April 2021 Moodle News

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

We’re in the home stretch!

This month’s Moodle News includes information about Upcoming Important Dates, Moodle has a New Home, Support for Instructors, IDEAS Webinars, Requesting your Summer Moodle course, Requesting your Summer 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:

  • Summer 2021 Course request begins- April 5, 2021
  • Wellbeing Wednesday Observed – No Classes – April 14, 2021
  • Patriot’s Day – Classes will be held – April 19, 2021
  • Wednesday class scheduled followed – April 20, 2021
  • Last day of classes – May, 4, 2021

Moodle has a new home for Summer and Fall 2021

In support of flexible learning at UMass Amherst, an upgraded, cloud-based version of Moodle will be available for summer and fall university courses.
UMass Amherst Information Technology (IT) is making this change with the goal of improving our teaching and learning experience and expanding the reach of UMass Amherst education.
Moving Moodle to the cloud means that the infrastructure for Moodle will no longer be on campus for courses starting in summer 2021. Cloud-based services are available on-demand online from a cloud computing provider’s servers as opposed to on-premise IT infrastructure.
Hosted in the cloud, Moodle becomes more scalable, resilient, and agile. The platform can accommodate more students, courses, and web traffic, with fewer technical hiccups and service interruptions.
In short, Moodle will have a new and more durable home.

What do these changes mean?

  • The current version of Moodle remains available for Spring 2021 and past semesters as well as current ad-hoc courses. Both versions of Moodle will run concurrently, but no course will be offered in both versions.
  • Upcoming Summer and Fall 2021 courses will be hosted in the upgraded version of Moodle. Students and instructors will use a new URL to access their summer or fall Moodle course(s).
  • Instructors can request their Summer 2021 Moodle courses starting April 5, 2021, and Fall 2021 courses later this spring (date to be announced soon).
  • For Fall 2021 courses, instructors can request to have their course content moved automatically from the old version of Moodle to the new.
  • For Summer 2021 courses, instructors will back up their courses and restore the course backup manually. Step-by-step instructions will be provided.

More information will follow, including what’s new and different in the new Moodle. For questions, please contact the Instructional Design, Engagement, & Support (IDEAS) group at instruct@umass.edu.

IDEAS Webinars

Our webinar series will continue throughout the Spring semester and we’re beginning to schedule Summer and Fall offerings as well. 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.

In addition to our existing webinar offerings, the IDEAS team is also hosting a series of four interactive workshops focusing on Engagement in Online Courses. 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 remaining Engagement workshops will focus on:

  • 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.

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.

Request your Summer Moodle Courses

Summer Moodle courses will be available through SPIRE beginning on April 5, 2021. Don’t forget that each semester you will need to request Moodle for the courses you are teaching.

For detailed instructions, see:

Request your Summer 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 Summer 2021 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 Tip of the Month: Blind Grading for Assignments

Did you know that there are options for Assignments in Moodle to prevent a grader from seeing the names of students until after they are graded? Blind grading in Moodle allows graders in your course to grade assignment submissions without seeing the names of students attached to the submissions. Instead, randomly generated participant numbers are displayed when grading submissions. After grading, graders reveal student names and release grades to students.

Planned Downtimes

Scheduled routine maintenance windows are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

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: