The Moodle LMS (learning management system) is used around the world for online or blended learning objectives. At AuthorAID and INASP, our parent organization, we have used our Moodle-based online learning platform for 10 years to deliver a variety of online training programmes, for example, the AuthorAID MOOCs and self-study tutorials. We have also worked with a number of higher education institutions in Africa and Asia to help them implement online courses.
In this article, we draw on our experience to share a few tips on using the Moodle LMS.
1. Focus on the pedagogy
Imagine an online course with interactive content, discussion forums, quizzes, assignments, peer assessment activities, surveys, and wikis. You can implement all this and more using the Moodle LMS, and you can tap into learning analytics to figure out how learners are engaging with the materials. But without a proper pedagogical framework, the features of Moodle could end up being tools without a purpose. At the same time, focusing on pedagogy without considering what you can do with Moodle is not ideal. To design and deliver effective online learning experiences on Moodle, pay attention to both: digital pedagogy and what Moodle offers. Digital pedagogy is a big topic and outside the scope of this post, but the Teacher Quick Guide on Moodle Docs and the free online courses on Moodle Academy are excellent resources for Moodle-oriented digital pedagogy.
2. Look after the technical matters
The Moodle LMS application is open source, which means there are no licensing costs and you can even customize your installation of Moodle as you please. However, Moodle runs on a server, so there are costs associated with hosting and maintenance. There are broadly two options to operate a Moodle site: (1) your institutional IT team is responsible for it, or (2) your site is managed externally, for example, through an IT company or the MoodleCloud service. In our observation, higher education institutions in developing countries often use the first approach. That's totally fine, but you should be aware that while getting started with a Moodle site can be relatively easy, keeping it in good working condition in the long run requires time and skill (and skill development to deal with new technologies and new challenges). There is a vast amount of documentation on Moodle Docs and help is available on the Moodle community forums. Specialized training may also be available via Moodle Partner companies. Of course, you should also plan to have sufficient funds for the hardware or cloud resources necessary to run the site – these costs may increase over time as your site grows bigger with more courses and more users.
3. Prioritize the user experience
Moodle offers so much potential for customization that some Moodle sites end up looking clunky or just awful! This can affect everything – the homepage, the overall navigation, the courses on the site, and the materials within courses – and ultimately make learners cringe when they have to use the site. Get feedback from both teachers and learners about their experience on your Moodle site. For example: Can they easily find what they want to access? Are they any items that distract or get in the way? Can they quickly spot any time-bound or high-priority activities?
4. Support teachers
While teachers often provide both pedagogical and technical support to learners at the course level, the administrator of a Moodle site should be on call to respond to queries from teachers, for example, about enrolling learners, helping with any login or navigation issues, enabling or disabling features on the site, finding and installing plugins, customizing the user dashboard, etc. Better still, the site administrator should be proactive in alerting teachers to new features of Moodle after a version upgrade.
Used knowledgeably, the Moodle LMS is an asset to create and deliver engaging online courses at scale, and it can also be an integral part of an organization's technology-enhanced learning (TEL) mission.
Check out this collection of articles if you'd like to learn more about TEL at INASP.
Ravi Murugesan is an INASP Associate and a member of the AuthorAID team.