Moodle: Little magic, more misery

An ESL school has recently been trying to use Moodle as a learning platform. I say ‘trying’ because so far, it has been a resounding failure. And to most people, it comes as a huge surprise because Moodle has been hailed as the best LMS for online learning. It comes in at #12 on the list of top 100 tools for learning.

But it’s not surprising. While Moodle is a very powerful and customizable learning platform, there aren’t many people that take the time to understand how to unleash its power, properly.

In the case of this particular school, no training has been provided so far, teachers don’t even know whether they should log in or not, and students have shown little to zero interest. The design of the school’s Moodle site is neither captivating nor intuitive. The content is repetitive and redundant – the administrators are using course book listening activities which the teacher will do in class, uploading them to Moodle, and adding gap-fills and true-false questions to supplement classroom learning. While an online platform should encourage everyone to go paperless, students are given paper worksheets to answer questions found on Moodle. The future of Moodle in this school appears to be bleak.

The same is true of several other Moodle courses found online. So much of the content is presented as attached Word and Powerpoint documents and Moodle’s comprehensive content-creation and quiz-making tools are hardly put to any use.

So why is this happening? And why is this happening in so many online courses that use Moodle?

  1. Moodle itself: Firstly, I think Moodle itself hasn’t made itself very user-friendly. The site has been around since 2003 but greatly lacks the intuitive, get-up-and-running-in-5-minutes features offered by most other LMSs like Edmodo and Schoology. I’m all for open-source and copyleft but at the end of the day, a simple intuitive design wins users.
  2. Moodle training: Few school administrators invest in training for teachers who have to use the platform and sell it to their students as the best way to learn.
  3. IT Support: If school administrators invest in an institutional Moodle account and expect teachers and students to use it regularly, they should also factor in dedicated IT support for all and any issues that may arise. This would include enrolling teachers and students, dealing with login issues, and creating a basic platform which acts as a springboard and also allows for teachers to personalize their course for their particular students.
  4. Content ownership: However, IT or the Blended Learning coordinator of your school should not take on the entire responsibility of content creation. Teachers know their students best, and need to be able to manipulate the content to address learner needs. This process also gives teachers a sense of ownership. When they invest time and energy into creating something, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about Moodle in class, thereby driving students to the platform and engaging them in learning. This point also takes me back to #2 and #3, i.e. teachers need to be enabled to create this content, from basic Moodle training to sessions on instructional design.
  5. Lack of an app: So your site is up and running, your teachers are involved in creating the quality online educational materials, there is consistent IT support, and yet, students are just not logging in enough and often onto the site. And yet, many administrators do not set up the app for use. Why, oh why? More and more students are logging on to the internet from their smartphones. The market share of apps has risen dramatically since Apple launched its app store in 2008 (85 bn apps have been downloaded since). 

In another post, I will point out Moodle training courses already available online that will be useful if you or your school is considering using Moodle as your learning management system.



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