Moodle I gotta admit, ripping off a line from PB & J Otter’s “Noodle Dance” and altering it slightly for my blog title is pretty lame, but it’s a catchy tune and and I just can’t seem to get it out of my head. This even after hardly watching it with my son anymore. Whoops!…I mean…eh… my son hardly watching it anymore.

Anyway, I digress. It’s Teacher’s Day here in Singapore and I thought I’d better deliver what I’d promised you on 23 August; yes, about that free LMS thingy, called Moodle

Moodle is the world’s most popular open-source pedagogical course management system that allows for anyone to download and create their own online learning communities. As an educator, this gives you the opportunity to have full control over your lesson materials that you want to share, quizzes or surveys you want to conduct, online discussions and chats you might want to hold, review assignments and tracking your students’ progress. This is an extension of your classroom onto the World Wide Web with a wider range of possibilities at your disposal.

You can choose to conduct a self-paced course or, conduct a live instruction –  the choice is up to you. Either way, you are now part of an emerging culture called, “contextual collaboration.”

Alright, I sense a little skepticism emanating from you. You’re probably asking why you would  need a LMS when you have been doing so well without one. You’re right. You probably don’t need a LMS. You can retire from your teaching career without even having to look at one. But as with any kind of technology, it’s there to give you possibilities. Possibilities you never had before. Possibilities to improve your students’ grades because of an extended form of interaction – and more.

Jason Cole, author of ‘Using Moodle’, a how-to guide for teachers says this:

Imagine moving most of your content delivery to an online environment and saving your course time for discussion, questions, and problem solving. Many instructors have found they can save time and increase student learning by allowing students to engage the material outside of class. This allows them to use face-to-face time for troubleshooting. Online discussions give many students the opportunity to express themselves in ways they couldn’t in a regular class. Many students are reluctant to speak in class because of shyness, uncertainty, or language issues. The ability to take their time to compose questions and answers in an online discussion is a boon to many students, and instructors report much higher participation levels online than in class.

There are a number of other reasons to think about using a CMS in your courses:

Student demand.

Students are becoming more technically savvy, and they want to get many of their course materials off the Web. Once online, they can access the latest information at any time and can make as many copies of the materials as they need. Having grown up with instant messaging and other Internet communication tools, online communication is second nature to many students.

Student schedules

With rising tuitions, many students are working more hours to make ends meet while they are in school. About half of all students now work at least 20 hours a week to meet school expenses. With a CMS, they can communicate with you or their peers whenever their schedules permit. They can also take quizzes or read course material during their lunch break. Working students need flexible access to your course, and a CMS is a powerful way to give them what they need.

Better courses

If used well, CMSs can make your classes more effective and efficient. By moving some parts of your course online, you can more effectively take advantage of scheduled face-to-face time to engage students’ questions and ideas. For example, if you move your content delivery from an in-class lecture to an online document, you can then use lecture time to ask students about what they didn’t understand. If you also use an online forum, you can bring the best ideas and questions from the forum into your classroom.”

Source: Jason Cole (2005). “Chapter 1: Introduction”. In Using Moodle, pp. 3-4. O’Reilly Media.

And how does Moodle compare to a commercial LMS, such as the infamous Blackboard? To me personally, there is no comparison. One is free and open-source, while the other burns a huge hole in your pocket, or handbag –  wherever it is you stash your money. But Jason Cole has a better answer to that:

 Moodle is the only open source system currently available that can compete with the big boys’ features. In fact, the educators in the developer community have given Moodle some features that the commercial vendors haven’t even thought of. That’s the advantage of an educator- driven, open source system versus a marketing-driven, for-profit system.”

Source: Jason Cole (2005). “Chapter 1: Introduction”. In Using Moodle, pp. 6. O’Reilly Media.

Thomas N. Robb also provides a good rundown of what he thinks of Moodle.

Now that you have a better idea of what Moodle is, you might want to get your hands dirty with it. If you’re already an experienced Moodle user, then I would love for you to share your thoughts and experiences about using it, so that we may all benefit from your experience.

If you’re keen on trying out Moodle but have no idea as to how to get around to using it, head on over to Moodle’s Documentation page and read its guide. Moodle has a huge fanbase as well, so this means you can approach any one of these fanatics by visiting the forum and getting the help you need. There is always someone on the forum who can give you the answers you want. It’s really a wonderful community of Moodle users looking to get the best out of this powerful CMS.

You may also be interested to know that besides Moodle, there are a couple of other open-source Learning Management Systems that are available for use. It’s always good to have options. So here they are:

A final point to note, is about Blackboard’s patent and its impact on open-source LMS. As it stands right now, no light has been shed on it. And because I’m not a lawyer, I’m unable to give you any kind of legal advice.

But I can tell you that Moodle users are still using Moodle to run their courses. People are still downloading and implementing Moodle. Nothing really has changed. Check in with the Moodle forum to clear your doubts. And always read the documentations and license agreements before downloading Moodle, or any kind of software. I am keeping abreast with this issue and I will keep you posted on the latest as it happens.

Happy Moodling.

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