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Teaching groups imported into Moodle

At Sussex our course modules may have a number of teaching activities, including :

  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • workshops
  • laboratory classes

Each of these might split a module cohort into groups. We call these teaching groups.

Like our course modules at Sussex, Moodle has a notion of groups and teaching groups which they call ‘groupings’.

Using these groupings in a VLE can help tutors target resources and activities at the relevant groups of students and our tutors have sometimes requested to use these real world groupings in their online sites.

A Spring term development at Sussex will be to implement a method to import these teaching groups from our courses into our Moodle sites. Because of its overheads, rather than automatically running it for every site, we leave it as a manual process which the tutor can perform on demand.

Whilst developing the teaching group import we also looked at and made some refinements to the Moodle group interface to help make it easier for our staff to use, and the language of groups and groupings clearer.

Simplified groups & supergroups interface

There are three use cases for a tutor using groups & supergroups.

1. No groups or supergroups exist

If no groups are set up tutor is taken to page which says so, clearly explaining how groups can be used and benefit the site, and tells user what to do next if they want to use groups.

2. Import/Create groups and supergroups

A Tutor has the ability to import teaching groups if they exist, create groups, auto-create groups and create groupings which we have called “supergroups”. The interface is improved and options are accompanied with a brief none-technical description.

3. Managing groups and supergroups

If groups are already set up user is taken to overview page where management of groups is possible.  The management options are dependent on whether the grouping (supergroup) has been imported from a teaching group or created manually.

Reduced complexity

By knowing the current site groups ‘state’ (e.g. groups exists, groups don’t exist) we are able to show the user the appropriate information without them having to search the different tabs/options. Almost all tasks can be carried out in one place without having to switch between different tabs.

Clarity

After interviews with staff, re-labelling groupings as supergroup was suggested as a way of re-enforcing the hierarchy which exists between groups and groupings. The notion of groups and supergoups is not a simple one for most users to understand. By clearly showing the structure/hierarchy (Supergroup > groups > user) on one main landing page we hope to make this more obvious to our tutors.

Integration into Moodle 2

This development has been developed and tested in Moodle 1.9, but our evaluation of Moodle 2 show that the interface pattern could equally benefit tutors using groups in Moodle 2.

2 Comments

  1. Lei
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Hi Paolo,

    Out of my curiosity, what system do you use for teaching groups in Sussex? We would like to integrated our student group system with Moodle too, do you have any plans release your code to the community in the future?

    Cheers,
    Lei

  2. Paolo Oprandi
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Lei,

    We currently use a bespoke system, although we may be buying a system such as SITS (http://bit.ly/lrKyJ5) in the future.

    What system do you use? Have you access to an API for the system or can you make a direct connection to the database?

    We haven’t worked out our strategy for releasing code to the community, but its certainly something we would like to do. Its something we’ll need to discuss internally.  The challenge will be supporting our releases.

    Cheers
    Paolo

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