I had a reader send me a question about how to estimate the time it will take to develop a course in Moodle. I'd like to share her question and my answer with you. As always, your comments and experiences are welcome.
Her Question:I am just about to embark on my masters dissertation project, and am looking a web-based tutorials for teaching. At the moment I’m considering putting together a tutorial as part of the project using moodle (I have copies of your books in front of me now).
One question I cannot seem to find an answer to, is realistically how long would it take for me to construct something like this? I have seen reports stating that construction of online courses can take up to 18 months, but I think these were from scratch as opposed to using a software programme such as moodle. I am fairly Internet literate, and have created basic webpages before, but have never done anything like construct my own online course.
I am studying via distance learning and also have a full-time job. I have between now and June/July to work on my project (including analysis and user-testing, etc) – do you think this is something which I can realistically achieve in this kind of time frame?
In my experience, the old methods of determining how long it takes to develop courseware were never very accurate. With the variety of tools available to us today, the many different situations, and the many different expectations from learners and stakeholders, those old recommendations are even more inaccurate.
I no longer ask, "How long will this take me to develop?" Instead I ask, "How long before the client needs it?" And then I determine what I can do between now and then. It sounds to me like you have a few hours a week to spend on developing an online course, between now and June. That's not much time. So instead of dwelling upon how long it will take, let's talk about how to maximize your output in the time that you do have.
First, try to get out of installing Moodle yourself. If you can use an outside hosting service, find one that has a one-click install for Moodle. If you must use your organization's web server, try to get the web admin to install it for you. When Moodle installs without trouble, the installation goes quickly. When it gives trouble, you can spend hours tracking down the problem. If you pay a few dollars a month for a hosting service that will install Moodle for you, I advise it.
Second, resolve to stay within Moodle's built-in capabilities. Some of the add-on modules add great functionality. But for a project working against time constaints, I advise you stick with Moodle's built-in functionality and not get bogged down in trying to get add-ons to work.
Third, make as much use of existing material as possible. As a librarian, I'm sure you can locate web pages that you can use as course material. I think there's nothing wrong with a course whose learning material consists entirely of links to external web pages, video, and audio. For example, if I was teaching a course on public speaking, I might link to a funny Youtube video of public speaking bloopers, tips from Toastmasters, and famous speeches. Creating your own multimedia takes especially long, so I would search Creative Commons for media I could use in my course.
Fourth, I would try to use Moodle's built-in Web page editor (Web page Resource) to write a short description of each resource that I link to, and what I want the students to pay attention to while viewing it, and what I'd like them to get out of it. To ensure that they read this before going to the resource, I would put the link to the resource on this web page instead of on the course's home page. Then, the students would need to go through the web page that I write before clicking through to the external web page/video/audio.
Fifth, I would follow up each reading/viewing/listening resource with an activity created in Moodle. For example, I might ask the students to:
- contribute to an online discussion, and to rate other students' postings in that forum. (Forum activity)
- take a short quiz on the material (Quiz module)
- write a summary of the material and upload it (Assignment activity)
- record a snippet of speech and upload it (Assignment or Workshop activities).
Sixth, I would use outside services for things that Moodle doesn't handle, or that it handles only with plug-ins. For example, after the students have completed viewing the resources and doing the follow-up activities, just before an exam, I might schedule a summary lecture with WebEx or GoToMeeting. The lecture could include a slide show of the material that will be on the final exam, whiteboarding, and chat. If possible, I would record the session and offer it to the students as a download.
Seventh, I would offer an online exam open only at a given time, to ensure that students don't take the exam and pass along the answers.
That would be my model for rapid development of an online course. And if I could, I would choose a topic for that course based upon the amount of good material freely available online.