In versions of Moodle prior to 2.0, activities such as assignments and quizzes could be made available to students any time, any time after a certain date, until a certain date, or within a window of time. However, resources were either available or hidden. This is problematic when the course design calls for material being “released for viewing” throughout the course instead of all at once in the beginning of the course. The burden falls on someone (usually me) to “unhide” the content on the specified date. I have forgotten to do this a couple of times, which led to a flood of emails from panicked students. Oops.
I am thrilled that Moodle 2.0 will allow resources to be set up with a “show” and “hide” date, just like we’ve enjoyed with assignments. If you’re unsure about the difference between a resource and an activity, check out this earlier post.
As if this isn’t exciting enough, 2. 0 also adds contingency option settings for both resources and activities.
Now, in addition to date restrictions, the course creator may limit access to a Moodle activity or resource based on:
- A minimum grade received in one or more other activities within the course
- Completion* status of one or more other activities within the course
If the activity or resource is not available for any of the above reasons, the course creator has an option of showing it with restriction information or hiding it completely. When the conditions are met – whether it is a date or status of other activities – the activity or resource will automatically become available. No more setting the alarm to “unhide” the pages at midnight. Yeah!
OK, so what does all of this mean to you?
If you are offering continuing education units or courses that are governed by certification requirements, such as time spent, all material viewed, minimum grades, etc., you are in a better position to demonstrate that those requirements were met. Even if you don’t have to answer to anyone, but you have certain learning objectives in mind that require a structured journey through the material, these new options are very beneficial.
- Students won’t be able to jump straight to the test or the assignments without reviewing the content.
- All activities and resources may be marked complete, so you’ll have some good data to see what students are viewing – and not viewing – without having to grade everything.
- You’ll be able to direct students to different materials within the same course, based on their performance of prior materials. If a student fails to view a page or complete an activity to your satisfaction, you can allow access to “remedial” materials, but not the next topic or exam.
- You will never have to worry about whether the material is hidden when it should be showing, or showing when it should be hidden.
While I think these new options are awesome, my fear is that this will add confusion for Moodle rookies. This type of “if…then” logic can become very complex and will require some strategy to employ reasonably. My even worse fear is that some course creators will go wild with it, with so many contingencies that it might as well be a “view next slide” course. I can only hope that course creators will default to no restrictions, using the conditional availability only when it supports learning objectives.
*There are several options for determining the completion status of various resources and activities. I will cover those in a separate post…