About Pete Roberts

By day I work in learning technology. By night I'm an electronic musician. Views expressed here are my own.

The Moodle database activity – so many uses

It was my turn answering TEL queries today, which is always interesting. One of the queries today led to a quick one to one meeting and the rapid development of a database activity.

The requirements:

  • students upload a film script by a certain date
  • after the deadline, all entries become visible
  • students can then view/download each others work and comment
  • staff can see all entries

So – a quick database activity in Moodle.

  • A simple, friendly form including option to upload a single file.
  • Entries set to require approval before being visible
  • Database set to read only at the deadline

At the deadline, staff just go through and approve entries, at which point the students can see them and even use the comments option.

From concept through to design, test and go live – 40 mins. Not bad. And it can be duplicated for future use.

The database activity is much overlooked – must definitely make more of it.


Viv Albertine at Goldsmiths

Yesterday I attended a session organised by the Music department as part of their Popular Music Intervention & Masterclass series. These are always excellent events and this week Viv Albertine was the guest speaker.

If you’re not familiar with The Slits, then search out and listen to Typical girls or their cover of Heard it through the grapevine and then try and work out what year it was released.

Spoiler alert – it doesn’t sound like the late 1970s. Back then an all-female, guitar-wielding punk band that didn’t do everything in 4/4 time was pretty unusual. In fact it still is. Largely overlooked at the time, their work is seen now as a timeless classic.

And the fact that you can Google for the music shows just how different life is now. As Viv said in the talk, back then things took a long time to do. Even organising a rehearsal involved half a day traipsing across town to put a note through a door. No mobiles. People living in squats so no landlines. And no internet. Three TV channels and just the music press to inform you. Music was on the radio, Top of the pops or vinyl or cassette. Recording at home wasn’t feasible.

I was in the sixth form when all this was happening – so I remember how things were then – but it must be difficult for someone who was brought up with mobiles and the web to picture a world without them.

It was a fascinating tour through her early music ‘career’ and there was a lively discussion on whether western music could be ‘radical’ any more. Clearly a room full of Goldsmiths music students are likely to think it can be!

After twenty-five years, Viv’s first solo album, The Vermillion Border, was released in 2012 to great critical acclaim. As for me – well, I want more.


Come evaluate with me! A short evaluation.

Last week I attended a local ELESIG meeting, a Special Interest Group dedicated to the Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning entitled Come evaluate with me! This is an area I’m interested in but don’t have much direct practical experience of, save the odd survey here and there – so I was expecting to be out of my depth most of the time.

Two things struck me during the day – how much I need to learn and (I assume they won’t mind me saying this) how friendly and knowledgeable the ELESIG bunch are. That culture of sharing practice across institutions is one of the reasons I enjoy working in the HE sector.

The whole morning was interesting, especially the two speakers and I was impressed how far some people had travelled to attend, Vicki Dale was down from Glasgow for example.

Tunde Varga-Atkins spoke via Skype (and it worked seamlessly) about her Nominal Group Technique – a way to establish participant priorities and consensus in focus groups, effectively designing out possible researcher bias or the problems of an over-vocal participant.

Read more: Practical guide for facilitators (pdf)

Professor Amanda Jeffries spoke on using video diaries for evaluation and reflecting on how to get the best out of the approach.

A few people in the room thought we’d all benefit from a ‘refresher’ in stats. Sarah kindly volunteered to lead on this!

Well volunteered!

Well volunteered!

Leo Havermann has a handy Storify of proceedings here.

A couple of useful things came up during the day:

Find out more at the ELESIG site

BoB’s back and there’s been an upgrade….

Box of Broadcasts is one of those things that staff really get enthused by when they see it. In case you’ve not encountered it – it’s a MASSIVE archive of radio and TV programmes.

Last week it was down for a few days (during half my workshops, ahem) but I’m pleased to see it’s back and it’s even better.

  • Searching is better – you can even search programme transcripts. Excellent.
  • Better programme guide, more tablet friendly. Nice.
  • You could always create clips – now you can create several together from the same programme. Tremendous.
  • There’s a social element added. Ok, could be useful.

Have a look at their video tutorials page: http://bobnational.net/video_tutorials (the additional features sums up the new features nicely).

It’s open to all staff and students at member institutions, so you could set a really fun exercise for students – log in to BoB and find a 3 minute clip that explains such and such – post a link to it back in your VLE discussion forum.

Nice one BoB.

British Pathé news archive

Not exactly news, as this happened about a year ago, but I noticed an advert this mornig on Facebook advertising that the Pathé news archive is on YouTube, so I took another look. This collection of newsreels and documentaries offers a chance to experience news coverage in an early 20th century style. Running from 1910 to 1970, these were shown in cinemas before the main feature.

It’s another useful source of material for a range of subjects and you can embed the content in your VLE content to give it some context.

Flying car anyone?

Wikipedia entry for Pathé

Getting stats on links to web sites from Moodle – an adhoc database query

We wanted to find how many people are linking to our institution’s reading list system via URLs in learn.gold (our Moodle VLE) and how many clicks there have been. It struck me this was a job for the adhoc database query – and there was scope to make it flexible, so I wrote a query to find instances of links to specific domains and how many times they’ve been clicked on. If you have the adhoc database query plugin, you may find it useful.

When you run it, it prompts you to enter some text (eg: vimeo) and then finds all instances of URLs containing that, the clickthroughs and for good measure gives you a link direct to the course.

If you use it and/or improve it, let us know!

SELECT count( l.id ) AS total, u.externalurl,
concat('<a id=",c.id," href="," 
target="_blank">view course</a>') as 'view',
cc.name as 'category',
cc.id as catid,
from_unixtime(c.timemodified) as 'course last modified',
as link

FROM prefix_course c,
prefix_course_categories cc,
prefix_log l,
prefix_url u

WHERE c.category=cc.id
AND l.action = 'view'
AND l.module = 'url'
AND u.id = l.info
AND l.course = c.id
AND u.externalurl LIKE  CONCAT('%',:urlstring1,'%')
group by c.id
order by total desc