Working with Primary Sources

How can working with primary sources help your students in their research? What is different about working with these sources? How do they find primary sources (whether physical or digital) on a topic of interest? What should they expect when visiting a special collections library? This video is intended for students having any level of experience with primary sources.

Primary Sources workshop on Vimeo

Written Discussions in Moodle

Moodle Forums provide a blog-like space where students can hold threaded asynchronous (or even synchronous) discussions, either as the entire class, or based on groups of your choosing.  

Pros: Integration with Moodle.

Cons: If you plan to have different sets of student groups for different activities, and to use the gradebook, you’ll need to also set up groupings of groups. UMass Amherst has instructions for creating Groupings. Also:  navigating back to individual posts (and replies) can be tricky if you expect to use these during some live discussion. Finally:  your feedback to individual students via the Forum will be visible to all students.

Expert:  Sharon Strauss

Oral Discussions in Moodle

VoiceThread allows students to record their own voice and share their ideas with others. Subsequent students (or even the instructor) can in turn react to these ideas with subsequent VoiceThread recordings.  

Pros:  Built-in to Moodle.  It is easy for students (and faculty) to create their speech and presentation videos, and watch others’ videos in class or beyond.

Cons:  Checking and/or commenting on all the VoiceTheads created by students can be extremely time-consuming, especially when the class size is more than ten or so. Keeping track of who commented on which VoiceThread can be difficult, once there are many posts.

Expert: Sharon Strauss

Groups in Slack

Slack is a platform for collaboration.  Better than trading messages and attachments via email, it allows groups to create teams and communicate through “channels” that users can create as they go. Participants join (or leave) a particular channel as needed; threaded conversations can be linked to Google documents or other shared resources. Slack channels thus reflect the developing sense of a conversation (something like Users can set to be notified of updates to conversations. 

Slack could be used as a synchronous discussion complement to a simultaneous Zoom meeting (better than the un-threaded Zoom chat), or as an synchronous or asynchronous space of it’s own where a class or small group could sustain a conversation over several hours or days.  It’s even possible to launch Zoom calls from within Slack, thus allowing students to move from written to oral conversations as needed.

Learn more about Slack via Linked In.

Pros:  Free (sign-up required).  Better than Zoom chat, because conversations are threaded and can be linked to other documents and resources. 

Cons:  Not integrated with Moodle; Faculty would need to invite (or accept requests) from each student to join the Slack Group at the outset.  

Expert:   Richard Freedman, Ben Le, Andy Janco, Mike Zarafonetis

Google Forms for Feedback

Google Forms provides a flexible way to gather feedback from any set of users. You can include questions with prose responses, or scaled ratings and multiple choice answers.  Results are assembled in a spreadsheet, but Google forms will also summarize answers to questions with preset answers or ratings. as charts and diagrams.  Moodle Surveys provides another way to gather feedback, but it is hard to assure anonymity in that platform.  Google Forms can be either attributed or anonymous, so they are especially good for course evaluations.

Learn more about Google Forms here, or view this sample course evaluation, which you can copy and adapt.  Note that you will need to adjust the settings of any form to allow BMC students to submit answers.

Pros:  Free, included as part of Haverford Gsuite, anonymous if needed.


Expert:   Richard Freedman

Formative Assessments using an Anonymous Moodle Questionnaire

If you want to allow anonymous responses to questions, you can use the Moodle Questionnaire activity. Question types are more limited than in the quiz activity, and it does not give you an option to provide automatic feedback to selected responses. However, this is a good way to get a pulse on how the class is doing with a lesson or how they are feeling about an idea.

Pros:  Responses can be anonymous. However, if desired, you can still see who has and has not submitted responses.

Cons:  Limited question types. No automatic feedback to selected answers.

Expert:  Sharon Strauss

Untimed Written Evaluations in Moodle

Either the Moodle Quiz or the Moodle Assignment will work for untimed tests. The quiz activity will allow automatic grading of some question types, as well as feedback. The assignment activity allows both written and audio/video content, either as part of the instructions or the submitted materials. However, with the exception of audio or video under two minutes in length, content needs to be stored outside of the Moodle server (YouTube, Vimeo, Flipgrid, etc.) and linked or embedded.

Pros:  Compared with timed evaluations, the untimed option does not put students with slow or intermittent internet at a disadvantage.  

Cons: You can ask students to take pictures of written work, but unless they do this using a PDF conversion tool (GeniusScan, Camscan, etc.) it may be hard to work with those uploads

Expert:  Sharon Strauss