Skip to main content


Getting the most out of Moodle Blocks

The other week I blogged about the myth that Moodle looks rubbish compared to for-profit VLE systems.  Along a similar vein, I have begun to wonder just how many people using Moodle realise the power they have right at the end of their typing digits?

Recent posts

Teaching Excellent Framework: A great idea heading in the wrong direction

It's TEF day.  A day that few people have really been looking forward to, mainly because there are unlikely to be many winner - but there sure as hell will be a lot of losers.

When the whole TEF idea was announced, there were many aspects of it that I wholeheartedly supported.  The idea that Universities should be at least as concerned about their teaching quality as their research output was something that I cheered along with merrily.  Very quickly though, the whole plan became infected with compromises designed to over-simply a complex process by relying on just the data that already exists - rather than data actually designed to measure the very thing you are interested in.

So. In just the same way that Ofsted can downgrade a school where pupils have a less than 100% attendance (thereby penalising schools that accept sick children), the TEF measures teaching excellence on the basis of:

Dropout rates (penalising Universities committed to widening participation, where students a…

The Longitudinal Earnings Outcomes are important - but students want to change their lives, not just their salaries

The release of the Longitudinal Earnings Outcomes (LEO) always tends to cause groans and head-scratching among some academics.  The picture presented is a familiar one: Graduates who go for degrees in Business or Economics are more likely to earn bucket-loads, while those who go for Sociology will be - quite assuredly - not.  Those who teach courses on the lower-paid half of the scale suddenly begin to fear their courses will be closed down as a consequence.

The problem is that when data like this is reported, it encourages us to think that salaries are more important to students than things like job security or job satisfaction - and this idea, I fear, is misleading.

Moodle looks rubbish: The myth that may be costing HE institutions

It was interesting, but not entirely surprising to read Phil Hill's blog on e-Literate suggesting a dramatic slow-down in the take-up of Moodle in HE Institutions.  Not surprising because there seems to be a myth about Moodle that has always flickered in dark corners and is fanned into flame by for-profit LMS providers at the nearest opportunity.

This myth is that Moodle looks rubbish.

Other LMS providers set up a course content page filled with as many html5 gadgets as they can imagine, and compare it to the most basic topic-format Moodle page.  "There we are!" they declare, "Look how rubbish Moodle looks compared to our system!  And in the modern world where students are using tablets and mobile phones more and more, isn't it important that your University LMS looks smart and contemporary?"

And so Universities look at these other LMS systems and think: 'Ooo, it has this, or it has that!  Our Moodle doesn't have them!'  Which in turn prompts a…

Credit transfers are great - but making them easy to manage will be hard

Interesting reading this morning was Ant Bagshaw's article in WonkHE about Jo Johnson's encouragement for a more effective credit transfer system for Higher Education.

In case you were unaware, a credit transfer system is the means by which you can study a course in one institution, and accumulate 'credits' from that course.  You can then transfer those credits to another institution and apply them to a course there.

It's a great idea - it means that higher education can be studied more flexibly.  You can begin your degree in Lincoln, and should you then find yourself having to move house to Glasgow you can simply transfer your credits over and carry on studying.  One of the many benefits of an effective credit transfer is that it emphasises the extent to which Higher Education is seen as a cohesive whole within the UK, and how the national qualification for the UK nations align effectively with each other.  At the same time, things like the Bologna process and th…

Betsy DeVos and the Brainwashing of HE

Oh how delicious!  The US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made her first speech to the HE community, and used the opportunity to slag the lot of them off for brainwashing students and telling them what to think.

'What the hell?'  I hear you cry!  Is this a protest from DeVos against the anti-capitalist Frankfurt-School influences of the Social Sciences?

Nope.  Seems like it is another veiled dig at the University of California, on account of them cancelling a talk from a far-right newspaper editor (Breitbart) after violent protests.  This was certainly seen by Breitbart as yet another example of an academic elite institution pandering to left-wing sentiments - and since a former Breitbart editor is now the Presi... a close advisor TO the President, it was kind if inevitable that Trump would weigh in and declare the University an enemy of the people, or something like that.

Actually, Trump's response was:

Now, leaving aside for a moment the that fact that this statement…

A fond farewell

Every time a new term starts, I find myself wondering what the hell happened to the supposed weeks inbetween?  We leap from teaching, to marking, to assessment boards to enrolments - and after all that, BANG!  Back in the classroom!  At which point we often start wishing there had been at least some time to prepare our classes...

But things have been rather different this time.  About a three months ago I was (admittedly to my own surprise) considered worthy enough to be offered an incredibly exciting job with the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the University of East London.  The regular whirlwind of activity over the Summer then, is having something of a more terminal period: Teaching, marking, assessment boards, enrolments and BANG! I'm walking out of Newham College for the last time!

It is now almost exactly 10 years since I joined Newham College.  The plan then was, at heart, very simple: The residents of Newham Borough represented a vast population …