This ‘Speed up Moodle’ series of 4 posts will teach you step-by-step how to optimise your Linux server for Moodle. It is aimed at beginner server administrators. If you find any mistakes or inconsistencies, please comment and I’ll rectify ASAP. This first post is about optimising Apache for Moodle. Check out the other posts on optimising MySQL, installation of an opcode cache such as APC and other ways to optimise your Moodle server. Please see ‘Assumptions’ and ‘Technical notes’ at the bottom of this post.
The essence of it
Let’s face it, creating question banks in Moodle can be very time consuming. This is the number one reason why few teachers use this fantastic facility at my current school. Yes there are tools that allow teachers to import/convert existing worksheets, tests, etc. but they are not usually aimed at the casual user and rarely work without tinkering with the worksheets first.
This is where this assignment comes into play. Its premise is simple: students create a number of questions that you will review, and then export to add to your current question bank and create tests with. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Students working for you, brilliant! Well, let’s have a look, shall we?
- Activities are easy to setup
Once installed, it is very easy to create your first activity. You only need to select what type of questions you want your students to create and how many e.g. students to create at least 3 ‘multiple-choice’ questions, and 2 ‘Yes/No’ questions. I find that the first time you use this assignment type, you are better off using simple question types, such as those aforementioned.
- It’s a great activity for Assessment for Learning
I hate to say it, but this assignment type is not the Holy Grail of teaching, it won’t save you that much time. What it will do though is provide you with an excellent picture of what the students understand of the topic at hand. It will give them an excellent opportunity to see how much they know about a topic, without being tested as such.
In the example provided, the teacher decided to get his students to create questions at the ‘end’ of a learning cycle, as a review activity. It provided him with ‘data’ which is probably a lot more useful than what he would have got with a more traditional end of unit test. On top of that, students had a much better time doing this activity than doing a test.
- Did it take longer than a ‘regular’ test? Yes.
- Would it take the same amount of time next time students do the activity? Certainly not, it will be faster as students are familiar with the process.
- Was it more useful to students than a test? For most, most probably so.
- Will this teacher use it again? You bet.
- It can be used at all stages of a learning cycle
Although the teacher aforementioned used the Question Creation assignment type, I have found that it can be used earlier in the learning cycle, by providing sufficient scaffolding, or allowing students to do research. For example, I once used it on a topic completely new to year 10 ICT students (14 year olds). The idea was to ask them to research a topic on a particular website, in this case ‘Input devices’. It was great for me to see what information students would pick out and ‘think’ worthy of a question being asked about. While checking the questions being created (during the lesson), it allowed me to spot 2 students who were in trouble and provided them with help on what to look for. I’d recommend this to anybody, it’s kind of a cool way for students to take notes 🙂
- It can be used for peer-assessment
For those of you who have read some of my other posts, you might know that I am somewhat obsessed with peer-assessment. Well, good news for me, I have found a way to use it as a peer-assessed activity, woohoo!
I’ll show it in a video one of these days when I’m done spending all of my time doing things that pay the rent… but for now, please take a look at the following pictures.
- At first, same as for any other instances of question creation: every student creates their own questions.
- What I did after that was basically to turn students into ‘teachers’ using the ‘assign roles’ and ‘override permissions’ settings for this activity.
- I created two question categories ‘good’ and ‘to improve’ and let students loose.
- All questions were first placed in the ‘To improve’ section, students were then given a topic, and they would have to review questions already created by their peers.
- Some questions made their way directly into the ‘Good’ category after a question was reviewed at least twice (a bit of preparation needed on your end there), and some had to be corrected by students prior to being moved.
- Some never made their way into the ‘Good’ pot as the questions would not make any sense in the first place (a lot of our EAL students struggle when it comes to forming questions).
Overall, a great activity that may take time for students to get their head around the first time, but after some practice is a breeze (well, kind of).
- It can deal with all types of questions
Whether they are built-in question types (e.g. multiple choice) or third-party (e.g. drag&drop ordering), as long as it is available to you as a teacher to use, then it will be available to students as well
- Supports groups
This doesn’t seem like much but is actually really important and useful. I teach mainly mixed ability groups (very mixed…) and I have created hidden groups/groupings by levels so that questions do not get mixed up and every student can make the most of the activity and access it.
… and the could be (will be?) great
- A bit funny to add questions to quizzes
One of the features of the Question Creation assignment type is that it creates its own category, accessible only from within each instance of the activity. This makes it slightly awkward to use questions when creating a quiz. For example, if you already have a quiz in your course, there is no easy way to add the questions created in the Question Creation activity. You first have the export the questions from it, save it somewhere, and then go to your question bank and import the newly saved file into it.
- Not possible to directly create quizzes straight from the activity
Well, do I need to explain this one? Really? 🙂
- A few other minor things
I will update this post at some point to try and be slightly less obscure, but to be honest it’s nothing that should stop you from using this assignment type.
Another one of my big Moodle favourites. I thought I had it all figured out after 5 minutes of using it: students will do my online assignments for me, brilliant. Boy was I wrong, this things is much more powerful than just that, it seems to do it all! I must admit I wish I used it more and I might well just. Give it a go, I promise you won’t regret it.