Review: Moodle Teaching Techniques

I had written a review of William Rice’s previous book and noted that it was rather technical. Moodle Teaching Techniques is more pedagogical and gets down to the details of how to develop online courses in Moodle.

moodle-teaching-techniques.jpg

Moodle adoption is growing and it is probably the most widely-used open source learning content management system in the world. That makes this book rather timely [not like my review which I had hoped to write in 2007].

This is a good guidebook for anyone developing online courses with Moodle. The introduction covers some basic instructional techniques and then the book gets right into the “how-to’s” of course building. One comment I found interesting was how Rice recommends that wikis, forums and blogs should be used:

In Moodle, each student can have a blog. This is turned on by default. However, a student’s blog is not attached to any course. That is, you do not access a Moodle blog by going into a course and selecting the blog. Instead, you view the user’s profile, and access that user’s blog from there. In a Moodle student’s blog, there is no way to associate a post with a course that the student is taking. This results in “blogging outside of the course”. Also, as of version 1.9, you cannot leave comments on Moodle blogs.

These comments show the inherent weakness of the “course” model when used online. Everything has to fit neatly inside the box that contains the course. Having blogs outside of the course is a good concept, because student’s posts can travel with them from course to course. The use of “tags” could alleviate the problem of finding blog comments, but would require another tool for aggregation of these tags. Once again, several tools (blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, etc.) loosely joined may give more flexibility than a single system, such as Moodle. Furthermore, I cannot understand why the comment function was removed from Moodle blogs. Why have a blog at all if you cannot comment? You may as well just have an HTML editor and a place to publish web pages.

The bottom line for this book is that 1) if you are using Moodle and 2) you are designing courses, it’s full of helpful tips and techniques. An excellent review of this book is available from Susan Smith Nash.

9 Responses to “Review: Moodle Teaching Techniques”

  1. Harold

    Most large systems (LMS) are more about control – control of access; control of curriculum; control of testing – than anything else. You don’t need an LMS to teach or learn online.

    BTW, nice course site, but the pop-up windows would drive me crazy 😉

    Reply
  2. Gilbert

    The book will be useful.

    I don’t agree with Daniel’s comment. A specialized tool is very useful. Even more so if it is based on research into user needs. My experience in the K12 environment has showed that a system custom designed by teachers for teachers will produce much better performance support than a mashup of ad hoc tools.

    The problem with Moodle and others is that there are not sufficiently specialized to be efficient.
    A web litterate teacher can mash up a few services and produce better results. If he is a programmer he can work wonders.

    The LMS that claim to be specialized are more examples of what technology can do than proper support systems for the teachers and students.

    I worked for many months to develop a formative assessment system that would work for university teachers. It had to be very different than the one I used for K12 and took about 2 months to design.

    Moodle is nice but I really wish we had a more modern tool to work with. More powerful “mashup” and maybe “semantic” hooks. Can’t complain about the price though.

    GB

    Reply
  3. Harold

    Now all you have to do is fork Moodle and create a new system. At least Moodle can be forked, not like “BlackWeb” or any other proprietary systems.

    Reply
  4. Mark Berthelemy

    Hi Harold,

    I’m afraid you can’t call Moodle a “learning content management system”. A more accurate description would be a “learning activity management system”, but LAMS has already taken that. Moodle can handle any content a tutor/teacher throws at it, but each bit of content is stuck inside that particular course. Moodle works best when paired with a system such as Joomla or DOOR which handles the content.

    Moodle’s core learning philosophy is social constructivism, so any learning experience that is based on such a philosophy will match well with Moodle. It is possible to use it for behaviourist or cognitivist types of learning experience, but that’s not the best fit.

    Also Moodle blog posts do allow tags, so it’s quite easy to find related posts. The lack of comments is still a real downer though. I tend not to switch on Moodle’s blogs unless I’m asked to by the client. There are far better multi-user blogging engines out there. (eg. b2evolution)

    Reply
  5. Harold

    Thanks, Mark; I had considered describing it as a Course Management System, which is probably more accurate. I remember when all of these names started cropping up in the mid to late nineties and they were more about marketing than accurate descriptors to inform purchasers and users.

    Reply

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