Introduction to Moodle

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(For more resources on Moodle, see here.)

The Moodle philosophy

Moodle is designed to support a style of learning called Social Constructionism. This style of learning is interactive. The social constructionist philosophy believes that people learn best when they interact with the learning material, construct new material for others, and interact with other students about the material. The difference between a traditional class and a class following the social constructionist philosophy is the difference between a lecture and a discussion.

Moodle does not require you to use the social constructionist method for your courses. However, it best supports this method. For example, Moodle allows you to add several kinds of static course material. This is course material that a student reads, but does not interact with:

  • Web pages
  • Links to anything on the Web (including material on your Moodle site)
  • A directory of files
  • A label that displays any text or image

However, Moodle also allows you to add interactive course material. This is course material that a student interacts with, by answering questions, entering text, or uploading files:

  • Assignment (uploading files to be reviewed by the teacher)
  • Choice (a single question)
  • Lesson (a conditional, branching activity)
  • Quiz (an online test)

Moodle also offers activities where students interact with each other. These are used to create social course material:

  • Chat (live online chat between students)
  • Forum (you can have zero or more online bulletin boards for each course)
  • Glossary (students and/or teachers can contribute terms to site-wide glossaries)
  • Wiki (this is a familiar tool for collaboration to most younger students and many older students)
  • Workshop (this supports the peer review and feedback of assignments that students upload)

In addition, some of Moodle’s add-on modules add even more types of interaction. For example, one add-on module enables students and teachers to schedule appointments with each other.

The Moodle experience

Because Moodle encourages interaction and exploration, your students’ learning experience will often be non-linear. Moodle can be used to enforce a specific order upon a course, using something called conditional activities. Conditional activities can be arranged in a sequence. Your course can contain a mix of conditional and non-linear activities.

In this section, I’ll take you on a tour of a Moodle learning site. You will see the student’s experience from the time that the student arrives at the site, through entering a course, to working through some material in the course. You will also see some student-to-student interaction, and some functions used by the teacher to manage the course.

The Moodle Front Page

The Front Page of your site is the first thing that most visitors will see. This section takes you on a tour of the Front Page of my demonstration site.

Probably the best Moodle demo sites are http://demo.moodle.net/ and http://school.demo.moodle.net/.

Arriving at the site

When a visitor arrives at a learning site, the visitor sees the Front Page. You can require the visitor to register and log in before seeing any part of your site, or you can allow an anonymous visitor to see a lot of information about the site on the Front Page, which is what I have done:

(Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

One of the first things that a visitor will notice is the announcement at the top and centre of the page, Moodle 2.0 Book Almost Ready!. Below the announcement are two activities: a quiz, Win a Prize: Test Your Knowledge of E-mail History, and a chat room, Global Chat Room. Selecting either of these activities will require to the visitor to register with the site, as shown in the following screenshot:

Anonymous, guest, and registered access

Notice the line Some courses may allow guest access at the middle of the page. You can set three levels of access for your site, and for individual courses:

  • Anonymous access allows anyone to see the contents of your site’s Front Page. Notice that there is no Anonymous access for courses. Even if a course is open to Guests, the visitor must either manually log in as the user Guest, or you must configure the site to automatically log in a visitor as Guest.
  • Guest access requires the user to login as Guest. This allows you to track usage, by looking at the statistics for the user Guest. However, as everyone is logged in as the user Guest, you can’t track individual users.
  • Registered access requires the user to register on your site. You can allow people to register with or without e-mail confirmation, require a special code for enrolment, manually create their accounts yourself, import accounts from another system, or use an outside system (like an LDAP server) for your accounts.

The Main menu

Returning to the Front Page, notice the Main menu in the upper-left corner. This menu consists of two documents that tell the user what the site is about, and how to use it.

In Moodle, icons tell the user what kind of resource will be accessed by a link. In this case, the icon tells the user that the first resource is a PDF (Adobe Acrobat) document, and the second is a web page. Course materials that students observe or read, such as web or text pages, hyperlinks, and multimedia files are called Resources.

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