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Athabasca University

Online Courses (Moodle)

(Grouped Electronic Delivery: Virtual Classroom)

Courses offered by Athabasca University's Graduate Programs in Distance Education are delivered using the Moodle learning management system (LMS). Because these courses have specific fall, winter, and spring start dates they are referred to as 'grouped', but as the courses and programs are designed to encourage self-study either at home, in the workplace or other locations, they are also described as distance education courses. These courses are typically thirteen weeks in length.

Students registered in these courses will use electronic learning materials, such as eTexts and software, or they may be supplied with a course package of print materials and other media as deemed necessary. In addition, students are expected to use computer mediated communications for the following purposes:

  • • instructor and student-to-student interactions in computer forums;

  • • electronic mail, both within and outside of the Moodle LMS;

  • • setting up student Web site projects;

  • • submission of assignments using the assignment dropbox in Moodle;

  • • feedback between instructor and students and between students on joint projects; and

  • • accessing electronic databases.

Online Forums in Moodle

Asynchronous conferencing serves a number of different purposes in distance education and may be used differently in various courses and by different instructors. In courses that use this approach, the Welcome forum in Moodle is intended as a medium in which students and instructors can introduce themselves and begin to learn about each other. This forum can remain active throughout the course as a place to share information, ideas and concerns about how the course is progressing or how changes might be made to it. The Welcome forum is also a place where students are encouraged to communicate who they are and their particular interests. Students may have already provided a biography in their Moodle profile and/or they may have their own web page. They are welcome to provide the appropriate address and/or ‘hot links’, or other directions for reaching that information, or they may wish to enter a short biography in the Welcome forum.

The forums process in this course is informal. However, communication is usually facilitated if participants:

  • • change the subject header (i.e., where it says 'Re:') to describe the topic of the forum entry as required;

  • • move to a new entry rather than a ‘reply’ when introducing a new ‘thread’ or ‘topic’; and,

  • • keep entries modest in length.

For some participants, there may be some initial technical problems; if so, please contact AU's Helpdesk ( Some of you may also feel ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘anxious’ initially, please let your instructor know about your concerns or problems.

We hope that you will enjoy interacting in the forum spaces, and we encourage you to look upon this activity as a means to learn about what other people think, and to get to know each other as colleagues.

Synchronous Web Conferencing

With AU’s web conferencing system Adobe Connect, staff and students will be able to see each other, talk to each other and share documents almost as if they were in the same room. Adobe Connect offers a host of benefits that align well with the university’s interest in mobile learning as well as AU’s overall mission.

Adobe Connect is Flash-based and is on something like 98% of the computing devices around the world. This means it can work on mobile computing devices, and allow people to attend sessions on their smart phones.

Important Notes about Electronic Communications

It is important to recognize that this type of communication has both benefits and risks. The benefits are many but some of the risks may be unfamiliar to you. For example, the tremendous potential of conferencing and of the Internet generally can inadvertently become a 'time sump'. You will need to consider your own circumstances, time availability and personal preferences, and to balance these in ways that serve you best.

Furthermore, electronic communications need to be recognized as 'semi-public' communications. With the best of intentions, it is impossible to guarantee that some of the information exchanged during a forum or in electronic mail will never become available to outsiders. It is hoped that you will feel comfortable and freely exchange ideas, but you should also act and 'speak' with these cautions in mind.

Finally, you should be aware that when Moodle forums are over, they are archived for possible later use in various forms of research. When forum transcripts are used in research, care is taken to ensure that the forum transcripts are anonymous; that is, all information that might identify the contributor is removed. If you have any problems with your forum entries being used in research in this manner, you should contact your instructor, immediately, prior to participating in your course forum(s).

Study Groups

In the past, students have created their own 'study groups'. Essentially, they have spontaneously joined forces with each other to exchange ideas and discuss issues that interest them. They indicate that this has been a very useful and effective support mechanism. Any students who wish to participate in such a support group are encouraged to do so. Usually there is someone in the class who has knowledge about systems and who can facilitate these arrangements and interactions. The Helpdesk may also be able to advise on this. For most of you, it is quite simple to create an ‘address book’ in your mailer and to communicate electronically using that. The instructor may also be able to assist or advise, although the instructor's direct participation may be inconsistent with the ‘self help’ goals of such groups.




Last updated by MK October 06, 2015

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