Moodle does not currently associate a course’s resources and activities with its domain concepts, as it has no knowledge of what domain concepts any particular resource or activity covers. For example, Moodle can identify a 'quiz' but lacks a mechanism to link it to a concept in the domain covered by a course. In addition, if a student wants to learn more about concept X, loops for example, it could be quite difficult to identify resources and activities that are related to it. Moodle only allows lecturers to organize material - but this can easily be done in a poor way, like titling lecture notes “lecture 1”, “lecture 2” and so on, making it hard to locate the required materials.
Currently, Moodle’s tagging system allows users to tag blog entries while creating the new entry. It is possible to add new tags, delete, or modify existing tags after publication, but only by the author of the blog entry.
Each tag appears as clickable links at the bottom of the blog entry once published, which displays a page listing related tags and recent blog entries and users tagged with the tag.
This occurs as a user’s ‘interests’, as described in their profile, makes use of the same tagging infrastructure. Moodle 2.0 extended this to courses and questions.
There is a Moodle Social Bookmarking activity that allows students to share links to online content. The links can be tagged and organised, allowing inquiry-based activities known as WebQuests to be created for Moodle courses for example. Although we could have made use of this through using the internal Moodle link to a resource or activity, our idea is to eventually allow tagging at a finer-grained level.There are a number of plug-ins and services that generate tags from content that we can use to initially create concept tag lists for teachers to modify as required. This is a feature that can be added later but we limited the project’s scope to the actual tagging.
We believe that a feature allowing the ‘tagging’ of course modules in online courses with ‘concept tags’ would address the absence of domain knowledge. In general, a tagging system enables the application of a ‘tag’ to a ‘resource’ within the system. Users are the individuals who create and apply tags and, in our case, add resources, such as a Word documents.
The tags themselves are metadata, or “structured information”, describing, explaining or otherwise facilitating the retrieval, use or management of an information source.
In this system, we deal with ‘concept tags’, where each tag is simply the name of a concept in a course’s chosen domain. The teacher decides on the granularity of the tags.Furthermore, the concept tags plug-in is a part of a larger project aimed at adding basic student modelling functionality to Moodle so that it can provide adaptive assistance to students. Moodle will continually keep track of a student’s progress on each concept tag and suggest appropriate course modules for further study based on this progress. We have therefore defined tags to be at the course level and private to a course.
The project aimed to explore concept tagging in Moodle, so creating an independent plug-in allows us to focus on exposing potential users to the idea of concept tagging and analysing their feedback, rather than attempting to add functionality to multiple, existing sections of the Moodle code straight away.The result is the concept tags plug-in. [CLICK]It’s located on the side of the main course page, essentially serving as a starting point for accessing and using the actual tagging and management features. An administrator would need to install the plug-in in the Moodle system prior to teachers being able to add it to their course. There’s no configuration necessary for this plug-in to function however, so teachers are able to start using it as soon as they add it to their online course.
On the left is the plug-in as seen by teachers and on the right as seen by students. This separation is intentional to eliminate the need for moderation and censorship should students add or manage concepts tags but can easily be changed should we decide to.
Once teachers create, manage and apply concepts to course modules, the system becomes more ‘intelligent’ and is able to communicate to students, via the plug-in, a list of which course modules [CLICK] cover which concepts [CLICK]. A student can now much more easily locate course modules about the concept of “loops” for example than before.
Teachers can manage a course’s concept tags by creating new tags and viewing a list of existing tags allowing the deletion and renaming of concepts as necessary.
And for those teachers who do not have the time to create a list of concepts from scratch, they can populate or extend the list by importing terms previously exported from a Moodle course glossary. [CLICK] The Glossary module is an activity module that allows participants to create and maintain a list of definitions, like a dictionary. Here is an example from the Moodle.org website, a glossary of common terms related to Moodle development.
Once in the tagging view, the page displays a list of all ‘taggable’ course modules in a list box.
[CLICK] The selection of an item from the list, followed by the clicking of “select” displays a list [CLICK] of all concept tags in the current course alongside a list [CLICK] of concept tags applied to the currently selected course module. [CLICK] The creation and application of multiple tags to the selected course module involves typing a comma-separated list of concepts into the “create new tag(s)” text field [CLICK] and clicking the “+” button. Alternatively, selecting a concept tag from the “all course concept tags” list box on the left and clicking [CLICK] this button applies the selected tag to the selected course module. Likewise, [CLICK] to remove a concept tag, the teacher selects it from the “applied concept tags” list on the right and clicks this button.
Finally, a teacher can also view a course’s resources and activities
The modules will be clearly visible as hyperlinks with their tags and type next to them. Clicking on any of the module instances will take the viewer to the resource or activity of interest. As mentioned, this view is available to both teachers and students.
The evaluation study consisted of a group of lecturers. Each lecturer took part in an individual testing session and were from different backgrounds.The purpose of the study was to receive feedback on the concept tags plug-in from teachers, its primary users, regarding its adoption and usage by them as well as highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the system. As this project is exploring the idea of concept tagging in Moodle, 5 participants were found to be sufficient for the initial evaluation as a larger study would be unnecessary and misplaced at that stage.There were varying levels of familiarity with Moodle among participants in the study, ranging from lecturers who had recently set up an online course to one who had developed seven courses. In addition, only one participant was already familiar with ‘tagging’ prior to using the plug-in and thought that it was “useful for showing key topics”.
Participants spent an average of 8.36 minutes using the concept tags plug-in during evaluation sessions, which indicates that a basic familiarity can be obtained in a small amount of time. In addition, there were no major issues with usability as all participants successfully completed all tasks within this time.Prior to each evaluation session, the participant read a short, online article, varying depending on his or her area of expertise. We uploaded this beforehand to represent tagging of an existing resource.In addition, lecturers provided an electronic copy of a resource from one of his or her Moodle courses that they had to upload and tag during the session.Where possible, participants also imported tags from an exported Moodle glossary. While working through the list of tasks, participants described their actions and thoughts ‘out-loud’. Screen recording and videotaping of the session occurred for future analysis and to document any problems with the plug-in. They also filled in a questionnaire.
Four out of the 5 participants agreed that the plug-in is easy to use. Comments included that the plug-in is “very straight forward to ... use once [it is] understood what tagging involve[s]” and that it “will get easier with repeated use.”
Moreover, all lecturers disagreed with the statement ‘I found the concept tags plug-in frustrating to use’ as it was “not at all difficult [to use] once a purpose was established” and one stating frustration levels were normal as for the “usual minor Moodle frustrations [like] finding blocks/buttons”.
As seen, three out of five participants agreed with the statement ‘I would use the concept tags plug-in in my Moodle course(s)’ while the other two were ‘neutral’, a lecturer indicating that they might but that they “would need to know more about the utility of tagging first”. Once informed about the student modelling idea, one lecturer stated that the tagging would be “worth the extra effort.” Another thought this was “an excellent idea [as the concept tags plug-in and student model together] would become an invaluable tool.”
Almost all participants agreed with this statement; one indicated that the plug-in provides an “easy way to make material more useful”.
As mentioned, Moodle is missing a mechanism that allows teachers to add metadata to their online course resources and activities. The concept tags plug-in allows the ‘tagging’ of resources and activities in online courses with ‘concept tags’ created, managed and applied to resources and activities.A evaluation study showed that the concept tagging of course modules is a desirable and useable functionality that Moodle lacks. In fact, the IT department at the University of Canterbury has contacted us to include the plug-in in the university-wide Moodle install.Most notably, the plug-in was described as useful as it would assist “students to enhance their ability to be able to master key concepts... [, e]specially when [the] discipline requires the mastery of its own terminology.” This is the goal of the concept tags plug-in: to add a layer of metadata to Moodle course content to aid users in the navigation and retrieval of information from course modules by providing some structure to the learning environment. Ultimately, this will allow each student to locate and focus on specific content to better their understanding of domain concepts.
Improvements to the existing plug-in include more onscreen help and instructions. In addition, changes need to be made to some of the terms used in the interface to improve usability and remove some of the confusion. The interface has therefore been redesigned to be simpler by incorporating a lot of the features on fewer pages and so should be more intuitive to use. Teachers would benefit from pre-populated concept tag lists and so we would like to investigate the generation of such lists using freely available APIs and online services as mentioned.Greater value would also be obtained if teachers were able to tag specific sections of course modules, making tagging finer-grained. For example, a teacher may decide to tag an overall PowerPoint presentation as well as specific slides in order to better direct students to relevant information. Implementation of the concept tags plug-in as a block means that the tagging of course modules is separate from their addition to a course. Due to time constraints and the exploratory nature of the project, we focussed on a working tagging solution so now can improve this.The concept tags plug-in lacks a “pivot browsing” feature, whereby a tag, resource or user is a vantage point for viewing particular slices of data in the tagging system in order to explore the tag space. For example, if the concept tags were clearly visible as hyperlinks on course module pages, clicking on any of the concept tags will open a webpage with all the modules tagged with that tag, allowing the student to focus on a particular concept. This is a possible extension of the current system.
So, the concept tags plug-in addresses the issue of the lack of domain knowledge in Moodle by allowing teachers to link key concepts to course modules in order to aid students in the location and retrieval of information from course content.
Concept Tagging in Moodle
Myse Elmadani, Moffat Mathews, Tanja MitrovicIntelligent Computer Tutoring GroupUniversity of Canterbury, New Zealand
No link between course content and concepts No domain knowledge18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 2
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Moodle Social Bookmarking Link-based Tag generators: FreeTag Semantic Hacker API Alchemy API18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 6
Smith, Gene. Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. s.l. : New Riders Press, 2008. Metadata: structured information that describes, explains, locates, and otherwise makes it easier to retrieve and use an information resource. National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Definition 18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 8
Smith, Gene. Tagging: People-Powered Metadata for the Social Web. s.l. : New Riders Press, 2008. 18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 9
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Five participants (1 female) Backgrounds: Education Computer Science Accounting Varying familiarity with Moodle Little experience with tagging18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 19
Tasks included: Tagging an existing resource Uploading and tagging a resource Importing concept tags from existing Glossary Questionnaire, screen recording, video18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 20
I found the concept tags plug-in easy to use. 5 4 3 Frequency 2 1 0 Negative Neutral Positive Position on Likert Scale18/09/2012 21
I found the concept tags plug-in frustrating to use 5 4 3 Frequency 2 1 0 Negative Neutral Positive Position on Likert Scale18/09/2012 22
I would use the concept tags plug-in in my Moodle course(s) 5 4 3 Frequency 2 1 0 Negative Neutral Positive Position on Likert Scale18/09/2012 23
I would recommend the concept tags plug-in to my colleagues 5 4 3 Frequency 2 1 0 Negative Neutral Positive Position on Likert Scale18/09/2012 24
Adds a layer of metadata to Moodle Aids information navigation and retrieval Structures learning environment18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 25
Interface design Pre-populated tag list Finer-grained tagging Integration of resource uploading/tagging Pivot browsing18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 26
The concept tags plug-in... Addresses the lack of domain knowledge in Moodle Allows teachers to link key concepts to course modules Aids students to locate and retrieve information from course content18/09/2012 1st Moodle Research Conference / Heraklion, Crete-Greece 27
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