This assignment definitely accentuated the strengths and weaknesses of Moodle as a LMS. My biggest complaint about Moodle is that it is ugly. The three column layout and chunkiness of the design is not very aesthetically appealing. A splash page with graphic user interface does make the initial page more appealing. This was something new for me to do in Moodle and required a little bit of research to wrap my head around what was required. Linking images and words from a main splash page is appealing for all ages and eliminates much of the scrolling mess that is my second biggest complaint when using Moodle. This is something that I will be implementing in a number of my courses.
The other weakness of Moodle, I believe, lies in the inability to selectively release modules. Usually what I would do in Moodle is build ahead my modules and then hide them from the students. Moodle allows you to hide whole sections or individual resources or activities. However that did not meet the criteria for this course as I understood it. Using the Topics format you do not have the ability to release a whole topic on a specific time and date, unlike when you use the weekly format. I would love to see this as an addition. My initial attempt was using an offline text assignment with an opening and closing date. However this did not hide the modules from the students but just told them it wasn’t open yet. I ended up using the lesson activity for my HTML portions of my modules as they will not allow students in until the opening date. However the activities and resources associated with the modules, assignments or glossaries, would have to be manually hidden and revealed.
Modules built mostly in HTML was my biggest stumbling block and again accented the weakness of Moodle. Composing a webpage in Moodle is awkward and ugly, however, this is what I ended up doing. After weeks of playing around with Amaya and CSS, I learned a lot but I was not moving forward on writing these modules. So I chose to build a template with a table along the top and column on the left to help aid with navigation in the module. I am not completely satisfied with the result, I think the navigation is still confusing, but it was a reasonable first attempted that can be easily transferred to a more visually appealing style sheet in the future.
Another strength of Moodle is it’s ability to deal with multiple groups in a single course. My hope is to use the course across school boards with various facilitators. I created groups that represent the three school boards in my city so that facilitators could portion off conversations in forums and assignments that pertain to their participants only. I created three forums, questions, RSS Reader and Social Bookmarking and made groups visible for RSS Reader and Social Bookmarking to assist the facilitators of the course.
Moodle allows you to select and use a number of different technologies, it makes great web glue. Choosing what to include in my courses has always been an issue for me, I tend to navigate to what is cool and new. Using Bates and Poole’s SECTIONS I now have a model to help me figure out what will best meet my intended learning outcomes. For this course I focussed on items that would appeal to teachers, add a layer of interactivityand feedback but still be allowed by the multiple organizations that would be using this course. I chose to include YouTube videos knowing that some of my colleagues would probably have them blocked at work. I excluded Facebook from this course because I knew that the organizational issues around using it were just too large. I tried to add resources and activities that would appeal to the different learner types by including video, audio, text and interactive items.
Having a lot of experience working with Moodle helped me out during this assignment. While I did not struggle as much with the quirks of Moodle, I did have to do a fair amount of digging to get the pieces to work together to make a coherent course. While my experience with HTML and Amaya did not end up on my Moodle page, I think they were my most significant learning and will help me as I move forward as our Moodle administrator.
Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Chapter 4: A Framework for Selection and Using Technology. In Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education Foundations for Success. (pp. 77-105). Sand Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers