Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

To Moodle or NOT to Moodle…..

That is the Question.

The initial impression I have of Moodle is the visual design and content hierarchy is very different than Blackboard, and this is something that concerns me as far as retraining faculty to migrate from BB to Moodle. I can hear my faculty now: “Just when we feel comfortable teaching on BB now we have to learn a whole new online course management system. Uhgg!” I like the messaging feature and the fact that I can turn content and various features on and off so students are not overwhelmed with initially seeing so much course content and options when they log in. I also like the wiki and blog features – I would like to see this in Blackboard. My first impression is not totally favorable based on the layout and design, but once I explore Moodle and get more familiar with it, I am sure my impressions will change.

Students can upload large files, multiple files, pictures and submit for marking by clicking a button for marking. They can also upload any type of file to include audio and video files.

The assignments feature is very different than blackboards and there are some things I like about it, yet it doesn’t seem very user friendly to me IF you and your students are using to Blackboard’s Assignment Manager. I want to play with the overall course design and see just how much I can make it visually more interesting with a better visual hierarchy and various focal points that leads the student around the key areas of the Moodle interface.

Check out my Distance Learning Blog for more information about visual hierarchies – see Module II linked at the top of the Blog. I suppose what it all boils down to is COST. Since Blackboard is getting more and more expensive “open source” course management systems like Moodle are going to become more and more appealing to college administrator’s. If $$ is no object then I would stick with BB because I am very familiar with it and I like its functionality, interface and overall design AND it does what I want it to do as an instructor. If you are creative you can incorporate more “right brained” methodologies (strategies) into your course blackboard. It is like anything else…many online instructors will go with the defaults throughout the course management system and I don’t think it really matter what CMS you are using IF you are an innovative (creative) online teacher. A proactive online instuctor who knows his/her content and how to teach it in the online environment will be able to use any CMS and be successful.

I have some real concerns about the discussion board, although the groups feature is pretty cool. I think it all goes back to what you are used to. I need to spend some serious time with Moodle to see if it is a viable option for me and CCC.

I want to import my Art Appreciation class into Moodle and truly scrutinize this learning platform – this is the only way I will be able to give it a true assessment – all I am able to do right now is get a visual snap shot of its features and what applications and options it has – I don’t have a feel for its functionality especially with 25 students interacting with me.

The Moodle gradebook at first glance seems as sophisticated as BB with possibly even more viable options for grading and giving feedback to students. You also have lots of options in the discussion board as far as viewing, evaluating and grading student posts. So the more I am exposed to Moodle the more impressed I am with it – it just goes back to getting familiar with a new system and getting our faculty and students acclimated to it.

I spoke with Randall from WCC and I am going to set-up a section of Art Appreciation on Moodle as a test pilot and teach it for him sometime in the future when they are ready to move forward with this initiative.

The bottom line to all this is $$$$$$$$$ – it is that simple. The conversation at lunch revolved around how Blackboard is pricing itself out of our Community College market and we as DL Directors and Administrators are going to have to come up with alternatives and back-up plans if and when the time comes to completely rethink how we are going to offer our online courses.

As this workshop evolves I am seeing just how flexible Moodle is as far as changing the visual LOOK and DESIGN of the pages. That was a big concern for me being a visual person.

Day 2 Moodle Workshop

I initially attempted to export my Blackboard into a Moodle Template that I created and it didn’t work. It may have been because my Art Appreciation Blackboard was too big, however I looked at the instructor next to me and hers didn’t translate well at all so she decided to start from scratch moving the content. Blackboard’s interface is so different that I don’t see how exporting courses is going to work – it is going to take the same amount of man hours to literally copy and paste the content over to Moodle.This is what I am doing now, however I am having difficulty getting my mind wrapped around this new content management system – the visual hierarchy is very different that Blackboard and I am so used to BB it is a matter for me of completely RETHINKING how I teach my online classes. I felt excited about Moodle when I left the workshop yesterday but now I am a bit frustrated and am exploring how to reconfigure and redesign my class.

After 2 hours this morning of essentially playing with Moodle and going back and forth between my Blackboard Art Appreciation course and the one I was trying to build in Moodle I finally experienced a low level epiphany and started getting my mind around this course management interface. I am not ready to say whether I like it or not yet, however I feel as though I can make it work for ma and teach on it – in fact…I plan to teach a section of Art Appreciation for Randall at WCC this fall. With that said I need to go ahead and finish moving all my content over while Moodle is still relatively familiar to me.

Observations after the Moodle Workshop.

1. It is nothing like Blackboard that’s for sure.

2. It is NOT going to be easy for blackboard users to migrate their courses over to Moodle. I suggest copy and pasting the content over as raw html – this keeps the links and formatting intact for the most part although you still have to tweak your pages.

3. From what I have seen so far each online instructor is going to have to modify (change, alter, rethink) his/her teaching methodology to coincide with the Moodle interface.

4. I certainly don’t see this as a seamless migration and faculty and students alike coming from a Blackboard environment are going to experience some initial frustrations as they climb the Moodle learning curve.

5. Moodle is a different kind of Course Management animal and doesn’t seem very intuitive to me, however I will suspend my judgment until I can complete the process of moving my course over and teaching a section in the Fall.

6. Distance Learning coordinators and directors be prepared for lots of griping, frustration, resentment and anxiety on the part of your online faculty and students) who are experienced (veteran) Blackboard users.

Check out my DL Blog for my future thoughts on this and other instructional design and DL Issues.

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12 comments on “To Moodle or NOT to Moodle…..

  1. Jon Sweetin
    June 28, 2007

    I agree with you 100% on this. I know the whole point of this scope project is to see how we could use Moodle as a state wide replacement for BB but the faculty acceptance will be the tallest mountain for us to climb. I can see a lot of advantages to using Moodle. The student blogs, the integrated calendar and wikis are very cool.

  2. keoughp
    June 30, 2007

    Yes Jon…there are certainly some advantages to using Moodle – the cost in my opinion being the major one, however even with the blog, wiki and RSS features it still doesn’t have the instructional “feel” for me as an online teacher. I am sure over time I could get used to using it, but as you mention…faculty acceptance will be a tall mountain to climb considering so many NCCC Faculty have used BB for so long.

  3. Amy Brown
    July 3, 2007

    I agree with the majority of what you are saying here. We have a mountain to climb, but I believe that all of us are reaching a point where we need to rethink how we teach online. Moodle really addresses the need for flexibility and to make students more active in the learning process.

    Yes, there will always be faculty who are not pleased about change and convinced that they already have everything figured out when it comes to online learning. I personally dread those moments when I will have to introduce this new technology this group – but we need their comments now just like the ones who embrace it.

    Staying with a product because you are comfortable with it is not a reason to stay. Technology is always changing and my friends, we have chosen a career in technology. This means that we will always have to embrace change and be willing to ask ourselves the tough questions about our systems. Is it really meeting the needs of our students? Students don’t care which one you use just as long as it meets their needs.

    Our students come to us to learn something new. It takes bravery for some people to embrace the learning process. They rely on faculty to help them through this process. I believe that faculty must walk the walk as well. They must be willing to learn new things too in order to relate to their students. A new LMS is part of that process.

    Now, on to Moodle. What I have seen so far, I have liked. I was personally blown away by the response of the faculty at our school. Most of them did not want to touch Blackboard again. Most of them were willing to reinvent their content and did not express worry about bringing over Blackboard content.

    I don’t know about your campus but at GTCC, if the faculty don’t like the idea, it does not work. Faculty must stand on the front lines in our classroom and must have confidence in the product in order to do their job well. So, if we decide to move to Moodle (which I am leaning towards at this time), I have to get it in the hands of as many faculty as I possible can as soon as I can. This is not a decision that I can make alone for my school. The majority of faculty must love it too.

    What I like about Moodle is the flexibility for faculty – you can alter the look and feel of your course to meet the needs of your students, the book feature, the built-in wikis and blogs, messenging system and how it goes immediately to their email if they are not online and how you can layout EVERY aspect of a lesson on one page (instead of creating links around your Blackboard site to use all the features.)

    What I don’t like – the migration of content is still awkward at best at this point and it will take longer to teach to faculty.

    It’s difficult to explain the visual differences between Moodle and Blackboard to others because it’s such a new way of presenting content. I am eager to embrace this difference and hope to teach all my courses in the fall using Moodle. The real test is really how my students will interact with it. Someone at CPCC once said, the best piece of software for students is one that you do not have to teach. If my students embrace Moodle without needing instruction, I am completely sold!

  4. Tina Farmer
    July 3, 2007

    I think the thing I’m struggling with most is the lack of the structure we’re so used to with Bb. The though of not having a folder system to rely on…and turn off and on for students automatically is mind-boggling to me. I am very impressed with Moodle overall and it does a lot of cool things that Bb does not. I also like the admins ability to control almost every feature and generate reports behind the scenes.

    I think our more innovative instructors will adapt to Moodle without too much kicking and screaming, and will probably like it better in the end. I do foresee a problem with many of the instructors who know Bb, like it, and see no reason to leave their comfort zone. It’s going to be an interesting ride for sure!

  5. Bob Ervin
    July 3, 2007

    Pat – thanks for your words. I too am struggling with getting my head around a new CMS. I worry about the conversion, since I know instructors will be frustrated with ‘starting from scratch’ in a course. Will keep playing with it and see where it leads.

  6. keoughp
    July 3, 2007

    Like anything else in life change can be disconcerting and stressful. I spent a good part of this past weekend moving my Art Appreciation course content over to Moodle. It was very time consuming because it is more than just a matter of copy and pasting html, pictures and links. I had to completely rethink the instructional design strategy for my class. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however as I was doing it I was thinking about my online faculty having to do the same thing and the countless man hours involved, not to mention the frustration level. I’ve spent the past year directing an aggressive Blackboard training initiative at my college and just thinking about switching platforms (after all that CMS specific training) spikes my blood pressure.

    Ok…with that said…change can be good and I have confidence we can make Moodle work if we can no longer afford Blackboard. I don’t think we should make any serious decisions until we test it out and truly see if it is a viable replacement for BB and will meet our needs – that is why I plan on teaching a section for Wayne CC on Moodle. As Tina mentioned…Moodle seems to lack the structure of BB and BB seems to have a shallower learning curve than Moodle. Its all matter of getting more familiar with the Moodle interface and training our online faculty and then our students how to harness and use this teaching tool. The jury is out for me until I finish getting my course copied over and then teach on it this fall. I will keep you all posted as to my progress – if anyone else teaches on it in the fall please feel free to post your observations to this blog so we can continue this very important conversation.

  7. Pingback: Distance Learning Update July 5, 2007 « Title III Grant

  8. Angie Rudd
    July 17, 2007

    I hear what everyone is saying but if we spend so much time going back and re-training when will we ever be able to move forward?
    Sure a content management system is a content management system to us but not to those who have a hard time embracing technology.
    I have been struggling with this Moodle concept for over a year now.
    If I were starting at ground zero I would jump on the Moodle bandwagon.
    So is the question to Moodle or not based on the price of the software or does the current software not offer the tools that are needed?
    As you can see I think I am leaning on the “not to Moodle” side. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Moodle Observations « Keo BloG

  10. Pingback: NCDADL Conference Presentation « Distance Learning at Carteret Community College

  11. sandrar
    September 10, 2009

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  12. Pingback: Moodle Admin Workshop « KeO BLoG

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2007 by in Distance Learning.
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