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Moodleated is the word that comes to mind.  I feel moodleated.  Both directions of the double entendre work, whether out of cerebral exhaustion I feel torn apart, or out of some sense of accomplishment that I am finally figuring out something that is supposed to be intuitive, my mood is elated.

Moodle is like that friend that you are friends with because of some circumstance rather than an Anne-of-Green-Gables kindred spiritedness.  Your mothers are friends, and so you will be too.  But this friend doesn’t “get” you.  You let out a little sarcasm and this friend corrects you, taking the verbal irony literally and thinking you’re stupid. Or she offers to place the order and instead of coming back with the yummy organic blueberry bar or health-conscious oat bar you requested, she brings back the deceptive danish, hailed as a delectable but consistently a step closer to cardboard than any ediblicious yummy should be.  And the coffee is decaf.

But your friend is a friend, and friends come through in the end.  No good relationship comes without a little work.

I sit here now with some sense of accomplishment.  My Moodle friend is finally showing her colours.  I still haven’t figured out how to do a splash page or what it is supposed to look like, in spite of our Wimba session – very helpful – and spending a day and a half trying to download Dreamweaver and and another half day watching tutorials from DW live services.  And SCORM and AICC continue to elude me.  But I did find the little drop-down tab that gives me theme options, grossly overlooked in any attempt previous (apparently too many forests for my trees), and my class isn’t stock-pile blue anymore.  Small victories.

Bigger news and justification for the title of this page:  I made a test.  It contains authentic questions and is essentially an authentic test.  Most of the questions are from tests I have used before, following a format I use fairly consistently.  Others also follow my pattern but are newly created.  Everything has either an answer or criteria, though the rubric would be something the students typically have in class and I have not included it online.  The writing rubric I use for this level of class is akin to the ministry performance standards for grade 9 writing,  p. 378-381, as they will be integrated into English 10 from here. There is a variety of question types spanning several of the units dealt with in a semester.  I could use this test.  But I don’t know if I would use it beyond “for practice”; it’s too open to cheating (“learning” for formative; “cheating” for summative) and Gibbs and Simpson (2005) have me thinking about how students respond to assessment.  Many don’t look at the feedback anyway, but then we know that.  I do think there is a responsibility for us teachers to at least create the opportunity for feedback and I love the instantness of automated marking when that’s an option.  At least then we’re hitting the ball into the students’ park.  They can’t very well play ball without a ball.

So Moodle is my new friend.  We’ve been for coffee a few times and a few day trips.  She’s quirky.   I’ve had a tough time getting to know her.  It’s not really a natural friendship, but everyone else who knows her seems to think she’s really got it going on, so I presented her with my project.  She seemed open to it.  We started simple:  a few discussion forums, my profile….  I gave her a picture for my profile and she posted it, but when I gave her a different one, she posted it while still showing me the old picture.  We fought about it and then she let on that it was really just a joke – nice to see she’s got a sense of humour; now we just have to get hers and mine to mesh.  (Really, I need to be increasingly detailed and observant and improve my mental dexterity.)

With the simple stuff down, I figured out what “labels” are, how to install a wiki (still lacking confidence in their actual use), how to time-release and hide (simple, really).  I was ready for some simple assessment integration.  With a plethora of vocabulary tests on my flash drive, I drew from a poetry terms test.  Moodle doesn’t seem to get along with Word.   She’ll accept Word’s work from me, but not direct from him.  Seems petty – school-yard spat back in elementary school?  I don’t know, but with Word already a good friend of mine, it looks like I’ll have to be their mediator if Moodle stays on.

The poetry test I couldn’t just upload or copy and paste, but using Moodle’s own text box and editing toolbar, I was able to create a word bank in a table that I later figured I don’t actually need.  Moodle went ahead and created a drop down menu for answer options anyway – a nice feature – so when I used this same info in my Final Exam Practice Test, I ditched the word bank for its redundancy.  I left it in the Poetry Terms quiz for now, but will likely edit that out before launching the course “for real.”  I also broke up the poetry terms for simplicity in reading the test from the students’ perspective, though pedagogically, the longer list wold give me greater confidence that they chose wisely rather than randomly.  At any rate, I created the quiz, tested it, am happy with the randomization of choices and reasonably happy with the instant feedback system.

The instant feedback system is one of Moodle’s quirks.  She has multiple boxes for feedback and I have yet to know without trial and error testing which will display when and where.  So I have a lot of going back and forth to see what her reaction will be to different information.  As with most computer programs, she is particular to modes of organization.  Just as I can’t leave a coffee cup on the counter and expect her to clean it, nor can I put a “Good Job!” in not-quite-the-right box and expect it to display.  I’d say she’s a bit passive-aggressive: she has an issue, but won’t tell me what it is.  She’ll just make me suffer.  But then I wonder what she’d say about me.  We’re working on this.

For my first “Short Answers” test question, the answer portion stumped me in terms of the feedback Moodle gave.  I definitely don’t want her spreading rumours that someone got something right and then my having to break it to that poor soul that s/he still has work to do.  Likewise, students who have poured their heart and soul into a gold-medal answer don’t deserve to be shot down in a blazing strip of pink.  Moodle seems to believe short answers have a right and wrong with no room for error, whereas I believe in shades of gray and the flexibility of language to take different and equally acceptable forms.  Given it’s a language class we’re working on, I found a way to get Moodle to agree to post a feedback note from me along with her evaluation reminding my students that I will evaluate their work.   She also agreed to partially accept answers and flag them with a not-too-shocking corn yellow as partially right if I tell her * is the right answer.

Speaking of quirks, cloze tests are definitely quirky in Moodle.  Using her own website for tips, after using the pattern suggested and failing to create a question properly, I cut and paste code straight from the article’s examples.  Parts of it worked, parts of it didn’t.  Examining closely, I couldn’t see the coding difference between the examples that worked and the examples that didn’t.  This took awhile to work through and in the end, really, I just took the one that worked and substituted in my information and then cut and pasted that down, editing the word changes right in the copied code.  We continued to fight over formatting.  I can’t figure out why if I tell Moodle to make text 8pt Trebuchet, it doesn’t all come out the same.  Maybe it goes back to copying that code over from the example and the text from Word, but I’d think in the end, highlighting it all to convert to the same font at the same size, it would all come out the same.  We’re still not seeing eye to eye on this one and I can’t tell if I did something wrong or if she’s just being fussy.  I also don’t know what she’s doing with the feedback and history on the cloze test.  It looks like she’s giving hints and/or the right answer before I’ve even answered the question on my test runs.  Maybe this is why the cloze isn’t a part of our assignment for creating assessment.  I redesigned it some, but she continues to give out answers.  I’m not going to let her get to me though.  I’m sure there’s a trick.  Lucky me: not all friends come with manuals, but Moodle does!  (Which is an indication to me that she’s not so intuitive as people say!  How intuitive can she be if someone has to write a 284 page book all about her?  Sounds a bit narcissistic, but at least I’m not alone.)

With the Battle of the Cloze left on cyberhill, I tackled the essay.  I had already created one without any problem but wanted and needed another.  I embedded a picture into one of my short answer questions easily enough.  I had uploaded the picture during playtime & it could serve the purpose as well as any other, so in it went.  I wanted to incorporate another picture – learning gets stronger with repetition – and found one suitable to represent citizenship.  I’m afraid of copyright infringement, so for now, I always try to just use my own media.  I don’t know what the difference was between the two photos; they were both taken with the same camera and I don’t think either was edited, but the second one came up huge!  With some advice from a Moodle discussion, I figured out how to resize in Microsoft Office Picture Manager and posted again.  It’s better.  Then, taking care of the text for the essay, I thought all was good, but in running through a preview of the test, I noticed the second essay text box doesn’t display the toolbar.  It remains as such at this time, though I will try to play with it… I’ve tried.  Suggestions to specify number of questions per page doesn’t seem to register, nor does it change the presence of absence of a toolbar.  Continued hmmms….

Other elements of test writing in Moodle:  it did take me a few moments to figure out just how to start, and there was a place where I had to determine some type of language use (html, moodle, other).  I don’t recall what I chose and it doesn’t seem to care anymore when I try to create additional quizzes.  I didn’t enjoy making multiple choice questions; they are labour-intensive for what they are, though they are good for rote information and instant feedback systems.  Randomization is easy, as is organizing a set pattern, and I like Moodle’s time allowance and time release functions.  I like that she’ll hold onto an activity and not give it away like the answers to a cloze test before the date I tell her, and she says she’ll close it off at a set time as well.  She’s also got some great sensibility in allowing multiple attempts – or not – and flexibility in recording scores (highest, average, etc.).  Now, I’m awaiting feedback from helpful colleagues (great idea!) who will get a perspective on my quiz that I can’t get (bias and access, computer history issues).

So all in all, we’re getting along.  Every three-year-old is expected to throw sand every now and then, but that doesn’t have to mean we all leave the park and go home.


Cole, J., & Foster, H. (2008). Using Moodle:  Teaching with the popular open source course management system. O’Reilly Media: California.

Gibbs, G. and Simpson, C. (2005). Conditions under which assessment supports students’ learning.  Learning and Teaching  in Higher Education 1. Retrieved from


Montgomery, L.M. (2009). Anne of Green Gables.

Schrader, V. (2010). ELL: Continuing the conversation. MET Moodle site.

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