In a few of the online courses I run the goal is to create the most friction-less learning environment for students so that they can pace themselves exactly as they want.  Once enrolled, students can progress through the course as quickly or slowly as they want/need (choosing their own pace unconstrained by any external factor) working to the end goal, which in many cases is a Certificate of Completion.

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In order to do this the courses are designed with a few things in mind:

  • A clear and obvious course roadmap is available the 1st time a student signs in
  • What’s “next” is obvious from any page within the course
  • Students can stay on a topic as long as they want
  • There is self-paced review that can be accessed again and again
  • All objectives are laid out clearly, including the grade book and assessments
  • Quizzes and tests are available, timed and automatically graded

The last bit is a really important aspect of the course.  As students study and progress through the course immediate feedback is available from both the ungraded exercises and the graded tests and exams.  Students have no illusions of their comprehension or graded attempts as that information is automatically provided back to the student once they’ve completed one of the exercises.  Luckily Moodle’s assessment tool has everything you need to give students a smooth ride from start to finish.  Here are a few of the tools I employ:

Question pools: make sure your question pools are large and relevant.  It’s easy to construct a test that will assess each of the course objectives through various question types and difficulty levels.  This is even easier if you’re using a text book with test banks available.  Question pools can be deep (100s of questions) and well organized so that you can even reuse them in other courses or later as part of a cumulative final examination.  Organizing questions by pool makes an easy process for quality assurance (especially with Moodle 2’s “flag this question” option) and analytic tools.

Randomization: in an online environment it’s essential to seek authenticity in test taking.  While online tests aren’t perfect, there are ways that Moodle safeguards against cheating (1. all users login with their own information, 2. logs are kept regarding IP addresses and 3. student logs are kept to reflect student progress through other aspects of the course).  One additional way is to ensure that students are not all seeing the exact same test.  In the setup of a quiz you can set all questions to display randomly, you can create random question sets from pools and you can shuffle answers within questions (note that this may adversely affect questions that include “all of the above” and the like).

Timing/Auto-submit: by limiting the amount of time students have to complete a quiz you can increase the likelihood of students studying prior to the test.  Unlimited time periods give students the opportunity to seek for answers from texts and across your Moodle classroom while a time limit will force students to recall or work out the question themselves.  With the timing function of Moodle’s assessments once the limit is up students’ attempts are submitted automatically.

Review options: large test banks and randomization are both solutions to preventing students from all having the same test, but to prevent students from sharing answers you can also limit the feedback and information students obtain after completing a test.  This is especially relevant if you allow multiple attempts.  In any case, to maintain test bank integrity my suggestion is not to provide “correct answers” immediately to students after they’ve submitted tests.  If students are in a synchronous course taking the exams online, then showing the right answer once all students have completed the test is a good option, but you might also use the analytic tools to identify the concepts that students missed and address them in class as well.

The Assessment activities and resource tools within Moodle provide all the means of creating self-directed learning online.  If students are seeking practice and review, the quiz tools and features outlined above might be a great way to save time and allow students to progress at their own pace.  If you’re interested in creating quizzes checkout more of the quiz options at

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