Unmuddling Moodle: What is Moodle and why haven’t I heard of it?

Moodle is an open-source learning management system (LMS) and e-learning software platform. In the United States, LMS Blackboard seems to own most of the educational mindshare. However, this trend is changing. In the past decade, Moodle has grown from a few hundred users to over 60 million world-wide users. And, in the U.S., it has been recently adopted by schools such as the University of Minnesota and Idaho State University.

Similar to Blackboard, now employed by many universities across the U.S., Moodle enables instructors to create course materials and manage grades. It allows students to access and turn in assignments as well as take quizzes and make posts to peers and instructors. Moodle was specifically designed for the purpose of interaction, collaborative content construction and implementing constructivist teaching and learning models. First conceived in 2002 by Australian Martin Dougiamas as his PhD project, Moodle has grown from down under, across Asia and into the most populated learning management system in the world.

With a growing number of LMS choices, why does Moodle dominate the global market? Many Moodle using students and educators enjoy the customization and ease of use. Additionally, the collaboration experienced through Moodle is multifaceted for both instructors and students inviting all users to learn from one other. Others argue that Moodle is more intuitive, faster and easier to use than Blackboard. This student project featured on Youtube highlights some students’ reasons for preferring Moodle over Blackboard.



Additionally, Moodle’s design is intentionally informed by rich educational pedagogy. Creator Martin Dougiamas, who remains the Executive Director of Moodle, has both a computer science and education background. He began contributing to the educational and learning technology dialogue through journal publications in 1998. Martin’s articles span the gamut from constructivism to reflective thinking to improving online educational dialogue, all of which Moodle has arguably achieved. The specific question Dougiamas sought to answer in his original publication on Moodle was: “How can internet software successfully support social constructionist epistemologies of teaching and learning?” Moodle has helped facilitate a myriad of answers to that question.

Moodle, which stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, is indeed designed in a modular fashion and supports various kinds of personalized plugins which can be developed in PHP, the software language in which Moodle is written. Moodle’s open source software (OSS) design has allowed rapid evolution of Moodle in the last decade.

This clever Moodle poster is a meme adapted from the British WWII Poster which read “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Moodle can keep up in the fast-changing world of software while remaining socially relevant because its users also contribute to its creation and steer its direction. Consequently, Moodle has both personality and a sense of humor. For example, this poster portrays a Moodle meme based on British WWII posters that read, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

While Moodle is an open-source project, Moodle certainly isn’t free for an instructor or school to use. Moodle must be installed on a web server furnished and managed by the school or accessed through a paid web hosting company. Thus, Moodle needs Moodle Partners, service companies that help provide the funding, web-hosting, and customization for Moodle users. The Moodle project is currently powered by its users and a global community of 54 Moodle Partner service companies. Moodle is also integrating and improving interoperability with other online learning providers to improve and streamline online learning for educators and students alike.

On March 26, 2012, Blackboard acquired Moodlerooms and NetSpot, both of which are long term Moodle Partners. However, the leadership and operation of neither Moodlerooms nor NetSpot will change as a result of the acquisition. Netspot is one of the top three moodle partners who recently redesigned the Moodle Assignment Module while Moodlerooms specializes in customizing Moodle to benefit its clients. True to its open-source roots, Moodle has also formed another new alliance this year with textbook giant Pearson. On June 26, 2012, Pearson announced more thorough Moodle integration with EQUELLA, Pearson’s digital repository. The change will mean that educators can bring EQUELLA content into their course without leaving the Moodle application.

If this was your first introduction to Moodle, next you might want to see Moodle
in action. To see how Moodle keeps the Minesota Golden Gophers Driven to Discover, visit the University of Minnesota’s Moodle Server. To explore Moodle’s capacity for customization, visit Moodle’s demonstration sites which allow you to sign in as either a student or instructor for Moodle immersion. Above all, remember: Keep Calm and Moodle On!

About Ashley

Ashley has a B.A. in Environmental Studies and M.E.M. with an emphasis in Environmental Health from Yale. Currently, she blogs on delicious recipes and holistic nutrition at RecipesForLife.us
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4 Responses to Unmuddling Moodle: What is Moodle and why haven’t I heard of it?

  1. Pingback: Five kinds of E-learning resources to whet your appetite | Learning Laboratory

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  4. CHARLES KIPCHUMBA says:

    Great post. Thank you.

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