Instructor Update - June 2017
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AEA Learning Online
Instructor Update

Overview of Fordson as a Course Theme

In our previous announcement, I mentioned the name of the new theme on our front page, Fordson.  Fordson as a theme is available for you to add as a class theme.  This includes two other features we overviewed in that previous newsletter:  the course image and the course code.

But I also mentioned that, while Fordson is in place as the site theme, you can still continue to use your own theme of preference.  For many of you, that would be Essential, what used to be the home theme.  I want to take a moment to overview Fordson as a course theme and give you some food for though to consider the switch at some point.

Fordson is designed by K-12 instructors (specifically, Dearborn, MI school district).  It emphasizes simplicity and visual display.  One of the subtle things you will notice about the theme is how things look a lot less cluttered in it.  That includes making the icons for your different course elements bigger:

I'm using the theme in two of my new courses, and so far, I am loving the bigger look that it comes with.  I still need to take advantage of the course image at the top, but that will come in time.

Another item that might be a change for many is the sidebar.  This is actually not new to Fordson, but comes from the Boost theme it is built on.  If you have used Boost already, you probably like how this takes the Administration Block and the Navigation Block, two required blocks in Moodle, and permanently moves them out of the way.

Fordson one-ups Boost by taking the Administration block and making all the links in it easier to get to.  To do so, you might notice some newer buttons at the top of the Fordson theme:

From left to right, there is a course administration dashboard button, a course code button, the site administration button (only for site administrators), and finally a turn editing on button.  I'm finding these very handy.  When I click on the course admin dashboard, I get this:

All of those links that were a bit cumbersome to get to in the admin block are now in one spot.  So, when I'm doing grades and I'm on the assignment page, I can right-click the grades overview, the activity completion page, and the participants page really quick so that I can flip back and forth to different parts of the course.

Students have their own version of the dashboard that include the activities short cut (seen on the left side of the screenshot), the course description, and contact information for the instructor.

As mentioned, I'm about a week into my new courses, and am so far loving Fordson.  Of course, I changed all of my courses a year ago over to Boost and loved the change, so this isn't really much different for me.  One key consideration is, if you have made tutorials for your students in an old theme, think about whether you want to change the theme now--if that means you have to redo those tutorials!

Introducing Your New Friend Atto!

Well, that might be overselling it a bit.  You might have noticed a bit of a look and feel change with what is called the editor.  This is the series of buttons above a text box when you are adding things in your course.  Here is the new look:

It... actually might not really be noticeably different from the old one, but this new editor is called Atto.  We have now made it the default editor (I've used it for over a year).  And going forward, this is the editor we will be adding new buttons and features to.

The biggest of which is now live with Moodle 3.5.  It is an alternative to Poodll, and it is for audio or video recording.  You can see the audio icon looking like a microphone and the video looking like a video camera.  They are similar in how they work, so I'll just preview audio here.  Clicking on the icon, I get the following:

So, ignore that warning for now.  It doesn't affect the process.  We will be adding the https:// in a month or so, when this will go away.  If I click the recording button, I will get prompted to use my internal mic.

After I allow that, I go back to the original prompt and start recording.  It then counts down how much time I have left (I've set a limit of 10 minutes for file size considerations).

When I'm done, I can preview it and accept or re-record.

Attaching it places the audio clip in my post.

There are two very important things about this.  One, unlike PoodLL, this does not use Flash.  This means this tool will work much better, including on devices like iPads that can't operate Flash.  Second, unfortunately Moodle doesn't allow recording in Atto in feedback areas for assignments.  Yes, I'm not sure why.  They do allow PoodLL as a different feedback type altogether, but this recording tool in Atto can only be added in the text area.  I am attempting to find a solution to that, but it is not something that will be immediate.
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