(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)
Now that you’re familiar with the ways to use Moodle for different types of courses, it is time to take a look at how groups of people can come together as an online community and use Moodle to achieve their goals.
For example, individuals who have the same interests and want to discuss and share information in order to transfer knowledge can do so very easily in a Moodle course that has been set up for that purpose.
There are many practical uses of Moodle for online communities. For example, members of an association or employees of a company can come together to achieve a goal and finish a task. In this case, Moodle provides a perfect place to interact, collaborate, and create a final project or achieve a task.
Online communities can also be focused on learning and achievement, and Moodle can be a perfect vehicle for encouraging online communities to support each other to learn, take assessments, and display their certificates and badges. Moodle is also a good platform for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
In this article, we’ll create flexible Moodle courses that are ideal for online communities and that can be modified easily to create opportunities to harness the power of individuals in many different locations to teach and learn new knowledge and skills.
In this article, we’ll show you the benefit of Moodle and how to use Moodle for the following online communities and purposes:
Communities focused on learning and achievement
Moodle and online communities
It is often easy to think of Moodle as a learning management system that is used primarily by organizations for their students or employees. The community tends to be well defined as it usually consists of students pursuing a common end, employees of a company, or members of an association or society.
However, there are many informal groups and communities that come together because they share interests, the desire to gain knowledge and skills, the need to work together to accomplish tasks, and let people know that they’ve reached milestones and acquired marketable abilities.
For example, an online community may form around the topic of climate change. The group, which may use social media to communicate with each other, would like to share information and get in touch with like-minded individuals. While it’s true that they can connect via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media formats, they may lack a platform that gives a “one-stop shopping” solution. Moodle makes it easy to share documents, videos, maps, graphics, audio files, and presentations. It also allows the users to interact with each other via discussion forums. Because we can use but not control social networks, it’s important to be mindful of security issues. For that reason, Moodle administrators may wish to consider ways to back up or duplicate key posts or insights within the Moodle installation that can be preserved and stored.
In another example, individuals may come together to accomplish a specific task. For example, a group of volunteers may come together to organize a 5K run fundraiser for epilepsy awareness. For such a case, Moodle has an array of activities and resources that can make it possible to collaborate in the planning and publicity of the event and even in the creation of post event summary reports and press releases.
Finally, let’s consider a person who may wish to ensure that potential employers know the kinds of skills they possess. They can display the certificates they’ve earned by completing online courses as well as their badges, digital certificates, mentions in high achievers lists, and other gamified evidence of achievement. There are also the MOOCs, which bring together instructional materials, guided group discussions, and automated assessments. With its features and flexibility, Moodle is a perfect platform for MOOCs.
Building a knowledge-based online community
For our knowledge-based online community, let’s consider a group of individuals who would like to know more about climate change and its impact. To build a knowledge-based online community, the following are the steps we need to perform:
Choose a mobile-friendly theme.
Customize the appearance of your site.
Select resources and activities.
Moodle makes it possible for people from all locations and affiliations to come together and share information in order to achieve a common objective. We will see how to do this in the following sections.
Choosing the best theme for your knowledge-based Moodle online communities
As many of the users in the community access Moodle using smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, it is a good idea to select a theme that is responsive, which means that it will be automatically formatted in order to display properly on all devices.
You can learn more about themes for Moodle, review them, find out about the developers, read comments, and then download them at https://moodle.org/plugins/browse.php?list=category&id=3.
There are many good responsive themes, such as the popular Buckle theme and the Clean theme, that also allow you to customize them. These are the core and contributed themes, which is to say that they were created by developers and are either part of the Moodle installation or available for free download.
If you have Moodle 2.5 or a later version installed, your installation of Moodle includes many responsive themes. If it does not, you will need to download and install a theme. In order to select an installed theme, perform the following steps:
In the Site administration menu, click on the Appearance menu.
Click on Themes.
Click on Theme selector.
Click on the Change theme button.
Review all the themes.
Click on the Use theme button next to the theme you want to choose and then click on Continue.
Using the best settings for knowledge-based Moodle online communities
There are a number of things you can do to customize the appearance of your site so that it is very functional for knowledge-transfer-based Moodle online communities. The following is a brief checklist of items:
Select Topics format under the Course format section in the Course default settings window. By selecting topics, you’ll be able to organize your content around subjects.
Use the General section, which is included as the first topic in all courses. It has the News forum link. You can use this for announcements highlighting resources shared by the community.
Include the name of the main contact along with his/her photograph and a brief biographical sketch in News forum. You’ll create the sense that there is a real “go-to” person who is helping guide the endeavor.
Incorporate social media to encourage sharing and dissemination of new information. Brief updates are very effective, so you may consider including a Twitter feed by adding your Twitter account as one of your social media sites.
Even though your main topic of discussion may contain hundreds of subtopics that are of great interest, when you create your Moodle course, it’s best to limit the number of subtopics to four or five. If you have too many choices, your users will be too scattered and will not have a chance to connect with each other. Think of your Moodle site as a meeting point. Do you want to have too many breakout sessions and rooms or do you want to have a main networking site? Think of how you would like to encourage users to mingle and interact.
Selecting resources and activities for a knowledge-based Moodle online community
The following are the items to include if you want to configure Moodle such that it is ideal for individuals who have come together to gain knowledge on a specific topic or problem:
Resources: Be sure to include multiple types of files: documents, videos, audio files, and presentations.
Activities: Include Quiz and other such activities that allow individuals to test their knowledge.
Communication-focused activities: Set up a discussion forum to enable community members to post their thoughts and respond to each other.
The key to creating an effective Moodle course for knowledge-transfer-based communities is to give the individual members a chance to post critical and useful information, no matter what the format or the size, and to accommodate social networks.
Building a task-based online community
Let’s consider a group of individuals who are getting together to plan a fundraising event. They need to plan activities, develop materials, and prepare a final report. Moodle can make it fairly easy for people to work together to plan events, collaborate on the development of materials, and share information for a final report.
Choosing the best theme for your task-based Moodle online communities
If you’re using volunteers or people who are using Moodle just for the tasks or completion of tasks, you may have quite a few Moodle “newbies”. Since people will be unfamiliar with navigating Moodle and finding the places they need to go, you’ll need a theme that is clear, attention-grabbing, and that includes easy-to-follow directions.
There are a few themes that are ideal for collaborations and multiple functional groups. We highly recommend the Formal white theme because it is highly customizable from the Theme settings page. You can easily customize the background, text colors, logos, font size, font weight, block size, and more, enabling you to create a clear, friendly, and brand-recognizable site.
Formal white is a standard theme, kept up to date, and can be used on many versions of Moodle.
You can learn more about the Formal white theme and download it by visiting http://hub.packtpub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Filetheme_formalwhite.png.
In order to customize the appearance of your entire site, perform the following steps:
In the Site administration menu, click on Appearance.
Click on Themes.
Click on Theme settings.
Review all the themes settings.
Enter the custom information in each box.