What is moodle?
Moodle is an Internet tool that allows the classroom to extend onto the web. It is not a program to replace face-to-face teaching, but to support it with a range of flexible online tools, as well as providing a place to upload resources for courses. Moodle course site designers have many options available to them when setting up the Moodle environment for a course. They may choose to provide tools so you may interact with the students in your course, upload assignments, access resources and much more.
The word Moodle is actually an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.
To moodle is also a verb that describes the process of lazily meandering through something, 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 student or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course.
Why use moodle?
This is a good question "Why use Moodle at all?" Classes have been running for thousands of years without the use of computers and the Web. While traditional face-to-face lectures and tutorials can still be highly effective, supporting this teaching with a range of online tools opens up new possibilities for learning. Moodle's 'tool set' includes discussion forums, wikis, quizzes, tools to upload and share resources. Whilst these tools exist elsewhere as separate programs, Moodle conveniently packages them into an single, integrated, user-friendly environment. Currently there is a lot of research into how to effectively combine online learning and face-to-face lectures in what is called "blended learning".
Moodle is also "open source", which simply means that users have access to the source code of the software. You can look inside and see how it works, tinker with it, or use parts of the code for your own projects. Why is this important? Well, just as one can download Moodle for free, users can also write new features, fix bugs, improve performance, or simply learn from looking at how other people solved a problem. As we already have plenty of the expertise within the School of Computer Science, we are in a position to write new tools or modify existing tools to suit our own teaching requirements and provide a better learning experience for our students.
Other Schools within the University are similarly utilising online tools to support learning, with most Schools using WebCT as a platform. So why has the Schools of Computer Science chosen to use Moodle instead? After a great deal of thought and consultation, we opted to use Moodle because it:
- offered the right blend of tools for Computer Science students and staff;
- has an interface that we felt was easier to use by students and staff;
- has better support for handing technical subjects such as Computer Science e.g. display of complex equations via Latex;
- is an open source project so if we feel something is missing, we can write our own extensions to the software;
- was rooted in sound pedagogic foundations.
Who else uses moodle?
The Moodle community is growing fast across the world with the number of known Moodle sites growing exponentially. In the UK Moodle is used at all levels, including universities, adult education centres, colleges, secondary schools, primary schools, private individuals and companies. Most recently the Open University, which is the UK's only university dedicated to distance learning, has started a new programme which will see the largest use of Moodle in the world.