A fellow Moodler (Laurie Korte) asked for some talking points to convince her district to use Moodle as its primary collaboration tool.
In my district (and around the web) I often get folks saying “We should use X instead of Moodle” (Ning, Blogger, Edmodo, Facebook, Quia, etc.) and my general feeling is that while there are lots of strengths to each of those tools, they lack the ability to be the one-stop shop.
With Moodle we get one web address and one login that gives students and teachers ALL of the tools that would require dozens of other systems. Is Moodle the best blog tool, the best forum tool, the best wiki tool, the best quiz tool, the best survey tool, the best social networking tool? No. But it is the only web app I have found that has all of these in one spot.
Why is having all these tools in one place so important and why is Moodle so good at meeting lots of need?
- Prevents login/password overload. Every new site is another web address, username, and password that must be created, managed and remembered. If the school has to create and manage those accounts, it becomes a lot of work. If the teachers and students have to manage/create the accounts, then most won’t bother. Moodle is good at getting login info from other databases and at sending login info to other systems. We have Moodle, Google Docs, and Mahara all tied to a single sign on with Moodle. Soon we will have the Moodle logins tied to our Active Directory accounts. (Edmodo and Ning won’t allow that kind of account management)
- Prevents fragmentation of progress. One teacher uses Ning because it is really slick for social networking, another uses Quia for online quizzes. Can they share their success with each other? Only by learning an entirely new system and interface. In Moodle if one teacher uses Forums and another uses Quizzes they can share their strategies (or even copy the activity between their courses) and add new tools to their teaching with less “activation energy”. There will always be a few cutting edge teachers who can pick up new tools and experiment from year to year, but you shouldn’t try to make those tools “district standards”. As a district you want one system that you can be assured will meet all your teachers needs so you can move everybody forward.
- Lack of consistency for students/parents. With one site, kids learn how to interact online and build on those skills year to year. This means the tech is more transparent. If every class/year kids have to learn a new system, there is more time wasted. (Yes I admit that learning new tech can be a waste of time if you do too much of it and don’t use it enough.)
- Easy for teachers to grow into it. Moodle can start as just a static webpage. This gets a lot of teachers on board (even ones who aren’t on the Web 2.0 bandwagon). Then after a year or two they can add a forum here, a wiki there. After awhile they have slowly integrate Web 2.0 into the classroom. Throw them into something like Ning and most teachers just won’t engage, because it is too much change.
- Moodle is robust and expandable. Want to upload an Examview test bank? Want to allow 2 quiz attempts with a half hour delay? Want to monitor all student messages? Want to restrict a few students from messaging, but still allow them to take quizzes? Want to give one student the ability to moderate a forum? Want to give students an entire course to use for their project? No other tool I have found has so much power to customize. Also the plugin database full of 3rd party mods is awesome: I have added a nicer file upload system, a cool photo gallery, Google Apps integration, Turnitin.com integration, site-wide message reporting. All for free and easy to set up.
- Moodle can be used for professional development. Set up an anti bullying course and have teachers go through it. Do Blood Borne Pathogen certification quickly and easily on Moodle. Create a staff discussion forum. No need to have a separate log in for teachers to work with students and teachers to work together.
- Finally, Moodle can be customized to look very nice
So is Moodle right for your district/school? It may not be, but if you think about long term, system-wide growth and Moodle looks very attractive.