Project Update: Utilizing Moodle

One of the things I’ve been working on recently is utilizing Moodle to its utmost. Since I do want to charge for class access, albeit more for the time I’ll spend interacting with course members than for the actual content, I need to be absolutely certain that I am delivering the maximum amount of quality for the largest possible audience, utilizing as much of Moodle as I have the assets to.
Content creation is one of the hardest parts of teaching, with it being a somewhat annoying thing for teachers who are just starting out because they don’t realize just how difficult it is to create content. At some point or another, everyone has found a captive audience and just let rip (maybe that’s just me, actually), and I think that a lot of novice teachers really believe that it’s a good way to teach, which is true for certain students, but not optimal.

For me, the largest challenge is to try and make sure that I’m engaging everyone. As much as I don’t look it, being a reviewer who can tear through a 500 page book in a single morning, I really don’t read as well as I did when I was in elementary school. More concerns and more busy stuff mean that I no longer really enjoy reading long bursts, and prefer to break stuff up, so I made my main lessons for each topic be broken down into shorter little bites, sort of like I would with this blog if I had the opportunity to. This means that there’s an easier way to digest everything from a particular topic over the course of multiple sessions, and since I’m not operating within a weekly class constraint (each lesson takes ~15 minutes to read and pop over to the discussion board, and the additional content takes a little more based on reading speed) or grading, though I do have reading comprehension quizzes for self and instructor assessment, I have a lot of flexibility with what I do.

My main attempt to diversify comes with the addition of secondary information on topics. Topic 1 has an A and B component, each of which is formatted as a standard page, one a personal reflection from me and one a discussion of tabletop games as a marriage of storytelling and mechanics and what that means for GM’s, also by myself. Topic 2 currently has an A component in addition to the lesson, which is a 5000 word booklet on preparing to run a game and basic group management for people before they start their games, mostly based on research but presented with my own personal opinions and experiences.

Ideally, I’d like to include a lot of stuff in my lessons, but some of it is more viable than others. Including audio for lessons is one that is viable, but time-consuming, and will come after the course is completed and tested because I really don’t want to do a lot of audio and re-record it. It may also involve outsourcing for the speaker, since I have some speech issues that tend to come out more in recordings than in person. Additionally, adding diagrams or pictures to some slides would be greatly beneficial for visual learners, though the mix of a for-profit quasi-educational class and the niche subject mean that finding stuff that is applicable and can legally be used could be difficult, unless I make it myself which means a lot more development time. Fortunately, I’m running So You Want To Play? as an evolving course, so I can add this content after launch, and the Lesson format on Moodle is more or less perfect for such a thing.

Really, one of the core challenges I face moving onward is multimedia-I want to create a rich, engaging, and thought-provoking class with room for discussion and growth, which means that any of my theoretical multimedia will be changed out from time to time and will be unlikely to cover the full content of the course, especially the longer things such as 2A’s 5000 word booklet.

Of course, perhaps most important is guaranteeing student immersion in the class. I don’t offer refunds, and making sure that students actually engage all the discussion elements of the class is going to be crucial to getting them to participate and enjoy the class. Since they’re not dealing with a grade, I’ll have to try to coax them, but I think that the power of setting expectations (“We’d love to see you in the discussions!”, albeit less cheerful) could be a very powerful tool to get the participants to get the most out of the course.

Naturally, all of this can be applied to my physical classroom as well, and I’m approaching Moodle very much as an analogue to a physical learning experience, which may or may not be the best way to do things.

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