Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Last Monday I went to the Moodleposium, the moodle event held jointly between the University of Canberra, ANU and CIT and Netspot to whom these three institutions had outsourced hosting their moodle based LMS solutions.

The event was full to bursting with over 270 people attending. Made me quite nostalgic for the mid nineties when I used to organise similar events on the uptake of windows in UK universities [Internet archive link]. Plenty of people were taking pictures and live blogging, and doubtless tweeting - searching for moodleposium on google and flickr will bring up alternative takes (for example this one from UC) on the event. (I'm old school - notes on an A5 pad plus a bit of reflection and summary)

Now being a geek, I mainly concentrated on the technical sessions including Martin Dougiamas's presentations on Moodle 2 but my key takeaways from the non technical sessions I attended are:

  • Social networking is implicit in most LMS use
    • a proportion of users expect social interaction
    • can also deliver this via a shared blog, wiki, or some other experience like shared google docs spreadsheet
    • social interaction cannot be imposed - users all use the system in a different way
      • distance ed students have a greater need of social networking to build a community
  • Need to expect use of repurposed material from YouTube, flickr etc
  • Need to move from a text centric to a mixed media environment
  • Need to be clear what is pedagogy and what is there to enhance the student experience

Learning and teaching is changing, and while LMS's were originally viewed as a framework to deliver reading lists, lecture notes and podcasts of the lectures in a uniform format for students who couldn't make every class, the LMS solution has changed the university experience.

Likewise the use of wiki's, shared editing in Google Docs, blogs has changed the nature of teaching, with non-linear electronic and by implication mixed media replacing classic linear paper media. For example, a wiki as an online daybook can show how a student researching a special topic has come to grips with the material etc etc.

The other interesting thing is that no one seemed terribly concerned about privacy - technology conquered all.

And then there's Moodle 2:

Essentially some architectural changes - more modular and also more repository like (database and pointers to file objects, with implicit single instancing), user and group level access controls and a hierarchical structure - again as it's database driven this is not reflected in any underlying disk structure.

At which point your learning management system starts looking like a content management system.

The other thing that Moodle 2 does is it embraces mashup technology and has repository connectors allowing the import and reuse of content from flickr, Google docs, YouTube etc etc. There is also a portfolio API to allow export to GoogleDocs, flickr, alfresco and the like allowing the creation of day books, private collections and private views - say a course portfolio for tutors, another for prospective employers, etc - not just a CMS but a meta cms.

There will also be reasonably tight integration to both Google Apps (including a Gmail block) and at Microsoft's request and similar layer for live@edu and exchange.

This does beg the question however at which point the LMS becomes the student portal - after all all the basic functionality is there.

Moodle 2 also introduces the concept of hubserver - essentially a server to which courses are exported for reuse, to create a global course collection.

To upgrade to Moodle 2 you will require PHP 5.2.8 or greater, MySQL 5.025/PostGres 8.3 although MSSQL and Oracle are also supported. Early adopters might find Linux performance to be better than in the Microsoft environment as Microsoft development tends to lag slightly.

As the underlying filesystem has changed to a database and pointer style repository model any third party filesystem tools will break, as will any database based tools.

Currently testing is scheduled to be finished by December 2009 for deliver in February 2010, although no commitment has been made to meeting these dates.

1 comment:

tenthmedieval said...

I'm a little bit chary of something as all-containing as an LMS, possibly because my student environment encouraged almost total independence of learning methods: but this:

Need to be clear what is pedagogy and what is there to enhance the student experience

is important to anyone who uses technology in the classroom at all.