Moodle – Online Learning Management System
If you are looking for an option to host your classroom lessons, presentations, projects, assignments, and quizzes online, consider the Open Source (ie: FREE) Moodle Learning Management System (LMS). Moodle is a very powerful and customizable LMS that supports one course with 30 students or 19,000 courses with over 41,000 students (E-learning na VUT v Brně).
Moodle is sometimes referred to as a CMS (Course Management System). However, CMS has been used by the web development community for quite a while as an abbreviation for Content Management System. Therefore, I will refer to Moodle and other similar programs as LMS applications. If you are not familiar with Moodle, you might be familiar with one of its big time competitors, Blackboard. Blackboard is a for-profit venture and is the dominant LMS used by education systems. However, Blackboard also costs from $10,000 / year on up. If your school system has the resources to subscribe to Blackboard’s services, then the rest of this post probably will not be beneficial to you. If, on the other hand, you need a LMS solution for your classroom and do not have the big bucks (an what teacher does???) to pay for Blackboard, then continue reading about Moodle.
I started using Moodle about midway during my 1st year of teaching. During that 1st year, I mostly used Moodle to post my presentations and an occasional lesson. During my 2nd year, I got a little deeper into Moodle’s abilities posting more lesson material, links, presentations, tutorials, and quizzes on the classroom site. This coming year, I am planning on using those options plus podcasting and a few other features I am still contemplating.
Moodle is a great program, but it does have a higher learning curve than most blogs and wiki sites. Therefore, I only suggest getting into Moodle if you have time to invest in learning the system. One reason I have not taken better advantage of Moodle’s features is that I have not had a lot of time to invest in learning Moodle as completely as I would like.
Moodle allows you to create multiple courses. In my Career Tech Program, I teach 5 or 6 different courses. Each course has its own students, its own assignments, and so on. Students can communicate with each other on the Moodle site, if you have messaging turned on. As the instructor, you can post you materials daily or post them ahead of schedule then use the hide option so students will not see the information until you are ready for them to see it. Moodle has many third-party plugins to help you customize your site and courses. You can choose which plugins to use on your site. The biggest feature I like about Moodle is that it is helping me to eliminate paper use in my classroom. I cannot forsee any time soon when I will be able to completely eliminate students turning in assignments on paper, but Moodle is helping me get close. I can assign online journals, fill in the blank questions, or forum posts to the students. Moodle’s stat tracking system can show me which students have logged into the site and started or completed certain assignments. Another big plus is that when a student misses a class, he/she knows to look on the class website to see what he/she missed.
Moodle is not for everyone. Like I said earlier, it does have a higher learning curve than other options for classroom websites. In addition, you would need webspace on which to install Moodle. If you are hosting your own Moodle site, you also need to keep up with Moodle updates from the main website. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a non-secure LMS that could be hacked. Moodle regularly releases updates to address any security vulnerabilities that hackers might use to break into your site. This is where some of Blackboard’s high cost comes into play. Blackboard is responsible for keeping their software up to date.
As I am preparing this article, I am also uploading a demo version if Moodle on this site. If you would like to try out Moodle, please use the Contact Page to let me know your desired username and password (which you can change later). For security reasons (and to eliminate having to constantly having to monitor that site) I am not allowing automatic setting up of demo instructor accounts. So, using the Contact Page is the only option if you want to give it a try before making your decision on getting everything you need to run Moodle. The demo site is http://moodle.tech4teaching.info.
Find more information about Moodle at http://moodle.org.
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Check out these resources available on Moodle at Amazon.com.
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