The past couple of weeks have been busy for most academics in
Australia. If they’re not grabbing the last of the summer before term
begins … and it’s been a miserable, wet summer for most of us …
then others are jetting home from far-flung cold climes. Most probably,
like me, they’re prepping for the first semester of the academic year.
The past couple of weeks have been busy for most academics in Australia. If they’re not grabbing the last of the summer before term begins … and it’s been a miserable, wet summer for most of us … then others are jetting home from far-flung cold climes. Most probably, like me, they’re prepping for the first semester of the academic year.
When in work mode, it’s been a coming to terms with Moodle (modular object oriented dynamic learning environment). My university has moved on from Web-CT (hooray!) and adopted this entirely new, open-source CMS (course management system) or, if you like, LMS (learning management system). For many of the faculty, it’s been training sessions, playing in the sandbox with dummy courses, importing materials from the old system into the new, or just creating new stuff within Moodle. First impressions? There’s a huge improvement over the former system Web-CT with its ‘pushy’ focus, dull dull look, its lack of flexibility, lack of intuitive direction, and endless clicks to get what the user wants. Moodle support is good with simple, focussed screen-help at every step of the way, as well as a robust support community. The prognosis is good, though IMHO it still takes too many clicks to get around.
I’m a Moodle newbie, so every step along the way has been a discovery. Perhaps the most significant is how the usability of my platform of choice (Mac) differs at a profound level from the Windows environment. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Moodle has been developed by Windows users for Windows users … it just feels that way as one works round the screens, gets materials in and out of Moodle, and interacts with users. Perhaps the uni’s Moodle elves will look into this soon. Either that or clever hackers (cough) user-community members, will in the spirit of Web 2.0 spread the goodness.
I’m sure my blogging and wiki experiences put me in front of some other colleagues when it comes to intuition about how the Moodle interface works. On the other hand, not being a Windows user has meant I’ve been stymied by one of those by-now essential functions … drag and drop functionality. Working through hierarchical lists and folders when uploading files feels Web-CT-like still. I did enjoy the simplicity (comparatively speaking) of editing an imported question bank in Moodle. I had the materials on a couple of screens, not buried away in nested folders as in Web-CT. It was then a snap to organise these questions into Quizzes. A much simpler interface all up! I’m finding very irritating the fact that you have to reselect check box preferences every time you leave and come back to a screen. C’mon,surely you can save your preferences?
This feel for the interface throws up an interesting issue and one that goes beyond what platform we use. That is where the ‘typical academic’ is right now in terms of familiarity with the online environment for e-learning whether mediated by Windows or Mac. Not surprisingly, many colleagues are wary, unsure, and would rather stay with the known rather than step into unchartered waters. There is no doubt however, that we are already beyond the turning of the tide. One of the big questions in professional development has to be, how do we encourage colleagues to try, and then to embrace e-learning and the whole darn Web 2.0 revolution? Softly, softly … one step at a time.
Now as far as I’m concerned all I need to do is work on getting my enhanced podcasts out of Garageband and into Moodle. Move over Breeze … I’m on to it!