Moodle


Moodle is an acronym of Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle Trust (dev doct)) and is a "Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites." (Moodle Trust, moodle.org)

STRENGTHS

Simply, Moodle is an application that is custom designed for educational purposes, which differentiates it from blogs and wikis. It has specific educational focus and provides for key educational functions that wikis and blogs do not offer such as:
    • Submit assignments (with ability to grade online and keep a markbook within Moodle)
    • Submit assignments via Turnitin (see www.turnitin.com), a (paid) plagiarism checking package that assesses tasks against previously submitted assignments and web content.
    • Ability to 'hide' future posts from students with one click; ability for students to manage this hiding themselves (so only show the current unit, not have to scroll through the whole year, but can turn on the other units themselves for revision)
    • Set up into blocks that can be by week or by unit. These can be easily moved should it be desired, or the teacher changes the chronology of the course from one year to the next.
    • Forum:
      • This can be used like a blog - create a new forum post asking for student comment or submission. Two key advantages:
        • Students receive an email informing them of a new post, with a copy of its text
        • Students can initiate forum threads (see example)
      • Students can use the forum to share resources with each other.
        • In my DP History class, I had them background the conflict in the Middle East with a presentation about one aspect of Middle Eastern history between 1914 and 1948. The PowerPoint slides were uploaded to the forum first, and then the audience members each downloaded and annotated the files as the presenters outlined their information (with additional teacher input).
        • In another class, groups of students were tasked with coming up with a set of revision notes for a section of the syllabus and then uploading these to the forum. (These notes were then transferred to a Wix mobile site for the students to use on their smartphones while on public transport etc. This was a hit! Note: the mobile site doesn’t open when using Internet Explorer, it automatically opens the ‘main’ (non-mobile) site – use Google Chrome or a smartphone. (http://m.wix.com/brendan_toohey/12hism-revision)
  • Students can ‘enrol’ in the class, so that they are then notified through their school email, of postings, especially to the forum, or reminders through the calendar.
  • Students use their school logins, so they are much less likely to forget their logins (and there is tech support just down the corridor).
  • I generally set up Moodle according to the syllabus, especially for senior students who have examinations based on specific syllabus units and concepts. Moodle allows for clear separation between units.
  • Related to the separation between units, Moodle allows the teacher/administrator to ‘hide’ units, or even individual resources, which will be used in future. Thus, a course can be set up in a non-dated way and be used year by year with little transition needed for it to be ‘unveiled’ as appropriate. Unlike a wiki or blog which generally have all posts or pages revealed (although there is scope on a wiki to unpublish page/s if the author desires, but not parts of pages).
  • Moodle is secure within the school’s server: it is not open for public viewing and so ensures students’ cyber-security. Different schools have different policies and practices to allow a different range of access for parents to view Moodle pages, from none (unless they use their child’s login) through to being able to view all their children’s subject pages through the parent login. This gives parents the ability to keep up with tasks, what work is being done, resources provided etc.
  • As an education oriented application, Moodle lets teachers see exactly when each of their students have logged in. It also allows teachers to log in as each of the students, so the teacher may post on the forum or submit an assignment if the student has had some difficulty (or forgot and emailed) or for the teacher to troubleshoot or get a student’s perspective on the page. I have used this sometimes to ensure features I have used for the first time actually work (in the name of a fellow teacher who signed up to the course to see how I was using Moodle).
  • I have only recently discovered that Moodle has an iPhone app (released 19 Sept 2011) that can be downloaded from the Apple store (http://itunes.apple.com/app/my-moodle/id461289000). Unfortunately, it requires Moodle 2.1 or later to run, and my school is on an older version, so I couldn't examine it in detail. An Android app is 'in progress'). From the 'Mobile App' page of Moodle Trust, it appears that the app can do the following:
    • upload videos and photos
    • record and upload sound files
    • view participants' details
    • as well as 'access the web version of your Moodle site'. I imagine that this means that editing, inserting links etc is able to be completed from the app. When we eventually update our Moodle package, it will mean that I do not need to go to a different mobile web platform, but that Moodle will provide this as well.

For a range of FAQ's about using Moodle in teaching, see the Moodle 'Teaching FAQ' page: http://docs.moodle.org/20/en/Teaching_FAQ#What_is_the_best_way_to_use_Moodle.3F

Moodle 'Mobile App' page: http://docs.moodle.org/20/en/Mobile_app


WEAKNESSES
  • Especially early in a year, students need reminders to go to Moodle. In time, however, especially with a well-designed page with a range of good links and resources, students begin to automatically look to the Moodle page as a first stop. In developing their Moodle-mindedness, I will often use Moodle to open a document or webpage on the whiteboard, even if it is easier for me to open through my hard drive or I know the URL.
  • It is more difficult to interweave text (explanation) with resources. Thus, in one section, whether set up by week or by unit, there may be a number of points or activities outlined in the text section, with all the relevant links and documents in a separate section after. These need to be clearly named and referenced to minimise confusion. In the screenshot below, there are a number of syllabus points, with essay tasks for the students to attempt in green and a few relevant links underneath. The compromise is either to split this 'Nazism in power' section into subsections, making the page much longer, or to try to work within this parameter.

Moodle_info-links.jpg

  • While Moodle does have a ‘wiki’ feature, I have found the Wikispaces site to be much more intuitive and easy to use. I must admit that I tend to use Wikispaces as an information giving website rather than a true wiki in most cases, although I have had students build a wiki by contributing to a number of pages (see http://11hism2010-crm.wikispaces.com/). Generally, I have found the forum feature of Moodle to be sufficient for student interaction and sharing of resources.