Dear Moodle Community,
My name is Brad Nielsen. I am a university student studying Honours in Multimedia. For my research thesis, I would like to develop Moodle extensions to assist in placing students in their Zone of Proximal Development. While my research is not required to be aligned with the current Moodle Roadmap, I would like to receive your feedback on my proposal as I am fairly new to Moodle development and I would like to develop something worthwhile for my thesis.
To assist in placing students within their Zone of Proximal Development, I propose to extend the current Moodle architecture for outcome-based learning in the following ways:
- Develop a dynamic student-centred Course View in which content is prioritized (e.g sequenced, highlighted, faded or invisible) based on the progress of students through a sequence of course learning outcomes. Course outcomes are completed only when students have passed course outcome completion criteria set by the instructor – e.g. student has accumulated a set number of progress points across course outcome-related activities and/or achieved a designated accuracy target and/or completed all outcome-related activities.
- Develop a Building Block that assists students to monitor their progress towards course outcome completion.
- Develop a course outcome Input Form that allows instructors to sequence outcomes and set course outcome completion criteria – e.g. required progress points, required accuracy target, compulsory activity completion (y/n).
- Develop a Course Outcome Gradebook Report for students and instructors wishing to visualise the progress of students across course outcomes. Allow instructors to set a student’s initial outcome level and to allocate if a student should be explicitly placed in their ZPD – i.e. is the dynamic Course View active for the student.
- Integrate the above development with discussion forum/chat settings so to explicitly facilitate social learning between Experts and Beginners.
Defining the Zone of Proximal Development
According to Vygostky (1978), an effective student-centred learning approach should place students within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)− “the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
Learners within their ZPD have the following characteristics:
- Cognitively, the learner finds the content is neither too easy nor too difficult
- Affectively, the learner is neither bored nor confused
- When a new concept is encountered:
- the level of support/dialogue required by the learner increases
- the rate of skill level (accuracy) / content difficulty (progress) dips and then rises as the learner achieves mastery
Defining course learning outcomes
It is important to differentiate between a course learning outcome and an activity learning outcome. A course learning outcome is only complete when the course outcome completion criterion is passed successfully. An activity learning outcome is completed when the activity is completed. In other words, activity learning outcomes should feed into the completion of a course learning outcome of the same name.
Any activity not allocated a learning outcome will be unaffected by the dynamic Course View. However, for maximum effect, all activities would ideally be allocated learning outcome/s. (It is desirable that eventually all content items should be able to be allocated learning outcome/s)
While it may advisable to use a consistent scale for all course learning outcomes such as: “Not Commenced, Beginner, Intermediate, Proficient, Expert”, this will not be enforced.
Sequencing course learning outcomes
Sequencing learning outcomes is key to identifying a student’s academic progress along a continuum. Learning path sequencing can be complex where multiple outcomes can be dependent on multiple outcomes representing a Many-to-Many relationship. During sequencing, it will be important to ensure that the instructor is warned if inefficiencies/redundancies exist in the learning path which can be automatically or manually corrected.
The proposed development will occur on Moodle 2.1 running locally on a Windows 7 64-bit laptop running XAMPP Apache Web Server connecting to a MYSQL database. However, setting up a web server for external access and testing will happen in the near future so external testing can occur.
As much as possible, the extensions will be designed to not override existing Moodle architecture. However, in some cases small changes will be unavoidable such as the insertion of navigation links to input forms. Such changes will be flagged and commented.
Code will primarily reside in a ZPD library file which will contain functions required by the Course Format, Building Block, Input Form and Gradebook Report.
The test course will be a course in middle school mathematics. Being a mathematics teacher, I believe mathematics lends itself to simple learning outcome sequencing more so than the social sciences. In Australia, mathematics curriculum is primarily organized using sequenced learning outcomes.
Database changes currently identified
mdl_grade_outcomes_courses will be extended with three fields to contain course outcome completion criteria. mdl_grade_outcomes_courses_sequence is new table which will contain course outcome sequences. Both tables will be linked by their keys. Most other data can be retrieved using existing database tables although I have yet to consider how the Gradebook Report will operate. (If in the future, all content items can be allocated learning outcome/s then significant changes will be required to core Moodle tables.)
….and that concludes my proposal for the time being, although there is obviously a lot of questions I need to think and work through such as:
- Should outcome-related material outside one’s ZPD be completely hidden or simply made unavailable in the dynamic student-centered Course View?
- How will the Gradebook Report display outcome-sequencing and also be user friendly. How will the instructor view and the student view be different?
- Should a certificate be made available when a course outcome is completed?
- How to flag students who have made no progress in an outcome over a set period of time? In this case, should the ZPD be moved back at the instructor’s discretion?
- How to integrate chat and discussion tools into the dynamic ourse View?
Thank you for reading my proposal and any feedback you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I have some sample screen shots that I can also send to anyone interested in my work. I have also started coding simple structures. It should be noted that I’m currently working part-time as a teacher and my thesis will conclude June next year so I apologise in advance if my work seems to be moving slowly.