4 Ways to Establish Relevance with Moodle

One of the first things you learn when studying adult learning is that adults need to know why they are learning something and how they can apply it to their lives.  In other words, they need to know how something is relevant to their condition and context.  It’s not only adults who need that.  Humans of all ages need to know, too, why they are learning something and how it is going to change their lives for the better once they know it.  It is the teacher’s job to help students establish relevance.

Please notice that I said “help students establish relevance.”  I say that because teachers can’t open up a student’s head and put the information into it.  Rather, they have to offer the tools by which the students deconstruct and reconstruct the knowledge for themselves.  Tools include activities that are transferable, lessons that are well-organized and include materials and activities that are on point, and resources that students can explore outside the classroom.  At times, we can all get lost in the details of a lesson or a unit while planning it.  We generate an assessment and align it to the standards of the lesson.   Then, we create these fun and engaging activities, or serious and challenging ones.   In short, we do all the other things that lesson and unit planners should do, except we forget the part about helping the students answer the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”

Here are four ways you can use Moodle to establish relevance.


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Take the mystery out of it by explaining the WIIFM of an assignment immediately.  WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?”   It’s an acronym trainers and adult educators use, but K-12 educators can also use it.  Essentially, you are telling them what you expect them to get from the lesson.  Then, it’s up to them to verify that is what they got.  In my classroom, I would expect my students to challenge me if my WIIFM statement doesn’t match their experience or understanding.  I would also work hard to rectify that problem.

Competencies and Learning Plans

Do you share your standards with the students?  Make it easier for the students to understand what’s happening in class!  Share with them the standards you have aligned to the lesson and unit.  Additionally, in Moodle, you can create learning plans based on competencies (Moodle’s term for standards) that administrators load into the software.  These learning plans will show the students all the standards aligned to a course and the activities aligned to each standard.  Be sure to explain all of this to the students when you share their learning plan with them.  Otherwise, they might think this is nothing more than a checklist, and learning plans can be so much more useful than that.  For more information on competencies and learning plans, please click this link.

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Discussion Forums

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Use discussion forums to address the “elephant in the room,” which is the usual question about relevance.  In this case, peers can help peers; we often find that peers can teach one another just as much as the teacher can, so give them this opportunity to help one another.


You can download the journal plugin from Moodle.org at this link.  Teachers use the journal activity to pose a question and review students’ answers to that question, which is a great way to do a little formative assessment!  Explicitly pose questions such as

  • “What do you think this unit is all about?”
  • “How can you apply what you’ve learned during this unit to your life?”
  • “In five years, what will you remember about this unit?  Why?”

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What Do You Think?

Do you think these four components of Moodle can help learners to establish relevance within their own minds?  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section provided.

Adapt Authoring Tool and Moodle

I have been working with the Adapt Learning Framework and Adapt Authoring tool of and on for a while now.  (Follow the community @AdaptLearning to learn more about this “Ground breaking #opensource project and THE online community for #multidevice #elearning” (quote from their Twitter profile page).  This post features one of the projects I created using the framework that I included in a my demo course.  You can view the course at this URL: http://heatherssandbox.org/moodle331/course/view.php?id=2.  Sign in as guest.student with the password =uC7U8*j when prompted.

The project focus is “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” by Dr. Martin Luther King.  In my opinion, this would be a great opener to the school year for seniors in high school English, especially this year with the events that have occurred since the election and most recently in Charlottesville.   It is controversial still, more than 50 years after it was first written.  Students can also easily relate the letter to events either they or someone they know have experienced.  Unfortunately, racism is alive and well, not only in the United States but around the globe.

Installing the software is not easy, but the community provides directions that you can follow easily. Make sure that you read the directions carefully before trying to install it! There are multiple steps involved, including installing Node.js, Git, Mongo, as well as the tool itself.  You must install each program properly for the software to work.

The community provides YouTube videos that introduce the tool, so I will not “reinvent the wheel” by providing an introduction in this post.  Rather, here is the first video for your viewing pleasure.

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To see the “Letter” project, please click this link. I would love to hear your thoughts about it. Please leave a comment in the comments box below this post.


3 Things to Think about When Developing Your Own Moodle Site

Recently, I started developing a demo course in a Moodle installation hosted on my site.  The latest version of Moodle is so powerful and useful.  It shows the dedication of the thousands of people who have contributed to its continued success.  Having been a fan for many years, I have enjoyed watching its progression from simple to cutting edge.  As I contemplate my future, I have decided to start using Moodle on my private site for more than just testing plugins and ideas.  Instead, I want to create an actual, usable site similar to that which I created for a corporation I used to work for.  Here are three things I have been thinking about since I started this process two days ago.

Know Your Moodle’s Purpose

In the past, my Moodle installations have been used for testing purposes. Now, I know that I want it to resemble what I would present were I teaching at the secondary level. The purpose of the site must be understood. Using it for K-12 will require slightly different approaches than post secondary and much different approaches from those used in corporate settings. Having already hacked a Moodle for a corporate LMS, I can speak to this confidently. Depending on the purpose, there are plugins to consider, appearance choices (especially theme!), and layouts to design to best accommodate each type of learner.

That brings me to an important point. This site isn’t about me; it’s for those who will view it and/or use it. So, while I might think something’s groovy, that may not align with others’ thinking. That makes knowing the site’s purpose all that more important.

Creating a site for grades 9-12 is more in line with Moodle’s tradition and history, but it is being used in corporate settings more in recent years. Still, putting this one together ought to be a lot easier than what I have done in the past – as long as I stay true to its purpose.

Plan Your Moodle

Deming and those who practice Total Quality Management (TQM) are not kidding when they stress the importance of planning. I typically spend over 40 hours preparing one one-hour presentation; imagine how long this project is going to take! Still, planning is important.

It’s also important to not get mired in details and plans, though. I will never finish that way. So, using the rest of Deming’s framework, I will Plan, Do, Check, and Act. Using an iterative process (oh no, agile!), I can get close to done without taking forever, as one would with the waterfall method of anything. Since learning of him in 2006, I have returned to Deming’s ideas many times. They continue to make the most sense. They are simple, and yet rich and deep.

With Deming and Sutherland (a founding father of Agile) in mind, perhaps I will even think in terms of sprints! I did not with the corporate Moodle; instead, I tended to respond to needs and satisfy my own whims. I don’t think that would be a good idea this time, and I must learn from my mistakes.

Rehearse Your Moodle

Today, I finished listening to Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, and the one practice that Steve Jobs never sacrificed before a big address was rehearsal.  He rehearsed for hours upon hours.  Many of us cannot say the same, myself included.  Although I prepare a presentation for many hours, I do not typically rehearse said presentation for more than a few.  Well, with a site that is supposed to show who I am as an educator, I think it probably best to beta test it, which is the software world’s version of rehearsal.  If you are interested in being a beta tester, please leave a message in the comments.  I’ll be sure to contact you.

I’ll leave you with some quotes about success I find valuable (DeMers, 2014).

“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

— Steve Jobs

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”

— Bruce Lee

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

— Colin Powell

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

— Albert Schweitzer

“Fall seven times and stand up eight.”

— Japanese Proverb



DeMers, J. (2014, November 3). 51 Quotes to Inspire Success in Your Life and Business. Retrieved September 9, 2017, from https://www.inc.com/jayson-demers/51-quotes-to-inspire-success-in-your-life-and-business.html