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Moodle – The Pick of Open Source LMS

Posted on the 03 November 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

E-learning has gone through a few phases since it’s inception and subsequent take-up over the last 15 years, including the buzz-word driven mania of the 90s to the apparent reticence of the 21st century.Let’s face it, theres’ nothing inherently wrong with E-learning, after all many universities use it with great success, as do many companies. There are however, many casualties of E-learning strewn along the wayside, but most are not victims of E-lerning per se, but rather victims of faulty E-learning design and integration.It would appear that in the corporate zone, E-learning, which was once whole-heartedy embraced as the universal panacea to cure all ills within learning and development, has suffered a cooling-off period where companies are now reviewing their policies and some, even regretting the sea-change that they underwent from face-to-face learning to virtually 100% E-learning.I was asked by a human resources director, who is a client of mine, my opinion on E-learning, which I gave voluntarily. To which she replied, yes, but we’re trapped into a contract for another two years, as she sighed forlornly.This article is not about E-learning policy, so I will briefly say that, from my experience, E-learning integration has lacked the forethought and backing of human resources departments and top management alongside the desire to integrate a one-size-fits-all solution to a context where it usually doesn’t fit any.So back to the subject of the article – Moodle.Over the past five or so years I have used Moodle to deliver the online portion of blended learning modules to my corporate clients, in themes such as language learning, soft skills, coaching and leadership and learning skills.I have, during this time, been unfaithful to Moodle, flirting with other LMS (Learning Management Systems) and a CMS (Content Management System) with a bolt-on E-learning module, but always returned to Moodle.Moodle is popular, here are some statistics:

Registered validated sites 46,431

Number of countries 206

Courses 3,307,827

Users 33,302,773

Teachers 1,204,019

Enrolments 19,184,175

Forum posts 50,042,246

Resources 26,878,850

Quiz questions 42,513,505

I currently have a site using ATUTOR LMS, which lacks a lot of the functions, and plug ins that the huge Moodle community develops and produces.We are talking, Open Source here, there are many free and almost free systems but I have not encountered anything quite so complete as Moodle.Installation of the Moodle LMS, which perhaps should be more correctly be termed, a CLMS as it also is a great content management system too.I have also tried EFRONT LMS, which is a nice easy interface but lacks, again the completeness of Moodle, in terms of what can be offered to the end use – the learner.Moodle does have some drawbacks, but they can be easily overcome. For instance, the out-of-the-box way that Moodle layout of courses is not that pretty, activities are housed in courses that look like hyperlinks. Working with labels, which look like heading boxes, and images can make a nice interface that is both functional and attractive for learners – it just takes a bit of thought and organisation.Installation is a no-brainer and very intuitive – there are some Internet hosts who offer Moodle automatic installs, which renders the task even easier. The administration side of Moodle is also very easy to get to grips with and it works in any operating system (Windows, Mac etc.) as it is written in PHP.There are a great many third-party add-ons and themes developed by the community so transforming the look and feel of a Moodle site is not difficult and customisation is very easy too.Moodle can also be easily bridged to Joomla! and WordPress, via plug ins, whilst linking to external sites and pages is also very simple.Some do not like the non-linear way that Moodle content is presented, the idea being that the system is built around a social constructivist pedagogy, which encourages learner collaboration and critical reflection and where learners pick and choose what they want to do and in which order they do it.There are ways to ensure that activities are taken in specific order with conditional activities, meaning that some conditions need to be fulfilled before moving on – this could be a scoring system or otherwise – this will apparently be addressed as an optional feature in Moodle 2.0 due out in the coming months.Moodle is packed with features, including:

  • Assignments – can be completed on or offline
  • Chat module for synchronous chat
  • Forums – which can also be used to give individual feedback on activities to learners
  • Glossary – either for specific courses or site-wide
  • Slide shows to build presentations and video lessons
  • Quiz – either Moodle or Hot Potatoes
  • Surveys and polls
  • Questionnaires
  • Video conference integration
  • Video / audio uploads and downloads
  • Wiki
  • Workshop module (Peer assessment of workCV building block)
  • etc.

All in all a very complete LMS, easy to install, customise, administer and use – in my experience, the best open source LMS that is available – I had just better assure you that I am in no way connected to Moodle – only a user.

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