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Education > Undergraduate Programs > The GAU e-Learning System (ELS)

The GAU e-Learning System (ELS)

The GAU e-Learning System. (AKA the techie bit!)

Moodle is a free and open source e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System, Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment. Moodle is designed to help educators create online courses with opportunities for rich interaction. Its open source license and modular design means that people can develop additional functionality.

Development is undertaken by a globally diffused network of commercial and non-commercial users, streamlined by the Moodle company based in Perth, Western Australia.
Moodle features

Moodle has many features that you would expect from an e-learning platform, plus some original innovations (for example its filtering system).

Moodle is modular therefore it can easily be extended by creating plug-ins for specific new functions. Moodle infrastructure supports many types of plug-ins:
Activities
Resource types
Question types
Data field types (for the database activity)
Graphical themes
Authentication methods
Enrollment methods
Content Filters

PHP is the language used to author and contribute new modules.
Specification

Moodle runs without modification on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare and any other systems that support PHP and a database, including most webhost providers. Data is stored in a single database: Moodle version 1.6 could use MySQL or PostgreSQL. Version 1.7, released November 2006, makes full use of database abstraction so that installers can choose from one of many types of database servers (Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are two specific target DBMSes). The current version of Moodle (1.9), was released in March 2008.
Background
Origins

Moodle was created by Martin Dougiamas, a WebCT administrator at Curtin University, Australia, who has graduate degrees in Computer Science and Education. His Ph.D. examined "The use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning within Internet-based communities of reflective inquiry".

This research has strongly influenced the design of Moodle, providing pedagogical aspects missing from many other e-learning platforms.
Pedagogical approach

The stated philosophy of Moodle includes a constructivist and social constructionist approach to education, emphasizing that learners (and not just teachers) can contribute to the educational experience in many ways. Moodle’s features reflect this in various design aspects, such as making it possible for students to comment on entries in a database (or even to contribute entries themselves), or to work collaboratively.

Having said this, Moodle is flexible enough to allow for a full range of modes of teaching. It can be used for both introductory and advanced delivery of content (e.g. HTML pages) or assessment, and does not necessitate a constructivist teaching approach.

Constructivism is sometimes seen as at odds with accountability-focused ideas about education, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in the United States. Accountability stresses tested outcomes, not teaching techniques, or pedagogy, but Moodle is also useful in an outcomes-oriented classroom environment because of its flexibility.
Origin of the name

The word Moodle is actually an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, although originally the M stood for "Martin`s", named after Martin Dougiamas, the original developer.

Moodle can also be considered a verb, which describes the improvisational process of 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 to the way a student or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course. Moodle statistics and market share
Moodle has a significant user base with 52,153 registered sites with 30,176,528 users in 2,770,832 courses in 207 countries and more than 75 languages are supported (as of March 27, 2009). The current Moodle statistics can be seen online.
The site with the most users is moodle.org with 53 courses and 627,455 users. The site with the most courses is E-learning na VUT v Brně with 19,223 courses and 41,305 users (as of February 19, 2009).
Interoperability

There are many dimensions to interoperability for e-learning systems. Moodle`s interoperability features include:
Authentication, using LDAP, Shibboleth, or various other standard methods (e.g. IMAP)
Enrollment, using IMS Enterprise among other standard methods, or by direct interaction with an external database
Quizzes and quiz questions, allowing import/export in a number of formats: GIFT (moodle’s own format), IMS QTI, XML and XHTML (NB although export works very well, import is currently not complete)
Resources, using IMS Content Packaging, SCORM, AICC (CBT), LAMS
Integration with other Content Management Systems such as Postnuke (via third-party extensions)
Syndication, using RSS or Atom newsfeeds - external newsfeeds can be displayed in a course, and forums, blogs, and other features can be made available to others as newsfeeds. Moodle also has import features for use with other specific systems, such as importing quizzes or entire courses from Blackboard or WebCT.
Deployment and development

Moodle has been evolving since 1999 (since 2001 with the current architecture). The current version is 1.9, which was released in March 2008. It has been translated into 61 different languages. Major improvements in accessibility and display flexibility were developed in 1.5. As there are no license fees or limits to growth, an institution can add as many Moodle servers as needed. The Open University of the UK is currently building a Moodle installation for their 200,000 users.

The development of Moodle continues as a free software project supported by a team of programmers and an international user community, drawing upon contributions posted to the online Moodle Community website that encourages debate and invites criticism.

There are some auto install packages to facilitate the installation including Fantastico, JumpBox and the Moodle package for Debian GNU/Linux. Users are free to distribute and modify the software under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

There are some free Moodle hosting providers, which allow educators to create Moodle-based online class without installation or server knowledge.
Interested in developing your knowledge of Moodle?
Why not register for the Fully on-line Certificated Moodle Distance Learning course.


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