The shell for my OER course is now built for the most part, but I continue to add materials, activities, and more thorough descriptions of assignments. When I first began this process, I viewed Moodle as little more than a place to post .PDF handouts and the course syllabus, and a platform for taking attendance and entering grades. Now I’m beginning to see it as a far greater tool for learning than I’d previously thought. My approach to this OER fellowship has changed to where I’m now imagining the course as not only being textbook free but as also being classroom free/fully online. With that in mind, I’ve added hyperlinks to web resources, including lessons and videos, created discussion forums, embedded materials, and added assignments that students can upload directly to Moodle—assignments that I can then read, grade, comment upon, and return to students without ever having to use pen or paper. This is a pretty great discovery.
In terms of challenges, some of the readings I’ve used in my face-to-face classes were not available for OER use, so I was forced to drop some of my original selections in favor of others that are more freely available (primarily older essays). This has taken a bit of flexibility on my part, but in the end I feel it has been well worth it. I’m still in the process of adding and replacing some readings, but doing this has made me rethink my reading selections in general, especially around their availability.
Another challenge I faced was creating files that can be opened with free software, i.e., files not reliant on proprietary software. For example, I use a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate strategies for critically reading texts. I had originally posted this to the Moodle page as a Powerpoint file, not taking into consideration the possibility some student users might not have Powerpoint software (or any software capable of opening a Powerpoint file, for that matter). To remedy this, Jen suggested I use a website called Slideshare to convert the Powerpoint file; I used it and read up how to embed a slideshow into Moodle, but for some reason that I never figured out, I could not make the file appear. So I took a different approach and converted the slideshow into a Flash video (using free software called Ispring) and then simply adding it as a file rather than embedding it onto the page. This ultimately worked well, I think. And, despite my frustration at still not being able to embed the Slideshare slideshow, I read up on (and watched numerous YouTube instructional videos about) Moodle in general and ended up learning quite a lot about embedding videos and other resources using Moodle’s HTML editor. I’m now feeling much more confident about my Moodle knowledge and realizing just how vast Moodle’s capabilities are.