Proposed Moodle Activity Module Collaborate

A proposed Moodle activity plugin to encourage collaborative writing by learners working in pairs.Based on the design concept Pairwork by Justin Hunt, the Poodll guy [1].

Background

Examination technique and other forms of writing are very important when learners are planning and executing structured writing. In this module learners will practise those skills and reflect on the process itself. You can vary the activity to target specific skills such as planning.

These skills are particularly important for good examination technique:

  • Identify key words (action verbs) in the question.
  • Think about the kind of writing these verbs call for.
  • Make notes about the points to be covered
  • Begin the response by echoing the question [2].

The module can also be used for collaborative writing and think-pair-share type activities (see [3], for example – just one of many descriptions of the technique).

Proposed Method

An introductory page sets out the background for the task.  The learner is then directed to a custom page containing a question or other resource.  Each learner may have the same task or a different task.

The time for the activity can vary from very short to long enough for an examination question or essay (say 30 minutes).  Shorter times can make it a fun activity and prevent learners becoming bored – there can be an element of competition.

Allocation of pairs can be done by:

  • Using Moodle course groups
  • Manual allocation by the instructor
  • Randomly allocated

If timed, when the time expires, users can then see the response of the other learner and a discussion can take place.  A joint posting, say to a forum, can then be negotiated.  If not timed then each learner has the option to save and finally to submit their draft for comparison.

Application in the Learning environment

This task can be carried out successfully either with a whole class, or set as self-paced work for one or more pairs.

You can also give the same question to each learner for them to compare answers.

If you want or need to differentiate, you can carefully set partners and questions that are appropriate for individual abilities/progress in the course. Collaborate can also be carried out by one or more pairs while the rest of the class is working on a different task.

If your course is fully online or includes large numbers of frequently absent learners, you might find it better to have pairs complete this task as they are ready for it.

Another possible variation is to give all learners the same question but allow them half the usual time to draft an answer. Partners then have to continue the answer based on the initial response (or the outline) of the first.

Allowing collaboration

The activity could also be used by learners collaborating together.  In language learning, pair work is considered very valuable from the point of view of maximising practice time and increasing motivation.  If students are seated together, they can be encouraged to converse as they write [4].

For distance learning a voice or text chat system could be used.

Asynchronous online environments

These environments typically pose challenges to effective collaboration and communication between participants.  This module could be used to promote interaction by making it a pre-requisite to a topic or course.  It would probably be important to keep the activity short in this case as otherwise it could become a barrier to entry.

Implementation

This will be an activity module, initially at least, with fairly limited set of features.  The main screen will feature an introduction to the activity using the standard intro editor and a button for each student to start the activity.

The button takes each learner to one of two pages (task pages) following an allocation setting.  This setting determines how learners will be paired.  One of three methods are being considered:

  • Allocated according to Moodle groups, previously set up in the course
  • Manual allocation by the teacher
  • Random allocation

The teacher has an editor page in the activity settings for each of the resources to be provided.  A timer setting is also provided.

Task pages

Each task page has the content from the settings at the top.  Below that is an editor pane for the student to submit their responses.  Save, submit and cancel buttons will be provided.

A timer will be used and shown at the top of the task page, if required.

After submission (or forced submission by timer), each learner will be able to see the other learner’s response, below their own.  It will be possible to show/hide each of the three areas on the page (the resources, the learner response and the partner response).

As this is intended to be a formative exercise, no grading is planned to be implemented although it would be perfectly possible to allow pair or tutor grading if there is demand for such a feature.

Comments

I would be happy to receive comments on this proposal from teachers or developers.  There are other Moodle activity modules that can be used for this activity so one question would be whether a dedicated module is a worthwhile development likely to be used.

References

1       https://github.com/justinhunt/moodle-mod_pairwork

2       Colorado State University, 2013, Writing@CSU, http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=50

3       http://www.readwritethink.org/professional-development/strategy-guides/using-think-pair-share-30626.html

4       Increasing student interaction, https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/increasing-student-interaction.

Richard Jones
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Richard Jones

E-learning consultant at HRDNZ
Richard has a long history of working with e-learning and educational technology in the UK, Portugal, Singapore, China, Australia, and New Zealand.
Richard Jones
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Richard Jones

Richard has a long history of working with e-learning and educational technology in the UK, Portugal, Singapore, China, Australia, and New Zealand.

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