Posts Tagged ‘metacourses’

Moodle metacourses, part I: The Pedagogy: Do you want the LRC to distribute files for your courses through Moodle?

2011/08/18 1 comment

First consider using the Library ereserves! However, to help teachers with the management of digital learning materials (text, audio, small video files) in your Moodle courses, to help students with a familiar learning interface (unlike Webdrive), and to relieve IT from having to store files in sparse environments like network shares or to manage duplicate files from many similar Moodle sections/courses across terms, the LRC is introducing Moodle metacourses.

In many Moodle installations, such metacourses – while lacking the advanced features of an LMS-integrated eRepository (software options are still under exploration) -, are commonly used like a shared library, holding teaching materials which a number of courses need access to and which the teacher of these course can link materials from in their respective courses.

You can view both a short list of our LRC Moodle metacourses and a longer list of language learning materials in these resource Moodle courses.

The CTL has arranged for all [your language here, e.g. French] Moodle courses to automatically become “child courses” (don’t get hung up on that terminology!) of the “LRC-[your language here]-Resource” Moodle course (AKA “parent course”) course at the beginning of each term. That means: all teachers and students in [your language here] courses will have access to the learning materials in “LRC-[your language here]-Resource” course. (At the end of the term, all teachers and students will be automatically un-enrolled also).

Please note: Due to technical limitations within Moodle, with you gaining access, the LRC staff loses access to the “LRC-[your language here]-Resource” course. However, if you want to make changes, you can yourself go to the parent course and manage either your child course (dropping) or individual resources in the parent course (hiding – please coordinate with colleagues, especially teachers of other sections).

Please note also: Like any library (or specifically the LRC) is a room, the metacourse is a (virtual) room, meaning: students must (virtually) “walk over there” to see the library resources. You can facilitate this if you link to library resources in the parent course from your regular course, preferably opening them in a new window for easy return to the regular course.

How is included in these helpful hints from a metacourses user: “The only minor problem is that the student navigation might leave them in the metacourse instead of the normal section course. To lessen this effect, I always launch links to the metacourse in a new window. Normally students understand that they need to close the popup window when they are finished with it. There are several advantages to using metacourses in this way. First, it saves having to upload the same materials more than once. I can change a file in the metacourse and know that it is changed in all section courses. Second, it saves storage space. Third, it provides the possibility of developing learning objects or mini courses that can be quickly linked to create a new course. Finally, it would allows several teachers to pick and choose what materials to include in their section courses. One hint, I put all activities (assignments, forums, journals, etc.) in the child course, not in the metacourse. This keeps grading segregated” .

Alternatively, if you do not want to distribute files through the parent course and rather drop your child course from the parent course, self-enrolling in the LRC-CLS-UNCC-Projects (URL sent on request) which as a child course of all metacourses will give you access to download the teaching materials (How? view how to use Moodle File management to zip and download files) and republish them into your Moodle course ((How? view how to upload files into Moodle).

Moodle metacourses, part V: The support workflow: Uploading

2011/06/17 2 comments
  1. In Windows Explorer, sort file by name. Select as many files as to make a meaningful content unit (e.g. a component, like lab audio, of a textbook), but not more than 64MB (if Windows Explorer Status bar does not keep count for you, right-click with multiple files selected and choose Properties from the context menu).
  2. Right click on the selection and from the context menu, use 7-zip or the in-built windows Send-to zip-files (neither has a move-files-into-archive option like InfoZip’s command-line zip, so you have to keep track of files completed manually). In 7-zip, you can use “store” which is faster and, unlike attempts of further compressing the already highly optimized input files, should not result in an increase of the file size of the archive.  See zipping screencast.
  3. In the Moodle Resource course corresponding to the language of the file upload, go to lower left corner menu: files, “make a folder”, the name of which identifies the component you are uploading, enter the folder, “upload” the zip file into the folder, next to the file uploaded, click “Unzip”, when done, delete the zip file (to save space). See uploading screencast
  4. Repeat for all resource files (audio and non-audio ) for all languages
  5. see also here on how to batch upload into Moodle

Learning Materials eRepositories: Thoughts & Considerations

Cost- and time-saving benefits of learning material eRepositories include:

  1. sharing and reuse of content for the teacher ad learner
  2. de-duplication for the IT support

Typical issues I have encountered with learning materials repositories:

  1. questionable applicability of the software-object-oriented-design   (OOD)-derived concept of encapsulated and reusable learning “objects” to highly progressive subjects like language arts;
  2. also, a not uncommon problem of OOD gone wrong: having a “God-object” vs. SOLID-principled object-design, is even more of a risk with “learning objects”: Don’t they not always tend to be too complex to truly reap the benefits of having a design based on many small encapsulated and reusable objects in software programming?
  3. licensing & copyright or privacy FERPA restrictions preventing uploads and specialization of interest prevents the network effects which have made the open internet so pervasive (and disruptive to some businesses);
  4. nclor-equella-metadata curation using metadata implementing controlled vocabularies and ontologies , even if crowd-sourced, remains a daunting task for domain specialists for non-librarians, while it has been said to be the secret of librarians:

“als ob er jetzt das Geheimnis dieser Wände aussprechen müßte: ‘Herr General,’ sagt er ‘Sie wollen wissen, wieso ich jedes Buch kenne? Das kann ich Ihnen nun allerdings sagen: Weil ich keines lese!” Weißt du, das war mir nun beinahe wirklich zuviel! Aber er hat es mir, wie er meine Bestürzung gesehen hat, auseinandergesetzt. Es ist das Geheimnis aller guten Bibliothekare, daß sie von der ihnen anvertrauten Literatur niemals mehr als die Büchertitel und das Inhaltsverzeichnis lesen. ‘Wer sich auf den Inhalt einläßt, ist als Bibliothekar verloren!’ hat er mich belehrt. ‘Er wird niemals einen Überblick gewinnen!’” (Robert Musil, Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften)

eRepository implementations I have used:

  1. Our Moodle instance is still looking for an erepository system to integrate. We are getting some eRepository benefits (easy reuse across courses without need for term-wise recycling/re-upload; de-duplication) by implementing [your language here] metacourses in which we enroll all [your language here]  “child courses”
  2. The equella eRepository is used by NC-LOR, and TBA:I have managed learning materials in it earlier, in conjunction with Blackboard – most recommended (at least then) among educational technologists, but not for the faint of heart, which seems to have limited the faculty adoption (and for which NC-LOR may have been a reference implementation, if I remember correctly). One of the things I did not like about equella when I used it (2006-2008) was the seemingly endless point-and-click-and-WWWait.
  3. The Blackboard content-system was WebDAV based and therefore, once you had established the connection of your client to the WebDAV share (which MS-VISTA WebDAV updates unfortunately temporarily broke ),  featured an extremely user-friendly integration with the MS-Windows shell that  allowed for batch-handling of files in a familiar, fast “fat client” interface.
  4. I was, when it was first released, and its metadata-tagging features advertised by Jon Udell, highly impressed by – and consequently have become an avid proponent of, and much more active photographer itself –  MS-Windows Vista (now also in: Live) PhotoGallery which combines intuitive use with great speed . However, requirements for managing and sharing a personal photo and video collection are not nearly as complex as for shared learning materials (although I have also used it managing my personal work ePortfolio).

Moodle metacourses, part II: The technology

2011/06/02 2 comments

One of the most missed business requirements for a LMS in version 1 of Moodle has been lack of support for sharing files across courses. This has been addressed by the e-Repository API in version 2 of Moodle, which, however, we will not have in the foreseeable future. In version 1, metacourses have been the most widely used workaround.

The technical concept behind a metacourse in Moodle seems to be best described like so: “A child course gives its [student -  TBA:teachers need to be added manually, but fortunately do not change as frequently as students] enrolments [= access to] to the parent course” or meta course, which has no enrolment of its own. In practice, this can go either way: Using metacourses, one can “populate many [meta]courses [= building blocks of content (e.g. chapters, weeks, can even be separate, but required courses with different teachers – TBA: then exclude the teacher role from being added with enrolments, in Admin/Users/User Policies , flexibly combinable to make up a specific version of your regular course] from one enrollment or one [meta]course from many enrollments [= many sectional regular courses that need access to the same content]”. Either assign to many metacourses [= building blocks] 1 child course each, or vice versa assign 1 metacourse many child courses [=sectional regular courses].

For base Moodle version 1.9 administration information, simply watch the first half-minute of this screencast, or read this extract from the Moodle documentation:

“To change a course to a meta course, set "Is this a meta course?" question to yes in the course settings.”


(Note that this option will disappear as soon as the course has an enrolment!)


In your metacourse “you can link [=”associate”] to or unlink from (add or delete) "child" courses by the course Administration menu. This icon and link only appears in meta courses: “


How to make a metacourse visible: “Making a metacourse visible before the metacourse is properly setup can cause Moodle to return ‘This course does not allow public access'(…) Verify that the linked "child" course(s) exists. “

Note: Metacourses may be set to inactive and unavailable to enrolled students until the teacher activates the metacourse.

Note: It takes some time for the meta-enrollment to apply (time depends on the setting for the cron-job).

How to handle metacourse teacher role enrollments: Certain roles can be excluded from being passed on as enrollment from child courses to metacourses. For our shared resource courses, this does not make sense (in the contrary, since any teacher from the child course may want to manage resources contained in the metacourses – this does not to be coordinated between teachers of similar child courses.).

TBA: How to handle metacourse enrollments across terms: Our metacourse shells will stay across the term, while enrollment will be automatically dropped with the child courses “going out of scope”.