February 2021 Moodle News

Cow bust in the snow with a light blue hat and scarf

The Start of a New Year

The Spring 2021 semester is here, and we wish everyone the best start to it. We’re here to support you as you begin teaching your courses.

This month’s Moodle News includes information about Online Teaching, Support for Instructors, IDEAS Webinars, Requesting your Spring Moodle course, Requesting your Spring Echo360 courses, Moodle tip of the month, Planned Downtimes, and Moodle help and resources.

Upcoming Important Dates

There are a number of important dates for this semester that are a bit different than in a normal semester. Some of the highlights related to instruction are:

  • First day of Spring classes – February 1, 2021
  • Last. day for add/drop – February 12, 2021
  • President’s Day – Classes will be held – February 15, 2021
  • Wellbeing Wednesday Observed – No Classes – February 24, 2021

IDEAS Webinars

We’re moving ahead with our webinars right at the start. Our webinar series will continue throughout the Spring semester. We’ll be covering specific teaching technologies, as well as topics like building instructor presence, designing effective online assessments, and best practices for lecture capture.

This Spring, the IDEAS team will also be hosting a series of four interactive workshops focusing on Engagement in courses taught online. Participants will develop strategies for using resources and technologies to increase the levels of student engagement and participation in their courses. They can expect to collaborate with their colleagues across campus to share ideas and best practices. The workshops will focus on:

  • Beyond Lecture: Presenting Content Creatively
  • Facilitating Engaging Synchronous Learning Activities
  • Facilitating Engaging Asynchronous Activities
  • Building Student-Instructor Relationships

To see our full list of webinars, and register, check out the IDEAS Spring 2021 Webinars page.

Can’t decide which workshops to take? Have questions? Don’t hesitate to contact the IDEAS Team for help in deciding which workshops are right for you. Contact us at instruct@umass.edu.

FlexForward to Online Teaching

The IDEAS Team has built out the Spring 2021 Quality Standards Moodle course. This training course is self-paced and meant to help you every step of the way as you transition and build out your course. Each of the 8 modules includes information, resources, and actionable steps you can take to incorporate what has been presented. We encourage you to explore these modules and content to help you as you design your courses.

If you have any questions, please contact us at instruct@umass.edu.

Support for Instructors

Even though we’re not on campus, we’re still here to help you with your courses and teaching technology. We have 3 avenues for support, in addition to the webinars we are currently running. Please read carefully since there will be some changes on our available hours of support.

  • Support through email. Send an email to instruct@umass.edu with your course information and a description of how we can help.
  • Schedule an appointment with us. Please send an email to instruct@umass.edu with a brief description of your goals/needs, and suggest a few times you are available between 9am and 4pm, Monday – Friday.
  • Join our Instructor Support Zoom meeting  between 10am and 3pm, Monday – Friday to meet with a staff member. Please note that wait times depend on the volume of requests.
    • Wednesdays from 10am to 12pm, the Instructor Support Zoom will be joined by our campus partners in CTL to provide collaborative support to our instructor community.

Request your Spring Moodle Courses

Winter and Spring Moodle courses are available for request through SPIRE. Don’t forget that each semester you will need to request Moodle for the courses you are teaching.

For detailed instructions, see:

Request your Spring Echo360 Courses

Echo360 allows you to create recordings of your lectures to deliver to students. Students can access recordings to learn new content or review content to reinforce the information. The system also allows you to add interactive content and measure student engagement.

Echo360 Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) uses speech to text algorithms to create an interactive transcript for your recordings. After you do a little editing for accuracy, your students will be able to study for exams, find relevant information in recordings, and even turn on Closed Captioning for your media.

Echo360 course requests for Winter & Spring are available in SPIRE. Just like Moodle, each semester you will need to request Echo360 for the courses you want to use it in.

For step by step instructions, see Request Lecture Capture. Once your Echo360 courses are ready, it’s easy to give students access to Echo360 recordings through Moodle.

Automatically copy your Zoom cloud recordings to Echo360

You can connect your Zoom and Echo360 accounts, and have all cloud recordings copied into Echo360. If you enable this, you can even have a recurring Zoom meeting publish directly to an Echo360 course. Unlike Zoom recordings, which are kept for 120 days, Echo360 does not have a storage limit on your recordings.

Moodle Tips of the Month: Resources to help you get started

Instead of putting the spotlight on a single tool or setting this month, we have a few things to highlight that might help make your Moodle course run a little smoother this spring.

Did you know that…

  • You have access to a handy checklist for starting your semester using Moodle? The Course Update Checklist page has a list of common topics to make sure are ready and includes resources and information for each of them.
  • You know that you can import and re-use a Moodle course? Importing a course will transfer over content such as files and links you have added, assignments, quizzes, and more. You can use this to start as a base for your Spring 2021 courses. You will be able to import any course which you have taught within the past 18 months at UMass. There is even a built-in tool to help you update dates across multiple activities and resources.
  • You can integrate Zoom with your Moodle course? You can set up a Zoom activity in Moodle that allows your students to join meetings, see all upcoming times and dates, and even view cloud recordings of previous meetings all in the same place? Check out our Getting Started with Zoom in Moodle page for more information and instructions.
  • You can generate transcripts automatically for your recordings? Both Zoom and Echo360 can automatically generate interactive transcriptions for your recordings? These transcripts allow students to search for information in your recordings, including key terms and phrases. Automated transcriptions are not 100% accurate, but if you edit them they can be a powerful study aid for your students. For information, check out Add and Edit Transcripts in Zoom or Add and Edit Transcripts in Echo360.
  • You can create groups and groupings in Moodle? These groups and groupings allow you do things like facilitate peer-to-peer instruction in forums, or have students submit assignments in groups? For more information, check out An Overview of Groups and Groupings in Moodle.
  • You can add user and group overrides for Quizzes in Moodle? These allow you to set special options such as increased time limits, staggered start and end times, and additional time access for students, or groups of students, who need it. For more, check out Configure Special Quiz Access for Individuals or Groups.

A bonus tip: You can always reach out to the IDEAS Team for help with working on your Moodle course or incorporating supported teaching technologies into your course.

Planned Downtimes

Scheduled routine maintenance windows are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Our administrators are continuing to made improvements the Moodle system to adapt the demands on online learning. We will notify users if there are any longer planned downtimes outside of this window.

There are no planned downtimes for Moodle outside the scheduled maintenance windows.

Moodle Help and Resources for Instructors

To learn more about Moodle or to get help, you can: