Walking through the school corridors, I often overhear comments such as “I don’t like ——– (insert subject here) because it’s booooring” or “I love ——— (insert subject here) because it’s soooo fun, we play games all the time”. This post deals with making Moodle more interesting and engaging for students, especially the younger ones.

I recently conducted a student survey at my current school (High School only) and found out that “more games” is the most requested feature by the lower High School students.

The ‘Game‘ module for Moodle was first released in 2008 and has been actively maintained ever since. The idea behind it is to use some of the content already existing in your Moodle courses to create engaging activities. You’ll be able to make games in no time if you already have questions in your question bank, quizzes, or even better – glossaries. If you don’t, you’ll have to make create some first – I recommend glossaries as they are compatible with most types of games and quick to make. So far, teachers can create 8 different types of games:

  • Hangman
  • Crossword
  • Cryptex (word search)
  • Hidden picture
  • Millionaire (a barebones version of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?)
  • Sudoku
  • Snakes & Ladders

You can see full reviews, as well as training videos (in full HD!) for each type of games by clicking on the list above. (coming soon, promise)

From experience, only ‘Crossword’ and ‘Millionaire’ appeal to older students (16+) while ‘Snakes & Ladders’ and ‘Hangman’ are most suited to younger students (12-). Middle school students are a pretty easy crowd to please and will happily play any of the games mentioned above.

Some of the games have a more obvious educational benefit, for example ‘Crossword’ or ‘Millionaire’ while some seem a little ‘gimmicky’ (Hidden picture). I have however been able to use all types of games to help students with their learning and you can see some real life examples on the individual review pages (click on the list above).

Although there are a few (minor) bugs, the developer has done a great job at listening to users’ feedback to improve his module. I recommend you strongly to download it and give it a try.

Check out the individual reviews to get the most of this module.

What a start to my blog; For my first ‘Software review’ I’m actually going to look at an ‘add-in’, keep reading though as this might save you a bunch of time.

I don’t know about you, but most of my Moodle courses contain resources that I have designed from scratch, most of which were created using the Microsoft® Office suite.

Here is the workflow that most teachers I know (including yours truly) follow when posting an Office document onto Moodle:

Create document –> Upload to Moodle –> Make it available to student

That’s fine when I have just created a document, but what happens when it’s time to update it? Well, it becomes a pain to be honest, that’s what:

Download resource from Moodle –> Edit resource using MS Office –> Re-upload to Moodle –> Overwrite existing file

It’s not that it takes that long to do, but I asked myself “Surely there must be a better way to do this, as it is a rather confusing way to do things. Surely?”

After a quick Googling, I came across the Microsoft ® Office Add-in for Moodle. Anthony at MS obviously noticed the same issue as I did. Here is  my ‘new’ workflow to update existing resources – straight from Office, no need to open Moodle at all:

Open document (straight from MS Office) –> Edit it –> Save it

Since starting using this method, I have saved a LOT of time and headaches. Here is a demo of how it works:

And here is a video showing the ‘before and after’ teacher workflow:

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it does if you tick the following boxes:

  • You use Moodle 1.x (doesn’t yet work for Moodle 2.x)
  • You work on Windows® computers (no Mac support)
  • You use Office 2003 or 2007 (no 2010 support – kinda)
  • You have the ‘My Courses’ block displayed in all of your Moodle courses
  • You only want to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint (no support for other software in suite)
  • You have someone in your organisation who can debug if necessary as quite a few users are reporting issues

Most users tick the above boxes, don’t they? This product has been created by the folks working for the Microsoft® Education Labs and to be fair they don’t seem to be the most well funded arm of the company. I do not know whether their approach to ‘suit most’ users will continue but there have been fewer than 10,000 downloads for this add-in so far (available since April 2010), so I can’t see this hitting the big time and support all platforms, though it would be great. Microsoft has the potential to reach over 1.1 million teachers here, so keep bugging them in their forums if you want your platform to be supported.

Overall, this is a great add-in and I thoroughly recommend you to get it for your Moodle install (after all it is free).

I’m off to send MS a message as my school has recently upgraded to Office 2010 and I cannot use this add-in anymore.

Please comment on this post, be gentle though as this is my first time 😉 It would be great if you could share your own experience as well.