Categories
H5P Learning Moodle Multimedia

Online ELT & CALL activities in Moodle

Great news! For those of us who use Moodle to create online English language learning/teaching (ELL/ELT) activities & courses, things just got better. Previously, I’ve held off from writing about H5P because, although it is very useful & has great potential, I found the Moodle integration problematic & difficult to manage, but with the latest Moodle upgrades I think that we can take online ELL/ELT to a whole new level.

H5P Integration

Moodle 3.9 now has much tighter integration with H5P, a framework for creating & deploying 43 types of multimedia learning resources & activities, many of which are ideal for computer assisted language learning (CALL), e.g. dictations, learners can record themselves speaking, various matching & memory games, flashcards, & various cloze & gap-fill activity types, & an experimental feature that allows a speech analysis service to grade learners’ spoken responses to prompts & questions.

H5P resources & learning activities can be embedded anywhere in Moodle, e.g. as the initial prompt or activity in a forum discussion thread, in Moodle quizzes & tests, & in lessons & presentations.

Institutionally supported free & open source

Like Moodle, H5P is free & open source software (FOSS) & supported by several universities & non-profit organisations. This means that continuing development & adoption are assured & the community of developers & users is set to continue to grow substantially. They’re also building a free & open H5P learning resources repository/library so that course creators can publish & import ready-made learning resources & activities into their Moodle courses & edit & adapt them to their specific situation, context, & learners’ needs. This kind of collectivising learning resources certainly helps to lighten the typically substantial load of materials writing & development for individual educational organisations, thereby bringing costs & development times down.

Check out some examples

You can see & try out examples of the activity types, not specifically designed for ELT but they give you a good idea of what they look like & how they work. See the H5P resource & activity types summary page here: https://h5p.org/content-types-and-applications

Especially useful for CALL

Of the 43 H5P resource & activity types currently available, the following are of notable interest for CALL:

  • Interactive video: Useful for socially situated (contextualised) dialogues, & watching recorded language presentations with interactive prompts, pauses, & questions, as well as many other applications. You can really get creative with this one.
  • Presentations: Collate & sequence multiple H5P resources & learning activities into complete coherent mini-lessons. H5P items can also be sequenced & mixed in with Moodle quiz items.
  • Audio recorder: Ss can record themselves & submit it to their teacher for review, feedback, &/or grading – Also note that Moodle itself has audio & video recording capabilities so that you can, for example, create voice &/or video discussion forums (similar to VoiceThread). Learners just click, talk to their computer/phone, & submit.
  • Multimedia flash cards: Flash cards with text, images, & audio. Great for reviewing language in terms of meaning, form, & pronunciation (MFP). Flash cards also strengthen memory of basic language elements, which results in faster recall & more fluent, complex, & accurate spontaneous speech & writing (similar to Quizlet but with better multimedia support).
  • Dictation: Traditional dictation activity, except that learners control the audio playback (as many times as they need/like) & there’s option to provide additional versions of each section of speech, e.g. reduced tempo (time-stretched audio) or clearer, more emphatic annunciation. Learners’ responses are graded as % of correct words – each correct word receives a grade rather than the typical whole answer being graded in a binary (exactly) right or wrong fashion.
  • Drag & drop: Multimedia multiple matching activity – Learners can match text, images, & audio. It has a wide range of applications from vocabulary to dialogue sequences & TPR (be aware that drag & drop has issues with accessibility & section 508 compliance).
  • Drag & drop cloze (gap-fill): Learners have list of language items, e.g. words, to insert into correct positions in text. Similar to multiple choice cloze but quicker & easier to create & easier for learners to complete. Especially suitable for lower-level learners, i.e. CEFR A0 – A2.
  • Cloze tests (gap-fill): Learners type in the blanked words into a text. Although Moodle’s Quiz activity also does cloze deletion tests well, the text formatting & input in this H5P activity type is easier to read & therefore exerts lower extraneous (i.e. bad) cognitive load. An advanced cloze type allows for multiword blanks & gives percentage scores for the number of correct words within a blank, which is useful for practising Cambridge keyword sentence transformations. (BTW, cloze deletion texts are among the most valid & reliable forms of reading comprehension test known).
  • Hotspots: Learners identify items in an image by clicking on them. Can be used to teach & test vocabulary & phrases in contextually relevant images/scenes.
  • Memory game/match the pairs of cards: The classic memory games that learners seem to love & help to strengthen retrieval, fluency, & accuracy in spontaneous language production.
  • Image sequencing: Drag & drop the images into the correct order. Good for TPR style activities, e.g. to check initial/gist understanding of narratives, stories, news items.
  • Mark the words: Indicate words in a text, e.g. nouns, pronouns, objects, subjects, noun verb phrases, adjacency pairs, mistakes, etc.. Good for getting learners to do analyses of texts &/or error analysis/proof reading practice.
  • Personality quiz: A good ice-breaker/getting to know you activity for fun & cultivating social presence.

What other Moodle activities do better than H5P

H5P also has multiple choice & multiple matching question types however it’s better to do MCQs with Moodle’s Quiz module. The Quiz module has more options & it includes automated item analyses to help you to improve the quality of MCQ items at a granular level, e.g.

  • Facility index: How easy the learners find the item),
  • Discrimination index: How well the item distinguishes between low & high knowledge learners, i.e. the learners’ level of understanding),
  • Distractor efficiency: How feasible/convincing the wrong answers (distractors) are & how consistently proficient learners get an item right & low-knowledge learners get the item wrong – Contributes to the discrimination index.

Also see Moodle’s Feedback activity for opinion polls & different kinds of feedback, which allows teachers to share the aggregated results with learners, e.g. Opinion polls can be used to spark forum discussions as they show learners where consensus’ & differences on a specific topic are across the whole group.

Over to you

As you can see, there’s a long list of options to explore that can strongly enhance the instructional quality of online learning interactions & instructional sequences, as well as making them more varied & enjoyable for learners. What online ELT ideas do you think you could implement with these tools?

Categories
Web Conferencing

Instant, simple video conferencing for free

appear.inThe following is a quick, simple “How to… ” guide for setting up instant, free, “no frills”, easy to use, multi-way video conferencing and chat in Moodle for up to 8 people at a time. It also works on any web page as you see in the embedded room at the bottom of this article.

[Please note: appear.in has changed to https://whereby.com/]

How to embed whereby.com in Moodle

  1. Go to https://whereby.com/,
  2. create a video/chat room,
  3. copy the URL link,
  4. in Moodle, create a page (Page resource module),
  5. in the Moodle HTML editor, click on the show source code button <>,
  6. copy (Ctrl + c) and paste (Ctrl + v) the following code: https://whereby.com/roomname
  7. replace [room] with the name of the room you created in step 2,
  8. and save the Moodle page.

There are also options to claim a room as your own and lock it so that only users with the correct password can access it. If you lock a room with password protection, you can simply put the password at the top of the Moodle page where you’ve embedded the whereby.com room.

If you want to record conferencing sessions, you can use one of the many screen recording applications that are available. A good free and open source one for Linux systems is Record My Desktop. Here’s a list of screen recording software for other operating systems.

What is whereby.com?

According to their terms of service:

“whereby.com is a web based video conversation service that allows you to have video conversations with others in the browser simply by having individual participants typing in the same URL in the browser window. Typing in the same URL will make the participants appear in the same room where you can talk to each other with voice and text chat and see each other with transmitted video. You do not have to install any software or plugins to use whereby.com. You also do not have to register or log in to use the service.

Video and sound communicated in whereby.com, is only seen by the people who are present in a room at the time the content is communicated. It is not disclosed to anyone who are not present in a room. You should be aware that by default a room is open, so anyone who knows the url can enter the room simply by typing the URL in the browser. If anyone enters a room you are present in, you can see them in the room. You can prevent others from entering a room by locking the room. When a room is locked, only room owners can enter a room.

Chat messages communicated in a room can be seen by people who are present in the room when the message is sent and by people who enter the room during the same chat session. A session ends when there are no people in a room any more. At this time, all messages sent in the chat session will be deleted and can no longer be viewed by anyone.

You can claim a room as your own room. This will give you control over the room, and give you the ability to customize it for your own communication needs. When you claim a room, you enter your email address. You will then get an email containing a link that provides access to the owner privileges for the room. Room owners can customize a room e.g. by setting the background image in the room and by using other customisation options that is or may be provided in the service in the future. Only room owners can set the lock for rooms that have been claimed and the lock will be retained when everyone has left the room so you need the room code to enter back into the room. A crown symbol will be shown on the video feed of a room owner to make it apparent who is the owner.

You can follow a room by clicking the “follow” symbol. Following a room implies that you will be notified whenever someone enters a room you are following, even though you are not currently in the room yourself. You can click the notification to enter the room and have a conversation with those that entered the room.

We retain the right to create limits on use and storage at our sole discretion at any time without prior notice to you.”

Source: whereby.com – Terms of Service

Disclaimer

I have no affiliation with whereby.com or anyone associated with them. I have written this article based on my own use of the service with learners and it should not be considered as an endorsement. I am not responsible for anyone under any circumstances who decides to use the whereby.com service.

Categories
Moodle

Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options

MoodleEvery year, web hosting and installing web apps becomes less technically demanding, quicker, and simpler and it’s getting to the point nowadays where it’s a consumer level endeavour. Here’s a few of the easiest low-cost options for hosting Moodle that I’ve seen so far.

[Please note: This article is now out of date & Moodle hosting options have changed considerably. For the official Moodle hosting site, please visit: https://moodlecloud.com/]

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the hosting providers mentioned in this article, neither am I endorsing any of their services. I’m citing them, without prejudice, as examples of types of Moodle hosting and they are by no means the best or only options that are available.

Why not use a regular web hosting service?

By “regular” I mean website hosting providers like GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, etc. that are aimed at individuals and small businesses who only want to set up and blog or website to offer information, contact details, product and service catalogues, shopping carts, news, small downloads, etc.

Moodle 2.x is a large, powerful, and resource hungry piece of software. It’s a content management system, contacts and messaging management system, course management system, and can deploy multiple instances of discussion forums, wikis, blogs, presentations, documentation, multimedia resources, etc.. In other words, it requires a web hosting service that is more powerful than what most websites do. Using a regular web hosting service for Moodle is like using a car when you need a truck. The price gap between a website that runs WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal (a shared hosting service from about $5 per month) to a website that can handle Moodle (dedicated servers from about $80 per month) is a large jump and prohibitive to people who just want to try it out or run small, experimental, and/or exploratory projects (e.g. for research).

Are there cheaper ways to host or use Moodle?

Yes, there are. Here’s a few examples:

MoodleCloud[update 2015-07-05] MoodleCloud

Moodle Pty., the people who develop Moodle are now offering free Moodle accounts on their cloud hosting platform. It works in the same way as MDL2.com (see below) but has the following restrictions:

  • 50 users maximum
  • 200Mb disk space
  • Core themes and plugins only
  • Requires a mobile phone number to verify your identity

However, it does also include use of BigBlueButton, the free and open source video web conferencing and virtual classroom system for up to 6 users at a time.

FreeMoodle.org FreeMoodle.org

If you’re a complete beginner and just want to try out Moodle as a teacher and course content developer, and/or curriculum developer, you can get started for free with FreeMoodle.org. This service has been running consistently and, as far as I know, under the same terms of service for as long as I’ve been using Moodle (Since 2006).

Pricing: Free for your own course(s) but very limited admin controls or privileges and on your courses only.

If you don’t need an online Moodle and only want it for personal use, you can install it on your personal computer, on Windows, OS X, or Linux. Please see this article: Update: Do you want to get started with Moodle?

In the past few months, I’ve come across a couple of new Moodle hosting service providers that I think offer good value for money. They are:

MDLSpot.com

This is a shared hosting service which runs one installation of the Moodle software but creates multiple instances of Moodle so that everyone can set up their very own Moodle and have admin access and control over the entire instance (WordPress.com operates in a similar way). AFAIK, you can’t install any 3rd party plugins or extensions yourself, so you’re limited to what standard Moodle can do “out of the box” plus a few “pre-approved” plugins and extensions.

Pricing: They don’t publish their pricing but they informed me that they charge something similar to Amazon Web Services usage rates (you pay per hour for what resources you use) which starts at around $200 USD per year. I suggest contacting them to confirm exactly how much your Moodle hosting would cost and what plugins and extensions they make available.

MDL2.comMDL2.com

This is an advertising supported service, i.e. free if you allow advertising in your courses (which may or may not be appropriate). Again, you get your own “out of the box” Moodle and have admin access to it.

Pricing: Advertising supported

Here’s a list of free and ad supported Moodle hosting services.

Bitnami.comBitnami.com

[Please note: I don’t recommend using Bitnami installers on production servers. The LAMP stacks are not standard configurations & cannot be updated, i.e. they’re a security risk. They’re designed for quick & easy development & testing work.]

Bitnami.com are more than just a Moodle hosting service. They’re a full cloud hosting service provider, mostly aimed at web developers, that have also developed a number of consumer level, user friendly website installation systems and services. If you create a Moodle instance with them, you get a virtual private server (VPS) which allows you sysadmin level access. This gives you almost complete freedom to install and add whatever features to Moodle and also install other software alongside it, meaning you can do some very advanced things with Bitnami that most low-cost web hosting services don’t allow.

BTW, Moodle is designed to be run on a “LAMP stack” (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) so Windows hosting options are not advisable.

Pricing: https://bitnami.com/cloud/pricing (See the FAQs at the bottom of the page; They offer very favourable terms and conditions). A “micro instance” with Moodle installed starts at around $200 USD per year.

AWS pricing: http://aws.amazon.com/pricing/ If you’ve ever bought anything from Amazon, e.g. books, movies, electronics, or whatever, you already have an Amazon account. All you have to do is activate an Amazon Web Services account.

Link: https://bitnami.com/stack/moodle

Finally

These are just a few examples of the options available and there are many more. If you know of any others or are a service provider that offers low-cost hosting services capable of supporting Moodle (2.5 and later), please let me know.

Discussion

You can follow and participate in the Moodle.org community’s response to this article here.