Learning Moodle (again)

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Learn Moodle For the month of September, a few EMU colleagues and I are working our way through the first-ever Moodle MOOC, called “Teaching With Moodle: An Introduction.” (You can join anytime: http://learn.moodle.net) – It is a four-week, massively open course, run in Moodle, by Moodle, to teach folks how to teach in Moodle. Having participated in an edX MOOC last spring, and being mostly nonplussed about it, I gotta say: I’m impressed with this one. They’ve obviously done their homework and got their content and activities in order for a smooth, streamlined, and engaging month of learning. The activities are already more varied and engaging than the edX MOOC I experience in the spring. In fact, one of the learning activities for week 1 is to write a reflection about the experience so far, so I’m just doing as I’m told, good student that I am.

At EMU, we moved from an old version of Blackboard to Moodle during my second or third year of grad school, about 2009 or so. As a residential student, I never used either one very often (because faculty in my grad programs didn’t use either one very often), and quite honestly I didn’t very much care for either one. I’d also used WebCT to a small degree during my undergrad at another school, and wasn’t very fond of that one either. The LMS, it seemed to me, was an all-around unfriendly, even unhelpful or distracting, tool. It’s “toolness,” I thought, too often got in the way of what it purportedly was supposed to facilitate (teaching and learning, in this case).

But since I’ve been in my current role as Distance Learning Technology Analyst at EMU for the past 15 months, our Moodle instance has become quite important to my work. I started to take seriously the philosophical principles that Moodle said it was built on – constructivism, constructionism, and social constructivism – and realized that these principles closely align with the pedagogical approach I’d learned in one of my graduate programs, EMU’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, and that I’ve tried to practice in my own teaching.

So in my work of teaching teachers how to teach online, particularly with our newer Moodle-integrated software platforms – WebEx and MediaCore – I have come to put Moodle at the center – as the “hub” – of our “Online Ed-Tech Ecosystem,” the diagram I take around with me as I work with program administrators and faculty in our educational departments.

EMU online ed-tech ecosystem

Does Moodle still annoy me? Yes, daily. (Seriously, taking me to a completely new page to ask me a simple “yes” or “no” question? It’s called AJAX, Moodle devs; use it!) – But I’ve not seen the commercial competition do much better. (Though Canvas looks amazing, there’s no way we can afford it and we’re not going to spring a new LMS on our user community a mere handful of years after switching!)

So while the entirety of the content in week 1 is review for me, one thing I am learning is that I’m excited about Moodle: the platform, the organization, and its mission. I’ve been an free/open-source software user and believer since the mid-90s when I installed Linux on an old PC with nothing but 3.5″ floppy disks, so to see a teaching and learning platform trying to embody the open source ethos is inspiring. I’m happy that with each major revision, the experience of using Moodle gets better and better, and I’m happy to continue taking my instructional tech/designer services to faculty and helping them use Moodle better.

So here’s to learning Moodle (again), and EMU’s continued/deeper/better use of it!