Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Moodle and OER in a time of Corona


  In this unsettling time in which we're now living, all schools are being forced to reconsider how to provide instruction and learning. Schools that have already been fully online won’t need to make many changes. Those that have been hybrid or blended will only need to add to what they’ve already created.  Whenever possible, schools should choose to use openly licensed content on openly licensed software. I make this recommendation based on my years of experience with systemic open practices and my experience implementing instructional and assessment software in schools in both K‒12 and higher ed.

The best open source learning management software for teachers at any level to use is Moodle, which is used by two-thirds of higher education institutions in the world. Using Moodle now will be the safest way to ensure student privacy, the best way to enable retrieval of student work created now and in the future, and the best way to get assistance from other users of the learning management system. Being able to get help from other teachers is crucial. Because Moodle is the most widely used system globally it provides the greatest possibilities for support and it already has over fifteen years of well documented user experience upon which to draw. Small Moodle sites (up to 50 students) are available for free. Sites for more students are very inexpensive and the setup time is minimal. If you need assistance I can help with that.

I began using Moodle in a 3rd and 4th grade classroom in 2007. This blog post describes some of the ways I found it useful with 3rd and 4th graders. That post is from almost 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve spent several years assisting higher ed faculty in how to move their courses to a hybrid environment. It’s actually a lot easier than it seems at first, and it frequently enriches the teaching and learning experience for both the teacher and students. A common reaction from senior faculty who converted their course(s) to a hybrid format from a face to face format was - ‘Why hasn’t anyone shown me how to do this before now?’

Changing how students and teachers interact offers a new experience. In 2004 Garrison and Kanuka explained that asynchronous Internet communication technology, the kind of experience that Moodle offers (synchronous communication is also an option), has the “ability to facilitate a simultaneously independent and collaborative learning experience. That is, learners can be independent of space and time—yet together.” (1)  Online can be a good thing. In my experience that’s possible for any age from grade 3 to graduate school.

The best type of content for teachers to present to students on Moodle is openly licensed content or OER. Teachers are able to link to any type of digital media from within Moodle so they’re not restricted to only using OER, but OER will allow them the freedom to revise the content to meet the particular needs of their students. The availability of OER material for K-12 has grown dramatically in recent years such that there’s no longer any reason for teachers or schools to pay for access to content. The Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum (MPCC) is a good example of OER content for K-12.

The MPCC is a grassroots initiative of more than 200 Minnesota school districts that created a comprehensive collection of openly licensed digital course work for each of the four core subject areas – Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Social Studies – for grades 3-12. Here's a 5 minute video about the MPCC. The more than forty full year long courses created by the MPCC are aligned to Minnesota standards but they could easily be adapted to standards in other states or countries. That’s the beauty of OER; it’s adaptable to the particular needs of students. The content is available for free to anyone who wants to use it. The enormous contribution to education by organisations like the MPCC and Moodle is becoming more apparent daily. Those contributions will be long lasting.

Moodle could use your help now to continue providing free and inexpensive sites to teachers and schools. Go to the donation page here.

1.  Garrison, D. R., and H. Kanuka. 2004. Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. Internet and Higher Education

7 (2): 95–105.doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2004.02.001.

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