Adding files to Moodle in multiple formats

In my previous 2 posts I have talked about:

Wordpress icon Adding a file into a content area in Moodle 2

Wordpress icon Adding file type icons to Moodle

Another consideration when using files within any VLE system, is there is now a strong case to upload content in more than one format to take account of the fact that there are many different systems out there, and not all file types will be accessible from all computers or mobile devices.

e.g. a word document if opened on something like an iPhone or iPad although it will open, the layout and formatting may be changed and may make it unusable. If the word document is only ever going to be read and not interacted with by the learner, then the sensible thing is to save the file as a PDF – which will work on any device and will appear exactly as you want it. If I want the learner to edit the document – then I upload in both Word format and PDF format.

Again PowerPoint does not always work well on a non-microsoft device. If the presentation is very static with no animations or enhancements, then I will save this as a PDF and upload in that format instead. If the PowerPoint does have things like animations then I will upload this as a PowerPoint show – so that those with PowerPoint have the benefit of this functionality, but I will also upload a PDF version immediately below it – the animations won’t work, but they will be able to read the content on the screen – and if the presentation is well designed then they will still be able to access all of the information. Hyperlinks within PowerPoint will still work when exported as a PDF – although is complex hyperlinks have been created from non-rectangular shapes, then these will be converted to rectangles which may reduce the functionality.

This is where using the Adding file type icons to Moodle technique really comes in as it becomes clear to the user which file they want to download.

I have tested this method on various projects and the feedback from the learners has always been really positive.

In my next post, I will talk about another way to add links to files within Moodle.

Adding file type icons to Moodle

In my previous post on ‘Adding files into a Moodle 2 content area’ I described how files can be added into the middle of text, so that they appear as links with a narration around them.

One downside of this, is that sometimes the links aren’t as obvious as they could be (depending on the theme being used and any personalisations to the CSS) – and also the student doesn’t know what type of file they are downloading – which when accessing on things like mobile devices, can be a useful piece of information.

Screenshot showing how icons are added before the hyperlinks to denote the file type So what I often do to make the links to files stand out , and to give the user an idea of what sort of file it is that they are downloading – I add the hyperlink on a separate line and add an icon before it to identify the file type. This improves the layout of the page, works really well on mobile devices and increases the usability considerably.

There are various sources of icons, your Moodle administrator should be able to locate the icons used by your system, so that they match – or I often use the following website, which helps search for creative commons icons:

Internet icon https://www.iconfinder.com/

Once you have your icons, you can keep adding the icon the same way that you add any other image, or another option which I have used with a few projects is to upload the icons to an area of webspace, then add this once to Moodle by adding an image by URL. I then set the ALT text (e.g. set this to “PowerPoint icon”, or “PDF icon”. I then go into the html view, and copy the piece of code that relates to that icon – and I paste this into a word document or similar. Then in the future when I want to re-use the icon, I can just go into the word document, copy the code for the desired icon, and paste this into the html editor in Moodle.

e.g. the code that I use to keep re-using the internet icon above looks something like:

Screen shot showing an example of the code can be added for each icon

 

 

This may sound a little complicated but it is actually a much quicker way of doing this, and you will know that everytime you add an icon, it will have the correct ALT text associated with it, which is really good for consistency and makes it a lot easier for a visually impaired learner to navigate around the area.

Using Word to create a ‘launch page’ within Blackboard

There have been various debates over the last few years about the use of VLE within education, and without going down that road at this point in time, there is one thing that I do find frustrating with VLEs – and that it the way that people getting sucked into ‘dumping’ resources and links into the VLE in a purely linear fashion. Moodle isn’t too bad if you learn to use the book, lesson or webpage tools but Blackboard isn’t as good at this, and once you have added more than about 7 items within a folder you are forcing the student to do lots of scrolling.

So if I am using Blackboard what I do instead is to create what I call a ‘launch page’ for each topic or week that I am teaching – where I provide links to the resources as before, but rather than them just appearing in a linear list – I provide a narration around the links, guiding the students through the resources in a more logical way, and in my opinion a more attractive away.

A launch page is just a simple web page (html) that you are upload into the VLE – if you have html skills and software you could use them, or if like me you don’t then you can use either PowerPoint or Word (or Excel). The next 2 video clips will take you through the process using Word, but the principles for PowerPoint are the same.

The first video shows how to create the launch page.

The second video shows how to upload this package to Blackboard 9.

At first this method may sound slower than the conventional method of upload files directly, but with practice it can become quicker – however if you need to change any of the content then you do need to edit the word document, resave it as a webpage, zip it up again and re-upload to Blackboard so doesn’t work well if the resources are regularly being changed or updated. A huge advantage of this though is that it is very easy to move the whole topics worth of resources from one system to another – so great if you teach at different organisations, or different courses within the same organisations, and if you need to work offline for any reason you can just easily copy the whole folder onto a memory stick and it will work from there.

Another thing to note is that you cannot track the access to individual files from this method, only access to the topic as a whole.

For me though, the additional pedagogical benefits that this method brings in terms of providing a sound narration around the resources, and the re-usability of the resources in different contexts is why I choose to use this method in my teaching.

 

Content creation tools eXe, Xerte and Wimba Create

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to evaluate 3 different content creation tools, eXe, Xerte, and Wimba Create (which used to known as CourseGenie). All of these tools are designed to allow someone with average IT skills to create multi-media learning content that is exported as a website (html) – without the person creating the content having to learn any web design skills. All 3 have advantages and disadvantages and trying to decide if one is better than another is impossible – they are all good in different ways.

Whilst I have been working with the tools, I have recorded a gabcast (a short podcast that is created completely through my mobile phone at no cost to myself) for each tool, and then a summary cast, to try and identify some of the features ans issues, and to help someone to come to an informed decision when choosing such a tool.

Gabcast! Crossing the Foord #7 – The content creation tool eXe

Gabcast! Crossing the Foord #8 – The content creation tool Wimba Create (formerly CourseGenie)

Gabcast! Crossing the Foord #9 – The content creation tool Xerte

Gabcast! Crossing the Foord #10 – Comparing and choosing a content creation tool