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My institution uses Moodle as our learning management system. I want to send some information to each student that is personalized to each student but without any other students seeing it. This is a need I often have from time to time, but my most recent need is to give each student a unique ID to access a separate online resource.

In the past, I have done things like posting a spreadsheet with all student information, except that I somewhat hid their student IDs by only showing the last four digits of their student IDs: that way, students could identify which row applied to them, but could not easily tell which one applied to any other student (unless they already know their student ID). This is an unsatisfying solution, since a student who knows another student's ID would then know their information.

Is there a way to send small bits of information customized to each student? I'm imagining some sort of interface where I could maybe upload a spreadsheet with each row having a student IDs and the custom information in other columns, and then students would only see own their uploaded information, not any other students' information.

Edit: In response to one of the answers: my point here is that I am looking for an automated solution where I can post feedback to many students (whether 20 or 200) at one time, yet personalized based on some criteria (in my example, giving them individual IDs for an external computer system). So, individual entry of feedback one-by-one is not an option for my need here.

Note: I've searched around other StackExchange sites, and Academia SE seems to be the one that would be best for responding to specific how-to questions for Moodle. I'm surprised there is no tag for "Moodle" or even for "learning-management-system".

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    Could someone with enough points try to create a tag for Academia SE for "learning-management-system"? I'm surprised no such tag exists already. Ideally, I would also like tags for specific LMSs like "moodle", but I don't know if that would be too specific (there are currently around 50 or so Moodle-related posts on Academia SE, so its already fairly popular here). – Tripartio Apr 29 '18 at 2:58
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    You should be able to do that yourself - it only requires 300 reputation. – David Z Apr 29 '18 at 7:21
  • I'm not sure we really need a tag for that, because LMS are different across universities. For instance, in my university students have an institutional email address which is of the form ID@etc. and I'd have simply took the IDs from the LMS and generated automatically the personalized emails. Probably before creating the tag as @DavidZ says, it would be better if you ask on Academia Meta. – Massimo Ortolano Apr 29 '18 at 8:16
  • @DavidZ: Wow, I didn't know I had that power! – Tripartio Apr 29 '18 at 20:44
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    I'm answering as comment since it's not directly an answer: I gave up using moodle for such things, I'm using excel and python scripts for sending the mails via outlook. If someone ist interested, I could post some sniplets as answer, but since it is not really an answer, I'd stick to the comment for now. – OBu Apr 30 '18 at 13:46
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Here's a quick thought based on a different learning management system (LMS). Sometimes in other LMSes you can upload feedback to assignments: you batch download each person's file, add comments, and upload each file with exactly the same name. Perhaps you could try a workaround like that, perhaps requiring you to create a fake or trivial assignment and get everyone to submit it.

For a more general approach that is LMS-independent, you could use a spreadsheet and your email program with mail merge. That is, one field would be email address and another field would be the comment, and optionally you could have the person's first name in another field. Then you could send a generic message with blanks filled in by the program. (You could send out a practice message to your own addresses or without any personalized content beyond student names and you can check your Sent log to see if it worked right.)

(The latter solution defeats the purpose of a LMS, but limited feature sets do, as well.)

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    Actually, your first proposal is exactly what I came up with as a workaround, and I gave detailed instructions how to do that in Moodle. – Tripartio Apr 29 '18 at 2:56
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    It's too bad that so much of this has to be workarounds! I wonder if there are feature request lists for Moodle? My sense is that LMSes typically try to use universities as go-betweens and discourage instructors from corresponding with them directly, but this may mean they lose out on the ability to better serve their users. – cactus_pardner Apr 29 '18 at 3:09
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This is the workaround solution I eventually came up with:

  • Create a gradebook item (it could be called "Special Info" or whatever is relevant). Set the grade type to "Text" so that it does not affect any actual grades in the gradebook.
  • Use the Grade Import features to import the personalized information you want. But here's the key: instead of importing the personalized information as an actual grade for the "Special Info" grade item, specify it as "Feedback for Special Info" in the "Feedbacks" section of the import wizard.
  • When importing is completed, students will find the personalized information in their gradebook as feedback (not an actual grade) for the grade item you created for that purpose.

It's not the most elegant solution, since it artificially presents the information as a grade (but without affecting other grade calculations), but it gets the job done. Perhaps someone can post a better answer.

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    I actually did not know how to solve the problem when I started writing my question, but in the process of writing of a question, I came up with this possible (though imperfect) solution. So I've discovered a new value of StackExchange sites: posting questions can help me come up with answers to my own questions! (Well, maybe it works once out of 50 questions ...) :-) – Tripartio Apr 29 '18 at 6:33
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With so many ways to give feedback within moodle I wonder why you are creating a separate spreadsheet with feedback in it? You can type feedback directly into any assignment activity you create in moodle. Even if the assignment was a traditional paper pencil assessment you can still create an assignment and post the feedback within it for each student.

You could make private wikis in moodle for each student where you can post comments. In addition you can put each student in their own group and make a forum that only group members can see.

Another option is to send a message through moodle with the personalized info. By far the simplest answer is to avoid creating externalll spreadsheets and use the feedback options already built into moodle for assignments and quizzes.

You could also start a thread at moodle.org to see if this is a feature the larger community may want to include in a future release. Lastly surely no institution uses moodle without some sort of on-campus support. Have you talked to your support team on campus?

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    I've edited my question to clarify that I want an automated solution. Any means of one-by-one feedback completely defeats the purpose of my question. – Tripartio Apr 29 '18 at 20:32

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