It's been about two months since the Microsoft Office Add-In for Moodle was released. The what?
Well, it's an extension for Microsoft Office 2007 and 2003 which allows you to save Office documents to your Moodle and open them from your Moodle.
|Saving a file to Moodle from within Office 2007|
|The Open from Moodle... and Save to Moodle... commands added to the Quick Access Toolbar in Word. The default Save command could be removed if you were feeling brave.|
quick Captivate movie of how the Add-In works in practice. Once you've watched it, read what follows below...
There are a few riders to this seemingly seamless way of saving to your Moodle:
- You need to have Teacher rights over a number of courses on your Moodle. Administrator rights will get you in a whole heap of trouble, since the list of courses will be over-long if you're an Admin, and this might mess things up.
- Your course(s) needs to have the My Courses or Courses block displayed on them. This appears to be the way that the add-in picks up which courses you are on and could explain why, in the demonstration movie above, the course titles are prefixed with the code to display the course icon in the My Courses block. The documentation that there is indicates that you can hide this block once the Add-In has picked up which courses you have - though I'm not sure if the Add-In would then automatically pick up any new courses you had teacher rights on.
- You can have access to multiple Moodles via the Add-In, though I'm not sure where the passwords are stored (and how secure they are) if you check the "remember my password" box. I'm not saying they're insecure, I just don't know.
- It doesn't work on a Mac. Or with Office 2010.
- It hasn't been tested on Moodle versions earlier or later than 1.9.n - and the indications are that it might not sail faultlessly into Moodle 2.n
- If you are a Teacher on some courses, and a student on others in your Moodle (for example, your Staff Room where others post notices, files and messages) then that will still show up, you'll just get an error message when you try to add something to those courses you have a "Student-like" role on.
The bigger picture
What exactly are you trying to do?
If you look at that document closely, you should see that the core question is what do you want the learner to do with the information you’re giving them? Generally, this falls into a few actions on behalf of the learner:
- read it (possibly on screen, possibly after printing, depends on what the learner prefers or can do);
- annotate it with a pen (generally after printing);
- copy its contents into some other tool (word processor, presentation software, graphics application);
- save and modify it (possibly before handing it in as an assignment).
It may seem that using the Office Add-In for Moodle would railroad a user into using Office format files – however, as Microsoft themselves point out, you can use it to upload other file formats into your Moodle course’s Files area. If you have a full version of Acrobat or have installed the Save As PDF Add-In, this means you could generate your simple PDFs from within Office and save them into Moodle.
What do your learners (and staff) have access to?
|No Entry - CC image by Joshua Rappeneker.|
Accessibility is the keyThis all boils down to making the information you're trying to share as accessible and appropriate as possible. As is seen from the document above, there are times when it's appropriate to use Office format documents to share information, and times it's not. Here's a simple acid test to work out how easy it is for your users. You could try it with a class of learners - just tell them that they're part of some research you're doing.
- Create a simple paragraph of text in Word. Save it as a Word file.
- Create a PDF file from the document using whatever method you wish.
- Upload each of these files (the PDF format one and the Word format one) to your Moodle course using the Add a Resource > Link to a file or web site or Display a Directory options.
- Copy the text into a web page using Moodle's Add a Resource > Compose a Web Page option.
- From being on the course page and clicking on the link, how many more times did you have to click to see the paragraph?
- Did you have to click on any dialog boxes or pop-ups to get to see the information?
- Were there any security warnings which you had to click on - or any that you didn't notice at first?
- Did you see the text straight away?