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Trainer’s tip: Moodle – to use or not to use?


LIGHTBULBJohn Stokdyk, technology editor, and Mark Aberdour, the CEO of Kineo Open Source, give some moodling advice.

Robert Parker asked on our Any Answers forum: I am thinking of using Moodle to introduce some elearning courses as a compliment to some of our existing tutored courses.
I am the Training Adviser at Norwood, a charity employing 1,200 staff across London and Berkshire. 600 Staff have access to computers and we would aim this learning at them. We would plan to publish soft skills and technical training. Due to constraints the content would be produced in-house.

Can anyone tell me if Moodle is intuitive. Are there wizards for help, and/or is it 'drag and drop'? Is there any programming or development required to offer basic elearning programmes to staff and to track their learning? Is there anything else I need to be aware of at this early stage?

JOHN STOKDYKJohn Stokdyk, technology editor, replied: I'm not speaking from a position of great authority about the development side, but I'm confident in saying that you won't be striking out into a solitary wilderness if you take on Moodle.

It's the fastest growing LMS in the market and showed up in significant numbers in our Software Satisfaction Awards poll last year.

While it did not make it on to the podium at the awards, Moodle users gave very good feedback about it - particularly for value for money (3.85 out of 4). While still achieving a very good score of 3.65 for ease of use, Moodle's cumulative rating was 3.75 - an extremely credible performance.

If the Moodle sample continues to follow these growth and satisfaction trends, it is a very strong candidate for honours in this year's awards.

Those are the statistics. While researching our article Getting to grips with the Moodle effect I logged in and tried a free module from the Open University's LearningSpace site. For a user the interface was a bit in your face (lots and lots of options), but not hard to navigate. I think configuring it might require some expertise - this applies to any LMS - but once it's there it appears that you can pretty well stick any content you have into it.

OU Moodle director of strategic development Joel Greenberg commented that students don't care about the look, they want access to the content and reckoned Moodle has taken off "because it's so simple to use".

Not a bad endorsement from someone who supports thousands of users. Kineo has a very useful introductory site and someone there might be able to advise you in more detail on the capability and configuration questions you've raised.
Good luck with your explorations - and do come back to let us know which route Norwood decides to take.

MARK ABERDOURMark Aberdour, the CEO of Kineo Open Source added: Moodle is a great choice for introducing elearning in any organisation, as hundreds of thousands of public and private organisations worldwide will attest. Elearning Guild research in 2007 showed it had surpassed Sumtotal as the LMS of choice for small and medium businesses with almost 25% of the market, so you will be in good company.

We see it being used in four key areas:

  1. Elearning launching and tracking

  2. Facilitating learning

  3. Supporting classroom courses

  4. Online performance support centres

Regarding intuitiveness, Moodle out of the box is very plain and simple and not visually appealing, but this is because it is designed with rebranding in mind. To this end, it is relatively straightfoward to rebrand the entire Moodle 'theme' with some basic CSS work. More advanced themes involving layout changes, flash menus and more can be achieved with a few days effort. We have many samples we can show you, please contact me directly if you wish. It is a very large application and highly configurable so we would recommend buying a Moodle book to guide yourself through it or going on a training course. We find that once users are up to speed they become big fans of Moodle. Indeed, we have customers who were 'sold' Moodle by their new employees, who had used Moodle in college and expected something similar for workplace learning!

Regarding developing learning programmes, it depends on what you want to do. I would always advise to create elearning outside Moodle using an authoring tool and import it into a Moodle course as a SCORM object, these means you can take advantage of SCORM reporting (who has started/completed/passed each module, and so on) and you would get something much more visually appealing to boot. But you can develop basic content in Moodle itself with no programming or development experience. But do think seriously about this - your learning needs to be engaging and well thought through if your learners are to get the best learning experience.

Good luck with your implementation! We have some resources on our site you may find useful:

Open source learning management systems

Managing open source procurement

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Moodle - to use or not to use?

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