Merry Moodling

Merry Moodling

‘Oh, how lovely… Oh my God, where do I start?’

This was my reaction on reading an email from an M1 distance-learning student, a couple of weeks ago. It was one of those emails that you know composing a reasonable answer to, is going to take up more time than you can sensibly dedicate to an email addressed to one person. So, I asked Isabelle (the student in question) if she would accept an answer via this blog since, for what it’s worth, I wanted to share my thoughts and give anyone else who would like to contribute, a chance to add information. I have named names in my reply because the end of 2021 felt like a good moment to say thank you to some of my fabulous friends and colleagues.

First, Isabelle’s email (to set the scene and because it was such a pleasure to receive):

Dear Ms. Bouhimd

I’m writing to you today in order to ask you an informal question that is not exactly related to the course content… (However, I’m writing in English so it is still an opportunity for me to do some writing practice! How nice 🙂 

In my current professional field, I am building an e-learning course through the Moodle build-in.

Among all the online courses of my Master’s Degrees, I humbly think that your English course is the one that has the best developed both content and resources and made the student online experience a really enriching one. 

Could you give me some tips about how you’ve made it? Are there some Moocs, online tutorials, teachers guides that you may have used in order to understand and manipulate the Moodle platform? What are the plug-ins that have allowed you to create such a nice view and navigation of the different modules? 

I thank you in advance for reading my email and for your help! 

Kind Regards, 


Dear Isabelle,

Thank you for your email.

The first point that I would like to make is that this course is very much a collaborative product. Many English teachers have been involved in creating course content and this present version of the course was built largely from existing material. Different members of Paul Valéry LANSAD team were involved over the years but I would like to particularly thank Nathalie Crouau (University Lyon 1) and Sue Corben (University Paul-Valéry). Don’t hesitate, if content creators are in agreement, to use and update existing material. It is very tough to begin with to create everything from afresh. You can always renew parts of the course every year according to what proves more or less effective in pedagogical terms.

You should be aware of the fact that whilst some teachers are incredibly generous, others have more difficulty with this notion of sharing content. Intellectual property is the new buzz word and I have heard this both in respect to teachers’ own material (fair enough you might say) or even to the material of other teachers that said teachers have ‘mediatised’ ie. put into Moodle form. Personally, I think that teachers spend an increasingly (excessive?)  number of hours in front of their screens so anything we can share to make on-going work more effective and pleasurable is positive. (I am here talking within a university context where good tools benefit our students and no one is making any financial gain). Anyway, my point is either clarify where you stand on this issue before starting to work with colleagues or choose your team wisely.

If you have had such a positive online experience following our course it is also because there is a strong, experienced teaching team: not only Ms. Scriptunas, who is responsible for your group, but also Ms. White, Ms. Sneed-German and M. Bouvard. So a BIG thank you to them. For a course of this type to function correctly teachers have to know how to interact with their students. As you have seen, one of the fundamental aspects of this course is the way in which it uses forums but if the teachers don’t actively engage with students there is a danger that debate (and language practice) will flounder. However, distance teaching and creating pedagogical presence online is, if rewarding, also time-consuming and when constructing a course you have to factor this in carefully. Be vigilant that the course does not become too onerous, not only for the students but also for the teachers! I feel that continuous assessment, with points for course participation, not only recognises but rewards the time students invest in a course and helps to encourage active learning. If you are interested in the question of online evaluation I have written about it in various previous posts and in an article on blogging.

Don’t forget to ask the teachers for their input and ideas for improvement. Do the same for students. You can use the ‘feedback’ tool to get anonymous feedback on the course. Read it. You will often be made aware of something that would never have come across your radar otherwise. You may not be able to resolve all issues but some are easily solvable and positive feedback means that you feel that all your hard work has been worthwhile.

Whilst content for this particular course has been built up over the years, its current version took form relatively rapidly, in the space of a couple of weeks last July. With such a short turn around it was impossible to create in-house, bespoke grammar exercises. This is why the decision was taken, for all the modal grammar work, to use the resources of the University of Victoria via external links. Prior to this, I had contacted one of the colleagues working on this platform (Cathy Aquart) to tell her how much I appreciated their work and how I recommended it to my own students. Cathy was delighted to receive positive feedback from the other side of the world, so don’t hesitate if you use and/or are inspired by other colleagues’ work (that is freely accessible online) it is always important to say thank you. If you do use external links be aware that every year you will need to check that they are still active. As a course grows this sort of maintenance becomes increasingly important.

In my case I am not a computer scientist or engineer and none of this would have been possible without the great Moodle technical team at Paul Valéry University. Our Madam Moodle par excellence is Marie-Nöelle Diochon. Over the past eight years, we have worked closely together, pooling our teaching and technical skills. She even managed to get me to go to Rennes in 2019 to one of the annual Moodlemoot events – it proved to be an absolute goldmine for new ideas and approaches with Moodle enthusiasts from all over the world attending. If you get the chance to attend future events I would recommend. And, of course the Moodle site itself is very useful both for teachers and engineers.

I can’t tell you the names of the plug-ins that have been introduced over the years. The way it works is teachers say ‘I want to do this….’ and the university’s Moodle team says ‘Hmmh, how about this…’ Once it is established that a plug-in might be useful it then has to be extensively tested to ensure that it iscompatible with our version of Moodle and will not interfere with other available tools/plug-ins already in place. One plug-in that we are considering at the moment is Rocketchat for an improved chatting experience (an integral part of my online blogging course).

One of the problems of the course you are following this year has been the technical difficulties experienced by students recording their videos directly onto the platform as part of their final exam. If students are working to a deadline you can always give them extra time individually whilst the technical problem is resolved. If you are lucky enough to find/receive practical trouble-shooting advice diffuse it rapidly in an obvious place for students to find eg. in the homework recording space directly.

Unlike yourself, I had not experience of learning with Moodle before using it as a teaching tool. And so, several years ago I followed a short MOOC (on the FUN platform ) entitled ‘Enseigner et former avec le numérique en langues’ run by Stendhal University, Grenoble. I found this useful less for the theoretical/technical side of things but more for the learner experience it provided me with, some of which fed into my own courses. Over the years I have also benefited from short courses on the use of specific tools given by our technical Moodle team.

Once the course is up and running one good tip to save time is to create a ‘Your Questions and Answers’ forum. This means that students instead of contacting their teachers individually with the same questions should post them on the forum so that the whole cohort can benefit from answers. Other courses which I teach also have a FAQ section which can be created over a couple of years and helps reduce email traffic.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the person who has influenced me most from a theoretical point of view is Annie Jézégou (Lille University) . The extensive use of forums (and writing workshops in other courses) is very much inspired by her writings about how to create presence in distance and online interaction.

You mentioned the nice view of the M1 course. Check out the pdf on how to do this:

Finally, don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect. Play around with it and have fun. Do what you can in a reasonable amount of time and the following year invest more time and build on what you have already created. It’s a cumultive, collaborative process!

Hope this helps.

Bon courage et bonnes fêtes de fin d’année

Alison Bouhmid

Featuring Fig_tart flowers

3 Replies to “Merry Moodling”

  1. Greetings to you, Mrs. Buhamid. I appreciate this dedicated effort in providing scientific and educational assistance to readers, which we would like to see and obtain from all educational cadres.
    I wish you success and further progress

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