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Creating groups automatically in Moodle

At their MoodleMoot UK 2011 presentation, Paolo and Stuart outlined some of changes that have been made to Study Direct (Moodle at Sussex) to improve the user experience for both staff and students. Improving the ‘groups’ feature in Moodle was one such development and the changes made went live at the start of the Summer Term 2011.

Paolo has already written a post that describes the improvements made to the groups functionality. To support our users we will produce some screencasts that will not only demonstrate the process of how to create groups, but also include scenarios that describe how groups can be used to support both learners and tutors. This post includes the first such screencast.

For some time, staff at Sussex had requested an easy way of setting up groups in Moodle that reflected face-to-face teaching groups (e.g. seminar groups, laboratory classes). Previously, these groups had to be set up manually by adding individual students to each group. Some of the larger courses (modules) have 250 students with up to ten teaching groups, so creating these groups within Moodle is a time-consuming process. The developments that have taken place enable the information about teaching groups in the courses database to be imported in Moodle, so it now only takes a small number of clicks to create these groups.

This screencast for our tutors demonstrates how this new feature works.

[vimeo width=”640″ height=”480″]http://vimeo.com/21801946[/vimeo]

An example at the University of Sussex where the groups function in Moodle has been used to recreate existing teaching groups can been seen in the presentation given by Dr Andrew Chitty at one of our Study Direct users’ meetings.¬†Andrew used forums extensively to support face-to-face seminar discussions – he wanted to create an online space where students could discuss topics in their seminar groups. The point at which Andrew’s course ran was before the work on creating groups automatically had been released so, unfortunately, Andrew had to create the groups manually. When the course runs next year, this feature will be a real time-saver for Study Direct users like Andrew.

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