As part of my new role (Head of eLearning) at my school, one of my primary aims was to get us using a Learning Management System (LMS). This is a web based tool which allows teachers to make their courses, or parts of their courses, available online for their students to access and use wherever and whenever they need it. When used in partnership with something like Google Apps For Education, it allows for rich, collaborative and structured learning.
Over the past two-three years, I’d been trialling an Open Source LMS called Moodle. It’s one (or some say the) of the most popular LMSes out there and is used by our local university as well. I managed to get it set up on a local server (accessible from outside though) and convinced our Maths/Science Department to use it with their classes (as well as using it myself). The trials were quite positive.
Our Maths/Sci Head of Faculty practically gushes about it (which is awesome) and parents have been loving the idea that they know what their kids are up to as well.
So why choose Moodle?
So why choose Moodle?
1. It’s free. If you’re willing to spend the time and have a place to host it (i.e. own server) then there really isn’t another cost. There are paid hosting places out there – and if I had my time again, I’d probably pay for someone else to host it and set it up.
2. It’s popular. If you’re going to use a tool, make sure that it’s actually used elsewhere as well. The reason for this is two fold: popular software usually has a strong development community (bugs get fixed fast), and it provides your students with experience in a software platform that they’ll probably have exposure to later on in life.
3. It’s got lots of activities to use. One of Moodle’s strengths is that it has been around for a while and has developed ‘activities’ to match almost any need you have in the class. Want a quiz builder? It’s got that. Want a way to have students upload assignments and to track who has submitted? It’s got that. Want a glossary? It’s got that. Like I said, it’s got pretty much anything you want, or need.
4. It’s got plenty of plugins. Being Open Source and so very popular, there’s a lot of developers out there making things to enhance the use of Moodle. I’ve got an equation builder for my Maths/Science faculty (plugin), I can change the look and feel with theme (plugin)… there’s so much available. Take a look!
5. It’s completely customisable. If you’re a PHP/MySQL programmer (or you know someone), you can change pretty much anything in it! Open Source means that you can see all the programming that goes on behind the scences and tweak, change or delete anything you don’t want.
6. Support. This should probably be a lot closer to the start of the list. Support when rolling out a tool is absolutely crucial. And with Moodle, there’s a lot out there. If you have a problem, there’s probably an answer just a short Google away. I’ve lost count of the times that my issues have been solved via google. Oh, and they have fantastic documentation pages as well. Here they are.
In short, we went with Moodle because it was free, usable, did want we want and need it to, and it has a huge support base.
At some point, I hope to post about my setting up of the thing – there are some tricky bits you’ll want to watch out for. Just look for the moodle tag in my blog posts. 🙂