Monthly Archives: April 2015

Unitec’s online support for teachers using Moodle

Did you know we have an online searchable resource to help teachers at Unitec to use Moodle? It is located in the “Help” dropdown here.

At Unitec we try to provide multiple support avenues to give our teachers the best help available. They can contact the Ask IMS helpdesk on 8484 for instant assistance, or email for any complex enquiries, or use the great online resource to help themselves 😉

Help dropdown, Guide to MoodleOne of the exciting features of an online resource is that it can grow and adapt to the needs of the target audience. All support we provide gives us an opportunity to update this resource and rather than typing out sets of instructions in emails, we point staff to the correct entry in this online resource.

Looking for something not in here yet? Let us know so we can create it and make it available to all staff at Unitec.

Teachers: Defining Our Online Message

How to do we refine our online content for maximum clarity, minimum confusion, and full engagement?

I was talking with a colleague recently about the best way of structuring the information on her course’s Moodle shell. Her interest was around minimising the ‘scroll of doom’ and creating concise and engaging information that was pitched at the right level for her students. Much of this conversation was focussing on text content on the pages and ensuring there was not too much (that would make the message confusing), but also just enough (to get the message across clearly).

As academics (and I’m not referring to my colleague here) I think we can fall effortlessly into an unnecessarily roundabout form of wordiness (or periphrasis if you like) when talking about discipline areas close to our hearts. In its worst form, this looks like 12 pages of writing about a topic when one page will suffice. The problem for our students is that 12 pages of circumlocution about new subject matter is distracting and confusing when one page of fundamentals, threshold-concepts and key points could be much clearer.

So how does all this relate to ‘defining your online message’?

Firstly, realising and accepting that we can get too wordy and confusing, is the first step to rethinking how we communicate clearly with our students. We need to grit our teeth, give our egos the day off, and focus on providing clear messages and ideas to our students. We don’t need to prove how awesomely knowledgable we are. There is a real talent in refashioning complex ideas into simple concepts that our new learners can understand.

Here’s an idea on how to do this, and one I personally use almost on a daily basis. It’s a three-step guide which describes  the order and detail of our information, based on the type of content.

3-step guide.PNG

This image looks blurry – click on it to open in higher resolution


A key point about this three-step guide is the intent around the hierarchy:

+ The ‘headline’ is the short phrase that gets their attention.

+ The ‘overview’ provides an opportunity for users to assess the information quickly and with clarity, allowing them to make the decision to move to the ‘detail’.

+ The ‘detail’ is the nuts-and-bolts and of course includes all content and media you feel is necessary to indulge the topic. It should also be an all-encompassing document or information that can be read in isolation, meaning that if you include it as a pdf download on your course, you need to include the ‘headline’ and ‘the overview’. It’s a good idea to offer users multiple ways of accessing this rich information. An example would be to have the ‘detail’ both on your Moodle page AND as a pdf download. The online version can of course include audio, video and embedded content like Flickr, Slideshare and more.

There you have it. Three steps to clarity with your online written content.

After reading this, you’ll probably be aware that good magazines and newspapers follow this approach to their information flow…plenty of examples to look at.


Thanks for reading.

Amos Clarke

Teacher presence online

Think of an online course that you have been part of as a learner. What did it mean for you to be ‘present’ online? Were you aware of your teacher’s presence?

The Community of Inquiry model, developed by Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000) is used and researched widely. It identifies three different kinds of presence that are crucial for good educational experiences to happen in online environments.

Community of Inquiry model

It is important to note that these presences apply to all participants.  This blog post considers what it means as a teacher to be present in these different ways? Here are several comments from students that suggest their expectations of teacher presence.

‘Some lecturers are extremely supportive, others less so or not at all.’

‘We need lecturers who answer questions and reply to emails.’

‘It’s important that teachers actually read the Moodle forums they set as homework.’

 To start you off on your thinking, would any of the suggestions below give you more teacher presence in your online environment.

Teaching and Cognitive Presence: Selecting content

  • Chunk the content of your course into smaller bites than a textbook or academic essay. How can you get learners to interact with a single chunk? What task might help them to engage better with the content?
  • Think of the main points or headlines of your content. Has someone already created engaging content online that you can point learners to? Do a search.
  • Use a YouTube video or a TED talk as a starting point for getting learners to engage with a particular topic.

Social and Teaching Presence: Setting the climate

  • Be positive and friendly in your online interaction, whether it is a welcome notice, online input sessions or responding to students’ questions.
  • Establish office hours when you are available for chat, video conferencing, phone contact.
  • In your face-to-face class, talk about what learners have been discussing online. And vice-versa.

Social and Cognitive Presence: Supporting discourse

  • Ensure presence as a moderator in online discussion forums. How will your students know that you’ve read/valued their contributions?
  • Give feedback in both face-to-face and online modes.
  • Ask good questions that encourage students to engage in more depth with content, rather than just read or watch superficially.

For more specifics on what your presence as a teacher online might be, go to the Blended Learning Moodle which deals with the question How you can develop social and teaching presence with your students.

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Book a workshop with Te Puna Ako

If you haven’t already, book a space on a workshop with Te Puna Ako using their online booking form –

The workshops we are offering next week:

Title Start time End time Room Campus
MyPortfolio Mon 2015-Apr-13 01:00pm 03:00pm 510-2029 Waitakere
Bb Collaborate (blended session) Tue 2015-Apr-14 11:00am 01:30pm 183-1045 Mt Albert
Echo360 Wed 2015-Apr-15 10:00am 12:00pm 610-2023 Albany
New spaces workshop Wed 2015-Apr-15 02:30pm 04:30pm 183-1045 Mt Albert
Moodle Basics Thu 2015-Apr-16 01:00pm 03:00pm 182-1011 Mt Albert
Work based learning (WBL) Thu 2015-Apr-16 01:00pm 03:00pm 170-1008 Mt Albert
MyPortfolio Fri 2015-Apr-17 10:00am 12:00pm 183-1045 Mt Albert

We are looking forward to seeing you there.