The Chat Module
Students naturally gravitate towards the Chat module in Moodle. It is one of the modules that they effortlessly use whilst working on another task. I often find that they have logged in and are discussing work related tasks in a way that enables them to move forward on a particular task. Another use for the Chat module is to conduct a discussion outside the classroom timetabled lesson when students know that you are available to help them with issues. This is especially relevant to students who embark on study leave in preparation for examinations. It can be a lonely and stressful period. Knowing that they can log in to a chat that has been planned in advance means that they can prepare issues that they wish to discuss about their workload and find out how their peers are tackling the same issues. The teacher can ensure that the chat stays on message and provide useful input at the same time.
Setting up a Chatroom
We want to set up a chat with students who are on holiday but have some examination preparation to do for a lesson that will take place straight after their return to school. Ideally we would have informed the students prior to starting their holiday that this session would be available to anyone who wished to take part.
- Log in to the Year 7 History course and turn on editing
- In the Introduction section, click the Add an activity dropdown
- Select Chat
- Enter an appropriate name for the chat
- Enter some relevant information in the Introduction text
- Select the date and time for the chat to begin
- Beside Repeat sessions select No repeats – publish the specified time only
- Leave other elements at their default settings
- Click Save changes
The following screenshot is the result of clicking Add an activity from the drop-down menu:
If we wanted to set up the chatroom so that the chat took place at the same time each day or each week then it is possible to select the appropriate option from the Repeat sessions dropdown. The remaining options make it possible for students to go back and view sessions that they have taken part in.
Entering the chatroom
When a student or teacher logs in to the course for the appointed chat they will see the chat symbol in the Introduction section.
Clicking on the symbol enables them to enter the chatroom via a simple chat window or a more accessible version where checking the box ensures that only new messages appear on the screen as shown in the following screenshot:
As long as another student or teacher has entered the chatroom, a chat can begin when users type a message and await a response.
The Chat module is a useful way for students to collaborate with each other and with their teacher if they need to. It comes into its own when students are logging in to discuss how to make progress with their collaborative wiki story about a murder in the monastery or when students preparing for an examination share tips and advice to help each other through the experience. Collaboration is the key to effective use of the chat module and teachers need not fear its potential for timewasting if this point is emphasized in the activities that they are working on.
A brief visit to www.moodle.org and a search for ‘plugins’ reveals an extensive list of modules that are available for use with Moodle but stand outside the standard installation.
If you have used a blogging tool such as WordPress you will be familiar with the concept of plugins. Over the last few years, developers have built up a library of plugins which can be used to enhance your Moodle experience. Every teacher has different ways of doing things and it is well worth exploring the plugins database and related forums to find out what teachers are using and how they are using it. There is for example a plugin for writing individual learning plans for students and another plugin called Quickmail which enables you to send an email to everyone on your course even more quickly than the conventional way.
Plugins need to be installed and they need administrator rights to run at all. The Book module for example, requires a zip file to be downloaded from the plugins database onto your computer and the files then need to be extracted to a folder in the Mod folder of your Moodle’s software directory. Once it is in the correct folder, the administrator then needs to run the installation.
Installation has been successful if you are able to log in to the course and see the Book module as an option in the Add a resource dropdown.