Moodle Rubrics and Scales

This year I decided to adjust the weight I placed on lab reports. Last year it was graded out of 6 and this year I graded them out of 18. Both times I used the rubric grading in Moodle. Last year I scaled the grade down but this year I decided to just leave it at the full 18 total possible points. However I noticed that when I graded a sample lab report and gave it a grade of 6 out of 18 on the rubric it would show up as 6.67 for total score for that objective in the grade book. I still don’t understand why but it had to do with the grade setting for each lab activity. Since I wasn’t scaling things down I changed the grade to just 18. When I modified the scale so that it went from 0 – 18 and reset the grade setting to the lab scale things worked out again. The category total in the grade book also had to be set to use the scale.

Steps:

  • adjust the scale in the grade book settings
  • adjust the category total to ensure it is using the scale
  • make sure that each lab activity is using the scale

Upgrading to Moodle 2.5

This week I got tired of getting emails asking me to upgrade to the latest version of Moodle and went through the process. It’s quite easy with the web-hosting package I have. Just a few clicks of the mouse. It even warned me to make a quick backup just in case. After the upgrade however the Aardvark theme was missing. I downloaded the latest version of it but was disappointed as it has also changed. I had to go to my backup and extract the old theme(Aardvark 2.3 Penguin) and upload it. This was better than downloading the version as the backup had all of my custom properties.

One of the new features of Moodle 2.5 is Badges. This allows you to award a badge upon completion of specific activities or sets of activities. I can see using this as a way of encouraging students to complete more activities. Perhaps a badge for each mission which is awarded if they complete all the activities in that mission?

LaTeX

For adding formulas to the various Moodle pages I have been learning and using LaTeX. In this post I’m going to list some of the things I’ve learned so far as a personal reference.

Formulas have to be enclosed in dollar signs $$ F = ma $$

Greek letters $$\alpha \delta \Delta$$

Subscript and Superscript $$ v_x  v^2$$

Fractions $$\frac {a}{b}$$

Roots $$\sqrt {(v_x)^2 +(v_y)^2} $$

 

Scoreboard

I have created a scoreboard for the game. I take the average of the scores for each side (Villains/Agents) and use those two numbers in a google spreadsheet to generate a basic pie chart. The great thing about the chart is that it can be embedded into a webpage and will always display the current version. So all I have to do is update the spreadsheet once per week. This is trivial with the use of the Moodle grade feature.

The theme I’m using for my courses (Aardvark) also has a drop down menu bar. Today I found the php file I needed to edit to embed the scoreboard. The result is awesome!

Rubrics

Last night I forgot how to access the lab report rubric I created. Moodle is a little odd in that it doesn’t show up when you click on the “grades” link. In case I forget again here’s how to find it:

  1. Turn editing on
  2. Click on ‘update’ for the lab activity
  3. Under ‘grades’ section grade should be set to Scale: Lab Reports and the grading method to Rubric
  4. On the left hand menu block scroll down to the Settings section
  5. Click on ‘Advanced Grading’
  6. You can now edit the rubric

I think I’ll have to go through and double check each of the lab activities to make sure they are set to use the rubric. I should also upload some sample labs from the test user and grade them to make sure the scale and rubric are working how I expect them to.

First Class

Last night was the first class. I set up in the lab and began creating accounts on the Moodle server for each student. The class list I was given had 14 students on it with their name and phone number. The username for each student was the first initial of their first name and their full last name. For the password I used their phone number. The Moodle server requires an email address to be entered and since I didn’t have this information I created placeholders (student1@vectorshock.ca) and asked the students to sign and update both their password and email address. The only problem was the four students that showed up but were not on my class list.

When the students started arriving I opened up Angry Birds and started playing. I could see a few odd looks and after playing a few levels I started explaining the concept for the class. The student reaction was what I expected….mostly confusion. Their biggest concern, not surprisingly, was how the grading would work. One girl in particular couldn’t get her head around the standards based grading scheme. There were a few other concerns, mostly about how they should know if they are progressing fast enough through the class.

I think once we get through the first test they will feel more at ease with the process. On Wednesday I plan on having a sample test to show them how they will be structured. I also plan on showing the students how to use Tracker.

More on Moodle Quiz

After playing around with the quiz module on Moodle I think I’ve decided to try the Calculated question type. In this type of question you can enter variables into the question and then the formula for determining the correct answer. For example this is the quiz question for mission 1:

Radar imaging shows that the cargo jet is heading east at {x} km/h. The agency jet has a top speed of {y} km/h. There is a wind from the north east at {z} km/h. What direction should you head to intercept the hijacked plane?

Moodle then asks me for a range for each variable (ie {y} is between 400 and 600 while {z} is between 25 and 45. Moodle will then enter a random number into the question. This way the student can retry the quiz without memorizing the answer.

For the solution I entered the following into Moodle:

rad2deg(asin(sin(2.356)*({z}/{y})))

One issue is that Moodle works in radians rather than degrees so I had to enter the angle in radians and then have Moodle convert its solution to degrees using the rad2deg command.

I think ideally I want to create a set of questions for each mission so that the question itself can change rather than just the numbers, but for now this appears to be a quick method of creating a random quiz.

Moodle Equation Editor

After a lot of struggles I’ve finally managed to figure out the Moodle equation editor. The editor relies on a TeX filter to convert TeX notation into gif images. However just simply enabling the filter wasn’t enough to get the editor to work. It did however enable the DragMath editor which has been written in Java. Once enabled the editor was rather strange to use. Mathematical expressions are grouped together into tabs which then have to be dragged and dropped into the workspace. Personally I find it difficult to use. However when the equation is inserted into the Moodle page it gets converted into TeX notation. For example: $$d=v_{0}t+ \frac{1}{2}at^2$$. I actually find it easier to just edit this directly.

The problem was that Moodle wasn’t converting this notation into a gif image. After searching the forums I realized that although the filter was enabled I didn’t actually have the LaTeX binaries installed. After trying unsuccessfully to get these binaries installed I tried contacting my hosting company and was informed that because I’m on a shared rather than a dedicated server this won’t be possible.

Fortunately there was a section on the DragMath page about decoupling it from the TeX filter. Following this process lead to success in getting the equations displayed property but created some other problems with how the Moodle site was being displayed. The menu bar ended up being shifted to the right resulting in it being impossible to click on some items. I solved this by not pasting the css style sheet line when setting up the display mechanism.

Only one issue remains, the gifs are not displayed when viewing the Moodle site from my iphone and the mobile theme.

Moodle Grades

I have been spending the past few days learning how to use grades in Moodle. The grading feature is quite complex and I have to say a little cumbersome to use. I think I am starting to get the hang of it however and think I know how to implement my standards based grading scheme. Although I may edit my list of standards based on what I have learned.

If you watch Paul’s video in my previous post or read the Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Sheldon you’ll see that they take a slightly different approach to grading. They stick to their gaming theme and have the student gain points and level up based on the number of points they’ve received. While I like this idea I think it will be too much like the regular grading scheme where students are just chasing a score and not really interested in learning. Maybe SBG will turn out to be the same but I hope that it will put more emphasis on learning  and mastering a concept rather than their grade. That being said I still have to assign a grade for each student. So, how am I going to do that?

What I’ve done in Moodle is create a Category  for each standard. Then individual grade items (assessment opportunities) for each category. Each category is then graded based on the highest score from the list of items. The overall grade is then calculated as the average of these scores. In the screen capture below you can see how this will look for the standard “Write a formal lab report based on experimental data”. There will be a number of opportunities for a student to submit a report for assessment (I’ve added the first three for testing purposes) and while the first submission won’t be perfect it should be treated as a learning opportunity. A later report will hopefully have a better grade and this will become the grade for that standard.

The same will hold true for tests. On each test the student can choose which standards they wish to attempt. So that by the fifth or sixth test they will have shown mastery of some standards but will still have the opportunity to attempt others that they have previously struggled with.

I also like the feedback feature and I see myself using it a lot. For each standard or item in Moodle you can add text feedback letting the student know what aspects they should focus on learning. Although the text is a little small to read on my screen (oddly this is not the case when viewed from the iPhone).

The other fantastic feature is the rubric which allows for much finer detail in the grading scheme. I’ve started a rubric for the lab reports in the screen capture below.

The student sees the rubric itself and the score assigned for each section is highlighted. As well there is a section for my written feedback below. There is still some issue in the example above as I have to figure out why this example results in a score of 60% instead of 50%. Still a lot to learn about how these features work!