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Month: September 2013

Moodle, PoodLL, and EFL students

Summary: The PoodLL plugin for Moodle offers EFL and ESL teachers the opportunity to  do 1-on-1 assessment of learners, provide timely and specific feedback, and to supply students with personalized listening files for pronunciation practice. Learners need access to a computer with video and audio recording capabilities, which is standard in most laptops and smartphones produced in since 2009. Learners can record live to the Moodle website via the PoodLL plugin, or can upload a file to the server. File size should be considered when determining the length of the assigned video.


I’m experimenting with a new Moodle plugin with my EFL students (university freshmen). As my classes have about 25 students each, I find it hard to get around to each student in a timely manner to assess their speaking on specific metrics. The PoodLL plugin allows me to give formative feedback to my students in a timely manner and with individual attention. The plugin requires the students to use a computer with a video camera and microphone, which the PoodLL plugin can access directly (a smart phone, which all of my students have, works well here). Otherwise, teachers can make the option for uploading of files available. Be careful about the length of the assigned video and the maximum upload capabilities of your Moodle server. Keeping my videos short prevents any file size issues I may otherwise encounter.

Each assignment is a cloze assignment for the unit, designed to exercise specific grammar and vocabulary within a real-world context. I set a speaking target of 1 minute for the activity, but anything within 30 seconds of this target receives full marks. There is also another line in my rubric for the associated grammar in the task. I use the feedback boxes for detailed criticism, and the general feedback box for anything outside of the assessed material. I also have the PoodLL feedback (audio MP3 with download option) available to me to give specific feedback and examples where pronunciation needs attention.

Because I keep the assignment short (which is real; few of us orate for minutes at a time in a conversational setting), it’s achievable for students, and I can mark them all within an hour. As they are videos of the students, if I get interrupted I’m easily able to get back on track without keeping a live student waiting. I also can go back and review sections where I can’t understand the student to give pointed feedback on problem areas. Students can also review these sections to see where communication breakdown occurred.

Here’s an example using the second assignment:

From WorldView 1, Unit 16: In the Cafe

Grammar focus: modals for ordering (would like, will have, can I…?)

Vocabulary: Foods, quantities, money amounts

You are calling a catering company (Lunch Munchies, page 75) to order food and drinks for a party. Start your video AFTER the caterer answers the phone.

Caterer: Hello? This is Lunch Munchies. How may I help you?

(Start your video here):

You: Hello. This is (NAME). (Why you are calling). (What you want to order). (Party Date and Place). (Your Phone Number).

Target Time: 1 minute.

My sample video:

PoodLL Sample Video

The Rubric:

The minimum possible score for this rubric is 0 points and it will be converted to the minimum grade available in this module (which is zero unless the scale is used). The maximum score 4 points will be converted to the maximum grade.
Intermediate scores will be converted respectively and rounded to the nearest available grade.
If a scale is used instead of a grade, the score will be converted to the scale elements as if they were consecutive integers.
Between 0:30 and 1:30
Too Short/Too Long
No Journal
Unit Language
Used Correctly
Used (with errors)
Not Used


In addition to the rubric, it is possible to associate specific outcomes with these assignments, allowing teacher and student to track progress with regard to specific standards, not just an assignment grade. I like having this option as it helps me better assess exactly where weaknesses are occurring and to what degree.

When the students log in and check their assignments, they will see something like this:


The student gets specific feedback about each part of the rubric if available, and also gets feedback about their pronunciation, as this presented a problem for this particular student. I recorded an audio file for them to compare against their own video and speech patterns. They can even download the file as an MP3 for their own practice.

So far I’m really enjoying using this plugin with my students, and I’ll be doing a mid-term assessment in a few weeks to see how they are responding to the assignment.

Perch and distance ed?

I’m listening to the CBC Spark podcast (Episode 225) where they introduce Perch, an always-on portal to help bridge the physical space for remote workers.

I have questions about how this might work for families with members living away, and even more how they might help students avoid feeling the “distance” in distance education. I wonder if this would allow students to have a workspace where they could set up such a system and be online to meet with other students for more of the discussion and unplanned conversation that happens in regular programs. The idea of a portal where you could see who was around and could instantly “drop in for a chat” opens the potential for synchronous conversations that are not place-dependent. I think there are a lot of advantages here over Skype, in which there are several barriers to success. With Perch and it’s set-it-and-forget-it approach, there are interesting options for ad hoc group formation that I find intriguing.

I also envision this “portal” as an opportunity to hold distance office hours for students. It’s not always possible for my students to get in to meet me at my designated office hours, but if they were able to hop on to a virtual chat and get help, or see I’m around at other times on the portal, I could potentially increase access for my students. It’s currently only available on iOS, but they’re looking for an Android developer, so that’s obviously not too far down the road (which is essential for me here in Korea, where Samsung dominates).

Here’s the promo video from Perch: