E-learning has gone through a few phases since it’s inception and subsequent take-up over the last 15 years, including the buzz-word driven mania of the 90s to the apparent reticence of the 21st century.Let’s face it, theres’ nothing inherently wrong with E-learning, after all many universities use it with great success, as do many companies. There are however, many casualties of E-learning strewn along the wayside, but most are not victims of E-lerning per se, but rather victims of faulty E-learning design and integration.It would appear that in the corporate zone, E-learning, which was once whole-heartedy embraced as the universal panacea to cure all ills within learning and development, has suffered a cooling-off period where companies are now reviewing their policies and some, even regretting the sea-change that they underwent from face-to-face learning to virtually 100% E-learning.I was asked by a human resources director, who is a client of mine, my opinion on E-learning, which I gave voluntarily. To which she replied, yes, but we’re trapped into a contract for another two years, as she sighed forlornly.This article is not about E-learning policy, so I will briefly say that, from my experience, E-learning integration has lacked the forethought and backing of human resources departments and top management alongside the desire to integrate a one-size-fits-all solution to a context where it usually doesn’t fit any.So back to the subject of the article – Moodle.Over the past five or so years I have used Moodle to deliver the online portion of blended learning modules to my corporate clients, in themes such as language learning, soft skills, coaching and leadership and learning skills.I have, during this time, been unfaithful to Moodle, flirting with other LMS (Learning Management Systems) and a CMS (Content Management System) with a bolt-on E-learning module, but always returned to Moodle.Moodle is popular, here are some statistics:

Registered validated sites46,431
Number of countries206
Courses3,307,827
Users33,302,773
Teachers1,204,019
Enrolments19,184,175
Forum posts50,042,246
Resources26,878,850
Quiz questions42,513,505

I currently have a site using ATUTOR LMS, which lacks a lot of the functions, and plug ins that the huge Moodle community develops and produces.We are talking, Open Source here, there are many free and almost free systems but I have not encountered anything quite so complete as Moodle.Installation of the Moodle LMS, which perhaps should be more correctly be termed, a CLMS as it also is a great content management system too.I have also tried EFRONT LMS, which is a nice easy interface but lacks, again the completeness of Moodle, in terms of what can be offered to the end use – the learner.Moodle does have some drawbacks, but they can be easily overcome. For instance, the out-of-the-box way that Moodle layout of courses is not that pretty, activities are housed in courses that look like hyperlinks. Working with labels, which look like heading boxes, and images can make a nice interface that is both functional and attractive for learners – it just takes a bit of thought and organisation.Installation is a no-brainer and very intuitive – there are some Internet hosts who offer Moodle automatic installs, which renders the task even easier. The administration side of Moodle is also very easy to get to grips with and it works in any operating system (Windows, Mac etc.) as it is written in PHP.There are a great many third-party add-ons and themes developed by the community so transforming the look and feel of a Moodle site is not difficult and customisation is very easy too.Moodle can also be easily bridged to Joomla! and WordPress, via plug ins, whilst linking to external sites and pages is also very simple.Some do not like the non-linear way that Moodle content is presented, the idea being that the system is built around a social constructivist pedagogy, which encourages learner collaboration and critical reflection and where learners pick and choose what they want to do and in which order they do it.There are ways to ensure that activities are taken in specific order with conditional activities, meaning that some conditions need to be fulfilled before moving on – this could be a scoring system or otherwise – this will apparently be addressed as an optional feature in Moodle 2.0 due out in the coming months.Moodle is packed with features, including:

  • Assignments – can be completed on or offline
  • Chat module for synchronous chat
  • Forums – which can also be used to give individual feedback on activities to learners
  • Glossary – either for specific courses or site-wide
  • Slide shows to build presentations and video lessons
  • Quiz – either Moodle or Hot Potatoes
  • Surveys and polls
  • Questionnaires
  • Video conference integration
  • Video / audio uploads and downloads
  • Wiki
  • Workshop module (Peer assessment of workCV building block)
  • etc.

All in all a very complete LMS, easy to install, customise, administer and use – in my experience, the best open source LMS that is available – I had just better assure you that I am in no way connected to Moodle – only a user.

1 Comment

  1. Kevin Andreyo

    Open Learning Management Systems: Sakai and Canvas—Serious Contenders to Moodle?

    The open learning management system (LMS) landscape continues to change at a rapid pace. Many educational institutions are moving from proprietary LMS solutions (Blackboard, Desire2Learn) to open solutions (Moodle, Sakai, Canvas). However, can Sakai and Canvas compete with the proverbial 800 pound Open LMS guerrilla – Moodle? The verdict is still out; but it is clear that many secondary and post-secondary institutions are finding Sakai and Canvas to be a better fit.

    If you are currently evaluating LMSs, consider the following criteria when deciding on best fit:

    • User Experience
    • Tools and Feature Set (Chatrooms, Discussion Boards, Messaging, Email, Galleries, Virtual Whiteboards, Calendar, Survey, Voting, Assessment)
    • Platform Development Technology
    • Reliability
    • Support
    • Mobile Learning
    • Analytics
    • Scalability
    • Integration with your current Student Information System
    • Company Reputation
    • Best Value
    • Future Outlook

    In addition, carefully consider these common features: (1) availability to host on the cloud; (2) peak load management; (3) development technology; (4) integrated learning outcomes; (5) mobile applications; (6) accessibility; (7) integration of state standards (k12); (8) browser support; (9) ePortfolio; (10) online student storage; (11) resource gallery; (12) SCORM compliance; (13) integration with third party add-ins; and (14) multimedia support.

    Sakai in Higher Education

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rutgers, University of Delaware, Wake Forest University, Pepperdine University, Boston University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University (NYU), Northwestern University, Rice University, Seton Hall University, Stanford University, Tufts University, University of Dayton, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University

    Sakai in K-12

    Graham and Charles Schools (Columbus, Ohio), Minisink Valley Central School District (Slate Hill, NY), Huron Valley Schools, Ohio Learning Network, Oregon City School District

    Canvas in Higher Education

    New Mexico State University, Utah Valley University, Brown University

    Canvas in K-12

    Utah Education Network (UEN), Park City School District, Rockingham County School District,
    Cottonwood High School, Granite School District, Jordan School District, Davis School District,
    Tooele County School District, Nebo School District, Murray School District, SUCCESS Academy,
    City Academy

    According to company press releases, Sakai has a user-installed base of more than 300 institutions and Canvas has more than 100. This past month, Instructure released Canvas K-12 with specific features including pre-populated state standards and common core curriculum, parental co-enrollment, attendance, and curriculum mapping. Web conferencing and social media settings are disabled by default.

    Finding the correct LMS is a challenge and just when you think that you have a solid understanding of the LMS landscape, it changes.

    Resources:

    http://www.moodle.org
    http://www.instructure.com
    http://www.sakaiproject.org

    Submitted By: Kevin Andreyo

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