An Explanation

Moodle is a Learning Management System. Basically, it’s an online classroom. It contains a number of features such as

Similar to the proprietary software Blackboard, Moodle is an open source software that costs nothing and runs on most servers. At this moment, 51,000 institutions run Moodle as their learning management system. It is a very well supported open source project.

A Solution to a Need

I work in a district that has many computers with excellent internet connections and not an excessively restrictive acceptable use policy. Bringing my students to a lab to type word documents or type in a litany of urls seemed an underutilization of resources. I needed a program that could harness the rich Web 2.0 features of the internet. The solution was Moodle.

Moodle extended my classroom beyond the physical walls. Students continued forum conversations at home. The posted homework questions at late hours of the night and would have their peers reply. They took online tests, viewed their results in real time, and then got down to the important business of correcting their mistakes. They watched embedded PBS documentaries and completed assignments in response.

In short, Moodle became my brain on the web.

Moodle brought an answer the question: How do we engage students to continue their learning outside the classroom?

Demonstration

Reflections

Moodle is the most successful tool I have used as a teacher. I started using Moodle as a tutorial program for my students. It helped me provide specific instruction for students who found the state standardized test challenging. However, I quickly expanded it to include all my students. My students are continuously engaged in learning when using Moodle.

Moodle provides an excellent means for differentiated instruction. Students have different activities they can choose based on their interests and needs. They quickly learn the navigation structure of courses, the function of WYSIWYG bars, and the flow of a class.

From a teacher’s perspective, it is a relatively simple program to learn. It does require significant training. Moodle is a feature rich program, so while I would say it is not a complicated program, it can take some time to learn all the features. Fortunately, there exist a number of tutorial programs that can help teachers learn Moodle. I have designed a detailed course, complete with screencasts, that cover most of the features.

From a technology administrator’s standpoint, Moodle works well. It’s programmed in PHP and runs off a MySQL database. If a school server is not available, many inexpensive web hosts will run Moodle for free.

September 18, 2004

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