Educational innovation, development and discussion at ETH

Neues Fokusthema Innovedum Fonds

Zum 1. März 2022 gibt es ein neues Fokusthema «Bildungsmedien für Visualisierung und Simulation» für Projektförderung im Innovedum Fonds. Zusammen mit diesem Fokusthema und den drei bestehenden setzt der Rektor und die Lehrkommission der ETH neue Schwerpunkte im Fonds Innovedum.

Mit dem neuen Fokusthema sollen interaktive Visualisierungen und Simulationen für den Unterricht entwickelt und erprobt werden. Diese Medien sollen praktische oder persönliche Unterrichtsszenarien nicht ersetzen, sondern ergänzen. Es wird erwartet, dass die Projekte in Zusammenarbeit zwischen den Lehrkräften, dem Emerging Educational Media Hub am LET und den Studierenden entwickelt werden. Ein wichtiges Ziel solcher Projekte ist es, nachhaltige Bedingungen für die Projektleitenden zu schaffen, so dass sie die Medien in Zukunft unabhängig entwickeln und weiterentwickeln können.

Bevorzugte Entwicklungsplattformen sind Unity (https://unity.com) oder Jupyter (https://jupyter.org) in Verbindung mit IPython (https://ipython.org/notebook.html). 

Beispiel einer Simulation mit Python. Hier die Lorenzkraft. Links eine Visualisierung. Rechts der Python Code.
Visualisierung der Lorenzkraft mit einer Simulation in Python.

Das Thema «Hindernisfreie Lehre» fokussiert auf die Zugänglichkeit der Lehre (Materialien, Online/blended/flipped Kurse, Methoden und Technologien) für alle Lernenden.  (à Anton als Ansprechpartner verlinken).

Das dritte Fokusthema «Online-Lernmodule ausserhalb der Präsenzzeit» werden gezielt Projekte gesucht, welche die Studierenden durch den gezielten Einsatz von Methoden und Technologien (Online-Module) auf die Präsenzzeit vor- oder nachbereiten.

Zu guter Letzt werden mit «Lernen und Prüfen in Gruppen» Fokusprojekte gefördert, die kollaborative Aktivitäten für Studierende in der Lehre (physisch und online) integrieren, insbesondere auch solche, die diese Aktivitäten prüfungsrelevant machen.

Ein Fokusprojekt bei Innovedum hat eine Obergrenze von 60 kFr und die Begutachtung dauert rund 4 Wochen.

Um die ganze Breite an innovativen Lehrideen an der ETH abdecken zu können, fördert der Innovedum Fonds auch Blended Learning und MOOC Projekte, ebenso wie themenunabhängige umfangreichere Lehrprojekte.

Der nächste Eingabetermin ist der 1. März 2022. Antragsberechtigt sind ETH-​Angehörige mit einer Anstellung von mindestens 50 Stellenprozenten und einem Lehrauftrag. Mehr Informationen finden Sie unter: www.innovedum.ethz.ch

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Your mission: Build an intelligent boat

In a project-based course, students learned to apply materials knowledge and skills to the construction of a boat that could navigate an unknown terrain using artificial intelligence. We talked with the two lecturers Rafael Libanori and Henning Galinski, and the department’s Educational Developer Lorenzo De Pietro to find out more about this innovative course in the Department of Material Sciences.

Lukas Wooley and Sebastian Gassenmeier get their boat ready.

What triggered this experiment? 

Originally, we were inspired by AP50, a project and team-based introductory physics course taught at Harvard. We wanted to do more with problem-based learning at ETH Zurich and achieve a different kind of learning environment. Students tend to expect that lectures just “give the knowledge”, but there is so much more to teaching. We realised it’s important to teach students how to learn more efficiently and take more responsibility for their own learning. In this course, we give students scientific questions to answer themselves. We wanted them to start taking risks and to have the freedom to fail, which is what science is all about. It’s not just theoretical input. Interpersonal and technical skills are just as important as academic skills.

A hand is shown holding a small home-made boat. There are lots of electronic elements visible.

What exactly did you do? We applied for Innovedum funding and when we were successful recipients we created a course that gives the students a project that has a connection to material sciences, as well as other areas such as controlling and artificial intelligence. We receive support from Antonio Loquercio in the controlling and computer vision part. He is currently a Post-Doc at the University of Berkley, California. Without him, it would have been very difficult to achieve the computational goals of the project. Students attended 4 weeks of theoretical classes and then started working in teams. The goal is to construct a model boat which can intelligently navigate a course using the Materials Design Lab at D-MATL. We also employed PhD students as coaches to support the students. 

What were the results?  We had 16 students who completed the course in the spring of 2021. The challenges were big and so we were thrilled by the final outcomes. The students took it seriously and at the end of the course there were four final boats. The students displayed great creativity, such as building small experimental set-ups along the way. They were able to solve problems on their own, in groups and learn from each other. 

What is the student perspective? Students were frustrated initially because we took a passive approach to communicating knowledge, but they saw the benefit of this approach at the end. We believe that learning should strain their abilities and that it is iterative. But it is wonderful that it ended on a celebratory note with the functional boats that successfully navigated the terrain. 

What lessons did you learn? We realised that in the future we need to spend more time explaining our approach to teaching and clarifying expectations right from the start. We also plan to pay close attention to the gender-balance among our students as we want to maintain a good mix as the course grows.

What are your plans for the future regarding this project? Due to the current curriculum revision projects in our department, there will likely be an increase in hands-on courses like this one. So, this course represents a new way of teaching, like a prototype for the new curriculum. The results will be looked at closely and are quite important for future decision-making in the department. Teaching this way is also a development opportunity for the lecturers. 

What first steps do you advise for others who are interested in doing the same? We think it is important that teaching is viewed as a design science, in other words that it benefits from careful planning and time. We recommend visiting other courses that already use this kind of approach and speaking with the course leaders to gain inspiration and practical ideas for implementing project and problem-based learning in your own course. We would be happy to share our experiences with others.

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Exam-Moodle update released: Introducing the Freehand Drawing question type

Sandra Hundseder & Samuel Witzig

On Oct 12, 2021 ETH’s Exam-Moodle received its biannual feature update. This update introduces useful new features and a large number of small bugfixes  and improvements for On-Campus Online Examinations. After a short overview of the most important new features, we provide a more detailed overview of the possibilities of the Freehand Drawing question type and improvements to the External Question type.

Overview of new features

  • Floating timer: the time remaining is now always visible for students, making it easier for students to know how much time they have left for the exam.
  • ETH’s own question type “Freehand Drawing” is now available by default. It introduces very powerful features for exams on our convertible laptops used in mobile On-Campus Online Examinations (more details below).
  • In the essay question type, a maximum size for file uploads can now be set. This feature may be helpful if you use third party applications in your On-Campus Online Examination. Besides setting a maximum file size, you can also define which file types your students can upload in addition to the number of attachments allowed (already introduced with an earlier feature update).
  • “External” question type (for exams using Code Expert): Moodle now sends students’ Legi-number to Code Expert. There are also several improvements that reduce errors when creating/editing external questions (more details below).

Freehand Drawing

You may already know Freehand Drawing from its use in formative quizzes on the ETH Course-Moodle. You now have the option to use it in your On-Campus Online Examinations as well. To ensure adequate usability, On-Campus Online Examinations with Freehand Drawings are conducted exclusively on mobile devices where students have access to a touch screen and digitizer pen for their digital drawings and sketches.

The question type Freehand Drawing enables the simple and intuitive creation of digital freehand sketches. Please find more information on the functionality of this question type and how to use it here.

Using Freehand Drawing in an On-Campus Online Examination

The Freehand Drawing question type offers a variety of benefits and opportunities to you as an examiner. The main argument for choosing Freehand Drawing over other question types, such as Drag & Drop or Multiple Choice questions, is that students have to actively create their responses, rather than just recognising predefined answers as correct or incorrect. This facilitates assessing deeper levels of knowledge and understanding. Furthermore, the students do not have the possibility to simply guess the correct answer. Freehand Drawing provides the opportunity to use new kinds of questions in your exam. Drawings, annotations and markings of pictures facilitate the contextualized assessment of student knowledge. Finally, using the Freehand Drawing question type instead of sketches on paper can facilitate clear assessments of students’ answers. Instead of erasing sketches made on paper, students can simply undo and erase any drawings, annotations or markings.

What to consider when using Freehand Drawing

Although Freehand Drawing is a handy tool for assessing your students, some aspects demand attention in order to make your exam a success:

  1. Advise your students to use the Text tool available in Freehand Drawing when making annotations, instead of writing with the pen. This way they have more space for writing and can more easily edit the text, and their answers are easier to read. 
  2. In the problem statement, clearly define what you expect from the students in order to achieve full points.
  3. Calculate enough time for answering the question. Freehand Drawing questions need more time to answer than classical K-Prime or Single-Choice questions. As a tip: solve the question yourself and see how long it takes you. Based on this time, you can better estimate how long it will take the students. We recommend at least doubling the time it took you for students.
  4. Familiarise students with the question type in good time. Use the question type already during the semester in formative tests. Point out the important functions (e.g. undo, redo, full screen, zoom, delete) to the students so that they know how to use them in the exam.
  5. Freehand Drawing questions must be marked manually. It is important to prepare a sample solution or an assessment scheme to ensure uniform assessment and to facilitate the work of the assessors.

If you would like to try out a short quiz with Freehand Drawing questions yourself, you can have a look at our Demo Quiz Freehand Drawing. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the ETH Online Examinations service (online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch)

External Question Type (Code Expert questions)

If you use the external question type in your exams, there are four new useful features:

  1. Moodle now sends students’ Legi-number to Code Expert, making it easier to cross check exam results.
  2. LTI-link verification is now improved – Moodle now checks more reliably if the entered LTI-link is valid.
  3. Changing LTI-links after you have created external questions has led to technical issues in past On-Campus Online Examinations and should therefore be avoided. Once you have created and saved the external question, the Tool URL-field is now locked. To unlock (e.g. for testing), choose “Show more…”
  4. Using the same LTI-link in two or more questions can lead to technical issues in On-Campus Online Examinations and should therefore be avoided. Moodle now warns you if you already used an LTI-link in another question

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Tips for Moodle courses

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to make your Moodle course both more effective and visually appealing. The following tips are a quick and fun way to introduce ideas for improving your Moodle course using principles of good website design. Lecturers at ETH Zürich can learn more using Moodle in the self-paced online course “Building an effective Moodle course”. Read more about the course.

What are your essential tips for making Moodle course more visually appealing and effective for learning? We would love to read your comments on this topic.

Be welcoming. Introduce yourself. Use friendly, gender-neutral and approachable language.
Add visual elements. Insert banners to create a course identity. Icons and pictures make your course page easier to digest. Add course images in the settings for easy dashboard navigation.
Choose the right course format. "Topics format" ist he default and creates a list of content. "Collapsed topics" voids endless scrolling. "Tiles" provides a great visual overview.
Establish hierarchy and consistency. Use different heading sizes to signal hierarchy. Align things vertically to imply similar properties. Use consistent layout to create familiarity fast.
Provide assistance. Add a forum for asking questions of peers or teaching staff. Be responsive and friendly when students ask questions. Make sure your contact details are available.
Create an overview. Use visuals to provide an overview of your course structure. Create an advance organiser that shows your course content. This helps build up a mental framework for organising information.
Make it accessible. Add image descriptions for screenreader. Add closed captions in videos. Use descriptive link text like "chapter three" and not "read more".
Manage text volume. Display a paragraph or less on the main course page. Place multiple paragraphs in an HTML page. Put multiple pages in a Moodle book or Polybook.
Check quality across platforms. Always check your course appearance in the App. Blocks disappear in the mobile view. Course formats are simplified.

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Neuer Fragetyp STACK – Computeralgebra in Moodle

STACK steht für “System for Teaching and Assessment using Computer algebra Kernel”. Konkret handelt es sich hier um ein in Moodle integriertes Assessment-System für die Mathematik und verwandte Disziplinen, das auf dem Computer Algebra System Maxima basiert.

Mit dem neuen Fragetyp STACK können in Moodle mathematische Fragestellung einfach in Quizzes integriert und automatisch ausgewertet werden.

Nehmen wir das Beispiel einer Integration:

Die Eingabe der Studierenden wird interpretiert und angezeigt. Dadurch können zunächst syntaktische Fehler eliminiert werden.
Doch wieder einmal wird die Integrationskonstante vergessen.

Teillösung

Mit Hilfe eines Antwortbaumes können Dozierende nun individuelles Feedback generieren. Dadurch sind mehrteilige mathematische Fragen möglich, und es kann eine Teilpunktzahl vergeben werden.

Feedback mit Hinweisen

Die Studierenden können so schrittweise zu einer Lösung geführt werden.

Vollständige Lösung mit Feedback

Grafik

Darüber hinaus können grafische Darstellungen und Diagramme dynamisch generiert und in eine Frage eingebunden werden.

Grafikplot einer Funktion

Informationen sowie Anleitungen finden Sie in der hervorragenden Dokumentation unter https://docs.moodle.org/310/de/Fragetyp_STACK.

Bitte beachten Sie, dass dieser Fragetyp sowohl von den Dozierenden auch als den Studierenden eine gewisse Einarbeitung benötigt.

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10 things to consider when applying for an Innovedum project

If you teach at ETH and think about innovating your teaching, Innovedum is just around the corner. Dr. Erik Jentges, educational developer at the department of management, technolgy, and economics, has been involved in several reviews and writings for Innovedum projects. You might want to check out his 10 tips when applying for an Innovedum project:

  • Identify the correct grant scheme
  • State your idea clearly
  • Give us your context
  • Feature the voice of learners
  • Demonstrate that you talked to educators and didactic experts
  • Present a realistic project plan
  • Assume supportive reviewers
  • Put your didactic innovations front and center
  • Think beyond your project
  • Share your learnings

In addition to the last point, a coherent evaluation plan should be part of the propoal. This will help project leaders in the discussion and dissemination of project results.

More information on evaluation criteria and the process at Innovedum can be found here. The next deadline for Innovedum project submissions is 1 October 2021.

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Vereinfachtes Reporting in der Unterrichtsbeurteilung der ETH Zürich

An vielen Hochschulen sind die Prozesse der Unterrichtsbeurteilung eindeutig geregelt. Dies aber meist nur bis zum Ende der Datenerhebung. In den letzten Jahren rückte der Schlussteil des Evaluationsprozesses, also die Analyse der Resultate und die Festlegung von Massnahmen aufgrund dieser Resultate, vermehrt in den Fokus. Bisher mussten die 16 Departemente pro Semester je einen Bericht an die Rektorin senden, in dem die kritisch evaluierten Veranstaltungen eruiert und Ursachen und Massnahmen zu deren Verbesserung beschrieben wurden. Die Rektorin hat dann wieder in Briefform eine Rückmeldung an jedes Departement zum Bericht geschrieben.

Mit einer Weiterentwicklung unserer Evaluationssoftware EvaSys können wir nun diesen Feedback-Prozess mit einer Online-Applikation unterstützen. In einem ersten Schritt werden die kritisch evaluierten Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen automatisch aufgrund von flexibel einstellbaren Kriterien erkannt und den Departementen in einer Liste präsentiert. Diskussionen, ob eine Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung nun kritisch evaluiert ist oder vergessen wurde, gehören so der Vergangenheit an. Kritisch bedeutet, dass das Departement bei der entsprechenden Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung genauer hinschauen und eine Rückmeldung an die Rektorin geben muss. Dieses «genaue Hinschauen» ist nun in einem eigenen Menü, dem Massnahmendialog, abgebildet, wie er in der Abbildung unten ersichtlich ist.

Bild des Massnahmendialogs
Abbildung: Massnahmendialog zu einer Lehrveranstaltung. Im oberen Bereich werden die Fragetexte und die kritischen Mittelwerte (<3.0 bei einer 5-er-Skala) eingeblendet. Im grün umrandeten Feld muss das Departement Ursachen und Massnahmen eingeben. Rechts davon muss aus einer Liste von vordefinierten stichwortartigen, häufig getroffenen Massnahmen mind. eine ausgewählt werden. Dies kann auch eine eigens hinzugefügte Massnahme sein. Später im Prozess gibt dann die Rektorin eine Rückmeldung zu den von den Departementen beschriebenen Massnahmen. Diese Rückmeldung wird dann im grau umrandeten Feld unten ersichtlich.

Somit erhält das Departement für jedes Semester eine Liste von kritisch evaluierten Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen. Der Massnahmendialog muss für jede kritische Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung aufgerufen und ausgefüllt werden. Die Suche nach kritisch bewerteten Veranstaltungen, die in den Departementen bisher manuell erfolgt ist, entfällt damit. In der Liste ist zudem ersichtlich, ob die entsprechende Lehrveranstaltung oder Prüfung schon in früheren Semestern kritisch evaluiert war. Somit lassen sich Trends wie die Verbesserung einer kritischen Veranstaltung besser nachvollziehen. Am Ende der Liste der kritischen Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen muss das Departement noch ein Fazit über die Unterrichtsbeurteilungen des aktuellen Semesters eingeben, zu welchem die Rektorin auch in einem Feld ein Feedback geben kann.

Die Weiterentwicklung unterstützt den Feedbackprozess zwischen Departementen und Rektorin. Auf umständliche Berichterstattung und Korrespondenz in brieflicher Form kann in Zukunft verzichtet werden. Das Erkennen von kritischen und von wiederholt kritischen Lehrveranstaltungen und Prüfungen ist automatisiert, was den administrativen Aufwand wesentlich verringert und der inhaltlichen Arbeit an der Verbesserung der Qualität von Lerneinheiten und Prüfungen zugutekommt. Natürlich ist mit der Weiterentwicklung auch die Hoffnung verbunden, dass der Feedbackprozess in Zukunft etwas beschleunigt werden kann.

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Going paperless: The revised portal page in Online Examinations at ETH Zurich introduced in Spring Semester 2020

In online examinations at ETH Zurich, the portal page is the website students see first when they face the exam computer and is thus the entry point for every online examination with Moodle. A revised portal page was introduced in September 2020, focusing on improvements in several key areas: 1) going paperless, 2) exam administration, 3) visual redesign and 4) technical infrastructure.

Figure of the revised portal page used in online examination with Moodle at ETH Zurich.
Figure 1. Left side: Portal page with filled out form and confirmation dialogue. Right side: Manual with general information about online examinations and Moodle, opened by clicking on the blue i-icon on the bottom left.

Going paperless

Before the revision, students writing an online examination always found a piece of paper at their workspace. The piece of paper contained general information about online examinations and Moodle, served to track the specific computers used by students (students noted their name and computer number on it) and had to be signed (to confirm knowledge that technical problems are to be reported immediately and that screens are recorded).

The preparation and distribution of the paper sheets was time-consuming both on part of the LET staff and examiners. Therefore, the goal  was to provide all required information to students digitally, at the same time ensuring availability not only during, but also before and after an examination, as it is the case with paper. Fortunately, SafeExamBrowser, which is used at ETH Zurich to provide a safe and intuitive exam environment in online examinations with Moodle, includes functionality to easily give students access to specific additional resources. We thus designed a “manual” webpage containing all relevant information that can be viewed by students at all times simply by clicking on the respective icon in the taskbar (see Figure 1, right side).

Instead of noting their name and used computers on the paper, the revised portal page allows students to enter their personal information directly on the webpage using a simple form. The information, including the used computer, is automatically and cleanly stored in a database. In addition, as a replacement for the signature on paper, the portal page was extended by a dialogue presenting information that must be confirmed to be able to proceed to the actual examination (see Figure 1, left side).

Exam Administration

Due to the growing number of online examinations at ETH Zurich, it was getting increasingly difficult to maintain the previous portal page and store the papers in a way to provide quick access to the required information when needed (i.e., association of computers and students). The revised portal page therefore includes a separate space for LET to administer the examinations that are available for students and search used computers on an exam-by-exam basis.

Visual redesign

Finally, while Moodle has undergone a visual overhaul in recent years, the design of the old portal page was lagging behind. In addition to updating the design in general, the theme of the revised portal page is now based on the Moodle theme to also provide a more consistent and streamlined exam environment.

Technical Infrastructure

Similarly, it was also time to update the technical infrastructure of the portal page. It was a plain HTML site that could only be updated by one person at a time to prevent that no changes were accidentally overwritten. In contrast, the revised portal page is a state-of-the-art application with a separate administration space that can be used by multiple users at once. Two load-balanced frontend servers ensure that all requests from the examination clients are reliably processed and all data are stored in a central database on a separate server.

The revised portal page was developed alongside the regular operations of the online examinations service and was planned to be tested in Spring Semester 2020 in a few select examinations. However, when it became apparent that on-site examinations in 2020 were to be conducted under special circumstances due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we decided early on to introduce it more broadly to facilitate the implementation of the hygienic measures by going paperless. Extensive security measures were taken and an organizational as well as a technical fallback was in place at all times, which – as expected – was not needed in the end. After the positive and smooth experience of the first examination session, slight improvements were added for Autumn Semester 2020 and analogous functionalities were developed for setups not using Moodle such as Linux examinations. In the future, the plan is to implement a functionality that allows easy pre-assignment of students to computers by displaying the corresponding name directly on the screen.

If you want to know more about online examinations at ETH Zurich, please do not hesitate to contact online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch.  

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Examinations in exceptional times: one year of remote written examinations in Moodle during the COVID-19 pandemic

When it became apparent in the Spring Semester 2020 that on-site examinations were not possible during the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alternative performance assessments without requiring students to be physical present were needed. In collaboration with LET, ETH then soon developed the legal and organisational and didactical framework to ensure that examinations during and at the end of the semester could also be carried out in this exceptional situation.

According to the directive “COVID-19: Measures with regard to teaching” for Autumn Semester 2020 and Spring Semester 2021, high-stakes written examinations during the examination sessions are to take place on site under a strict safety concept. In contrast, written examinations during or at the end of semester in the context of end-of-semester examinations, semester performances and continuous performance assessment tasks can either be conducted on site using a safety concept or as a remote examination. However, a remote version of the examination must always be planned as a backup, in case the government regulations change.

The shift from classical written exams in presence to remote written examinations posed a challenge for everybody. To help teachers to adapt their examinations to an appropriate remote format, LET compiled an overview of alternative ways of assessment. The focus of this text is on one such scenario: written examinations conducted remotely on Moodle.

Long before COVID-19, ETH has been using a separate Moodle instance (Exam Moodle) as an online-platform for summative on-site examinations on desktop computers and mobile devices. Therefore, fortunately, the infrastructure was already in place, although additional functionalities were integrated to better accommodate examinations that are conducted remotely (e.g. a plugin to request a declaration of originality).

In the course of the last two semesters, LET has supported over 200 remote written examinations in Moodle with 14’000 individual performances. Throughout this year, we have found several key factors for successfully conducting remote examination in Moodle.

Useful advice before you start preparing your exam

When in doubt, consult the webpage on remote written examinations (Moodle): This webpage comprises all information relevant for preparing and conducting an remote written examination in Moodle, including a step-by-step manual for setting up the examination.

Setting up a course on the Exam Moodle and coordinate technical support well in advance: Send an email to online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch if you would like to conduct a remote examination in Moodle as early as possible. We will create a course for you on the Exam Moodle, help you setting up your examination and coordinate how you can reach us as technical support during the examination.

Keep the “open-book” character in mind while designing the exam questions: Even though certain practices have to be applied in order to prevent students to easily communicate the solutions among each other (e.g. open-ended questions, randomization of closed-ended questions), the use of the Internet cannot be prevented. For this reason, you either create questions that cannot be easily looked up on the Internet or explicitly include the Internet search as part of the examination.

Best practice for preparation and conduct

  1. Take advantage of the new opportunities that arise:

Although preparing a remote examination in Moodle may seem challenging at first, it also holds the opportunity for new and creative ways to design an examination.

The biggest opportunity with remote examinations in Moodle is to embrace the fact that students have access to additional resources, such as databases and software, and make it an integral part of the examination. In this way, it is possible to assess the deep understanding of a topic and the application of knowledge rather than mere fact retrieval. This is ideally supported by open-ended rather than closed-ended questions, since the former give students the possibility to present their knowledge in detail. However, notwithstanding all the didactical opportunities, it is crucial that the alignment of the learning objectives with the examination is still maintained.  

Further didactic tips and tricks are available on this webpage.

2. Give students the possibility to navigate freely:

We strongly recommend refraining from using a predefined navigation for the following reasons:

  • Students are not able to get an overview of the whole exam first
  • Students are not able to choose which part of the examination they want to begin with. Stress levels rise when students have no choice but to start with a topic they find difficult.
  • As students are not able to navigate backwards, they cannot revise and adjust their given answers. This is particularly relevant in the case of a momentary blackout.
  • Overall, this creates additional stress for students in an already stressful situation and generally leads to an examination that tests stress resistance rather than the actual learning outcome.

3. Use Zoom as a tool for communication

First things first: You do not have to use or proctor your students with Zoom during a written remote examination in Moodle. However, Zoom is a great way to stay in touch with your students throughout the examination and we recommend using it as your primary communication channel. It allows you to communicate information quickly to all students and students can contact you via chat if they have a question or problem. The students’ cameras do not have to be switched on for this.

The main advantages over other communication channels such as email or phone are the immediacy of communication and the possibility of screen sharing. The latter is particularly useful when technical difficulties arise.

However, it is crucial to establish a second, internet-independent communication channel (e.g. phone). This way, students who lose their internet connection can still contact you.

4. Things to consider for setting up your Zoom meeting

Once you have decided to use Zoom during the remote examination in Moodle, there are a couple of considerations and preparations that should be made beforehand:

  • Distribute roles: make sure everybody involved in the examination knows what their responsibilities are during the exam. For example, who is responsible for questions in the chat? Who will make the announcements and share the password for the exam? Who will handle breakout rooms?
  • Chat settings: make sure that students can write only to you and the Co-Hosts in the Zoom chat. The setting to chat with all participants of the meeting should be disabled.
  • Breakout rooms: including breakout rooms in your Zoom meeting is very helpful in supporting participants with questions or problems, without disturbing the other participants.

5. Conduct a mock examination

A mock exam reduces potential technical difficulties in advance and gives students the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Moodle exam platform. This way, students already know how to access the examination on the exam day and are familiar with the interface. In order to achieve this, the mock examination does not have to be elaborate. It can also consist of general questions that are not specific to your subject.

6. Make sure that students contact you immediately in case of technical problems

You cannot stress this enough! If a student faces any technical difficulties and cannot continue working on the examination, the student has to contact you immediately. Only if they inform you immediately, it is possible to extend the examination time by the time lost due to the problem. If students inform you after the examination that they were unable to continue working, this is no longer possible.

If you would like to conduct your examination as a remote written examination in Moodle or would like to discuss the possibilities for your remote examination in Moodle, please do not hesitate to contact us via online-pruefungen@let.ethz.ch.

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Pharmaceutical Case Studies: The Power of Moodle Quizzes

By Dominik Stämpfli, D-CHAB

The lecture series «Pharmazeutische Fallbeispiele» [Pharmaceutical Case Studies] is a compilation of seven 2-hour sessions for around 75 students of the BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences. Surrounded by lectures and lab work on basic science and pharmacotherapy in the third year of studies, our autumn series aims to showcase the complexity of and our fascination for later pharmacy practice issues, giving the students a new perspective on all the other courses’ material as well.

One of our primary learning objectives states that students should be able to analyse simple case studies from pharmacy practice and present, explain, and discuss them in plenary, based on their current pharmaceutical knowledge. To let students achieve this objective, we had already included group work and presentations, where they discuss their thoughts on a given case study with our and their own literature resources (e.g., which drug class is most appropriate for which kind of nausea).

In 2019, we realized that student participation dropped towards the end of the semester when the big exams of the other courses approached. The sessions were mainly visited by the presenting student groups, whilst their peers focused on learning for ECTS.

2020 challenged us to go digital. This simultaneously provided the opportunity to have Moodle supporting us in our different teaching elements. The Moodle group selection allowed our students to choose their own peers. Folders, surrounded by explanatory text, helped us in embedding the asynchronous learning material (i.e., preparatory reading).

Most importantly, however, we created a simple quiz with four questions for each of the seven 2-hour sessions, focusing on the day’s learning objectives. We specifically aimed to include questions on the preparatory reading, our frontal inputs, the presentations by their peers, and one additional pharmacy practice issue. Moodle badges allowed for a simple gamification of the quiz. We shortened our lessons and offered the time to complete the quizzes during the two hours to not increase the overall student workload.

Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive: They appreciated our efforts concerning the Moodle course, liked the variation with peer presentations, stated having fun completing our quizzes, and were happy about the interactive segments. There were still fewer students present live towards the end of the semester, but the completed quizzes suggest a shift towards asynchronous learning by watching the recordings when taking a break from learning for ECTS.

We will most certainly keep our Moodle course even when going back to physically present teaching. The students seemed to be engaged in the course material by asking us interested follow-up questions concerning the preparatory reading and even our quizzes. The administrative work for setting up the course was hefty, but well worth it. One advise to my previous self: Cramped shoulders won’t help you in troubleshooting issues in the Moodle group selector faster.

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