Studying in an online learning environment

Course learning environments

The term “online learning environment” refers to a service accessible with a web browser or application, providing students and staff with a common workspace. It may contain, for instance, lecture materials, more detailed course schedules, exercises, tests and exams as well as a possibility to discuss and to hand in various course-related assignments. Real-time remote lectures and online remote group work usually use a video communication service, which allows breaking into small group rooms, sending questions and comments via chat and, of course, using your own voice and image to participate in the teaching event in addition to following the lecture.

Picture: Moodle front page

Your online learning will be most successful if you have sorted out at least the following issues concerning your course:

  • What will the environment be used for during the course in question (e.g. distributing lecture notes, providing course information, handing in assignments etc.)?
  • Is there a schedule for using the online learning environment?
  • If there is a schedule, what is it like?
  • What are you expected to do when using the learning environment?

A course is not always evaluated with an examination. Instead, its completion might require participation in discussions carried out in the learning environment or peer assessment of other students’ work according to the assessment criteria provided by the teacher. Most forms of working require cooperation. The teacher has the right to define what you are expected to do and to evaluate your performance accordingly. When participating in online discussions, adhere to the Internet etiquette.

Course page

You can find out the completion methods of the course from its course page already long before the course begins. Instructions for accessing the learning environment will usually also appear there for those registered for the course. Sometimes it might even be the case that all information and materials related to the course are shared solely through the course page and there is no dedicated Moodle area or a similar forum. If you have registered for a course in Sisu, the easiest way to find its course page is through the Studies service.

In addition to basic information, the course page may also contain additional materials, such as downloadable files and videos, that are shared to registered students only.

Moodle

The University of Helsinki mainly uses the Moodle learning environment, but in some courses, other environments may be used. These alternative services may include e.g. MS Teams, UH wikis and WordPress blogs.

Moodle offers many different opportunities for online learning. Moodle enables you to take part in online discussions, answer polls, hand in assignments online and take examinations, among other things. A Moodle course can be divided into several time periods, organised under different themes or based on social interaction. Below is a partial screenshot of the Moodle user interface:

Log in to Moodle at https://moodle.helsinki.fi with your university (AD) username and password.

Picture: Moodle login

Below you can find an introduction to Moodle’s basic functions from a student’s point of view. More information about these and many other Moodle features can be found in the Moodle Manual for Students created by the Educational Technology Services of the University of Helsinki.

Registering for a course in Moodle

Once you have logged in to Moodle you can register to course areas. The courses you have registered for are listed on the Overview of my courses page. Course registrations are carried out by the teacher on some courses, while other courses use self-registration.

If self-registration is possible, you can access the Moodle course area immediately without the teacher having to do anything. In the best case scenario, you are registered automatically for the course’s Moodle area by registering for it in Sisu. However, often you are required to know the course key, or password, that Moodle will request you to provide the first time you try to access the course area. A key symbol is displayed for the courses that allow self-registration. The key should be available on the course page (e.g. via the My Studies service) or you may receive it from the coordinating teacher via e-mail.

Picture: Self-registration with key

Open self-registration without a password is less common, and is mainly used for general self-study courses. This self-registration method is marked with an arrow icon in the course information in Moodle.

Picture: Self-registration without key

Please note that often registration via Moodle only does not count as a course registration. Therefore, always check the course catalogues for more detailed registration instructions before registering for courses!

In Moodle, courses are organised into categories according to the faculty. You can browse the courses by clicking Front page with categories on the left on Moodle’s front page. After proceeding to the category of your choice, you can see the descriptions of the various courses. You can also search for a course by entering its name in the search field and by clicking the Go button. The image below shows a faculty’s course descriptions and the search function.

Picture: Moodle course search

Profile information

Picture: User name menuYou can access your profile in Moodle by clicking your name at the top right corner of the browser window after you have logged in. From the menu that opens, you can access and change your information, read incoming messages and view assessments. The image below shows the Moodle profile for the student Raymond.

Picture: Moodle profile

You can edit your information by clicking the Edit profile link (shown in the image above). On the editing page, you can, for instance, change the default language used in Moodle, add a profile picture, choose how to receive notifications from the discussion forums or edit your contact information. Related instructions can be found in the Moodle Manual for Students.

Course communications may take place in many other tools in addition to Moodle, so it may be very useful to update your profile information!

Moodle activities

In Moodle, you will usually find more detailed information and schedules for completing the course, the necessary materials and the activities that you may need to complete.

If the remote lectures are available on the course, you can usually also find a link to these. The below picture is an example of a small course area including assignments.

Grades and activity tracking

If the scoring of different assignments and possibly the final assessment of the course has been done using Moodle’s assessment tools, you can find your results in the Assessments section in two ways:

  • Choose “Grades” in the navigation menu on the left. This menu can be accessed and hidden using the icon with three lines at the top left, and shows the grades for the activities on that particular course. For example, the results of the Student’s digital skills course assignments can be found here – try it out!
  • You can also choose “Grades” from the login menu in the upper right corner. This will take you to a page where you can browse the grades on any course you have registered to

Picture: Moodle grades for coursePicture: Moodle grades (all courses)

 

Courses with plenty of tasks may also have an activity tracking enabled on the right-hand side where you can see which activities you have or have not completed and which are in progress based on colour coding. You can access an activity by clicking on this bar.

Picture: Completion tracking

MOOC

MOOC is an abbreviation of the words “Massive Open Online Course”. It refers to a free-of-charge online course that is open to all. MOOC course materials can be text materials, online lectures, remote workshops, forum discussions, various assignments or nearly any online learning materials. MOOC courses do not have a typical duration, structure, platform or number of participants. Instead, the course organiser decides what the course will be like. The MOOC environment of the University of Helsinki can be found at https://mooc.helsinki.fi.

In some degree programmes, a MOOC course may also be included in the studies for major students, although this is fairly uncommon.