Monday, March 23, 2009

Moodle versus Loosely Coupled Teaching

Martin Weller in 2007 blogged that the LMS is dead. Well three years after, the Moodle LMS is still alive and kicking.

Is there really a contradiction here? Loosely Coupled Teaching (LCT) relies on services and Moodle can be considered just one of those services that can be strung together with other tools. In fact Moodle is very extensible and 3rd party tools had implemented single-sign-on as well as MoodleNet. An example is the Mahara electronic portfolio. Moodle can harvest rss feeds with the remote feed block. What Moodle can't do (yet?) is open up it's own modules for embedding in external sites, although it can publish rss feeds for some modules.

What about LCT what can it do that Moodle can't. Well one thing is that it is not going to die with one server. Two, given limited resources of distance education institutions in developing countries, LCT affords the use of multimedia rich and bandwidth/cpu hungry tools like video streaming. But then again, with "object embed" enabled (not recommended by Moodle), moodle can embed anything on the net.

At UPOU we tried this approach in our class EDDE221: Design & Evaluation of Multimedia Materials. Some of the tools we used included Moodle, Multiply, YouTube, Skype, Etherpad and other online services that my classmates used that I was not aware of. I tried to keep tabs of it all with Google Reader and my Gmail.

From the perspective of a student, the same problems raised by Weller cropped up. The first is Authentication. Not all of the services implement OpenID, and after six passwords my brain is already in a state of amnesia. The other is student tracking. Heck, we were a 15 something class and it was difficult to keep track of everything how much more if let's say my own 200 plus undergraduate students went online with this "loosely couple design". Even with Moodle integration, this is one of the hurdles that has yet to be resolved. How to securely pass around student tracking and grading.

So I guess Moodle will still be around. Even in a "loosely coupled" networked teaching/learning design there is a need for centrality or a hub. And Moodle can fit this hub. Even if you don't use any of it's activities, you can use it as a student tracker and a jump-off point for authentication (logging in).

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