Educational innovation, development and discussion at ETH

Focus on Exploring AI in Academic Writing: Two innovative Innovedum projects

//Important note: This blog post was created with the help of Open AI’s Chat GPT and the project descriptions published on It is also an attempt to find out to what extent this tool adds value when composing blog posts.// 

In the realm of academia, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) has opened up new avenues for enhancing the process of scholarly writing. Two recently accepted, pioneering Innovedum projects at ETH Zurich, led by Prof. Dr. Lucio Isa and Dr. Melanie Paschke, delve into the integration of AI in the world of academic writing. Despite differing focuses, these projects share a common drive to elevate the quality and effectiveness of scholarly communication through innovative approaches. 

Project 1: Experiential learning: The publication process 

Led by Prof. Dr. Lucio Isa, this project aims to provide doctoral candidates with a firsthand experience of the publication process. Through an experiential learning approach, participants embark on a journey from idea conception to submission, honing not only their writing skills but also key competencies like teamwork, critical thinking, and self-reflection. By simulating the entire publication process with the inclusion of Chat GPT, this project offers a holistic understanding of academic writing. 

Project 2: Assessing the Potential of AI for Scientific Writing Techniques  

Under the guidance of Dr. Melanie Paschke, this initiative focuses on the integration of AI tools, particularly GPT-Bots and Large Language Models, into the realm of academic writing. The project’s core goal is to explore the potential of AI in assisting various facets of scholarly writing, ranging from supporting the writing process to addressing concerns like plagiarism and research integrity. A focus is on integrating ChatGPT into existing courses mainly at DUSYS where scientific writing is part of the course learning path and to co-develop with lecturers meaningful exercises and guidance to teach participants the use of generative AI and also the critical assessment of the outputs. Through collaborative development with educators, the project aims to define best practices for using AI responsibly in academia. 

In a changing educational landscape, projects like these are helping to improve learning and teaching experiences. By using AI as a tool to promote academic writing, they rely on innovative approaches to foster transferable skills and create best practices. Ultimately, they prepare students to succeed in an increasingly technological world. 

You can find more information on both projects at:

If you are interested in starting your own project feel free to contact Innovedum.

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New Innovedum Focal Point Theme: “AI in Teaching and Learning”  

As technology and education intersect more than ever, the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly apparent. Just as earlier pioneers revolutionized classrooms through the advent of the internet, we now find ourselves on the cusp of another educational evolution, this time driven by AI. The latest focal point theme for the Innovedum project, “AI in Teaching and Learning,” paves the way for a pathbreaking new era of education by offering a unique opportunity to integrate AI into teaching methods.  

A Glimpse into the Future: “AI in Teaching and Learning”  

Commencing on October 1, 2023, the focal point theme “AI in Teaching and Learning” sets the stage for innovative changes in education. With AI-driven tools and technologies becoming an integral part of our daily lives, lecturers face the task of effectively embracing these resources to enhance the learning experience. Simultaneously, they must ensure students acquire the crucial skills of critical thinking and problem-solving, enabling them to excel in a world powered by AI. The focal point theme “AI in Teaching and Learning” delves into the challenges and possibilities that arise from integrating AI into higher education, revealing how lecturers and students can harness the potential of this technology. 

Several intriguing aspects stem from this focal point theme, including:  

  1.  Personalized Learning Experiences: Lecturers can harness AI-powered tools to tailor learning experiences for students. By accommodating individual learning styles and preferences, engagement can be boosted, leading to improved academic performance.  
  1. Optimizing Course Design and Content: AI empowers lecturers to fine-tune course design and instructional materials, allowing them to dedicate more time to intricate tasks such as critical thinking and problem-solving. This, in turn, can lead to more effective teaching and improved learning outcomes.  
  1. Personalized Feedback and Support: AI-based tools offer students personalized feedback and support. This assists them in identifying strengths and areas for improvement, ultimately enhancing academic achievements and optimizing study time.  
  1. Fostering Transferable Skills: The integration of AI into education provides students with an opportunity not only to acquire AI-specific skills but also to cultivate transferable skills encompassing ethics, data privacy, and social impact. Such skills are pivotal in an AI-driven landscape.  

Your Invitation to Shape the Future: Join the Movement  

For lecturers at ETH, the Innovedum focal point theme “AI in Teaching and Learning” extends an unprecedented opportunity to play a pioneering role in the future of education. Starting on October 1, 2023, the project welcomes imaginative minds to conceptualize and present projects exploring the incorporation of AI into teaching and learning. Your project could be the catalyst for ushering in a new educational epoch—one that empowers students and lecturers alike to flourish in an AI-driven world.  

Innovedum remains committed to fostering innovative teaching practices. Whether you’re contemplating fresh approaches to course design, capitalizing on AI for personalized learning, or delving into the ethical dimensions of AI integration, Innovedum supports the actualization of your vision with practical consulting and valuable resources.  

As you embark on this transformative journey, remember that the future is being shaped by the capabilities of AI. It’s noteworthy that this very blog post was crafted with the assistance of AI—an illustration of the innovation we invite you to explore. Together, let’s forge a new educational era that fully embraces AI’s potential, paving the way for boundless opportunities in learning and teaching. 

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Behind the scenes: The making of a new blended learning course 

When designing a blended learning course, it is crucial to take multiple factors into account, especially for the online modules. These factors include selecting appropriate course materials, planning engaging activities, finding ways to keep students interested, and creating effective assessments. A good teacher-student relationship is also essential for online learning and requires special attention.

For our recently developed blended learning course on Radionuclides as Environmental Tracers, we showcased the versatility of natural and artificial radionuclides as tracers for environmental processes. By blending in-person and online modules, students explore the fundamentals of radionuclides and their potential for investigating various environmental processes through case studies. For the production of the “Meet Your Instructor” videos for each case study,  we collaborated with the Educational Media Team. This was funded by an Innovedum Grant. These videos serve various didactic and educational purposes. Firstly, they act as introductions to each section, establishing a connection between participants and the lecturers. Secondly, the camera team joined our lecturers on field trips, enhancing students’ learning experience by capturing authentic research activities in locations that may be inaccessible to them, such as the stalagmites cave of Milandre (see featured video). Additionally, we co-designed animations to illustrate complex concepts and emphasize aspects that cannot be effectively captured on camera.

Collaborating with the EMT has been a fantastic experience. They provided a wealth of knowledge and expertise in creating high-quality audiovisual content for teaching. Together, we gathered the expertise of different stakeholders to develop a series of dynamic and visually engaging introduction videos with our case study experts. We began the process by establishing the key concepts and ideas for each case study in co-design with the EMT. Based on these concepts, we formulated a set of interview questions for the experts. Filming took place at locations that were relevant to each case study, such as labs, mountains, and even caves. Working with a Spanish film team via Zoom also went smoothly. The interview video clips served as the basis for co-developing the script with the project leaders and the case study experts. We then identified sequences that would be suitable for animation, and the EMT designed – always in close collaborations with the case study experts, to guarantee scientific accuracy – beautifully crafted animations to illustrate the core concepts of the case studies. Throughout the process, we provided feedback and input to ensure that the videos aligned with our goals and expectations for the course.

The final product, a series of “meet your instructor” videos, will be available soon. We believe that these videos will help establish a connection with our students and generate excitement about the course material. The process of creating these videos was a collaborative and rewarding experience that allowed us to produce a high-quality, user-centered product that we are confident will improve the learning process for our students. As scientists who are not used to being in front of a camera, it was great to experience the empathy and practical advice that the EMT provided. We even enjoyed it, despite our initial apprehension.

In summary, our collaboration with the Educational Media Team was a valuable and enjoyable experience. We are eager to see the impact these videos will have on our students’ engagement and learning in the course.

Author: Caroline Welte (

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Moodle 4.1 has arrived – And it looks good

ETH Moodle has a new look and feel. In this blog we will provide an overview of the most important changes. This post is primarily written for teachers. We encourage you to explore the new interface for yourself. If you need more support, ETH Moodle teachers can register for a workshop in this Moodle course. Contact Moodle Support for more assistance: +41 44 632 06 65 (9:00-​17:00)

Log in as usual with

Landing page: your dashboard

You now land directly on your personal dashboard. The dashboard combines the previous site home page and the previous dashboard. All users will notice the new top navigation menu which contains the elements ‘Course search’, ‘Support’ and ‘News’. At the top of the dashboard you may also find dismissible or time-limited announcements. 

By clicking on your profile picture, you will see a new item called ‘My Media’. This is the new personal media repository system for teachers and students alike. 

The dashboard is fully customisable for all Moodle users. Teachers and students can edit the dashboard (by using the editing button on the top right) in order to move sections (called blocks), add new ones or remove the ones currently on display. The new standard dashboard contains:

  • occasional important announcements.  These will be dismissible or time-limited.
  • a timeline displaying upcoming tasks that are due. Teachers are encouraged to use deadlines for assignments and tasks as these will be featured prominently. Read more about the timeline block
  • recently accessed courses. 
  • an overview of all courses where you are enrolled. You can change the appearance so the courses are displayed as a list or as cards for example. You can ‘star’ courses and select to only see future, in-progress or past courses. Note: This requires teachers to set correct start and end dates in the settings of each course. To add a custom image for your course, upload one via your course settings page. Visit this blog entry for detailed instructions
  • a calendar displayed as a slide block. 

Course view

Once you visit a course you’ll notice the new look with more white space. The existing content of your courses has not have changed, however the appearance may differ slightly.

Screenshot of a Moodle course. There are green arrows and circles highlighting various elements which are mentioned in the text.

The new edit button is still found top right. You can choose to view the course navigation (on the left) and the blocks in the course (on the right) or you can hide them. 

The new course menu contains fast access to the course settings, participants, grades, reports and more. Under ‘more’ is where you find ‘course reuse’ which allows you to import content. 

Important: we recommend revisiting your choice of course format. The format ‘collapsed topics’ has few benefits as the format ‘topics’ is now also collapsible. In addition, the side navigation makes moving through the course easier and faster. Please be aware that the format ‘Tiles’ does not allow for the side navigation to be displayed. We no longer recommend the use of ‘Grid’ as it does not meet accessibility expectations.

Activity chooser

Screenshot of the activity chooser in Moodle. Six different activities with different colours are shown.

When adding a new activity or resource, you’ll notice the icons for most activities and resources have changed. They have been loosely grouped in to categories and have been allocated a colour to aid with faster recognition. The categories and colours are: 

Assessment: purpur

Content: blue

Collaboration: green

Communication: grey

Administration: bronze

The resource ‘label’ has now been renamed ‘text and media area’ in order to more accurately describe its function. 

The activities and resources are also more like blocks on the page which makes rearranging them via drag-and-drop much easier. Optically, displaying the activity descriptions on the course page is much more pleasing to the eye. Try it yourself. 

Notification on new content

New! When you edit an activity or resources you have the choice to notify course participants. To do so, check the box at the bottom of the activity/resource settings page before saving. This triggers a notification to all course participants.

Screenshot of the settings of a Moodle activity. The checkbox and words "send content change notification" are circled in green.

For more information about detailed changes please visit the Moodle website:

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A new and improved Moodle – Coming to ETH Zurich this summer

In June of 2023, ETH Zurich Moodle will receive a significant update. Moodle has been the central learning management system (LMS) at ETH Zurich since 2010. With more than 10’000 courses it has become crucial to teaching for ETH Zurich lecturers. As an open-source LMS it enables significant customisation. With the new release, Moodle will be more user-friendly, intuitive to navigate and visually appealing, offering a range of improvements for both educators and students. In this blog post, we will explore some of the key benefits of the new Moodle version coming to our screens this summer. A full list of new features is provided on the Moodle website.

Benefits for students

  1. Improved user experience
  2. Improved accessibility
  3. Self-tracking of tasks

Improved user experience.

The LMS has undergone a complete redesign, with a fresh and modern look and feel. Learners can more easily navigate the platform and find the information they need. 

Improved accessibility

Moodle was officially certified as WCAG 2.1 AA compliant in December 2020. The new design includes support for screen readers, improved keyboard navigation, and better contrast, making it easier for learners with visual impairments to access content. The new accessibility features ensure that all learners can access and engage with the learning content, regardless of their ability.

Self-tracking of task

If enabled by course teachers, students will be able to see which tasks still need to be completed in the course navigation index.

Benefits for educators

  1. Improved Course Design
  2. Enhanced Learning Analytics
  3. Significant improvements to handling quiz questions
  4. (Optional) notifications on changes in course
  5. New and improved video handling

Improved course design

The course design as been improved making it easier for educators to create and deliver engaging and effective online courses. The new course format includes an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, allowing educators to build courses quickly and easily.

Enhanced Learning Analytics

Moodle has also improved its learning analytics capabilities, making it easier for educators to track learners’ progress and identify areas where they need additional support. Teachers can build customised reports in order to gain an overview of student progress.  

Significant improvements to handling quiz questions

Teachers will be able to work collaboratively with other teachers to manage different versions of questions and add comments.

(Optional) notifications on changes in the course

Teachers can choose to send a push-notification to let students know when something has been changed on the course page. 

New and improved video handling. 

Kaltura will replace OpenCast as video management tool for Moodle. All previously uploaded videos will be automatically migrated to Kaltura. Teachers will be able to upload and manage their course videos directly over the text editor.


A link to the preview version has been sent to all current teachers of the ETH Zurich Moodle system. It includes all content from the live system as of 3 April 2023. This is a valuable opportunity to see what existing courses look like in the new version, explore the new look and to identify important changes that may be necessary once the live system is active.

There will be no notifications on this preview system, so educators can experiment without triggering notifications for students. It will be valid until 6 June 2023 at which point the entire preview system will be deleted. This system may not be used for any actual teaching or learning activities as there may be unannounced updates and downtime.

If you already want to start preparing your HS 2023 course before 7 June, you have 2 options:

  1. Create your course via eDoz and start working on the course on the current live 3.11 course Moodle system. Any content you prepare on the current course Moodle system before 7 June will automatically be upgraded to the new Moodle version and its new design.
  2. If you already want to prepare content in the new Moodle 4.1 version, please use one of your already existing pre HS2023 courses on the preview server, create a mzb-backup (“course backup”) before 6 June. After 7 June, create a course via eDoz on the (updated) live course Moodle and then import the backup file into your live course.

On 7 June 2023 the live system will be updated to the new Moodle version. Detailed information regarding the changes will be available at this point. Educators can then set up their HS23 courses via eDoz and make necessary adjustments to their courses prior to the semester start on 18 September 2023.

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New Innovedum Focal Point Project Topic: Transferable Competencies

For the next round of submissions on 1 March 2023, the new topic transferable competencies” will be launched within the category of focal point projects. This supports innovative methods and technologies to build up method-specific, social or personal competences in the classroom and to test these in corresponding performance assessments. The aim is for students to acquire competences in the concrete context of subject-specific expertise and to be able to transfer and apply these to other subjects. Students are thus enabled to continuously develop and apply their knowledge in the further course or after completion of their studies.

Examples of projects:

  • Implementation of programming projects in student groups and a performance assessment that includes a group performance.
  • Development of peer feedback learning opportunities for students and associated peer grading.
  • Use of performance assessments that assess whether an individual has engaged critically and creatively with a problem.
  • Collaboration of students with external students or stakeholders. Inclusion of the external perspective in performance assessment

ETH Talent also focuses on the holistic teaching of competencies. The ETH Competence Framework provides a good overview of which interdisciplinary competences (i.e. method-specific, social and personal competences) are developed at ETH. Depending on the subject area and didactic design, a course typically focuses on a selection of these.

Innovedum not only promotes interdisciplinary competences within the framework of the focal point projects. There are other project topics and types to choose from – click here for an overview.

Are you a lecturer at ETH? ETH members who have at least a 50% post and a teaching assignment are entitled to submit an application to Innovedum. Innovative ideas for the fostering of teaching at ETH are supported by Innovedum from the first step onwards. You and your project team will receive support when it comes to fleshing out ideas in the project proposal or to initiate cooperation with the Emerging Educational Media Hub (E2MH).
This was also the case in 2022 – a total of 35 project applications were submitted, which has only been

achieved once since the Innovedum Fund was established. A record number of 24 focal point projects were submitted and a total of 20 projects worth around CHF 1.5 million were approved, including the D-ARCH study programme initiative.

Design your teaching with Innovedum’s support! 
Contact us and submit your project by 1.3.23

We look forward to many exciting project proposals!

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Neues Innovedum Fokusthema: Überfachliche Kompetenzen

Ab dem ersten Schritt durch Innovedum begleitet, auch zum neuen Fokusthema: Überfachliche Kompetenzen

Zur nächsten Eingaberunde vom 1. März 2023 wird innerhalb der Kategorie Fokusprojektedas neue Thema: «Überfachliche Kompetenzen» lanciert. Damit werden innovative Methoden und Technologien unterstützt, um methodenspezifische, soziale oder persönliche Kompetenzen im Unterricht aufzubauen und diese in entsprechenden Leistungskontrollen zu überprüfen. Ziel ist es, dass Studierende Kompetenzen im konkreten Kontext der fachspezifischen Expertise erwerben und diese auf andere Fächer übertragen und anwenden können. Die Studierenden werden dadurch befähigt, ihr Wissen im weiteren Verlauf oder nach Abschluss des Studiums kontinuierlich weiterzuentwickeln und anzuwenden. 

Hier einige Beispiele für mögliche Projekte:

  • Durchführung von Programmierprojekten in Studierendengruppen und einer Leistungskontrolle, die eine Gruppenleistung beinhaltet.
  • Entwicklung von Peer Feedback Lerngelegenheiten für Studierende und dazugehörigem Peer Grading.
  • Einsatz von Leistungskontrollen, die erheben, ob eine Person sich kritisch und kreativ mit einer Problemstellung beschäftigt hat.
  • Zusammenarbeit von Studierenden mit externen Studierenden oder Anspruchsgruppen. Einbezug der externen Perspektive in die Leistungskontrolle.

    Auch bei ETH Talent steht die ganzheitlich ausgerichtete Kompetenzvermittlung im Mittelpunkt.
    Der ETH Kompetenzraster bietet eine gute Übersicht, welche überfachlichen Kompetenzen (also methodenspezifische, soziale und persönliche Kompetenzen) an der ETH entwickelt werden. Je nach Fachgebiet und didaktischer Gestaltung steht in einer Lehrveranstaltung typischerweise eine Auswahl davon im Mittelpunkt.

    Innovedum fördert aber nicht nur überfachliche Kompetenzen im Rahmen der Fokusprojekte. Es stehen weitere Projektthemen und –typen zur Auswahl – hier geht’s zur Übersicht.

    Sind Sie Dozent oder Dozentin an der ETH? Mit einer Anstellung von mindestens 50 Stellenprozenten und einem Lehrauftrag sind Sie berechtigt bei Innovedum einen Antrag zu stellen. Innovative Ideen zur Förderung der Lehre an der ETH werden seitens Innovedum ab dem ersten Schritt begleitet. Sie und Ihr Projektteam erhalten Unterstützung, wenn es darum geht, Ideen im Projektantrag zu konkretisieren oder um eine Zusammenarbeit mit dem Emerging Educational Media Hub (E2MH) aufzugleisen. So auch im 2022 – insgesamt wurden 35 Projektanträge eingereicht, das wurde seit Bestehen des Innovedum Fonds nur einmal zuvor erreicht. Dabei konnte ein Rekord von 24 eingereichten Fokusprojekten verzeichnet werden. Insgesamt wurden 20 Projekte im Umfang von rund 1.5 Millionen CHF bewilligt, darunter auch eine Studiengangsinitiative des D-ARCH.  

    Innovedum fördert aber nicht nur überfachliche Kompetenzen im Rahmen der Fokusprojekte. Es stehen weitere Projektthemen und –typen zur Auswahl – hier geht’s zur Übersicht.

    Gestalten Sie die Lehre an der ETH mit Unterstützung von Innovedum!
    Nehmen Sie mit uns Kontakt auf und reichen Sie Ihr Projekt bis zum 1.3.23 ein.

    Wir freuen uns auf viele spannende Projektanträge!

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    Retrieval practice – Newest option in Moodle

    Testing students’ recall of recent learning is often done by creating Moodle quizzes with a range of different complex questions. Now teachers can embed previously created questions in any HTML text area without packaging them in a quiz. This includes on the main course page, inside a Moodle book, even in a block on the side.* 

    Why it’s a good idea

    The pedagogical principle behind this function is called “retrieval practice”. The essence of this idea is that the more you practice recalling specific memories, the stronger the memory becomes. The very act of bringing information to mind strengthens the students’ ability to do so. However, test anxiety can really get in the way of fluid and competent performance. Therefore it is a good idea to provide frequent opportunities where students can quiz themselves without worrying that their performance will impact on their grade. Viewed this way, quizzing can be understood as a learning strategy, not an assessment strategy. Best practices include having frequent opportunities, spacing them out and using different kinds of questions. (Read more about retrieval practice at

    How to do it

    First, your Moodle course must already contain the questions you want to embed. You may want to create a category just for this purpose. If you haven’t already, make sure both your category and your questions have an ID number. This is essential. Also wherever possible, make sure your questions provide students with useful and specific feedback for both correct and incorrect answer options. 

    Then, decide where to embed the questions. You can select any area where you can enter HTML text. Turn editing on. Use the “Show more buttons” button to expand the toolbar (shown in blue). Select the “Embed questions” button (shown in green). Select the category and then the question you would like to embed.

    Moodle editor. The "show more buttons" and "embed questions" buttons are highlighted.

    Finally, save and admire your work! Always remember to test your work and check it in the mobile view before you release the course to students. 

    Additionally, you can see an overview of how students have progressed in the reports section of the course. Via the gearwheel, go to “more” and in the “reports” section you can see wether students have answered the questions and where they may have struggled. 

    Contact LET support via phone (044 632-0665) or email if you need additional support.

    *Not available in Polybook.

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    Teaching “Dynamic earth” using flipped learning

    We spoke with the project team that converted the lecture “Dynamische Erde I” to a flipped learning context. Dr. Oliver Bachmann and Léon Frey shared their experiences.

    Drone captures volcano activity

    The aim of this project was to produce a series of videos which replaced a portion of the lecture “Dynamische Erde I” at the Department of Earth Sciences. Part of the lecture will still be held on campus. The videos will be watched by the students individually as a preparation for the lectures held in class. The videos cover a considerable part of the content in an easy-to-understand way. This is a “flipped learning” teaching approach which plans the necessary knowledge acquisition as an individual activity for students to complete (in this case watching videos) in their own time. The face-to-face time is then used to further engage in deeper discussion.

    What triggered this experiment?

    During the corona pandemic, when lectures were held online, it became evident that high-quality online material, in particular podcasts, would greatly enrich a lecture. Online lectures via Zoom do work but they should be augmented by other teaching methods. For this reason, this project was launched.

    Which specific actions were taken?

    We first thought about the content for the videos. Which elements should be part of the videos and what should be kept in class at ETH? We made this decision by identifying pure information that we wanted to convey in contrast to sections of the course that required interaction, activity and discussion. After that, we wrote scripts for the videos and created the necessary illustrations. We filmed both at ETH and on different locations the field using both a camera and a drone. The last step was editing the videos and making them available for the students.

    Léon Frey explains ions.

    What were the results or outcomes of the project?

    The result of this project is flipped learning scenario which includes a series of videos on mineralogy, magmatic processes, metamorphic processes and the rock cycles. The videos are available here (videos are in German):

    Can you describe the impact on students?

    Students will be able to watch the videos starting in the fall semester 2022, which lies in the near future at the time of writing. Therefore, we don’t know the impact yet. However, we did some test videos last autumn. In a survey, students rated these videos very positively. We look forward to seeing what the student feedback is after the autumn semester 2022!

    What lessons did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

    Video production takes a lot of time. More than you might think at first. And there is always the temptation to do more and to do it better – to do another take, trying to do better than in the last take. Therefore, it is important to know when it’s enough – or when time does not allow for more attempts. Next time we would proceed the same way – in the end everything worked out well and as planned.

    What first steps do you advise for others who are interested in doing the same?

    Don’t underestimate the time video production needs. Our team came into this project with existing experience and skill in creating such videos and also invested a fair amount of time in learning how to do it well. And don’t underestimate the skill required to stand in front of the camera and speak confidently. If you have no experience in neither of those, plan for enough time to practise and get used to it.

    Screenshot from the introduction Video for Dynamische Erde I

    This project was funded by Innovedum, the Rector’s fund for advancing innovative education at ETH Zürich. You can keep up with development of this project in the public Innovedum database. If you are interested in applying for a project yourself, you can find information and the login to the application process here:

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    Moodle forums – Now with anonymous posting

    Next to the course catalogue, Moodle is the most used system at ETH Zurich when it comes to supporting active online teaching and learning. However a common complaint from both students and teachers was the lack of anonymity when it comes to forum discussions. As of September 2022, this has changed.

    The Moodle update in September brought in a new plug-in called «Moodle Overflow» (inspired by Stack Overflow) which enables additional functionality not available in the regular Moodle forum. The Overflow forum is particularly suitable for courses which have a high number of forums and a high amount of activity in the forums due to the improved overview. The regular Moodle forum provides a different set of settings.

    Overflow advantages

    • Better overview. When entering an Overflow forum, both teachers and students can see which threads are new (unread) and which have not yet had an answer marked as «correct» and «helpful». The overview also shows votes and the number of replies.
    • Anonymity. Overflow enables teachers to choose between two types of anonymity, questioners only or questioners and answerers. These settings are irreversable.
    • Rating. All course participants can «rate» a thread in the Overflow forums. Highly rated posts move towards the top. Teachers can use this feature to ask students to “vote” for best answers. This is a fast way to strengthen the visibility of a particular response and means students don’t have to post answers in order agree with an existing answer, they can just upvote.
    • Reputation. If teachers enable it, Overflow can track the reputation of participants either in a single overflow forum or across all Overflow forums in the course. Answers by students or Teaching Assistants with higher reputations will be more credible.
    • Mark as correct/helpful. Answers can be marked das «correct» by teachers or as «helpful» by the questioner. It does not have to be the same answer. This means that a teacher can overrule any discussions by labelling a specific answer as the correct answer and prevents students from accepting incorrect answers.
    • Moderation. Posts by students will only be published once a teacher has approved it.

    Is it perfect? No. One complaint is that the question is no longer displayed when participants begin writing their own comment or answer. In addition only answers (not answers to answers) can be marked as helpful or correct.

    Things to consider when creating an Overflow Forum:

    • Should students be automatically subscribed to this overflow?
    • Which answer should be displayed first, helpful or solved?
    • Should the reputation (rating) be aggregated over several MoodleOverflows?
    • Should negative ratings be allowed?

    If you need further information, we recommend this help (in German only):

    Moodle Forum advantages

    The default Moodle forum has many additional features, even experienced Moodle users might find something new in this list. 

    1. Different types: There are four types of forums to choose from. The standard forum is the one most people are familiar with. The single discussion only allows one discussion to be posted by the lecturer and students can only post replies. The Q&A forum requires students to post an answer before they can see the replies of others. The final type is much like the standard forum but it displays the content more like a blog. 
    2. Time settings: Teachers can post in advance and delay the publication of their entry. They can also choose to have their post only visible for a particular time frame or create a due date by when students have to have responded. 
    3. RSS: An alternative to subscribing, when enabled this feature means new forum discussions (or posts) will be sent via RSS feed.  
    4. Locking Discussion: Teachers can lock the discussion at any point preventing further posts by students. 
    5. Post threshold: In order to restrict individuals from flooding a forum, teachers can set a maximum post threshold which automatically blocks users once they reach it. Teachers can also choose to have the word count displayed (but not set a limit). 
    6. Better completion setting options: The Moodle forum has more completion setting options in cases where lecturers want to track completion. 
    7. App compatible: The Moodle forum is fully compatible with the ETH Moodle App. The Overflow forum will redirect you to a browser. 

    For more information about the Moodle forum please visit: 

    How about you?

    Which forum are you planning on using? Please share your scenarios in the comments so we can collect examples in action. If you are interested in chatting with other lecturers at ETH Zurich who are using Overflow you are welcome to join the (ETH only) Moodle course . 

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