What is Moodle?
According to MoodleDocs, the word Moodle was originally an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment , which is mostly useful to programmers and education theorists. It's also a verb that describes the process of lazily meandering through something, doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity. As such it applies both to the way Moodle was developed, and the way a student or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course. Anyone who uses Moodle is a Moodler.
Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a software package designed to help educators easily create quality online courses. Such e-learning systems are sometimes also called Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)
Some general features that would interest a system administrator:
- Moodle runs without modification on Unix, Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Netware and any other system that supports PHP (which includes almost every web-hosting provider).
- Moodle is designed in a modular way, and allows a great deal of flexibility to add (and remove) functionality at many levels
- Moodle upgrades very easily from one version to the next - it has an internal system to upgrade it's own databases and repair itself over time.
- Moodle requires only one database (and can share it with other applications if necessary).
- Moodle includes comprehensive database abstraction that supports many major brands of database.
- Emphasis on strong security throughout. Forms are all checked, data validated, cookies encrypted etc.
Some other features that would interest an educator:
- Moodle promotes a social constructionist pedagogy (which includes collaboration, activity-based learning, critical reflection, etc).
- Moodle is suitable for 100% online classes as well as supplementing face-to-face learning.
- Moodle has a simple, lightweight, efficient, compatible, low-tech browser interface.
- Course listings show descriptions for every course on the server, including accessibility to guests.
- Courses can be categorized and searched - one Moodle site can support thousands of courses.
- Most text entry areas (resources, forum postings, <#3.2#>entries etc) can be edited using a capable, embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor.
Managing a Moodle site:
- A site is managed by an admin user, defined during setup.
- Plug-in "themes" allow the admin to customize the site colors, fonts, layout etc to suit local needs.
- Plug-in activity modules can be added to existing Moodle installations.
- Plug-in language packs allow full localization to any language. These can be edited using a built-in web-based editor.
- Currently there are about 40 language packs.
- The code is clearly-written PHP under a GPL license - easy to modify to suit your needs.
Managing Moodle user accounts:
- Goals are to reduce admin involvement to a minimum, while retaining high security.
- Supports a range of authentication mechanisms through plug-in authentication modules, allowing easy integration with existing systems.
- Standard email method: students can create their own login accounts. Email addresses are verified by confirmation.
- LDAP method: account logins can be checked against an LDAP server. Admin can specify which fields to use.
- IMAP, POP3, NNTP: account logins are checked against a mail or news server. SSL, certificates and TLS are supported.
- External database: any database containing at least two fields can be used as an external authentication source.
- Each person requires only one account for the whole server - each account can have different access.
- An admin account controls the creation of courses and creates teachers by assigning users to courses.
- A course creator account is only allowed to create courses and teach in them.
- Teachers may have editing privileges removed so that they can't modify the course (eg for part-time tutors).
- Security - teachers can add an "enrollment key" to their courses to keep out non-students. They can give out this key face-to-face or via personal email etc.
- Teachers can enroll students manually if desired.
- Teachers can enroll students manually if desired, otherwise they are automatically enrolled after a certain period of inactivity (set by the admin).
- Students are encouraged to build an online profile including photos, description. Email addresses can be protected from display if required.
- Every user can specify their own timezone, and every date in Moodle is translated to that timezone (eg posting dates, assignment due dates etc).
- Every user can choose the language used for the Moodle interface (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese etc).
- Teachers can also "force" a particular language for a particular course.
Managing Moodle courses:
- A full teacher has full control over all settings for a course, including restricting other teachers.
- Choice of course formats such as by week, by topic or a discussion-focused social format.
- Flexible array of course activities - Forums, Journals, Quizzes, Resources, Choices, Surveys, Assignments, Chats, Workshops.
- Recent changes to the course since the last login can be displayed on the course home page - helps give sense of community.
- Most text entry areas (resources, forum postings, journal entries etc) can be edited using an embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor.
- All grades for Forums, Journals, Quizzes and Assignments can be viewed on one page (and downloaded as a spreadsheet file
- Full user logging and tracking - activity reports for each student are available with graphs and details about each module (last access, number of times read) as well as a detailed "story" of each students involvement including postings, journal entries etc on one page.
- Mail integration - copies of forum posts, teacher feedback etc can be mailed in HTML or plain text.
- Custom scales - teachers can define their own scales to be used for grading forums, assignments and journals.
- Courses can be packaged as a single zip file using the Backup function. These can be restored on any Moodle server.