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Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) that can be used to organize class content and provide an online learning environment or digital classroom for your students.  The various resources and modules available make Moodle an extremely powerful tool for delivering quizzes, conducting online discussions in the forums, communicating with students, collecting and marking assignments, and a lot more.  With all of the features available, learning to use Moodle can seem quite a daunting task. However, Moodle is entirely menu driven and creating a discussion forum , for example, can be done in just a few clicks.  A simple way to think of Moodle is a secure class web page that is broken into units of study (or weeks if you change the setting) with added functionality that makes it perfect as a virtual classroom. This short introduction should give you enough to get started using the course shell that was created for your class.  Note that students can be added to your class automatically.

Logging In

An account has been created for you and you should have your access credentials – you will be prompted to change your password to something you can remember.  Once logged in you should see your courses under the My Courses heading.  These courses are courses you teach, courses (or groups) you are participating in or perhaps exemplar courses.

Communicating With Students – the News Forum

Moodle provides various ways to communicate with students, but perhaps one of the most useful is the News Forum.  This special, pre-added discussion forum can only be posted to by the teacher and all students are subscribed.  This means that all students will receive an email version of the message within 30 minutes (within 5 if you choose send immediately).  The 30 minutes gives you time to edit the message before it goes out in case you've forgotten something or have made a mistake.  The nice thing about the forum is that it provides a convenient way to email all students but also provides an archive of all the messages you’ve sent. Students can always go back and check the message even if they’ve deleted the original email.

Uncovering the Magic – Turn Editing On

Before you can access all of the educational goodness locked within Moodle you need to turn editing on by clicking the appropriately named button 'Turn Editing On'.  Once on, you will see a selection of little icons besides the various elements within Moodle.  You can use these icons to edit, delete, hide, move, and duplicate the various components on the page.

Adding Resources

You can add static resources to Moodle to make them available to students.  For example, you can upload files such as handouts and sound files, provide links to YouTube videos and other sites, add labels to the Moodle course (these can have pictures), or write your own web pages.  You add these resources to various ‘Topics’ on the page using the pull down menu associated with the topic you want to add to.

Adding Activities

While resources are static (mostly), activities provide dynamic modules that allow you to deliver quizzes, conduct discussions, create databases of information and more. It is here that all of the goodies are. To get started, create a discussion forum for you students.  This might be an ongoing discussion of current events or a discussion prompt related to a certain chapter in a novel. To add the forum, click the Add an Activity pull down menu and choose Forum.  Look through all of the options, but most you can leave as default.  The key options are the Forum Name and Description.  It’s in the description that you put the instructions to the students or the writing prompt.  Forums are also useful to have students work in groups or critique eachother’s work.