How to use the platform?
The distance learning platform is an Internet application serving the creation of educational resources and delivering classes. It supports both the trainer and the course participant, providing them with tools that facilitate communication, group work and knowledge-testing mechanisms. These guidelines are intended as an introduction to using the basic mechanisms offered by the platform.
1. First login
One can log into the platform using a form to be found in the right upper corner of the graphic template. During the login, one should enter the received user name and password. During the first login the platform will ask the user to change the password for better security. The form displayed should be completed following the descriptions of individual fields and then confirmed. After the successful platform login the homepage opens automatically featuring all the courses accessible for the user.
After a failed login attempt, the screen is displayed with a link redirecting the user to the password reset procedure. After entering one’s user name or email address, one receives an automatic message. To receive a new password, the user should follow the instructions contained in the message.
2. My courses
Courses available for a given user are shown on the platform homepage under the “My courses” heading and in the Navigation block to the right of the screen.
One should click the course name to start and display its homepage. It features objects (resources, activities) created by the person delivering the course. Some store contents (pages, books), some facilitate exchange of views (fora), communication or knowledge check (tests).
Each resource can be opened in order to get familiar with its content. The user can also return to the course homepage or go to the following resource.
Each platform user can send text messages to other registered users. Such messages are designed primarily for private exchange. The functionality is not related to the course in which the user participates but his/her profile on the platform. In this way it is possible to communicate with users active on other courses but registered on the platform. Using the “search” function it is possible to find any person. The platform will inform the user of any new messages coming in (also e-mailing a notification, if the user is not logged at the moment the messages is received) and store message history.
To send a message one should display the communicator screen by clicking Messages in the link and then selecting the recipient’s name and writing the message in the window. Links to the message-sending screen are to be found in the Navigation block.
4. Discussion fora
A discussion forum is a resource allowing the course participants to exchange arguments and comments. In its standard form, a single forum makes it possible to create a number of topics, also known as discussions or threads. The user can create a new topic and place comments on the existing topics. There are also fora limited to a single topic. The creation of a new topic starts by clicking the “Create a new discussion topic” button. Each new thread requires the subject and the content of an entry.
It should be remembered that not all fora let the user create a new topic. In a standard forum the user can add his/her contribution both regarding the topic and each of the previous contributions. The system publishes messages with some delay (usually 30 minutes) after the entry. Within this time one can modify or remove his/her contribution. The system emails a copy of each new message to the participants who subscribe to a given forum.
Forum subscriptions are decided on by the person setting up a forum. If he/she sets the subscription as obligatory, each course participant will be signed up to that forum and receive an email with each published contribution. Usually, obligatory subscription is a feature of a forum dedicated to important organisational matters (like announcements or news). One cannot unsubscribe from such a forum.
In most cases the forum leader leaves the decision as to forum subscription to the participant (optional subscription). Then, after opening the forum in the “Setting” block, the “Forum Administration” option appears, with the “Subscribe” command related to that forum or “Unsubscribe from this forum”. It is also possible to subscribe to a forum when one places contributions/entries on a given forum.
5. I use the platform
The platform will retain the user’s basic data (first and family names and email address), additional data (like the location) and the settings of his/her account. Such a set of information is called user profile. Looking at the profile, one can also see the history of his/her activities (like the date of the most recent or his/her contributions on all fora). Some profile data can be changed, e.g. one’s photo.
Apart from the activities within the courses, the user can send messages, maintain a blog, store files and configure his/her homepage. These functions are available from the user profile level. The set of commands related to the profile can be found in the “Navigation” block in the “My profile” option. The user can place his/her photo (avatar) on the platform. It will be seen by others for example next to his/her entries on a discussion forum, a chat, or in messages. To add your photo, select the “Modify the profile” command in the “Setting” options of my profile in the Setting block. Clicking the “Select a file” button starts the process of marking the file featuring a photo and sending it from a local computer to the platform. Once the sending has been done, the changes should be confirmed by clicking the Change profile button at the bottom of the page. The photo will be stored in the so-called user profile. The photo should be prepared in a .jpg or .png file. On the platform, it will be reduced to the size of 100 x 100 pixels.
6. Educational game “Jan and others”
The educational game called “Jan and others” has been developed on the basis of the university experiences of four students and their teachers. The main characters: Jan, Julia, Piotr and Barbara have existed in reality and received educational support at their university thanks to which they were able to successfully complete their studies. The course participant has the task of “leading” each of them through one of the subjects. The course credit obtained by the main characters students on each of the tracks will mean success in completing the DARe-Learning training course by the teacher participating in it. Each track begins with a text introducing the student’s history and problems he/she faces at university. After reading the intro the user should select a best-fitting choice out of the ones on the displayed list. After clicking the selected link a new screen will appear with a comment on the selection and another task to do. A sequence of incorrect choices sends the user to the start of the track.