Thursday, October 07, 2010

using moodle

Phelps, W. (2010, Oct.) Using Moodle. CESL Colloquium, Language Media Center, So. Illinois University.

Since I am the organizer of the CESL Colloquium, I post this to show that it happened, but more importantly, in order to save my own notes for future reference. A lot is going on in this area, and much of what was said could be explored further or better explained. These are merely my presentation notes.

Moodle is a CMS (classroom management system) or a VLE (virtual learning environment) and is a huge database that must be downloaded onto your server before it's of any use. It is like Blackboard, which costs universities upwards of $100,000 per year but which is plagued with problems, to the extent that teachers who rely on it are begging to know more about Moodle, which is free, and open source. Our university uses Blackboard and actually pays people to explain it & teach teachers how to use it. CESL however uses Moodle since our students are not technically university students, thus are locked out of Blackboard. Full professors even in our own hallway ask me about Moodle and want to know how it can be accessed.

Moodle was originally a PhD dissertation project of a guy, Martin Dougiamas, who was working on WebCT at the time. The first version, 1.0, appeared in 1999; now they are at 1.9.9 + and working on 2.0 which may come out in December or soon after. There is a consortium of people who work on it. It was described as "like a Ponzi scheme only everyone shares information instead of money, and it's easier to get to the top of it."
If you innovate or write code that people approve of, it gets integrated into Moodle; an example is the code that allows us to do attendance. This was an interesting sidelight, by the way; most of us teachers consider complex attendance numbering (ok, we give 2 pts/class hour, but we sometimes have 2.5 hours a day) the bane of our existence. But it is a challenge to Moodle programmers, and someone in Russia had figured it out (but, unfortunately, explained it in Russian)...Moodle is available in 88 different languages (better than BB, not as good as Wikipedia)...50,000 people or groups are using it in 210 countries. One TA here at SIUC was impressed by it in her short time at CESL, so downloaded it onto her own server, and continued to use it in her teaching elsewhere.

The presentation went over what it does; how to get answers; how to figure out how to use it; how to use its forums; how to upload links, movies, papers, assignments, etc.; how to use functions that it has such as Chat, Choice, Database, Forum, Glossary, Lesson, Quiz, SCORM/AICC, Survey, and Wiki; how and where you can download it (must have MYSQL and PhP) and even the hosts (BlueHost and JustHost) one might use to get one's own web server. Finally we also got to see Bill's own domain and his family's favorite youtube, Hey ya, by Obadiah Parker.

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