Today I want to share a few ideas around monitoring in Moodle: Setting up your Moodle courses to reduce the teacher management workload, effectively monitor student progress, and empower students with the autonomy to self manage as they progress through their studies.
So often teachers talk of the high workload in managing online components of the their courses; checking which students have completed what tasks, looking for forum contributions and checking what needs marking.
This post will show tracking options and reports available to teachers and students. I will focus on core tools that are available in a modern Moodle standard install. There are excellent modules and plugins available, however they’re not much use if you don’t have admin rights, so here’s what tools you will have.
There are different types of reports available in Moodle through the administration block or through the user profile page.
Logs and live logs
You can generate logs of course activity by selecting any combination: participants, days, activities, actions or events. Then click on “Get these logs”.
Use the ? icon to get more information. The logs give you active links enabling you to access the student’s profile page or the particular page they were viewing. IP address gives an estimate of the student’s location.
Teachers and students both have access to logs but they get different information. See the user reports below for student views.
Course reports > Activity reports
Teachers can assess the usage of each activity and resource within their course using the activity report. It shows the count of clicks and the number of unique users who clicked. This can assist in having conversations with learners about why some activities and resources have more clicks than others, but the data in isolation should not be used to make assumptions.
A question that helps teachers understand this:
You read the Course > Activity report and find one resource has 200 clicks, another has 20 clicks. Discuss which resource is the most useful to your students and why? What is the data telling you?
Ask teachers to discuss the possible causes of clicks:
- “It was really useful so I referred to it often.”
- “It was confusing and I read it over and over but still don’t understand.”
- “I didn’t click on it because the name of it made me think I didn’t need to open that.”
- “I didn’t open it because I already knew about it.”
Course reports > Course participation
Teachers can generate a participation report on a particular activity. For example: forum view or forum posts. A useful feature of the participation report is the option to send a message to all students who have or have not completed an action.
Course reports > Activity completion
If the Moodle site has activity completion enabled this can drastically improve course management and a huge time saver for both the teacher and the student. Setting up activity completion is discussed later in this blog post, so keep reading!
The reports above are largely teacher focused. Next, let’s look at the reports and tools primarily for students.
User reports > Profile page
User reports > Today’s logs and all logs
Students can use the logs to show their submissions were sent on time. They can also see what days of the week they are more active.
User reports > Outline report
This is a brief outline of the learner’s course participation. For more detailed information they can look at the complete report. This report is useful for a brief overview and to check if they have missed anything.
User reports > Complete report
The learner can use the complete report to get a detailed record of their course contributions. Depending on the course design, the learner can print their complete report and use it as a study guide. Teachers who would like to encourage this approach should get their students to write question and answers in forum posts, and ensure the layout of activities like database show the questions in the students responses so the questions appear in the complete report.
I have used this approach in a course that has an elearning pre-requisite to a face-to-face workshop. The learner prints their complete report and brings it to the workshop, instead of printing a large workbook.
Using the reports
When I teach people how to use the reports and logs I give them scenarios to consider in groups.
- A student says that they have submitted an assignment before the due date, but it is showing as late. Which reports can you look into to see exactly when the student accessed and submitted the assignment? Discuss in a group and submit your chosen answer in this choice activity.
- The teacher wants to check the students are all keeping up with the course work. They should have done the first three topics. Which reports can you look into to see exactly where the students are at? Discuss in a group and submit your chosen answer in this choice activity.
- One of the students has asked to meet with you about their course work. They are struggling with the course work but they say they have been trying to do all the course required activities. What report would you look at to prepare to meet with them? Discuss in a group and submit your chosen answer in this choice activity.
Earlier we showed you the Activity completion report. To use the report above, you need to set up activity completion at site level course level, and in each activity and resource.
It is helpful to refer to Moodle Docs > Activity completion settings to learn about this feature, but the brief is that you can use activity completion settings in Moodle to track and display activities and resources as “complete” for students based on criteria set by the teacher for each resource or activity, dependent on viewing, submitting, receiving a grade, or posting or replying conditions being met.
When I teach this I show how to setup activity completion settings on existing activities such as forum, glossary, page, quiz, and assignment. I discuss with teachers self marked quizzes that show as complete immediately on submission, versus teacher marked assignments which can show as complete on submission or complete when a grade has been received. When the “completion” happens on grade received there is a delay.
Another consideration is that this tracking does not assess quality of contributions. For example, forum conditions can’t assess quality of posts, only quantity. Viewing a resource does not equal reading/understanding/processing etc.
Restrict Access settings
This feature allows you to restrict students from accessing a resource or activity based on criteria set by the teacher (roles are blurry, so I am simplifying here).
There is useful documentation at Moodle Docs > Restrict access settings for you to find out more.
Examples we use in our practice include:
- Restrict access until another resource or activity is marked as complete – e.g. certificate not available until assignments are marked complete.
- Restrict access until after a grade over 90% achieved in another graded activity.
- Restrict access to a group or grouping – we use this to manage monthly new intakes and classes.
- Restrict access until after a date – this could restrict the learner from viewing a resource or activity until after a presentation or a field trip.
- Restrict access so only visible to people who have match a profile field – e.g. city equal to Auckland, this would allow you to show a label with a face to face event for learners in that city.
You can use restrictions to stop learners from viewing the certificate module until after feedback activity is marked complete, and they have a grade of 100% on the assessment activity. This ensures instructional designers are always getting feedback on their development, and the learner has met the assessment standards agreed with the SME.
Note that when you have two restrictions there is the option to require the student to have met “all” or “any” of the requirements. With “all” you see “and” but with “any” you see “or” between the conditions.
Course completion criteria
- Turn on and off course completion tracking in course settings in practice course.
- Add course completion block.
- Set course completion criteria via the administration block
- Discuss the risks of unlocking the criteria after a course has started (note the option to unlock without affecting current completions – how does this impact future participants?).
- Discuss what happens if you want to add an activity, track it in course completion, after students have started? We promote pre-planning, but there is an option to retain some of the data if you do need to make adjustments after the course start date. We recommend reading https://docs.moodle.org/31/en/Course_completion_FAQ
Moodle includes a grader report that is automatically populated by graded activities in your course. The documentation Moodle Docs > Grader report will give you the steps to using grader report.
During workshops with teachers:
- Look at what is automatically put into the grader report, and what you can manually add, show how to set up categories and grade items, how to use groups for filtering and set grade visibility, type (real/percentage/letter), and weighting.
- Get the workshop participants into groups and give them an existing course that is not currently used by students. Ask the groups to organise the grader report in a way that makes sense to their group, add categories and grade items as necessary, and decide on the weighting of activities.
What I want teachers to think about are the benefits to the students for having the grade structure organised, as well as themselves and moderators and auditors of courses.
I ask workshop participants to share examples and discuss ways they can use these features in their courses.
Feedback on these workshops is overwhelmingly positive. Participants are keen to spend more time on familiarising themselves with these features.
Some feedback received from participants:
- “I have learnt more in the last 2 hours than in the last day… you have my creative juices flowing now.”
- “This session is how I envisioned the whole day to be. It was great!”
- “Impressed by the combination of solid development and “on the fly” flexibility.”
- “I am very keen to add more activities to my courses. Our current pages are flat, unorganized and definitely have the scroll of death!”
- “I’ve got a lot of information now to try and get more out of Moodle which is currently being hugely underutilized.”
- “Really useful to discuss the ways the reports can be used and interpreted, using the as a start point for discussion!”
And despite each workshop being three hours long, when asked “Tell us one thing you would change or improve” received responses are like these:
- “Too short! Could spend a whole day using this type of thing.”
- “Restricted time limit.”
- “It would be great to have a bit more time to go over how to create these things.”
- “More time!”
I hope this blog post helps you monitor your students or provided you ideas for your courses.
I setup a testing community for the One Laptop Per Child project in 2009. I am a founding member of the Manaiakalani hackers, supporting an elearning and literacy strategy across lots of schools in the Tamaki region as part of the Tamaki Transformation Programme.
I am an advocate for Moodle and have been involved in organising the Moodlemoots in New Zealand, speaking and attending moots around the world.