Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Making Moodle Courses More Like Web Pages

I've been working with Moodle for just over a year and have learned to use it via online videos and presentations. I can create web pages in Moodle and have learnt how to embed videos and recently a PowerPoint presentation with animations into a course page. However anyone who is familiar with Moodle course pages is well aware how quickly you find you've created a page which requires seemingly endless scrolling to find information and resources. One of the first pages I was involved in suffered from this issue. It was resolved by hiding some areas and creating links to hidden resources. Still required some scrolling so I knew it could be improved further but not how.

Once in a while I'll do a random search looking for anything new on a given topic. I use this most often when I am at work to find out what other people are saying about some of the resources we use in education especially when it comes to our open source VLE. The abundant sharing of knowledge and skills supports beginner, intermediate and advanced learning. I rely heavily on the sharing of highly skilled people who have been using Moodle a lot longer than me and I share my discoveries with colleagues as well as record it here.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking for a challenge so I did a Google video search on Moodle. One of the top five results was a video from channel UsingMoodle on YouTube called Make your Moodle course page look like a webpage. Avoiding the 'scroll of death' was a topic that I was trying to tackle over a year ago and therefore was exactly the challenge I was looking for. Naturally I watched it right away.

I watched it a few times over before attempting to follow the instructions to change one of the course pages for which I am responsible. I would recommend watching the video and pausing at each step while working on your course page. The hardest thing in the whole process which is not obvious in this video is finding images to use for buttons. Moodle is a bit fiddly when it comes to images. You can't just copy a bit of clipart. I would like to be able to just copy and paste and then add a hyperlink like I would in Word. Moodle however insists on you uploading files into a storage area which I find a little irritating. However as this video demonstrates it is possible to avoid the 'scroll of death'. Anything that makes Moodle more presentable is a good thing.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Screenr - Screencasts an eLearning tool

Books are great and training sessions are even better but when you have a limited time to learn and upgrade your own skills I for one am glad for the wealth of information available online. It is part of my job to make sure my skills are up to scratch with the software being used by students. Recently we were upgraded to Office 2007. We are all teaching ourselves and each other while dealing with the start of the new term. I tried to use some books but they give you tasks that may be great in a classroom but have no motivation for me when I am self-teaching.

Until last month I’d never heard of the term ‘screencast’. I stumbled across a site that allows you to record and share screencasts with your Twitter followers. I was searching for PowerPoint 2007 videos and found screencasts. What's a screencast? To answer that question I decided to look up a definition or two.

The first definition is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. Although the term screencast dates from 2004, products such as Lotus ScreenCam were used as early as 1994.[1][2] Early products produced large files and had limited editing features. More recent products support more compact file formats such as Adobe Flash and have more sophisticated editing features allowing changes in sequence, mouse movement, and audio.

Just as a screenshot is a picture of a user's screen, a screencast is essentially a movie of the changes over time that a user sees on his monitor.

Another definition from yourdictionary.com explains it thus:

Screen recording software that turns screen output into a video to teach an application or to promote a product by demonstrating features. Users can also make videos of screen sequences to log results for troubleshooting. Screencast programs may allow narration during capture, and advanced versions allow editing and annotation after the capture.

The site I discovered is called Screenr. There I found a number of very useful screencasts to help people like me who like visual explanations and demonstrations. One of the screencasters appears under the name elearning. He can also be found on Twitter as @elearning.

I used two of his screencasts to learn about some advanced skills and while doing so observed how to access the various tools and features of PowerPoint 2007.

The first one shows how to use gradient fills to “create interesting and dramatic lighting effects.”

The second one shows how to create "Interactive, animated scenarios using motion paths in PowerPoint 2007".

Want to see more? Visit Screenr

I think the effects demonstrated really make a difference to your slideshow. I created an instructive presentation using motion path animation and the gradient fills to great effect. As it is specifically designed for our students it is not suitable to share in this post but it is already being implemented on the VLE. With the help of elearning's screencasts and my transferable skills, I consider myself upgraded in PowerPoint 2007. I hope you find these screencasts useful. Now to tackle Excel....