Part 5 – Training
Last, but certainly not least I will be talking about Training. I’ll go over our basic outline of our training and what elements were included that made it successful. I’ll also speak about the importance of on-going trainings and user groups.
My co-worker, Ryan Semans, who was a TICT (Technology Integrative Collaborative Teacher) was the main Moodle Trainer. He developed and conducted the Moodle trainings. I was more of the techy Moodle administrator who worked on backend type issues.
Before a user was given course creator rights in our district they were required to be trained in Moodle. This was written into the grant and in my opinion, it’s a very important and beneficial requirement.
Ryan created a Moodle Training course which outlined a 2-day initial Moodle training. He created the course more as a guide instead of a “step by step” this is how you set up a forum, this is how you set up a chat. He focused on the Blended Learning Model and TPCK instead of bogging down the attendees with one way information that they would forget as soon as they walked out of the door anyways.
Outline of the 2-day training
In the morning of the first day the teachers are put into the student role and they enroll and participate like a student. Teachers need to experience and see Moodle like the student will, right? They use forums, watch videos, do online assignments, etc. In the afternoon they get course creator rights and they start exploring the course as a teacher. We go over course settings, activities, resources and see the teacher view of the course. We actually turned off a few activities like Lesson, Workshop and Compose a Text Page. Text Page because it’s the same as Compose a Web Page, but with less functionality. Lesson and Workshop were features we were not familiar with and thought it was a bit advanced for an initial training. You will have to decide which features you want on and off but we had the feeling of the less users see, the less they worry and feel overwhelmed. Of course, these features can always be enabled in the future.
The second day we go over enrolling their students using separate enrollment keys automatically putting students into groups (this is a must for secondary teachers!) and a few other advanced things. Then the rest of the day is pretty much work time! Giving staff work time (we told them to bring their files, lesson plans, etc.) where they can actually start creating their course is a great idea and use of their time. I think Moodle is the type of tool that you have to keep using and use right away. It does take a lot of up front time to create a course but if you can enable the teacher to leave with a start on their Moodle course and with something relevant that they will use they are more likely to keep using it and remember more than if they were just getting the information and “how tos” told to them.
I think the most important thing about the training is having a trainer that understands how to use Moodle to create a Blended Learning experience. Ryan did an excellent job of creating the Moodle training course as a guide and not having tons of information on the course. Almost all of the training and things he said weren’t from looking at the Moodle training course, but information from his own experiences and knowledge!
While sitting through the dozens of trainings I picked out a few elements that seemed to positively impact the attendees.
Explain to users that Moodle is very robust and has a lot of features. They do not need to learn and use all the features. They should go through the training with a filter. What is your priority? What works for you? Do you only want to use forums for student communication and collaboration? Go ahead! Ryan spoke about this by having them participate in the “If I had to pick..” activity where attendees chose one of three items and we went around the room telling why they chose that item. After, he asked how each person came to their decision. Everyone had to prioritize and think about what worked for them, what was most important. The same thing happens in Moodle. What works for the teacher, what curriculum goals and content do you have? Go through the training with a filter – throw out the stuff you don’t think you’ll need and keep the things you think you will need. Remember, you can always go back and dig deeper once you become comfortable with one feature or function.
Another piece of information to get across to the staff was telling them that there is no wrong way to use Moodle and it’s features. Use the features however you like and sometimes you can accomplish the same task with more than one feature. Ryan never told staff “this is a forum and this is what it’s used for” because forums can be used for many different things – there is no right or wrong way to use it. The same thing goes for a teacher asking “I want to accomplish this task – which tool do I use?” There is no right or wrong answer (even though some people may want a black and white answer!).
Finally, we found that giving staff time to explore in Moodle and start to become more comfortable with Moodle’s interface was important. It’s impossible to train by lecturing and a giving one way information about each and every Moodle function. It would take weeks and it wouldn’t be effective anyways. Allowing staff to start working on their actual course content and letting them explore is a good use of their time and yours, especially if there are trainers there that can answer any questions as they being their exploration!
The last thing I’m going to discuss is the use of on-going trainings and Moodle User Groups. Moodle is the type of tool that needs some type of on-going trainings, work sessions or focused trainings on specific features. Every one of our teachers started off slow, but now have become more confident and comfortable with Moodle. As they became more comfortable with Moodle they were eager to learn more advanced uses and had more specific questions.
We started doing Moodle User Groups (MUGs) which were 2-hour, paid, after school sessions consisting of a small group (6-10 users) with two trainers. I talked about MUGs in a previous post but basically they are sessions for already trained users to come and have work time and be more 1-on-1 with someone who can answer their questions. Staff loved MUGs and it actually created a snowball effect when teachers from one department in a school got others from their department to attend and they started collaborating on their courses. It wasn’t only beneficial for users but it was awesome for me as well because I learned about minor and major issues that users were having that they’d probably never take the time to email me about or things they thought that just couldn’t be changed.
Unfortunately these sessions were funded by the grant to pay the teachers for their time. Now that the grant is done we don’t have that luxury. However, in a recent Staff Survey about Moodle in our district we had tons of requests for more MUGs and on-going trainings – possibly on specific features or more advanced things. Even though there is currently no funds for paid sessions I’m currently setting up a few MUGs at buildings with a lot of Moodle users. I truly believe trying to find funds for this type of thing would be well worth it. Users who attended gave great, positive responses and not just because it was paid but because they learned a lot from the trainers and their colleagues. It was cool seeing a majority of the high school department subjects come together and collaborate, sharing ideas.
- Focus on the Blended Learning Model and the Pedagogy as well as Moodle’s features and functions.
- Put the staff in a student role, so they know how it looks.
- If possible, give them as much work time as you can.
- Provide on-going Moodle trainings and/or Moodle User Groups.
- “How we implemented Moodle” Preview
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 1 – Idea to Reality
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 2 – Installation and Modules
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 3 – Customization
- “How we implemented Moodle” Part 4 – Rollout
Next time on “How we implemented Moodle” – Wrap Up (summary, links to resources and specific tips)