Got your Moodle done?

Published 9:24 am Friday, January 7, 2011

Albert Lea High School junior Chris Weniger looks through assignments on Moodle, a computer program that students complete assignments and tests on. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Teachers at Albert Lea High School have started to use a new computer program that allows assignments and tests to be completed online. This push for online learning prepares students for college where some courses are completely online and don’t meet for class and many other courses use online programs for various purposes.

While there are different programs schools can use, ALHS is using Moodle. It is accessed through the Albert Lea School District’s website — http://es.albertlea.k12.mn.us/.

Johanna Thomas, administrative dean at ALHS, said teachers are using the program in different ways.

“Some are just getting started and using a few components,” Thomas said. “Others are using it extensively.”

A few courses at the high school are currently being offered only online, and a couple courses are called hybrids. The school deemed these classes hybrids because students meet with the teacher for some of the school days, and other school days they can complete assignments at home on their own time.

“The biggest benefit is that kids can complete their assignments anywhere they have Internet access,” Thomas said.

After completing it the assignment is submitted online so the teacher can grade it wherever they have Internet access. Chat functions allow students and teachers to have conversations or post comments about assignments.

“There’s a wide variety of ways the teachers are using it,” Thomas said.

Moodle lends itself well to classes like Jeremy Corey-Gruenes’ humanities English class where he can assign students to groups and have them discuss a poem or excerpt from assigned readings.

Corey-Gruenes said he likes that students don’t have to have as many resources at home. Instead of assigning them a large anthology book, he can post the passage he wants them to discuss right on Moodle. A typical assignment for his students would include posting about five comments to an excerpt Corey-Gruenes posted or to another student’s comment.

“It allows students to have more valuable in-class time,” Corey-Grunes said.

He also said by using Moodle he no longer worries about losing students’ assignments because they’re all saved onto the website. Deadlines aren’t such an issue anymore either, because Moodle shows the exact minute a student posted their homework.

Corey-Gruenes also posts exams on Moodle and has the class go to a computer lab to take the test. With Moodle tabulating results Corey-Gruenes also gets to see how many students got a certain question wrong, which can help him plan to cover certain material more. He said the students enjoy getting instant results because Moodle tabulates their scores immediately.

“In general I think they really like the online stuff,” Corey-Gruenes said.

He said he can sympathize with students who think in-class discussions are time consuming and sometimes disorganized. Corey-Gruenes also said he sees shy students open up more in online discussion.

Thomas also said math classes are using the program for online assignments. She said Moodle has been working for older students who are more responsible with their studies.

“It’s something we’re trying this year to see how it goes,” Thomas said. “We’re seeing good results with our older students.”

She said as teachers get more comfortable with Moodle they may use it more, but students have to be motivated to complete assignments on their own time. For that reason Moodle will probably be a supplement to courses at the high school. ALHS Junior Chris Weniger said he likes that assignments can be graded faster and that he doesn’t need to keep track of papers.

“I like being able to work on the computer,” Weniger said.

Thomas said there are students who don’t have computers and Internet access at home, but that number is getting smaller. The school also offers laptops to be checked out at the library. The library is also open before and after school to offer Internet access to students who need it.