Moodle: Student's Guide
Moodle is a course management system used to support online course resources at Aurora University. The service is accessible from any browser and is handled with the same techniques used to manage other web pages. This guide is designed to give students all the information they need to get up and running on this new system.
The URL for the AU Moodle server is http://moodle.aurora.edu/moodle (or you can follow the link on the AU home page). Moodle does not require the use of a special password -- to log into the system all you need is your regular AU student username and password, the same information used to access your email and WebAdvisor accounts. The login screen looks like this (note that some of the details on this page may change as we continue to develop the system).
After logging in you will see a page that contains a box labeled My courses. If you are already enrolled in a course you will see it listed in this box, and all you need to do is click on the name of the course to open it. If you are not yet enrolled in your course, see the next section.
Enrolling in a course
Students connect to their courses in Moodle using the system's self-enrollment feature. What you will need In order to enroll in a course is the name and number of the course and your course key, both of which will be provided by your instructor. They key is used only once when you access the course for the first time. After the initial enrollment step is complete you will no longer need the key. Follow these steps to enroll in a Moodle class:
Log in. Go to the Moodle server and log in using your regular AU student email user name and password.
Select course category. On the next page take a look in your My courses box, and click the link All courses... located at the bottom of the box. An index of course categories will appear corresponding to the standard course abbreviations used at AU. (This is not a comprehensive list -- in this test version of Moodle only course categories with corresponding Moodle courses are listed).
Select a course. Click the category corresponding to the department offering the course you are enrolling in. Click the name of the course to display the list of available courses in that category. On the next screen you will see a list of the available Moodle courses in that category along with course descriptions. Click the name of the course you want to enroll in to start the enrollment process. (You may need to use your browser's keyword search feature to locate the course if it's a long list).
Enroll. Assuming your instructor has set up the course to require an enrollment key, you will see a field on the next screen prompting you for this key. Your instructor will let you know what key to use. Enter the key and click Enrol me in this course. Follow the prompts to complete the process. Upon completion you should see the home page for the course. The course key is only required the first time you access the course. The next time you log in to Moodle you will see this course listed in your My courses block and you'll be able to enter simply by clicking the name.
Using your course
In Moodle all course elements are visible on the main page. Every Moodle course is intially set up with three columns (although your instructor can change this). The main central column, called the Topic outline, is the primary content area, and contains links to the various elements that your instructor has posted as part of the course. These may include plain text or HTML documents, links for downloading Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, images, and links to web pages at other locations on the Internet. There may also be links to special features, such as online discussion groups (called forums), and a variety of other learning activities . It is beyond the scope of this document to explain how to access and use these various features -- your instructor will help you learn to use those special features that have been included in your course.
In the left and right columns of your course home page are special content objects called blocks. These can be turned on and off and also moved around by your instructor, but in most cases you will see the following blocks somewhere on either the left or right side of your course home page:
- People. Contains an item called Participants, which is a list of the students in your class.
- Activities. A list of links to various special features of this course, including any assignments, forums, quizzes, and other elements created by your instructor. There is a useful link here called Resources, which points to an easy-to-use single-page index to all the objects in the course.
- Administration. This is the place where you can view your gradebook, change your password, and modify your personal profile. Take a look in particular at the Edit profile section in this block, which gives you an opportunity to modify some of the features of the course. This section also provides a tool for uploading a photo of yourself, which then appears next to your personal messages posted on the system.
- My courses. This block is the same one you see when you log in, and provides quick links to move to other areas of the Moodle site.
- Latest news. Recent postings to the forums are listed here.
- Recent activity. This display shows you any recent modifications made by the instructor to the course since the last time you logged in.
Note that by clicking the "minus sign" icon at the top of each block closes it to reduce screen clutter. You can open it at any time by clicking the "plus sign" icon.
Getting around Moodle is not much different than getting around any web site. An advantage of Moodle is that you are usually never more than one or two clicks away from any course feature. Another useful tool is the navigation bar which appears at the top of each page. This feature shows you where you are in the context of the course structure and provides quick links to get back to where you came from. Here's an example that appears at the top of the page displaying the News forum.
The leftmost link, AU Moodle, takes you out to your main home page, and the link immediately to the right is the link to the home page for the current course (in this example, SOC-215-EX).
Special note on forums
The forum feature of Moodle is basically an online discussion board. Its main purpose is to provide a structured way for students to exchange comments with each other and the instructor in a public forum. But Moodle forums also serve an additional purpose. Whenever you post a comment in Moodle, your message will be posted in the forum and at the same time will be sent as an email message to the instructor and your fellow students. This means that you will be able to keep up with recent forum posts without having to log into the system. There's no need to save these messages in your inbox since they will be saved for you in the forum area of the course. In addition, if you should happen to delete or otherwise misplace an email message from your course, you will be able to locate a copy of it in your course's forum area.
Special note for Internet Explorer users
Moodle will work with just about any browser. However, if you use MS Internet Explorer, you may encounter problems downloading files (such as Word or PowerPoint files) placed in the course by your instructor. The problem is that because of certain security weaknesses in IE, Microsoft uses a default setting that blocks the automatic downloading of files. The result will be a blank white frame and an error message from IE.
To protect your privacy, be sure to log out of Moodle when you are finished. Closing the browser will usually log you out but to make sure click the logout icon located at the top-right of the course home page. This is especially important if you are using Moodle on a public machine.