Build Your Course in Moodle?

Deutsch: Logo der freien Software Moodle

Deutsch: Logo der freien Software Moodle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Lillian Williams

As mentioned in an earlier post, last summer I took a six-week online class, Build Your Course in Moodle, offered by Columbia College Chicago.   I teach journalism courses at the college.

During this class, I learned how to navigate the Moodle course system to create online teaching/learning activities and to manage course content. This class for instructors was offered through the college’s Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence.  My overall goal was to expand my repertoire of teaching/learning tools.

Moodle is an open-source, Web-based course management system used by school and companies worldwide.  The application allows users to create online learning sites that feature documents, videos, assignments, and a bevy of activities for users.  For example, the Moodle system allows teachers to easily produce online quizzes, glossaries, and wikis.  I also displayed Twitter feeds about journalism issues on the site.

As of this date, there are more than 66,000 registered Moodle sites in 215 countries, with 58.5 million users and 6.1 million courses.  Entities utilizing Moodle range from primary schools to major universities.

As the academic year comes to a close, I want to share my perceptions about this Web-based tool. I am well aware that Moodle has its critics, however, I have found it be an effective way to meet some course goals.  Additionally, I recognize that this tool may not suit every need–or preference–of every instructor. But, Moodle also undergoes periodic updates to expand its capabilities.

In my case, Moodle expanded the means by which I could teach, as well as assess learning outcomes. It extended the ways that students could learn, exchange ideas, and review progress.  The courses that I taught were Introduction to Journalism, Media Ethics and Law, and Broadcast News Writing.

Of note, Moodle can be used to host fully online courses, though currently it’s used mainly to assist with blended learning, a technique which combines face-to-face instruction and online practices within a single course.  In my case, I used it for the latter.

For newcomers,  video tutorials and teacher manuals  offer tips on everything from fascinating ways to use Moodle to step-by-step instruction on setting up quizzes.

Though I will continue to experiment, so far here are my perceptions:

  • Moodle makes it easy to organize, store and disseminate teaching aids such as text and video resources, class assignments and quizzes. I could quickly link to online materials, or easily upload resources for students.  Organized by the week, I posted resources in my Moodle online filing system which I constructed to fit the needs of each course.   Teaching/learning resources were accessible to students throughout the semester.  The Moodle system maintains a log of all activities on a site.  This allows me to track, for example, the completion of course assignments.
  • Moodle allows me to easily construct online quizzes, including multiple choice, essay or short answer questions.  Immediately after a student answers the question, I can automatically display the correct answer. I believe that immediate feedback can be useful. Yet, I understand that quizzes, like any other teaching/learning device, must be tailored to fit a particular learning objective. One size does not fit all.
  • Moodle offers an online grade book. This allows students to easily review grades throughout the semester, though initially I found it challenging to set up the grade book.  I located a video on YouTube which walked me through the process. Once I learned some simple configurations for the grade book, this task became easier.
  • Moodle provides a way for students to talk to each other in online discussion forums. I have learned, however, that students must be encouraged to participate in these online discussions. In other words, some students need an incentive to fully engage in the online discussion forums. For some teachers, that incentive represents grade points.  In the end, effective teaching with this system–whether online or a hybrid environment–demands robust virtual discussions.
  • Importantly, Moodle allows me to shift selected teaching/learning activities to the online environment, thereby freeing classroom time for other activities.  For example, during some weeks students would read discipline-specific material, and then take online quizzes on that material before the next class session.  As a result, our face-to-face classroom time could be used for other activities, such as covering additional topics, targeting weaknesses, and individual coaching.

Could Moodle augment your teaching/learning strategies?  Or, could Moodle provide a Web-based mechanism to train new employees at your work place?  Here’s my suggestion: Review the posts within a discussion forum dedicated to Moodle and its uses.  In these discussion threads, you will find additional reflections and advice on the subject.

If you’re already using Moodle, I’d like to hear about your experiences.

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