Moodle provides a dynamic feature that allows developers and instructors the ability to add online and static digital content to their course and activity pages. HTML blocks, like Moodle standard blocks, appear in the side column offering quick access to resources or interactive features. As the instructor or developer inputs HTML code into the HTML block, the possibilities are limitless. Well, they are limited by the real estate offered by relatively small rectangular Moodle blocks. Also, there is no limit to the number of HTML blocks that can be added to a Moodle course except your common sense.
Some may wonder why we would need an HTML block. After all, Moodle provides more than forty standard blocks that offer functionality from Upcoming Events to the Flicker photo sharing blocks. As well, there are another collection of blocks to be considered through the Moodle plug-ins directory. My favourite Moodle block plug-in is the Level Up! block. It adds badging and gamification to my courses. Installing and activating plug-ins requires action on the part of your Moodle administrator. If you find a suitable plug-in, make a polite and considered request to your administrator if you are sure that the plug-in is appropriate for your Moodle version. To locate block plug-ins and align your Moodle version, use the Moodle Plug-ins directory.
HTML blocks for administrative purposes
For fully online instructors, of which we are all now, the HTML block is a utility that can help fill some information gaps for our students. Information that may be missed in a synchronous session or in emails can be made available on the course homepage to remind students of important policies, events and support. Other course management and administrative information can also be included in an HTML blocks. Here are a few examples.
Administration information: A teacher information block which may include teacher name, a photo, social media ID, Zoom room, phone number, a link to a professional biography and an email address.
Policies: A link to institution polices for online learning that may include netiquette, technology requirements, academic honesty and other relevant policy links.
Support: Links to LMS support, IT support FAQs or live help chats, and subject specific links to aids.
“How Tos”: A block that contain links to just-in-time how to resources such as videos or step-by-step guides for routine tasks that students must learn to complete the course. For example, a help mini tutorial on how to post to a discussion forum.
HTML blocks for course content
HTML blocks can add variety of learning events to courses, consistency of behavior, enhanced visual appeal, more efficient access to relevant learning resources or activities and seemingly unlimited potential. Here are a few examples.
Vocabulary support: A block that contains a link to a current vocabulary list. An interactive listing of key words and definitions for the current unit in a course.
Interactive simulations: A block that accepts data, performs a calculation or a simulation and display the result. Phet simulations, please donate, can be reduced in size and be housed in an HTML block if it fits your instructional requirements.
Flash Cards: Flash cards for independent study can be inserted into HTML block using an embed code.
Quick links: A short list of relevant links that the instructor knows will be useful to students during the course.
Learning aids: A block that contains a widget that satisfies a particular purpose, such as a language translator, an internet search, a thesaurus, a visual graph, a world clock, a weather report, or a poll.
Module orientation: Each module can be introduced, and the learning path described by in any media format. I used a Voki avatar in an HTML block to perform this function. It worked with some cohorts but simple text worked better with others.
Moodle blocks add andragogical and administrative value to online courses. Overusing them is not recommended as they will clutter the course and defeat the purpose of allowing learners to have fast access to resources in the block’s column. Getting the right mix and repositioning blocks based on the students’ need can improve the learners’ experience. Especially during these times.
Have you used HTML blocks? If so, please feel free to share in with a comment.