I decided to write about something that has gotten a lot of positive feedback from our staff and has been very helpful to Moodle users in our district. We called them “Moodle User Groups” (MUGs).
A little background on Moodle in our district: 2 years ago a grant was written to implement Moodle into our district. Since Moodle itself is free, the grant funds provided for the server hardware, training, staff development, etc. To make a long story short we made Moodle completely voluntary and available to certain groups of people (per the grant). All users who would be editing courses had to get mandatory training.
The Moodle User Group idea came after some of the initial trainings and we were trying to think of ways to support and help our Moodle users as they began their Moodle journey. We decided that the most useful thing we could give to users after the initial training was “time” and one on one support while they were working.
A Moodle User Group session consisted of
- 2 or 3 hour paid “work time” session
- no agenda
- limit of 8 attendees
- 2 Moodle trainers
All attendees must have gone through an initial beginner Moodle training before attending a MUG because these sessions were for users who already had an understanding of Moodle and how to edit a course, so they could just dig in and work on their course. The reason there was a limit on the attendees was so we could be more one on one and help users with their specific questions. This was helpful for users because often times they would run into small (sometimes big) issues that prevented them from going on to the next step. With help right there for them they could quickly get their issue solved and move on, whereas if they were working at home or school they would’ve had to stop and email the question or just say whatever and not do it (which happens a lot!).
As teachers attended the sessions and found them useful they began signing up for dates with their colleagues who taught the same subject. This created a lot of collaboration and really helped spread the word about Moodle.
MUGs were not only great for staff, they were great for the Moodle trainers as well. As a Moodle admin, I don’t have the same experiences as a teacher since I do not actually have students, grade assignments, etc. As I mentioned earlier many users run into issues that they just overlook and don’t inquire about because it’s not important enough, they don’t have the time or they think it can’t be changed. Throughout all of the MUGs I heard about issues that I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. And chances are if 2 out of 8 users have the same question or issue there are dozens more in the district with that very same question or issue.
The big “kicker” for MUGs is the “paid” part. Chances are we wouldn’t have had the same success if the sessions weren’t paid. We were able to pay staff with funds from the grant. Money is always an issue and it’s not always there but if you are planning a Moodle implementation I highly suggest planning for paid staff development like these MUGs.
As we all know many teachers nowadays already feel overwhelmed and like they don’t have time for anything new. Why would they spend time transferring lessons and course work that are already made into a tool like Moodle? We won’t go over that answer here as we all know the benefits of Moodle, but after the initial training and they see the possibilities the next step is giving them “time”. I think a tool like Moodle really needs some sort of small group work time. One reason is because Moodle is a very robust tool and it takes some time to get comfortable. Another reason is because it takes a bit of up front work and if a teacher doesn’t have the time or support to get started after their initial training it will be hard to jump back into it a month or two later.
So, to sum it up Moodle User Groups were a huge hit in our district and were very useful for our users. It created some great collaboration, enabled teachers to create well developed, engaging courses and they created some pretty advanced Moodle users as well. I will leave you with a quote from a teacher at a MUG who was half-joking as she said “Whoa! I just learned two great things! That’s more than any other workshop I’ve been to!“