If you have every taken a course at Case Western Reserve University, you professor has probably used Blackboard at some point in time. Professors use Blackboard to provide course supplements and materials, supposedly to help the student learn better. Blackboard however, is nothing more than a fancy upload and storage facility. True, blackboard contains social features such as discussion boards and wikis, and can even provide digital quizzes, but that’s as far as it goes. This piece of software costs thousands of dollars in licensing fees, and for what? Its mainly used to provide storage for course documents. It is a waste of money when compared to things like Dropbox. If professors want to supplement student learning, they need to involve the student in activities that stimulate the learning experience.
That’s where Moodle comes in…
The focus of the Moodle project is always on giving educators the best tools to manage and promote learning, but there are many ways to use Moodle:
- Moodle has features that allow it to scale to very large deployments and hundreds of thousands of students, yet it can also be used for a primary school or an education hobbyist.
- Many institutions use it as their platform to conduct fully online courses, while some use it simply to augment face-to-face courses (known as blended learning).
- Many of our users love to use the activity modules (such as forums, databases and wikis) to build richly collaborative communities of learning around their subject matter (in the social constructionist tradition), while others prefer to use Moodle as a way to deliver content to students (such as standard SCORM packages) and assess learning using assignments or quizzes.
Working as the Lead Developer & Architect in the Moodle Pilot at Case Western Reserve University, I have been impressed with Moodle’s ability to be customized with our own modules and plugins. I have been able to extend Moodle’s capabilities far beyond Blackboard to meet the demand of professors who wish to teach their students in a very social construct. Moodle can organize a course in a variety of ways:
- Topics – Course sections are given a topic number, and can also be given a name
- Weeks – Each week of the course corresponds to a course section
- Discussion – The course revolves around a discussion board
Topics and Weeks are probably the most widely used course formats in our pilot today. Professors are making some very beautiful course sites, filled with informative and fun activities for students to do every week. Using plugins such as VoiceThread, Moodle offers our students multimedia presentations that allow for questions, comments, and feedback. As a developer, Moodle offers me a wide range of ways to expand the social structure of learning for students. I have learn so much from working with Moodle, in both coding practices, and social communication.