Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Moodle Moot on the horizon

Today I received some good news about presenting at the Moodle Moot in Brisbane. This is a conference for all things Moodle. Haven't heard of Moodle? Here's a little tour of the Moodle need to knows.....

Moodle is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS). To quote the Moodle website:

"Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy (including webhosts), yet it can scale from a single-teacher site to a University with 200,000 students. This site itself is created using Moodle, so check out the Moodle Demonstration Courses or read the latest Moodle Buzz. "

I have been using Moodle for a couple of years now and the best thing about it as far as I'm concerned is its sheer usability. It is very easy to get a genuine class happening in a short space of time. Places like Tafe SA have seen the merits of Moodle and have moved to it from Janison (another LMS) in a migration similar to that of the great bison migration (i.e. a mass movement but with a few stragglers being left behind to be devoured by the predators).

We have been working on the BJ Network Consulting Australia Moodle site and are proud of the results so far. Richard Wallace from Wallace Web Design and Development has been generous with his time and support for the Moodle installation. Richard is one of the few truly Moodle literate educators/consultants around and has been a mentor for me in my short e-learning career. If you are in SA, you are a moodle user and you haven't heard of Richard you are really missing out.

So enough smoke blowing. Why is Moodle so user friendly? I believe it has a lot to do with flexibility. As a Trainer/Lecturer it doesn't take long to take digital resources and get them into an online environment using Moodle. Now I know the purists out there will say "But what about Instructional Design?" It's my belief that a good trainer knows instructional design instinctively. So use the same principles you use in your face to face classroom in your Moodle classroom, test it out and see how it runs. Get yourself a Moodle classroom and start playing.....there are so many freely available resources and hundreds of widgets, modules, blocks and cool web applications available to brighten up your classroom. I will run a future blog post about my favourite bits and bobs that I use in course development.

If you still can't figure it out then talk to someone who has played with it before. Like me, or Richard Wallace, or Michael Coghlan (who is the guy to talk to if you're at Tafe SA). Or better still join me at the Moodle Moot in Brisbane in October. Here is a link to my spot at the Moot "Breaking the Scene with Barely a Bean".

See you there?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I do Udutu do you?

I have just successfully published my first course on Facebook. Using the freely available web based course editor, Udutu, has proven to be extremely easy. You can create and publish a course so fast it will make you wonder why you spent all that cash on those expensive tools.
You can embed Flash, PowerPoint and pictures. You can create assessments and examples and scenarios. You can do all this and more and DOWNLOAD IT FOR $0. Yup free.
And Udutu creates SCORM compliant courses. So you can load it into your LMS and track it all to boot. Udutu have even developed a Moodle Block which is next on my hit list to trial.
How do these guys make money? Well according to their website their revenue will come from folks hosting their courses on Udutu and through course building consultancy fees. Check out their FAQ here.
The Facebook application link is . The applications are in Beta at the moment so they are still ironing out the bugs but the support I received was second to none. Roger Mundell the Udutu CEO personally replied to my questions and posts within hours.
Using Udutu has proven to be a breeze and I'm sure anyone who is even slightly experienced in course development will see the benefits of this tool. One of the huge areas of potential with Udutu is the ability to collaborate on courses. Get the SME to write their content straight to the course, and have the flash developer chuck their stuff in from their own computer.
So will this be the start of something huge? Will this amazing step forward in the use of Facebook applications roll the masses into a frenzy of learning? Well one can only hope.
The blocking of Facebook and Myspace by all and sundry learning institutions has long been a bone of contention for those educators who sing the praises of e-learning and the Web 2.0 tools which are the building blocks of social networking sites. I doubt that Udutu will change the minds of the majority of IT directors in learning institutions and businesses but it will give them something to think about. In the mean time, thanks must go to Udutu for making my job a hell of a lot easier and my bottom line look a lot healthier.

Friday, May 2, 2008

PMOG the future of e-learning?

PMOG stands for passively multiplayer online gaming. It is a game that runs in the background of Mozilla Firefox while you surf the Internet, and you earn points (DP) for each new URL you go to.
This tool was brought to my attention via twitter when Howard Rheingold put the URL in an update. I checked it out and thought "this could be useful".
So, far from being a PMOG expert I thought I could pass on to you my thoughts on its possibilities as a tool for e-learning.
Fostering communities within learning environments is a major goal of many learning organisations. Facebook, My Space, Twitter, and a long list of other tools (some of which are notoriously banned by many learning institutions) exist (at least in part) to aid in the development of community. PMOG throws a new ingredient into the ever growing soup of online applications by rewarding you for looking at new sites, giving you the ability to guide fellow community members to other sites and throwing in some fun elements to boot.
Let me discuss some of the particular features I believe could be used as learning tools.
1. Firstly the "mission"
Missions are a way to lead fellow PMOGgers on a tour of websites of your choosing. The mission creator installs "lightposts" on websites. The lightpost pops up when you hit a lightposted site at random and informs you of the mission. You can also find out about missions by going to the missions page on the PMOG site. As the creator of the mission you add some script to your lightpost explaining how it links to the other sites and forms part of the mission. Used as an e-learning tool, missions have a likening to webquests and could be used to take your learners on a path of relevant, themed websites. You could then ask your class to blog or write a report on their thoughts. On completion of a mission you are asked to rate it and pass comments. Students could create their own missions as a method of proving the paths taken in their learning experience or even a means of proving their understanding of a particular concept.
I created a mission in order to test it out and this was the result.
2. Second the "portal".
Portals can be attached to websites as a way to lure people to other sites. When you hit a website with a portal attached to it, a pop up appears in your Firefox browser enticing you to click on the portal. As with pop ups this sort of occurrence could become a little annoying and distracting if you weren't interested or were trying to research. On the flip side though, if you see a portal appear from someone in your network or class, you may be more likely to welcome the distraction. You might think the connection between portals and e-learning is a little tenuous but it wouldn't take too much imagination for an innovative teacher to find a use for these in their classrooms.
3. Third, the "crates".
Crates can be stashed on websites for others to loot. You can put tools (like portals, lightposts and mines) and messages in crates and when fellow PMOGgers stumble upon them they open the crate to receive their bounty. As an e-learning tool, crates have the potential of acting as a reward for learners hitting websites.
I'm sure mines, armour and Saint Nicks could all have applications for the innovative teacher or e-learning champion and I'm sure there are many applications that have not even occurred to me so I encourage any readers to comment on the potential uses for PMOG as an e-learning tool.
As far as the game itself goes, well lets just say it's growing on me..............ok I love it!!
Are you a PMOG player, what do you think?