Author Archives: christopherson

About christopherson

I am a junior faculty member at a small private college in Iowa. This blog is my sometimes consistent, but usually inconsistent postings of whatever might be on my mind (professionally, personally, or randomly).

Active Learning Tool: Student Response Systems

This week I want to focus on a tool that many of us are probably familiar with and have likely used: Student Response Systems (AKA Clickers).  Over the past 10 years, student response systems have evolved in many ways. The earliest systems (TurningPoint, iClicker) required users to purchase software and hardware systems in order to use these tools.  A PowerPoint ‘plugin’ needed to be purchased and installed on the instructor’s computer. A receiver needed to be plugged into the system where the questions were being displayed, and students often were required to purchase their own stand-alone clicker or schools purchased clicker sets that needed to be hauled back and forth.


These early systems were expensive and cumbersome, but many who used them enjoyed the type of instant feedback that could be gathered.  Today, these systems can be at very low cost (free) and much less cumbersome. Most systems today rely on the students using their own smartphones and Internet-based programs to relay information back and forth.  Early systems tended to be restricted to forced choice (multiple choice, Likert scales, True/False), whereas today’s systems can include things like student-created drawings, open ended responses, and even short answer or essay types of responses.


There are a number of different tools that act as a student response system, and I’ll provide a list of a few that I’ve used in the past at the end of this blog post, but the central feature of all of these are to create some student interaction during a class period.  Rather than focus on the specific tools (they can all do about the same thing), I’d like to focus on the different ways you might choose to incorporate a response system into your class.


The first is as a type of formative assessment for checking understanding.  This is probably the most common use for these systems. As you build your class-time presentation (power points or whatever), you can build in concept checks for students to respond to.  Basically this replaces the instructor calling out a question and waiting for hands to go up. This is very powerful to do because now an instructor can quickly gauge whether or not the class understood the material just presented and can adjust instruction as needed.  One thing to keep in mind that though this seems easy on the surface, the task of coming up with the right questions to ask can be more work than anticipated. I tend to try to ask questions on commonly misunderstood concepts or to provide students the opportunity to try to apply the concept to a real-life example or problem.


A second method for using these systems is by using them as discussion starters.  If you are about to have a discussion on some controversial topic or topic of common disagreement, you can do a quick poll of the class to see where opinions lie before the discussion begins.  This allows the whole class to see the diversity of opinions and to recognize that they may not be the lone person in their particular belief. In the past I’ve used response systems to allow students to anonymously report their own experiences with a mental illness (such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, or eating disorder) prior to having small group discussions so that students are made aware that there are people in the class that are either living with these disorders or know people close to them who are.  This can assist in students being respectful of their comments as they have their discussions.


A final incorporation that you can use is yet another form of formative feedback.  Because more of these response systems allow for open ended answers, you can use these tools to conduct common end-of-class-period assessments such as the one-minute paper, muddiest point, or additional questions.  These are easily submitted and recorded for the instructor to read and respond to during the next class period.


Now as promised, here is a list of a few different student response systems that you can check out.

Moodle Assignment Feature: Grading options (rubrics, marking guides)

This third post in a series of Ed Tech Blog posts focusing on different options within the Moodle Assignment Activity focuses on different types of grading functions.  So far this semester, I’ve introduced the options of the Download All, Offline Grading Sheet, and the batch upload features of this tool to help grading be a bit less time consuming (less downloading/uploading time).  Today I describe two “Advanced” grading features available in the Assignment Activity: Rubrics and Marking Guides.


Many of us use rubrics when creating our grading schemes especially for larger papers and projects.  Rubrics like this are very helpful for both instructors and students because they more deliberately outline the expectations for student work.  Research does demonstrate that the simple act of providing (and describing) rubrics prior to students beginning work on their projects can help to increase student performance (cite).  Of course the students need to actually pay attention and use these rubrics as they build and revise these projects, but it does help facilitate communication of expectations.


You can build your rubrics right into Moodle assignments in two ways: Rubrics (which creates boxes that you select) and Marking Guides (allows for ranges of scores to be placed in each criteria).  Here is a visual example of each type of advanced grading:


Moodle Rubrics:


Each level of each criteria has a description of the expectations and a set point value.  Instructors designing the rubric can determine the point value for each level. Rubrics make for quick grading because graders then simply click the level achieved by the student.  However, there is no option to alter the point values for each ‘cell.’



GIF of a Moodle Rubric

Moodle Marking Guides:


Criteria are listed and described and a total point value is determined for each criteria.  Graders are able to type in feedback into textboxes for individual criteria and for overall comments.  Graders are able to select a point value range that is allowed by each criteria.



The benefits of building in these types of grading structures within Moodle include being a bit more efficient with grading and scoring.  Moodle will automatically calculate the total score for you when you use these features. Rubrics are nice because graders can just click the cell they determine the student work to be at.  Additionally, you have the option of making these grading criteria for marking guides and rubrics visible to students within the assignment activity itself, so students are aware of how they will be evaluated.  Additionally, when students receive a grade they see the same rubric or marking guide and can see why they have missed points or done well.


Some weaknesses of using these grading structures include not being able to use the Offline Grading Sheet to batch upload grades.  You can still to a batch upload of feedback files, but because of the need to enter in the individual rubric criteria, the offline grading sheet is not possible.  Another weakness specifically with the Rubric option is that the points allocated to each cell cannot be altered when grading. What I mean by this is that clicking a rubric cell is an all-or-none action.  Keeping this in mind when building the rubric is important. In my own use, I have found that I sometimes ended up giving much higher or lower scores than I believed was really warranted because I was tied to the points on the rubric and these did not allow me to give more nuanced grades.  I personally tend to find the Marking Guide a nice compromise to this issue because I am able to give a range of points within a grading criteria.


Building these can be a bit time consuming and I would recommend including these in your courses after you have built up most of the rest of your course first.  You can always grade using the simple grading method. It is also possible to create rubrics that you use for multiple assignments (for example, the same rubric is used for all drafts of a paper or is used for all of a particular type of assignment).  Below is a series of videos on how to create Rubrics and Marking Guides in Moodle.

Creating a Rubric in Moodle    [Scroll down to see how to Create a Marking Guide]

Creating a Marking Guide in Moodle

Alternate ways of presenting content: Softchalk and VidGrid Interactive Video Features

Content creation is something that we as instructors and faculty engage in often.  This is commonly seen as creating our lectures or PowerPoints for our classes or creating activities and worksheets for our students to complete.  There are many ways that we can choose to present content: print textbooks, electronic textbooks, interactive ebooks, online lessons, webpages, pages within learning management systems, videos, and audio (podcasts).  In this blog I want to discuss two tools available to faculty at Morningside that can allow you to create interactive content for your courses: SoftChalk lesson builder and VidGrid interactive videos.




Many of you have likely heard the name SoftChalk, many of you may not have.  SoftChalk at its core is a content delivery system. It is an online tool for creating and delivering content to students in ‘lesson’ form.  Here is a quick example of a SoftChalk lesson that I have built.


Learning to use SoftChalk is relatively easy, but because of the many different features for displaying and embedding content and for creating interactive opportunities one can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer options there are for creators.  How is SoftChalk different from Moodle? First SoftChalk is really intended to be a part of a Moodle course and not to replace a full Moodle course. Second, the interface (feel) of a SoftChalk lesson is a bit more linear than Moodle might be. Third, SoftChalk allows for different forms of activity and content interaction than Moodle can provide.


Let me break these down just a bit: First SoftChalk is NOT a Moodle substitute. Though it seems that SoftChalk has many of the same features as Moodle, it would be unwieldy to create one SoftChalk lesson to replace a full Moodle course.  SoftChalk does have a ‘Score Center’ where performance on the activities can be recorded, but it is not the same as the Gradebook feature in Moodle. SoftChalk is intended to present specific content and related activities WITHIN the LMS environment.


Second: SoftChalk is more ‘linear’ than Moodle.  When working through a section in Moodle, it is not uncommon for a student to need to click back and forth to go from content to content (file by file) and content to activity (content to assignment).  Within SoftChalk learners are presented with a series of pages that they progress through. Each page can include multiple pieces of content and activities.


Here is an example of a SoftChalk Lesson


Third: SoftChalk has different types of activities.  SoftChalk does have activities similar to Moodle such as quizzes, but what it does not have is the ‘dropbox’ (i.e. assignment) tool of Moodle.  However, SoftChalk does have some interactive activities that are different such as sorting activities, crossword puzzles, different types of drag-and-drop, labeling activities, interactive tabbed call-out boxes and the like.  Mostly intended to provide practice and formative feedback, SoftChalk allows for the learner to interact with the content in a variety of ways.


Here are some examples of different types of SoftChalk Activities


VidGrid Interactive Video Features


You are likely aware that Morningside has a video creation, storage, and editing tool called VidGrid (formerly Ilos).  For those who are interested in creating video content, VidGrid offers a number of interactive features for their videos.


First VidGrid allows for questions to be embedded within their videos.  These questions pop up while the video pauses and the student is then expected to answer the question.  These questions (if multiple choice) are automatically scored and the student received immediate feedback.  There is also the option of linking this to Moodle so that the student’s score on a set of video questions is recorded in the Moodle Gradebook.  There is also the option for a “Call to Action” question. This feature asks students to usually click on a link to another website and to complete some action that is being asked in the video.  This is a way of making it simpler for students to navigate between content pieces (your video and whatever website they are expected to go to). If you are interested in what these two features look like for students, here is an example:

Video with Interactive Questions


If you are interested in HOW to do these things within VidGrid, here is a video demonstrating how to accomplish this:

How to make Videos with Interactive Features in VidGrid



If you want to learn more about how to use these tools or whether these might be the best tools for what you want to accomplish, please feel free to contact me for a consultation. On Tuesday Nov 5 at 3:45 I will be hosting a development session for NEW USERS to SoftChalk.  A SoftChalk 2.0 session will be held later this year.


QM Specific Standard 6 – Aligning outcomes with technology tools

This week Susie and I will be facilitating a faculty development workshop on the topic of alignment.  Alignment in instructional design terms is the connection between the course assessments, activities, materials, and outcomes.  Designing a well-aligned course helps ensure that what we expect students to do/accomplish is actually what we are asking them to do/accomplish.


The Quality Matters rubrics have a large alignment component present.  There are six specific standards that evaluate the alignment within an online/blended course.  Each of these standards are considered Essential (3 point) standards which means if they are not met, then the course cannot meet Quality Matters expectations.  Standard 6 in the Quality Matters rubric focuses on the course technology and includes an alignment standard (6.1).


Quality Matters Standard 6.1 states “The tools  used in the course support the learning objectives or competencies” and basically evaluates whether the technology tools within the course help students to meet the course and module outcomes appropriately.  For example, the use of a discussion board to simply address an outcome that focuses on a student ‘Identifying’ information is probably not the best alignment. Discussion boards are best used to help students “discuss,” “evaluate,” “debate,” or “argue” topics.  An instructor who uses a discussion board simply as a way for students to identify information is not utilizing the technology to its benefit and frankly these “discussion” are probably pretty boring!


The opposite can also be true.  If an instructor is using a self-scoring quiz to evaluate students on highly complex cognitive skills such as “creating,” “prioritizing,” or even “analyzing” is likely not using the best technology.  The task in choosing a technology tool is to choose the best tool for the job. Sure you could use a hammer to install a screw, but it’s not the best tool for the job.


In addition to finding the best tools to accomplish the outcomes of the course, Standard 6.1 also states that students should be informed in some way why the technology is being used.  Making clear to students why the instructional choice of a discussion board can help students to understand why student-to-student interaction is the best way to address a particular course outcome.  Explaining why you are asking students to utilize a social media site will help students best use that tool for their learning.


Any technology that is used in the course should be used in an attempt to vary the learning activities and assist the learner to engage in active learning.  Online courses cannot simply be a text-only repository of information for the student to passively absorb. Technology allows for active engagement with information and with others to help facilitate learning.  QM Standards 6.2 and 6.3 focus on evidence for this type of active learning and variety in technology tool use. This is not to say that you should use a dozen different technologies, but rather enough variety so that students have a number of different ways that they can interact with the material.


Finally QM standard 6.4 focuses on student privacy and the use of technology.  There are a number of ways that programs can mine and use personal information.  To meet QM standard 6.4 the students must be provided with a list of the privacy policies of the technologies used in the course.  There also needs to be evidence for the protection of student privacy and data within the course as well. For example, if using social media, the utilization of a closed group helps to protect student privacy.  Allowing students to use a pseudonym on a public tool outside of the LMS is also a measure that you can allow to help student privacy. And though it is not a part of a QM evaluation, any time that you plan to use an external tool that requires students to create an account and provide even basic information, you should evaluate 1) the companies policy on the use of user data and 2) whether there is some reason to be suspicious of how the program might use user information.


The gist of Standard 6 is to evaluate the course designers/instructor’s use of technology tools for the purpose of achieving the course outcomes.  Technology tools should not be used for their own sake and when a technology decision is made for the course, it is helpful to let students know why that choice will help them to achieve the course goals.  It can be very easy to go overboard and try a number of different tools (I know I’ve been guilty of this). It can also be easy to simply use the tools that are common. Finding the right balance will help students to be exposed to the course content in different ways and use the right tools for the right job.

Active Learning Strategy – Digital Storytelling

A few weeks back I wrote a post about using Padlet in the classroom to help facilitate active learning.  Susie also facilitated another workshop on ways to incorporate active learning into your classrooms that gave a number of different strategies and tools both high and low tech.  This week I introduce another active learning strategy that incorporates some of the power of technology: Digital Storytelling. Digital storytelling is not a particular form of technology, but rather a strategy that uses the multimedia benefits of technology.  Digital storytelling requires learners to tell a story using digital means. These stories might be creative stories that students have created themselves, little autobiographies, documentaries, or even stories reflecting their progress on some large-scale project.


The art of storytelling requires the creator to understand the purpose of the story, organize important details, explain in clear language, and blend visual and verbal elements together in a meaningful and powerful way.  A good story often creates a mental image for the listener when crafted well. Multimedia allows for the creator of a digital story to present the visual image along with the verbal description. The cognitive skills needed to tell a good story are very complex and when a good story is told, there is evidence that the creator has deeply processed and understood their topic. What I tend to find most satisfying is when students can create an engaging and relatable story with the complex information that they have been learning in their classroom.  If these stories can be understood and appreciated by people not in higher-education, I think that is a significant gain. It’s a way for students to engage in ‘giving away’ their particular discipline to others and to demonstrate how their field is relevant to the general public in an engaging manner.


In a 2017 Inside Higher Ed Op Ed article, Kari Smalkoski, Linda Buturian, and Scott Spicer describe how they saw digital storytelling as a mechanism for transforming learning in a very powerful way including helping students to improve civic discourse and communicate multiple perspectives on an issue.  It does require instructors to break from the more familiar recipe of the traditional research paper, but allows for more student creativity and voice within the project. Here is a link to an initiative so-lead by Kari Smalkoski in the Twin Cities area in MN that presents a number of digital stories created by high school students on issues important to them (MN Youth Story Squad).


There are several resources available to those who might be interested in learning more about this strategy.


I could see this strategy being attractive to faculty who are interested in alternative ways of having students present in a class.  The technical skill needed to accomplish many of the tasks in digital storytelling can be made relatively easy through the variety of programs available, but time should be given and some structure provided to help students select tools and begin to use them to create products.  Having students collaborate on projects like this might be a unique way to present information. For those who are interested in cross-course collaborations, this might be one option for a project that students might collaborate with.

Civic Responsibility: Digital Citizenship

This summer, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has publicly announced a more focused initiative to promote digital citizenship (ISTE Blog, July 2018). Digital citizenship is not simply online safety practices.  Online safety includes maintaining good practices such as strong passwords, not becoming victims of phishing, spear fishing, or other social engineering digital attacks, and protecting one’s identity in online spaces. Digital citizenship is not simply about protecting yourself or your institution online. It is about creating a meaningful community, engaging in respectful debate, helping to shape public policy, and engaging in effective digital information literacy (ISTE Blog, July 2018).


Digital citizenship is meant to combat the tsunami of cyberbullying, trolling, toxic comments, online arguments, and fake news that we all see in our online environments.  Similar to being a good citizen in one’s physical community, one needs to be a good citizen within their virtual environments. As we move into this week where most of our undergraduate students will participate in their local community through Into the Streets, we need to remember and remind ourselves that citizenship is not limited to our physical geography.


What is perhaps most important to remember is that people who are not good digital citizens can (though certainly not always) actually be generally respectful people IRL (in real life).  The anonymity and physical distance provided by the online environment can provide temptations for individuals to engage in actions that they otherwise might not if they were able to be identified.  I explored this very issue over 10 years ago when I was in graduate school and today these same psychological principles continue to contribute to the sometimes toxic nature of the Internet world (see Christopherson, 2007).


So what might we do?  What are some of the ways that we in higher education can help ISTE meet their goals to encourage digital citizenships? Many of these strategies are actually easy for us to do as individuals:

  • When engaging in disagreements, do so with civility.  If the ‘other side’ continues to use toxic forms of disagreement, disengage so that you remove one of their platforms for incivility. Do not engage ‘trolls.’
  • If you notice someone being cyberbullied through comments or posts, post positive comments and encourage others to do so as well.  Doing nothing, does something. See for other strategies to prevent and address cyberbullying
  • Be vigilant about fake news and spreading misinformation.  Stop and think before forwarding or sharing a post. Help others to identify these types of fake stories and images. See for strategies to identify fake news and images.
  • Use digital mechanisms for engaging in social policy.  Engage in meaningful debate, post well researched solutions, share perspectives, use digital means to raise funds or awareness for meaningful causes.
  • Use digital materials ethically.  Appropriately give credit for multimedia you might use. Do not use someone else’s materials without permission.  Check for the permissions that are provided by the creator. Familiarize yourself with the copyright of information and materials you use (creative commons as an example).
  • Model digital citizenship through all online interactions and communications.


If the concept of fostering digital citizenship is of interest to you, I encourage you to explore ISTE’s site on Digital Citizenship.  Though ISTE is more focused on the K-12 educational environment, these basic principles and ideas can be translated into higher education.  This page provides a number of short articles on ways to incorporate digital citizenship into the classroom and how to create learning activities (such as problem-based learning and authentic learning tasks) that help students engage in digital citizenship.

Christopherson, K.M. (2007). The positive and negative implications of anonymity in Internet social interactions: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Computers in Human  Behavior, 23(6), 3038-3056.

Active Learning Tool – Padlet

When Susie Lubbers sent out the interest survey before the start of classes one of the items that faculty appeared to have the most interest about was how to incorporate active learning strategies into their courses.  On October 15th Susie and I will be facilitating a faculty development workshop on this very topic, but I also wanted to write a few specific blog posts highlighting some tools that you might find helpful to incorporate more active learning.


First, what is active learning? I’ll give you my own definition: Active learning is any learning activity where students are directly involved in some or all of the process of learning something new.  Students might be involved in the creation of the content, explaining meaning, organizing content, creating connections between ideas and concepts, or creating a meaningful product that demonstrates understanding.  Active learning in my view can happen in any form of classroom: Face-to-face, online, flipped, traditional lecture, student-centered, etc. As long as your students are doing and demonstrating something more than simply listening/reading to content and recording that information down, there is active learning happening.


The first active learning tool that I want to highlight this year is something called Padlet.  Some of you have have heard of this or even use it in your courses.  Padlet is at its core a form of shared and collaborative virtual bulletin board.  Here is an example of what Padlet looks like:






Several of us have asked students to do tasks on a whiteboard such as writing ideas for everyone to view, putting ideas into categories, reorganizing information, or even sometimes providing a backchannel mechanism for posting questions.  Padlet allows for this do be done. Padlet is free for students and teachers to use, and if a student is simply using (i.e. not creating) Padlet, the student does not even need to create an account and is able to use this tool as a ‘guest.’  For teachers, the free ‘basic’ version allows you to have three padlets created at any one time. And unless you plan to keep a particular padlet long-term this probably is a fine choice of plan. The individual pro plan is $8.25 a month and along with the ability to create unlimited padlets, there are other features such as folders, no ads, and larger memory capability.


Padlet can be used on computers or mobile devices and there are a variety of ways to share the Padlet that your class might be working on.  On computers, you can simply send a link or you can embed the actual Padlet window into a course Moodle or Website. If your students are using mobile devices, they will need to install the Padlet App, but then they are able to access your padlet through a link, QR code, of even through a ‘broadcasting’ feature that the presenter can use if sharing using a mobile device.


Padlet can basically facilitate times when you would like the larger groups to share and manipulate ideas.  Here are a few suggested uses for Padlet (ideas from this website):

  • Posting brainstorm sessions
  • Categorizing information and concepts
  • Mind mapping and concept maps
  • Q&A forum1
  • Exit ticket collection
  • Submitting files
  • Sharing resources (images, web pages, files)
  • Quick formative assessment
  • Collecting student responses to lessons
  • Shared note taking


When posting to a Padlet, users have the options to post text, files, images, Google Suite applications, and even other Padlets.  You can enable comments or ratings to be made on posts as well. Padlet is one of those tools that might help faculty with larger courses to get more student engagement or to allow those quiet students participate in class in a different way.


Here is a short video that demonstrates the many ways that media can be incorporated into padlet:


Here are a few other websites with ideas on how Padlet might be used in a classroom:


Moodle Assignment Feature: Feedback types and bulk grading features

Bear with me in this week’s blog post – I’m about to get a little ‘fan-girl’ crazy here with Moodle.  And for anyone who knew about these bulk grading and upload processes and never told me…Shame! Shame! Shame!


Last week I shared with you a way to help the first start of the grading processes for Moodle assignments go a bit quicker using the Download All Submission option.  At that time I also alluded to the fact that this can be the first step in helping later on with submitting assignments back to Moodle. Today I share with you the thing the literally made me want to jump and shout to the world what I think will be a LIFESAVER for those of us who do a lot of electronic grading.

Excited Cat Meme

Image from





But before I get into the really exciting part, let me share with you a few of the features in Moodle that you can use to provide different types of feedback to your students.  When you create or edit an assignment you can select the different ways of providing feedback: Feedback Comments, Feedback Files, Offline Grading sheet, and Comment inline.


Feedback Comments, when enabled, will include a textbox for you to write comments back to your students.  Feedback Files, when enabled, will provide you a place to upload a file – most likely a Word file that you have made electronic comments on.  If you have provided a textbox for your students to type their assignments into (you do this in the Submission Types –>Online Text) and enable the Comment Inline feature, you will see your student’s responses from their online text submission in your feedback comments textbox and you can comment within the student’s text (see below for what I mean by this).


The settings:









How it works:

View Video Click Here:


But probably what I am most excited about is the fact that I just recently started to explore just what this Offline Grading Sheet was all about and WOW have I been missing the boat there.





When you enable the offline grading sheet, you will then be given an option in the drop-down menu where you can also ‘download all submissions’ to download the grading sheet.






Doing this will download an Excel file to your computer that is formatted so that all you need to do is enter in the points grades for students on the single excel sheet.  You can also write in your feedback comments on this grading sheet as well.












Once all of the grades are entered, then you can simply upload this sheet back (don’t change anything about the formatting except for the grades and the feedback you entered) and Moodle magic updates all of the grades for you at once!  You can do similar quick grading on the initial page of an assignment in Moodle, but this allows you to also do this while not connected to the Internet (at least until you have to upload the sheet). Here’s a quick demo of how this works:


View Video Click Here:


So, once I learned about that I decided to explore the other options in that drop-down menu that I typically ignore (we truly just don’t always have the time to explore this stuff right…plus we don’t want to break the Moodle).  So I explored what the “upload multiple feedback files in a zip” was.







Well, surprisingly it’s exactly what it sounds like.  A way to upload all of those commented worksheets or papers at once (rather than going student by student).  The trick here is that you need to first download all of the files using the “download all submissions” tool.  This names the files in the way that is necessary to batch upload again. After that all you need to do is to save all of these files into a zip folder and then upload it back and BOOM! All the files are there.  What might take you the better part of an hour to do when turning back assignments (especially if you have have 30-40 or more students in a course) is now done in the matter of a few minutes! Now if we can just get the actual grading to go quicker right?! See this magic at work here:


View Video Click Here:


So are you as excited as I am about this? This will literally save me hours of time as I grade assignments this year.  The one thing to be aware of is that students do not receive an automatic email notifying them of these updated grades and files.  But this is easily done by simply clicking the “save all grading changes” at the bottom of the quick grade view.


**Edit to add information**

Unfortunately if you use ‘Rubrics’ or ‘Marking Guides’ as your grading type in Moodle the Offline Grading Sheet feature is not available.  However, you can still do a bulk upload of all feedback files.

Moodle Assignment Feature: Download All Assignments

When Susie and I had the faculty respond to a short survey, there was a lot of interest from you on learning more about the different features of two particular Moodle activities: Assignments and Quizzes.  These are probably two of the most commonly used Moodle activities (Forums are also very common) at Morningside and there is probably more to them that you are aware.

Even I have learned a few new strategies for using these tools recently and this year one of my goals is to share these with all of you.  This Fall I focus on Moodle Assignments.


The Moodle Assignment is basically the drop-box feature in our learning management system (LMS).  Instructors provide instructions and materials for students to complete and then students submit their work electronically through Moodle.  Instructors then provide feedback and grade the assignments, turning them back electronically through Moodle. Here is a document outlining this basic process.


Assignment Options:

There are many different options available that you’ve likely noticed if you have ever included one of these in your course.  For example, there are different feedback types, different grading mechanisms, you can use something called ‘groups,’ you can enable multiple attempts, you can use a ‘quickgrade’ or you can grade students one screen at a time.  I’ll discuss using some of these different features in future blog posts, however, In this installment I want to give you one tip that might help the grading process go just a tad bit faster – the Download All Submissions feature.


Using Download All Submissions:

After your students have all uploaded their assignments to Moodle there are really two ways to download the files onto your computer so that you can provide feedback on their assignments.  1) you can click on each individual student file and download them individually or 2) you can download all files as a batch. There are a few benefits to using process #2: First, there is WAY fewer clicks and less waiting for downloads and second, using the download all submissions option automatically names the files with the students names.  So you don’t need to depend on students properly naming their files for you to identify them on your computer! Here is a short 30 sec video demonstrating how to do this.


The one drawback that I can think of is this.  You really need to wait until after the due date to use this bulk download process in the most efficient manner, so if you are someone who likes to grade as assignments come in, this process might not be the best to use.  This bulk download does not recognize if you have downloaded the same file previously. It’s still possible to use it, there is just more file management that needs to occur on the instructor’s end (i.e. moving new files into your assignment files and ignoring student files that you have already saved).

This process can help speed up grading by basically reducing the time it takes to download each individual student’s file to your computer.  Additionally, using this process also makes it possible to do a type of bulk upload (to be discussed in a future blog post! – This is a feature I just learned about myself).

Morningside College QM Plan. What is it? How do I learn more?

Many of you are likely aware that Morningside College subscribed to Quality Matters, but did you also know that we have an active plan to help us implement the Quality Matters standards into our online courses? One of the services that Quality Matters provides is a process to help institutions create implementation plans.  A college representative (typically the campus Quality Matters Coordinator or QMC) completes a proposal that follows the guidelines given by Quality Matters to describe the process that the institution will take to help implement the Quality Matters standards within is online and blended courses.


A couple of years ago, I stumbled across this service and decided to create a QM Implementation Plan for Morningside College which focuses on creating a form of internal review process for our online courses in our online programs (Graduate Education, Graduate Nursing, and Organizational Management).  I worked with John Pino, Steve Gates, Jackie Barber, and Michelle Laughlin as I drafted this proposal. What I liked about the process was QMs flexibility for us to create a plan that fit Morningside and our needs. Our needs were to create a review system for ourselves, guided by the QM standards. I submitted this proposal to QM and they basically said “Great! Go for it!” You can read the specifics of this plan here if you are interested.


We are currently in Year 2 of a three year plan.  Last year I recruited several faculty and adjuncts within the Graduate Education program to complete the training necessary to become peer-reviewers for our internal process.  This year, I hope to continue to recruit interested faculty and to begin training those who have completed the training to conduct reviews. Ultimately it is my goal to try to have at least 2 courses from each program reviewed internally.


So what does it mean that we have a QM ‘approved’ implementation plan? Each year I submit an annual report indicating our progress on our stated goals.  And we are also able to include a statement in our web pages that states:

Morningside College is committed to implement the Quality Matters Standards for the design of online and/or hybrid courses, and we are systematically building and evaluating our courses based on these rigorous, research-supported standards. The Quality Matters standards assure that the online components of these courses promote learner engagement and provide students with all the tools and information they need to be successful learners. More information regarding Quality Matters may be found at


Beyond the request for annual reports there is no other ‘policing’ that QM does.  So it’s not like we will be punished for not meeting our goals. But they do provide guidance and resources for those of us trying to accomplish our goals.


If you are interested in learning more about the Morningside College QM Implementation Plan, please feel free to contact me.  If you are interested in becoming an internal reviewer I would love to talk to you more! Even if you do not teach online, you can become a reviewer.  Becoming a reviewer for our online programs will allow you to see just what our online courses look like, how our online students are learning, and it can even give you ideas for your own courses!