On Moodle

[blockquote]Question: You can’t just use Moodle out of the box – the basic Moodle install just isn’t that sophisticated

Answer: Have a look at the feature list, all of which comes as standard with every Moodle download. Additional themes, blocks and activities are easy to integrate and the vast majority are free, open source code too. In fact, one of your problems will be to determine which combination of sophisticated features are best going to meet your needs right out of the box.

Source: Moodle’s FAQs[/blockquote]

Moodle does have lots of functionality, but finding the right combination and configuration for you takes time, effort and money. The UK’s Open University is well on the way to creating the world’s largest Moodle installation in a £5 Million project. It is expected to host nearly 200,000 students – much of the functionality and workflow is built on top of the Moodle core. Any LMS, even an open source solution, will cost money to get right.

When Becta examined the Total Cost of Ownership of open-source software on desktops in UK schools, they found significant savings compared to commercial alternatives. Open source is a great way to go, especially to reduce costs, but just as when adopting any new technology, you need to analyse your needs and match them to what Moodle has to offer. The Becta study only considered desktop applications. When you’re thinking about web applications, like Moodle, you need to factor in the cost of configuration, customisation and up-keep.

Moodle was not designed as a corporate solution. Moodle both looks and feels like a school experience – this is what it was designed for. And despite the original vision for Moodle, it doesn’t offer social learning experiences in the way most users would expect them to shape up.

Moodle collects content into courses. There are currently two ways of organising courses, but both restrict and collect content (by either weeks/terms or by subject). You could say that Moodle is based on a transactional model of learning. You spend a while learning about a specific topic and then prove you’ve acquired knowledge, usually through a quiz. It’s difficult to aggregate content to give users friendly views of the most recent activity, or activity across courses. Some work has been done to make this easier – for example Sussex University have a nice module – but these are working against the Moodle core experience, rather than with it.

It’s definitely not easy to find others’ spaces within Moodle – so it’s not ideal for peer support. Moodle is best suited to where a tutor is interacting with individuals in a class or cohort, not the type of asynchronous learning that commercial organisations often need to support. Moodle is really a course delivery system, not necessarily a career and development platform.

Web technologies and the way people use and interact with tools on the web has changed dramatically – from email to instant messaging to ‘conversations’ like those taking place on Facebook walls, genuine and rich social interactions are now possible online. People expect experiences where they feel naturally constrained, but in control. E-learning should now be about interactions, rather than transactions – it’s no longer enough to ask a learner a question and expect an answer, learners should be able to ask questions and get answers too.

Too many learning management systems lay the emphasis on the management, rather than the learning. They make life easy for the tutor, simplifying scheduling, tracking, organising and assessing learning. But they often do this at the expense of the learner experience. This way of organising a platform can actually place pressure on tutors. They become the learning manager, pushing the learning out to the learner and monitoring it. Imagine creating a situation where a ‘learning architect’ can add resources to a hub and allow learners some freedom to explore and learn together. This would create a demand-led dynamic, where both learners and tutors feel that the platform empowers them to increase the learning possible.

Building a social component into the learning platform at the specification stage will help to ensure that communities of interest (specific groups of people that it will benefit the business to bring together) can form. These groups can share common learning objectives and will feel encouraged to create and share content. In the real world, learning experiences happen and are then often shared through interactions, between peers and with tutors/mentors. A similar model, enabled through technology would enable communities that inspire greater independence and self-governance in learners. It will encourage user-generated content and personalisation. And it could do this within the structured ‘architecture’ of the system, ensuring that assessment and tutor support is still simple and straightforward.

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One response to “On Moodle”

  1. You’re so right, I modified my production-ready script a little to make it more readable but I had to manually rename the variables (I need to get myself a PHP editor with refactoring support) and I missed that var. It’s fixed now.

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