Testing Students’ Knowledge using Moodle Modules

11 min read

(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

There are a number of tools in Moodle to find out the students’ depth of understanding—some formal and some informal. There are also some tools that allow the students to assist themselves in their own knowledge consolidation. We will now investigate these tools in more detail.

Implementing a glossary

The glossary is a well known and commonly used module in Moodle, but it may not always be used as the effective teaching and learning tool that it can be. Given the jargon-rich nature of design and technology, it is also an important glue for the whole subject area.

Checking the settings

The key options here relate to the functioning of the glossary and how you use it as a teaching and learning tool. The first thing that needs to be done is to check the overall settings for the module in the administration section of the site. The settings are divided into three key areas:

  • Default settings for the glossary module
  • Settings for the entries in the glossary
  • Format of the display styles

The previous settings can be found on the administration panel in the Site Administration | Modules | Activities | Glossary section.

Default settings

The first section determines which functions of the glossary are generally available to the users of the module on the site. In the previous screenshot, the main options relate to the linking functions and comments on the entries themselves. For example, do you want to allow students to comment on the glossary entries? For a subject such as DT, you might wish to allow students to add their own understanding of terms. In some cases, there may be regional terms for some things which are different from the “formal” definition of a term, such as the term used for certain woodworking tools. As woodworking is an ancient craft, there are many different local terms to describe some of the equipments used. The glossary would then reinforce the social nature of the design as a part of a teaching method.

Preventing duplicate entries

As you can see in the previous screenshot, the default setting here would be to not allow duplicate entries in the glossary—although it can be enabled to perhaps show the nuances in a term or allow the term to be defined in another language, if your school has a partner school in another country. In some instances, you might have a definition that is the accepted definition, but also one that students might come across such as a building term. Likewise, you might have a definition relating to a usage as opposed to how a manufacturer might determine an item. Allowing duplication gives students a sense of how terms change, depending on how they are used and by whom.

Allowing comments

Allowing comments on the entries is useful for students to build up an internal dialog whereby they may be able to add examples of best practice to the definitions in the glossary relating to their on-the-job work experience. This is useful because students who had previously worked in a company and gained some experience of the job can leave a historical record to help the students who have just started the course or work.

Automatically linking comments

The linking of the glossary terms is useful if you use a consistent approach throughout your course design; in particular, if you use the Compose a web page function under Add a resource, as discussed earlier, rather than uploading the proprietary word-processed files, then Moodle will be able to link the terms through the database. However, please bear in mind that the linking function will add some load to your server and may not be appropriate in all cases, such as when using a server on a shared system. Linking definitions throughout the site allows students to have a better understanding of all the elements, as they work through them and when they forget some key terms. However, you need to remember that this links across an entire site and some definitions may clash across curriculum subjects. Therefore, there is a need for the duplicate entries. The ability to create a glossary for all the users on a site is only available to site administrators.

Entry level default settings

The following screenshot shows the options that are available for the entries, which are added to the glossaries. If enabled, the options shown in the following screenshot will automatically be enabled when the entries are made. Users still have the choice to disable the options like the automatic linking shown as follows:

Again, you can link terms in the course to the glossary definitions, and if necessary, make the terms case sensitive. The case-sensitive option as well as the matching of whole words allows some fine tuning of the glossary. For example, you may make an entry for a law, which is HAM. If you enable the case-sensitive option on this entry, then a link will be created in the database when the specific term HAM is entered on a page in the course and not for every instance of hammer. This may be more useful with younger students when it is important for them to learn the key terms, but perhaps not so with older students.

You can now save the settings you have chosen. If the changes have been applied for you by your site administrator, you can move directly to your course to begin using a glossary.

Creating a glossary

Once you or the site administrator have set up the module in the way that is most appropriate for your institution, teachers can then begin to apply them to their courses. We are assuming here that you have other subject areas on your Moodle site, therefore, we will focus on the course-level entries, but the principles are same.

Enabling the glossary

For this example, we will add a glossary of terms to our construction-based course. Younger students may be unfamiliar with this subject in many cases and they will, therefore, have a greater need for some ways of understanding the wealth of the terms. The same is true for Food Technology or Resistant Materials, but it is more likely that they would have at least encountered food-based products or materials in their lives. It is less likely that they had been involved in the construction of their environment or have working knowledge of these key terms.

As with all the modules, the first action is to enable editing on the course to activate the activities drop-down menu. This requires clicking the button that follows:

This will then show the activities menu from which you can select the glossary module Glossary from one of the many Add an activity’ drop down menus, as shown in the following screenshot, to create a new glossary activity module.

Editing the glossary

Once enabled, added, or created, you can then name the glossary and determine some of the functionality you want in it to be available. Like all the other modules, these are related to time and display elements. The following screenshot shows some of the key settings such as the type of glossary and the display format.

Most of these settings were determined at the site level, such as allowing duplicate entries or comments, but they can be changed by the staff as required. The key point here is that we make one glossary—a main glossary for the course. We make all the subsequent glossaries secondary, which means that we can export the terms into this main one, but this is the overall glossary for the course. We might have secondary glossaries for the human aspects of construction or health and safety, as opposed to the material elements for example. As this is a very graphical subject, we have enabled the display to be like an encyclopedia. This will allow staff and students to add images and video files to explain the terms they are defining in a better way.

Rating entries

If you are going to use the glossary in a more formal way, it would be useful to allow the students to rate the entries, so that they can peer assess each other’s terms. If you set each student a number of terms to define as a homework exercise, you can allow the students to research and populate the glossary and for the other students to award marks. This makes the terms far more dynamic and real for the students. You might also invite your contacts from local companies to rate the students’ definitions and give them feedback to help develop their understanding on a deeper level. This is enabled through the grading option, as shown in the following screenshot:

The glossary can now be saved.

Adding entries (categories)

When we are adding entries, the first real requirement is to create some categories in which you can organize the terms. A category in this instance is a group of terms such as tools or techniques. If we had created one Moodle course to cover all the DT subjects, we might have a main glossary for DT and secondary glossaries for Food and Construction. This makes it more organized as well as making it easier to search for items. In this example, we are creating some glossary items relating to the term ‘carpentry’. We need to create an overall category for this area. This is achieved by first adding a new category item by clicking on the Browse by category tab and then on Edit categories, as shown in the following screenshot:

This will open the dialog window to create a new category for this glossary, as shown in the following screenshot:

If you select to link the category, this whole sub-section will be revealed by a hyperlink to this term, which could be useful for newer students.

Adding entries

If the course you are managing incorporates all of the DT subjects, then you may wish to create a main glossary for DT and secondary glossaries for Food or Resistant Materials and so on. In this example, we have a course for Construction and the Built Environment, which is the main glossary. We are going to create categories to group the terms in the glossary for areas such as carpentry or electrical. With the categories set, it is now possible to add and organize the definitions for your course. This can be managed entirely by the staff or can be an exercise that allows student participation, such as a homework exercise as mentioned earlier. In this example, we are building up a definition for a particular woodworking joint. Once we have set the name and basic details, we can then categorize the entry and add some keywords for searches, as shown in the following screenshot:

The entry can now be viewed by students as well as rated and commented upon. In the following instance, the student has not only rated the entry, but also added a comment with a link to a website they have found, which further illustrates the particular woodworking joint.

Students could also embed a video stream from a video site, which would also help to explain the process more clearly. This level of collaborative learning is immensely powerful with this type of kinesthetic information.

Students can now add their own entries as part of a homework routine or teaching strategy.

As shown in the following screenshot, items added to the glossary are linked to other pages through the database. The terms are highlighted by Moodle and clicking on them will take users to the glossary page, which defines them.

In this example, the word ‘wood’ is highlighted in green. When you click on this link, it will open the corresponding entry for wood in the glossary, as shown in the following screenshot.

Mapping their minds

Many aspects of design require students to sketch out their ideas in a graphical form in order to get to grips with the complexity and the various components. These sketches could be scanned and uploaded as formal assignments, but they could also be incorporated into the Moodle site through the use of an add-on called Mindmap. This is a third-party module that allows the students to map out their ideas using a basic interface and permits them to link and label the items on a screen. It can be saved by them in their area and can be viewed by the staff for guidance and support. The Mindmap module can be found at:


Once the module has been installed, it is added to a course in a similar way as we add any other module, by turning the editing on.

After choosing the drop-down activities menu, you can then add theMindmap module, as shown in the following screenshot:

This will activate the dialog to set up the name and settings for the Mindmap module for the course.


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