What is it?
Moodle is a free software package for producing and managing internet-based courses and web sites, or for embedding an element of e-learning in a traditional face-to-face programme – so called ‘blended learning’. ‘Moodle’ is an acronym and stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment and is often referred to as a VLE – a Virtual Learning Environment.
Moodle has over 34 million users studying on 3.5 million courses in 210 countries (statistics from moodle.org). The Open University uses Moodle for its 5332 courses as do an increasing number of further education providers in the UK.
Moodle is a very ‘scalable’ resource and so is suitable for education projects of any size from an education hobbyist to a whole university.
What does it look like?
With its customisable interface, the look of each provider’s Moodle pages is likely to be very different, though with many familiar features, including: navigation, search, a resource area and a news feed. Just to give a flavour, the screen shot below is the administration page from Thurrock & Basildon College’s entry-level retail programme.
Where in the learner’s journey are you likely to come across it?
- programme overview
- programme planning
Teaching and learning
- checking understanding
- identifying emerging support issues
- distance learning
- as a learning aid
- to develop team- and group-working skills
- teaching and learning with technology
- formative assessment
- reflective practice
- summative assessment
Reviewing learners’ progress
- progress monitoring
- attainment monitoring
- target setting
How can teachers, trainers & learners use it?
Distance learning and blended learning Moodle easily facilitates two popular approaches to learning: distance learning (no face-to-face contact with teacher) and blended learning (a face-to-face programme with e-learning elements).
At the heart of Moodle is the mission to add significant value to established pedagogical principles such as learning through experience, participation, research and reflection.
This Good Teacher illustration from Moodle’s website shows how a fictional teacher’s work might be transformed by gradually integrating the use of blended learning. And our five-minute video case study, Moodle Magic, shows how this happens in the real world.
Interaction To choreograph an effective learning experience, the teacher needs to devise engaging activities using appropriate resources, for which Moodle provides an effective home. Of course, schemes of work, lesson plans and assignments can all be uploaded, but it’s Moodle’s ability to make interaction easy that adds significant value. Forums, glossaries, wikis, assignments, quizzes, choices (polls), SCORM players (for delivering e-learning programmes), databases, etc. can all be customised and sequenced into an effective learning journey with each activity building on the outcomes of a previous one. Another instance of this is in the ‘Lesson’ module, which allows the teacher to create a series of pages for the learner to work through. At the end of each page, learners are asked a question, and the given answer determines which page they are offered next, ensuring that every next step is the right one for them. A ‘gradebook’, which reflects the activities in the course at any given time, is automatically maintained by the system so that both teacher and learner know the attainment position at any one time.
Assessment Learning and formative assessment can be fun, as illustrated in this picture showing Thurrock and Basildon College entry-level retail learners playing a game downloaded from the BBC website and uploaded to their Moodle page. Generating new quizzes and tests is straightforward with pre-built templates and wizards covering key formative assessment strategies: True/False, Multiple Choice, Matching, Embedded Answers, Calculated, Description, Essay, Short Answer, Numerical, and Random Short-Answer Matching.
Learning communities There are a number of tools that make building communities of learners easy, including: blogs, forums, chat, messaging, glossaries, wikis and workshops. And with a wide variety of user reports to choose from, keeping track of learners’ participation is straightforward. Learners can also be given the permissions needed to create their own quizzes, facilitate forums or even control the layout of their course area, so creating a strong sense of ownership and control.
To Moodle.. This from the Moodle website: ‘The word “Moodle” can also function as a verb which describes the improvisational process of doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity. As such it applies both to the way Moodle was developed and to the way a learner or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course’.
Open source Arguably, one of the reasons Moodle has been so successful in generating a large user base is that the developers not only give the program away free of charge, but also their programming code. This means that an international community of volunteer developers has grown to support the system by generating new content. There are now many hundreds of modules and plugins for anything from learning music key signatures to chemical/ biological molecular viewers.
What impact can it have on learning?
The following extract from Moodle’s Good Teacher illustration helps to highlight the value that can be added to traditional, sound teaching strategies:
As well as these group discussions, individual blogs allow people to express their ideas in a public, but reflective way, often providing access to thinking they may not normally express in class or in a forum. But more importantly, when expressing and presenting their posts, projects, assignments, constructions for others to see, learners personal ‘stakes’ are much higher, causing them to self-check and reflect and so increase their learning.
Moodle and e-learning – Thurrock and Basildon College Sylvia Smith, Retail course tutor at Thurrock and Basildon College, loves working with her entry-level learners. But not too long ago, too much of her time was spent on low-impact interactions with them, typified by constantly repeating information and tasks. This all changed when, reluctantly, she allowed herself to be introduced to Moodle. Sylvia is now one of the college’s biggest Moodle advocates as it has improved her retention and success rates, helped turn her learners into independent learners, and it’s fun. It frees Sylvia up to spend high-impact time with her learners, increasing differentiation and reducing frustration for all. And the learners can enjoy continuing their studies from home, or from any PC to hand.
At its best it will… (where appropriate – help for judging good or better) The following illustration from Moodle’s site shows a continuum from simple uses to the more complex:
- Putting up the handouts
- Having a passive forum
- Using Quizzes and Assignments (less management)
- Using the Wiki, Glossary and Database tools (interactive content)
- Using the Forum seriously and actively
- Combining activities into sequences, where results feed later activities
- Think deeper about each activity, advanced features, unusual applications
- Using the Survey module to study and reflect on course activity
- Using peer-review modules like Workshop
- Conducting active research on oneself, sharing ideas in a community of peers
At its worst it will… (where appropriate – help for judging satisfactory or worse) At its worst, teachers may expect Moodle to do their work for them and fail to plan for ambitious learning outcomes. Their Moodle pages may be no more than repositories for course documentation. Learners may lack focus and simply play games or chat to their colleagues.
What are the safeguarding implications?
Of the social networking tools discussed in this resource, Moodle, and all institutional VLE’s are arguably the safest. All users will be staff or registered learners and all inputs to the system are ‘stamped’ with the identity of the author, creating an obvious and deterring accountability audit trail.
Find out more
- Moodle in three short paragraphs: http://docs.moodle.org/en/Pedagogy#Moodle_in_three_short_paragraphs
- The Good Teacher: http://docs.moodle.org/en/The_Good_Teacher Moodle Magic – Thurrock and Basildon College
- Moodle: http://moodle.org Using Moodle: http://moodle.org/course/view.php?id=5
For which CIF evaluative statements could it generate evidence?
|A1 How well do learners achieve and enjoy their learning?|
A1a.1 learners attain their learning goals, including qualifications and challenging targets
A1a.2 there are any significant variations in the attainment of different groups of learners
A1a.3 learners’ work meets or exceeds the requirements of the qualifications, learning goals or employment
A1a.4 learners attend and participate as required.
A1b.1 learners develop personal and social skills, including, as appropriate, spiritual, moral and cultural aspects
A1b.2 learners enjoy learning and make progress relative to their prior attainment and potential
A1b.3 learners develop the literacy, numeracy, language and key skills required to complete their programmes and progress.
|A2 How well do learners improve their economic and social well-being through learning and development?|
A2.1 learners develop relevant knowledge, understanding and skills which contribute to their economic and social well-being
A2.2 learners increase their employability
|A3 How safe do learners feel?|
A3.1 learners use safe working practices in learning and at work
|B1 How effectively do teaching, training and assessment support learning and development?|
B1.1 learning and assessment are linked to initial and current assessments and related activities are adapted to make sure they build on and extend learning for all learners
B1.2 interesting and appropriate teaching and learning methods and resources inspire and challenge all learners and enable them to extend their knowledge, skills and understanding
B1.3 technology is used effectively to promote and support learning, where appropriate
B1.4 staff have appropriate skills and expertise to provide good quality teaching, learning, assessment and information and support services for each learner
B1.5 assessment of learners’ performance and progress is timely, fair, consistent and reliable
B1.6 learners receive constructive feedback on their progress and how they might improve
B1.7 learners receive help to develop literacy, numeracy, language and key skills to support the attainment of their main learning goals
B1.8 learning, teaching, training and assessment promote equality and recognise diversity.
|B2 How effectively does the provision meet the needs and interests of users?|
B2.1 the range, content and context of provision provides learners with a choice of subjects, levels and qualifications, that are relevant to their medium- and long-term personal, career and/or employment goals
B2.4 arrangements for training and assessment are flexible to suit learners’ and employers’ needs
|B4 How effective are the care, guidance and support learners receive in helping them to attain their learning goals?|
B4.2 learners receive individual care and support to promote their learning and development, and to help them achieve their potential.
|C1 How effectively do leaders and managers raise expectations and promote ambition throughout the organisation?|
C1.2 the provider raises expectations through a clear and realistic strategy for planning and developing learning programmes and services
C1.6 resources, including staff, accommodation, facilities and technologies, are developed and used to support learning effectively.
|C3 How effectively does the provider promote the safeguarding of learners?|
C3.1 learners are safeguarded and protected
C3.3 safeguarding is prioritised
|C4 How effectively does the provider actively promote equality and diversity, tackle discrimination and narrow the achievement gap?|
C4.1 manages equality and diversity, particularly disability, gender and race, and actively promotes equality and diversity among staff, learners, employers, parents and other partners
C4.3 makes sure training in equality and diversity is effective so that leaders, managers, governors or supervisory bodies, staff and learners understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to equality and diversity
C4.4 makes sure that all learners and staff are protected from harassment, bullying and discrimination, including those based with employers and at other sites external to the providers
|C5 How effectively does the provider engage with users to support and promote improvement?|
C5.2 the views of different user groups are sought and acted upon to plan, manage and improve the provision