I recently had the pleasure of attending MahoodleFest 2019, which was held on the 1st of July at the University of Gloucestershire. The name Mahoodle comes from Moodle + Mahara, the Mahara e-portfolio system. Like Moodle, Mahara is free/GPL software and the two products have a long history of being used together.
The people in attendance at the event came from a wide range of sectors including a large number of people from FE institutions (for which e-portfolios are particularly suitable), and it was packed with experts including teachers, developers and learning technologists.
A number of topics were discussed throughout the day, but one of the main non-Mahara themes of the day was H5P, a free and very easy to use tool for creating many different sorts of learning activities which we’ve spoken extensively of the benefits before. In retrospect, considering the coverage throughout the day it could have been called H5PMahoodleFest19. In my view, H5P is the most exciting plugin for Moodle in many, many years, and there is talk of it becoming a core Moodle module. Andrew Field From Cambridge Assessment International (who are a client of ours) gave a fantastic demonstration of different imaginative uses of H5P and how they support teachers when using it. Even with the impressive ease of use of H5p teachers still need support and encouragement to get the best from it. The developers of H5p have been working on improving accessibility and you can read about this here.
According to that document, “the goal is WCAG 2.0 AA support, so the content types have been tested against these criteria and more.”
In the afternoon, Dan Jeffries, a long time Moodler, showed some features of H5P including the interactive video activity where an external video (e.g. Youtube) is shown and it can act as a quiz question, stopping at times in the video and presenting the students with a question. I first saw this feature quite a while ago but I still find it very impressive. Seeing it for the first time made me think, ‘why didn’t I think of that’, followed by ‘I would never have thought of that’
Like with so much of H5P it is not just that it produces useful good looking activities, but producing those activities is something that the average person can learn to do without breaking a sweat or learning arcane keystrokes and terminology. Dan also showed the ‘H5P Essay’ activity, which allows the students to enter free-form text and provides automatic marking based on keyword searching. There is an example you can test without having to log in here (though it is best if you have at least a passing knowledge of ‘The Hobbit’).
This is never going to replace teachers marking full essays but is an excellent tool for automatic screening of student knowledge. One member of the audience asked what if a student just typed in a series of keywords rather than proper sentences with those keywords ‘in context’. Some people thought that simply knowing the right keywords implied a knowledge of the topic and so would offer confirmation of knowledge.
If you like the idea of the H5P essay activity you should also be aware of a native Moodle question type plugin that covers a similar area,
The release notes describe what it does very well, the “Essay (auto-grade)” question type awards a provisional grade as soon as the student submits an essay. The provisional grade is based on the number of words, sentences and target phrases that are present in the essay. In addition, this question type allows the teacher to specify “grade bands” which can be used to create a non-linear grading scheme. At any time, the teacher can override the automatically generated grade by giving a manual grade and feedback as in the standard “Essay” question type.
In the afternoon I was on the panel for an “Ask Dr Mahoodle” session. This is based on the Ask Dr Moodle sessions that happen at Moodlemoot and give the audience a chance to ask questions of the experts. In this case I felt that the audience were also experts. I recall one question was about the possibility of a qualitative or feedback only rubric, which gave me a chance to talk about a custom development project I have been working on for a simplified rubric fixed ‘refer, fail, pass’ grading levels and optional ‘canned feedback comments’. It was at this point that Gavin Hendrick pointed out the existence of the structured feedback plugin for assignments.
This doesn’t offer exactly what the questioner was asking for but is a really interesting addition to the ways teachers can give feedback and is very straightforward to set up and use. That someone like me who is very, very keen on following the latest Moodle plugins was not aware of that illustrates how incredibly useful face-to-face gatherings like MahoodleFest19 can be.
Dublin City University are big users of Moodle and Mahara and they gave a presentation on how they came to select Mahara and how it fits in with how they assess students. They now have over 14,000 users on their Mahara system.
I’d like to thank Richard Olemann and the team at the University of Gloucestershire for organising the event and Catalyst, creators of Mahara for supporting it. Search on twitter by the tag #mahoodle19 to find out more about the event.
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