Moodle means innovation

Moodle logo used with permission from the Moodlemaster — aka Bill Bateman.

By Diover Duario
Flapjack Chronicle staff

Just about the only thing students at HSU use more often than Facebook is Moodle. Whether it’s checking emails, class schedules or printing syllabi it’s all there. But what is Moodle? What makes it work and how did it come to be so integrated in student life that it’s become synonymous with school business and student-teacher interaction?

Moodle is short for Modular Object Oriented Display Learning Environment. It is a type of Learning Management System (LMS) that has been a part of Humboldt State University for the better half of five years. What separates Moodle from the plethora of LMS available for University use is that it’s open source. Being open source allows it to be modified, customized and expanded in its use through plugin modules that increase Moodle’s service capability. Of the many colleges throughout Canada and the United States (including 10 Cal State Universities) HSU has the most customized Moodle module. Oh, and it’s free.

Moodle saves the school $100,000 a year, says Bill Bateman, the Moodle specialist at HSU. Moodle is a response to the steadily increasing demand in online, hybrid and distance-learning courses.

“Moodle is a tool no different from a power drill or a belt sander, to help students be successful,” Bateman says. And who’s to argue against PDF copies of lecture notes and diagrams readily available to save or print?

How has Moodle come about has among the most trusted and widely used LMS for universities and high schools around the country? Perhaps its Moodle’s origins that helped spurn its popularity.

Behind the software system lies a legend. “[Moodle] was said to have been put together by a bunch of drunk Australians, of which I’ve met several,” Bateman says. “It was someone’s senior project that took off; an early instance of going viral.” Sound familiar? The program evolved from the kegger parties to a more professional business platform that has allowed it to become a regularly updated software product for professional school use. It’s an educational tool made by students for students.

Moodle’s open source foundation allows it to be utilized in a number of different ways, many of which students should be familiar with through HOOP. Elluminate for instance is a program that allows students to have conferences with their instructors or advisors in an online setting complete with audio, video, and file sharing. This innovation allows countless to get in touch with faculty members before even arriving at HSU. Applicants from all over the world no longer have to be dropped in an unfamiliar setting with no prior interaction or familiarity. This serves for a more seamless transition and localization to the HSU system on the part of the student.

Moodle expansion also benefits students who don’t necessarily attend HSU.

“This is perfect for the individual who gets halfway through their B.A. and Aunt Edna gets hurt and (he or she) has to stop going to school,”  Bateman says. HSU has been spending the last 18 months developing new online, hybrid, and distance-learning programs. Bateman also revealed a new major update for Moodle: 2.3. It will allow for easy access and a user friendly interface for anyone on the go via phone device or tablet. All students are invited to try it and give feedback on the Moodle website.

Bateman and his crew of friendly Moodle specialists emphasize that Moodle us is not compulsory for students or instructors.

“We don’t push anything anywhere, we enable or empower,” he says. “There are some people who don’t use Moodle and it’s perfectly fine.”

But with faculty usage of Moodle up from 20 percent to 62 percent in the last 18 months, the trend is hard to ignore. The success of the Moodle team at Humboldt could be a testament to their emphasis on a user friendly experience. They will go to the classroom and stay late if need be. They listen to professors and students alike on their suggestions and implement popular opinions into the system. The new photos and contact information on the side for instance is a result of student suggestions to switch from an institutional interface to more of a social media layout.

This is not to say Moodle is the “be all end all” variable for student success.

Jamie Amiefarhi-Humphrey, a third-year computer science major and representative of ROBOT (Resident’s Official Board Of Technology) at HSU, explains that he’s had an up and down experience over the years. He points out the over time with more features came a much more complex interface.

“Although it is pretty useful for when I do accidentally sleep through class,” he explains.  Jamie does however seem to approve Moodle’s approach of empowerment.

“My best experiences [with Moodle] is when teachers put things up and says it’s here if you need it but it’s not mandatory and I won’t demand you use it every day,” he says.

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