One of the questions that is commonly asked by new students and parents alike is:
What is this thing called Moodle we keep hearing about?
It’s a fair enough question and, as with many things on the internet, a quick Google will often find you answers of one kind or another. Unfortunately, these quick and easy answers are not always that helpful, evidenced by this definition:
The word Moodle was originally an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, which is mostly useful to programmers and education theorists.
Simply put, Moodle is a Learning Management System – more jargon for what is effectively a website with a focus on learning online and one that aims to engage students through interactive activities. Thinking of it as a central location for staff and students to find, share and create resources is a helpful starting point and then expanding to include multiple forms of assessment, feedback, and differentiated learning pathways and you’re starting to get a glimpse at the power of a Moodle site.
In the past, St Andrew’s College has used older versions of Microsoft Sharepoint to deliver content from teachers to students. This was mostly a simple process of uploading course resources such as Word documents and Powerpoint presentations. Whilst helpful, this was somewhat limited in truly engaging students and inviting them to co-create content and collaborate with their fellow students.
By contrast, Moodle allowed the potential for major steps forward in creating a ubiquitous and seamless learning environment both in and outside the classroom, breaking down the physical distinction between “classwork” and “homework”.
From a perspective of ICT management, it was critical that the “technology” did not get in the way of the teaching and learning, so a number of steps were taken to make Moodle as easy as possible for both teachers and students. These included:
- Automatically creating individual class sites for every subject a teacher taught
- Automatically enrolling teachers and students into each class site on Moodle so when they first logged on they saw their subjects e.g. 11English, 11Math, 11Science etc.
- Linking existing teacher and student authentication details (username/password) to Moodle so they didn’t have to learn a new password – their existing email account details would work just fine.
- Making Moodle accessible to students both internally on the College network, but also externally from any internet connection in the world.
- Training an initial group of teachers in how to use Moodle through the College’s Professional Learning Groups (PLG), who would then be involved in the soft launch by trialling the usage of Moodle in one of their classes.
- Keeping pedagogy at the front and centre of all that was being done.
Pedagogy – that’s probably a good place to link back to a Moodle description again:
The heart of Moodle is courses that contain activities and resources. There are about 20 different types of activities available (forums, glossaries, wikis, assignments, quizzes, choices (polls), scorm players, databases etc) and each can be customised quite a lot. The main power of this activity-based model comes in combining the activities into sequences and groups, which can help you guide participants through learning paths. Thus, each activity can build on the outcomes of previous ones.
There are a number of other tools that make it easier to build communities of learners, including blogs, messaging, participant lists etc, as well as useful tools like grading, reports, integration with other systems and so on.
The above list of features is why virtually all of New Zealand’s major universities and tertiary institutions have chosen Moodle as their Learning Management System of choice including:
- University of Canterbury – Moodle Site here
- Christchurch Polytechnic – Moodle Site here
- Otago Polytechnic – Moodle Site here
- University of Otago Medical School – Moodle Site here
- Victoria University School of Engineering and Computer Science – Moodle Site here
- University of Auckland Faculty of Education – Moodle Site here
- Massey University – Moodle Site here
- Lincoln University – Moodle Site here
By deciding on implementing Moodle at St Andrew’s College, our students are using the tools they will invariably encounter when they further their education in the tertiary sector. This is the first of two posts that will explain what Moodle is, why it has been implemented at St Andrew’s, and how it is being used by teachers and students on a regular basis.
The second half of this post will touch on some “real world” examples of Moodle in action from StAC’s site at http://classes.stac.school.nz – check back for that soon.