Interest Growing In Open-Source Distance Learning Platform Moodle
Moodle, a free open source course management system created by Australian programmer Martin Dougiamas, is in the early adopter phase as a free or relatively inexpensive alternative to e-learning platforms at schools, colleges and, to a lesser extent, corporations.
While Moodle – which stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment – may not have all the bells and whistles of top-line LMS products, it can provide a basic collaborative environment for distance learning applications. Of the 300 respondents to a recent survey conducted by Dougiamas, 45 said they had Moodle installed at their company. It is used in 61 countries, and 142 of the 521 registered Moodle domains are based in the U.S.
“The teacher is very central to what Moodle is and does,” he said. “A lot of e-learning is going towards a content-based model, wherein you design a maze and set your rats off through it and go off on a holiday somewhere while the rats are in the maze. Lots of people are studying in mazes and that’s fine, but that’s not my thing.”
Users can set up an outline of a course, and divide it in topics, then break it down further into activities such as forum discussions or chats, with quizzes, workshops and polls. They can upload assignments and assess each other, then have an instructor assess the assessment. There are also tracking mechanisms that allow the instructor to view student progress; they can get a complete activity report in a single Web page showing all of a student’s posts and activities in chronological order.
Dougiamas said he began working on Moodle in the 1990s while a Webmaster at the Curtin University of Technology (Perth, Australia) administering a course management system from WebCT (Lynnfield, Mass.). He said he was frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t allowed to tweak the proprietary software and link it up to other administrative systems.
The first iteration came out in August 2002, and version 1.1.1 was released a year later. About 50 developers worldwide contribute to Moodle, he said, although each user is able to make modifications; these changes are generally not added to the code base.
While Moodle is a free download, Dougiamas makes his living via Moodle.com, where he offers server hosting for $1,000 per year and support, either via a six-month, $1,000 contract or at $100 per hour.
“I’m just about to expand [support] into a franchise system,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest from people who want to run Moodle.com in their own country and language. I’ve already been doing it in an informal way for the past few months.” Five companies in five countries have support contracts, he added.
Moodle: www.moodle.org; www.moodle.com
COPYRIGHT 2003 RR Bowker
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group