Quick tips: Making a user-friendly Moodle for Academic English

CELUSA (the Centre for English Language in the University of South Australia) in Adelaide is the ELICOS provider for both SAIBT (South Australian Institute of Business and Technology) and UniSA. In order to prepare students for pathway courses, CELUSA not only teaches English, but also academic skills. Students study a minimum of 10 weeks of Academic English before they pathway into SAIBT or UniSA, and this subject in particular requires students to interact with online learning content.

Both SAIBT and UniSA use Moodle as their learning management system and CELUSA has followed suit to familiarise and prepare students for their chosen pathway course. From students to teachers to management and admin, Moodle in our centre is used in many different ways, including:

  • Students: submitting assignments, including text-matching software Turnitin to support academic integrity; access to extra resources and classroom listening activities; printable documents to support classroom activities such as assessment topics and information;
  • Teachers: classroom listening activities, grading submitted assignments, housing teacher resources such as soft copies of curricula and policy documentation;
  • Management/admin: gradebook management across many classes; keeping policy and curricula documents updated.

Designing online learning spaces that are easy for students to navigate is not necessarily an intuitive process. Even those who are experienced using learning management systems like Moodle are always looking for ideas to design the space better. To assist some colleagues starting out on this process, Dan O’Donohue put together a few thoughts on some small changes to make Moodle pages easier to read for students, teachers and administration.

You can explore these quick tips via the red ‘hotspots’ on the images below:

Before: A CELUSA Moodle page in need of a re-design

After: Examples of re-designed features (page 1)

After: Examples of re-designed features (page 2)

One last tip: Think beyond PDFs!

Moodle can easily become a repository of documents, in particular PDFs. When these documents need to be edited and updated, it can be a lengthy process to find the original, update it, save again as a PDF, then upload to Moodle. There are lots of ways to avoid this, but one option is by using online tools such as Google Docs.

A teacher can click on a Google Docs link, edit and update the document easily and not waste time with re-uploading, archiving and document control. By storing the documents in one spot, students can easily click on the document link, download and print as they choose. For secure document control, permissions can be set to allow students to edit for a group or individual class activity. This principle of a single point for administration (rather than multiple versions and uploads) can be applied to many tools which can be integrated into an online learning space.

With the UniSA’s future plan to make a quarter of all courses available to students online, it is imperative that English language students have opportunities to become familiar with learning management systems like Moodle as soon possible. A few simple changes to the design of a Moodle space can help make resources more easily accessible to students as they engage with their courses online.

For more information, contact Dan.O’Donohue@unisa.edu.au.