Saturday, October 16, 2010

Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment

Moodle (abbreviation for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) is a free and open-source e-learning software platform, also known as a Course Management System, Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). As of October 2010 it had a user base of 49,952 registered and verified sites, serving 37 million users in 3.7 million courses.[3]
Moodle was originally developed by Martin Dougiamas to help educators create online courses with a focus on interaction and collaborative construction of content, and is in continual evolution.
The Moodle project comprises several distinct distinct but related elements, namely

  • the software.
  • Moodle Pty Ltd (also known as Moodle Headquarters or the Moodle Trust, based in Perth, Western Australia), an Australian company who perform the majority of the development of the core Moodle platform.
  • the Moodle Community, an open network of over one million registered users who interact through the Moodle community website to share ideas, code, information and free support. This community also includes a large number of non-core developers, with Moodle's open source license and modular design allowing any developer to create additional modules and features which has allowed Moodle to become a truly global, collaborative project in scope.
  • the Moodle Partner network, who form the commercial arm of the Moodle environment and who provide the bulk of the funding to Moodle Pty Ltd through the payment of royalties.

Features

Moodle has several features considered typical of an e-learning platform, plus some original innovations (like its filtering system)[citation needed]. Moodle is very similar to a learning management system, but it has many more standard features[4] . Moodle can be used in many types of environments such as in education, training and development, and business settings.
Developers can extend Moodle's modular construction by creating plugins for specific new functionality. Moodle's infrastructure supports many types of plug-ins:
  • activities (including word and math games)
  • resource types
  • question types (multiple choice, true and false, fill in the blank, etc)
  • data field types (for the database activity)
  • graphical themes
  • authentication methods (can require username and password accessibility)
  • enrollment methods
  • content filters
Many freely-available third-party Moodle plugins make use of this infrastructure.[5]
Moodle users can use PHP to author and contribute new modules. Moodle's development has been assisted by the work of open source programmers.[6] This has contributed towards its rapid development and rapid bug fixes.
By default Moodle includes the TCPDF library that allows the generation of PDF documents from pages.

Deployment

Users can install Moodle from source, but this requires more technical proficiency than other automated approaches such as installing from a Debian package, deploying a ready-to-use TurnKey Moodle appliance[7] or using the Bitnami installer.
Some free Moodle hosting providers allow educators to create Moodle-based online classes without installation or server knowledge. Some paid Moodle hosting providers provide value-added services like customization and content-development.

Interoperability

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 goes 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 one from many types of database servers such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server.
E-learning systems can have many dimensions of interoperability. 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). Moodle provides various types of questions - Calculated, Description, Essay, Matching, Embedded Answers, Multiple Choice, Short Answer, Numerical, Random Short-Answer Matching, True/False.
  • 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. These import tools are not, however perfect. At the time of writing (Feb 2010), Moodle will not import Blackboard courses due apparently to some change in php code-releases.

Background

Origins

Martin Dougiamas, a WebCT administrator at Curtin University, Australia, who has graduate degrees in computer science and education, wrote the first version of Moodle; the combined efforts of Todd Ballaban and Alex Trivas popularised the system. Dougiamas started a Ph.D. to examine "The use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning within Internet-based communities of reflective inquiry". Although how exactly social constructivism makes Moodle different from other eLearning platforms is difficult to show, it has been cited as an important factor by Moodle adopters [8][9]. Other Moodle adopters, such as the Open University in the UK, have pointed out that Learning Management Systems can equally be seen as "relatively pedagogy-neutral"[10].
The wiki part of the software was forked[by whom?] from ErfurtWiki.[11]

Pedagogical approach

The stated philosophy of Moodle [12] includes a constructivist and social constructionist approach to education, emphasizing that learners (and not just teachers) can contribute to the educational experience.
Moodle 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[citation needed] . Accountability stresses tested outcomes, not teaching techniques, educational value, or pedagogy. Moodle supports an outcomes-oriented learning environment.[citation needed]

Origin of the name

The acronym Moodle stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, although originally the "M" stood for "Martin's", named after Martin Dougiamas, the original developer.[13]
"Moodle" is an Australian trademark (numbers 992232 and 1165568 [14]) registered to Martin Dougiamas. Only Moodle Partners may legally use the trademark to advertise any Moodle related services such as hosting, customization, training and so on.

Moodle statistics and market share

  • By 5 October 2010, Moodle had a user-base of 49,952 registered sites with 36,920,681 users in 3,732,772 courses in 210 countries and in more than 75 languages.[15]
  • The site with the most users, moodle.org, has 63 courses and 838,109 users. Following a £5 million investment in 2005, The Open University, UK is the second-largest Moodle deployment by user-base, with 607,536 users and 4,731 courses. A comprehensive list of the top ten Moodle sites (by courses and by users) is maintained at moodle.org.[16]
  • In Pakistan, the Department of Mathematics at LUMS uses moodle [5].
  • In the United Arab Emirates, Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST) adopted Moodle in 2007. AUST is one of the pioneers and is the largest user of Moodle in the UAE, serving more than 5,000 users in approximately 500 courses. The projected plan is to serve 10,000 users and about 1,000 courses by year end 2011.

Development

Moodle has continued to evolve since 1999 (since 2001 with the current architecture). The current version is 1.9.9, which was released in June, 2010. It has been translated into 82 different languages. Major improvements in accessibility and display flexibility were developed in 1.5. Currently, the work is going on to release Moodle 2.0.
Not having to pay license fees or to limit 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.[26] It is often known for individual departments of institutions to use the unlimited feature, such as the maths department of the University of York.
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.
Users can freely distribute and modify the software under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 or any later version.[2]

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