Open-Source Learning Management with Moodle

Combining the features of a content management system, bulletin board, and on-line grade book, Moodle meets a growing demand for on-line education.

Currently, an explosion is occurring in the demand for distance education in the US. Large numbers of high school graduates are going on to college, and more adults are pursuing a college education. The demographics of college students also are changing, with more students juggling work and family responsibilities than ever before, which necessitates easier access to education. Furthermore, the changes in knowledge and skills catalyze the need for ongoing professional development of the existing work force. In response, corporations increasingly are turning to distance education options for their employees.

A learning management system (LMS) is a software system used to deliver on-line education. Alternate terms often used are managed learning environment, virtual learning environment, course management system or learning support system. Today, most LMSes make extensive use of the Web and include features such as discussion forums, chats, journals, automated testing and grading tools and student tracking. LMSes also are used to supplement regular face-to-face courses. They are used in universities, schools and by businesses to deliver corporate training.

Start up and maintenance costs for on-line education typically have been high, with proprietary software solutions such as Blackboard and WebCT being the dominant choice amongst academic institutions and corporations. But cost is not the only or even the prime reason to look beyond available proprietary LMS solutions. The ability to modify software is an important consideration for many institutions that need to address specific teaching and learning requirements. Others need to integrate a new LMS with existing systems.

Several open-source projects have emerged to meet the growing interest in open-source LMSes (see the on-line Resources). In this article, we look at one popular open-source LMS, Moodle.

Introducing Moodle

In classic open-source fashion, Moodle was born out of a need to scratch an itch. Frustrated by proprietary alternatives, Martin Dougaimas, then a PhD candidate in Education with a background in computer science, started Moodle in 1999. Version 1.0 was released in August 2002. Since then, Moodle has continued to evolve at a rapid rate, managed by Martin in Australia and propelled by an active world-wide community of users and developers.

A single Moodle Web site can host a large number of courses. Each course is managed by one or more teachers. Courses can contain activities such as discussion forums, student journals, quizzes, surveys, assignments, chats and workshops. Moodle includes support for grading, file uploads, user logging and tracking, multimedia, e-mail integration and many other features, all comparable to those available in proprietary LMSes.

Moodle is developed on the popular LAMP platform—GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Part of Moodle's attraction is it can run on almost any server that can run PHP. In addition, PostgreSQL can be used instead of MySQL. The flexible technical requirements make it possible to install and evaluate Moodle on almost any computer and even run it on shared Web servers managed by Web hosting providers. Moodle is offered under the GNU General Public License. The GPL, well-documented PHP code, an active developer community and a modular design make it possible to customize Moodle and integrate it with other open-source software. For users, all Moodle requires is a Web browser and an Internet connection.

Most LMSes are instructor-oriented and largely concerned with how course content is delivered. Moodle is based on a learner-oriented philosophy called social constructionist pedagogy, in which students are involved in constructing their own knowledge. The concepts behind this philosophy of learning are that learners actively construct new knowledge by tinkering, and they learn more by explaining what they have learned to others and by adopting a more subjective stance to the knowledge being created. These ideas run parallel to the way open-source development works, in which the developers also often are users, everyone is free to tinker with the software and code is constructed, peer-reviewed and refined by the means of an open discussion. This philosophy is the basis for the unusual name of this project. The Moodle Web site explains the origin of the name:

The word Moodle was originally an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment....It's also a verb that describes the process of lazily meandering through something, doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity.

The social construction pedagogy is reflected in the design and choice of Moodle features. For example, one of Moodle's features is every course can have a glossary of terms. The glossary can be set up to allow course participants to add their own terms and definitions. Taking it a step further, Moodle allows comments to be attached to each term, enabling participants to refine and clarify these definitions.

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About moodle

Nilesj's picture

Hello team,

I am flash developer and recently moved on LMS customization. I am using moodle as it is a open source. However to customize the moodle I need the help on architecture on moodle, which help me to customize the moodle.

Can any one help me with this?

Thnx in advance.

Regards,
Nilesh

Moodle - Ease of use as an administrator

Bharath's picture

Hi,

I own and run a newly launched website (www.mymedskool.com)

It's an Etutoring platform for the Medical Fraternity. I would like to combine an Elearning platform with this. Short on funds. So was looking for a cost effective open source LMS which could indirectly help make my services affordable.

My major cause of concern - I've only been an end user to an LMS and I'm a non-techie business person. Would it be easy for me to use the administrative aspects of moodle including hosting my own courses?

Any thoughts/ insights on this would be deeply appreciated.

I would also be open to anyone looking to partner out on this venture.

Regards,
Bharath
CEO-MyMedskool

With Drupal

Himanhsu's picture

You can increase you sites capability by integrating the moodle with other CMS like Drupal.
Many Institutes and Schools are running their site at drupal and the online course are handled by moodle.

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Gamers' Den

Problem in email based authentication

Priyanka's picture

I am facing problem in email authentication in moodle.Can anyone help me in this query.
Reply me..

helps

PK's picture

I can help You please write to me at my mail. Greetings

Problem in email based authentication

Priyanka's picture

I am facing problem in email authentication.Can anyone help me in this query.
Reply me..

The best sign of product success is...

Student Management Guy's picture

"Yet, over 66% of Moodle users who responded to a Moodle survey identified themselves as teachers, on-line learning researchers or educational administrators."

That truly is the best sign of product success. Having not only an interface that's simple and easy to use, but a install process, that's great work. And by a Phd of all people! :)

Another LAMP Course Management System

Mike Harris's picture

There is a commercial Course Management System that was ported to a LAMP environment in 2003 and made free for accredited educational organizations to use.

Jones e-education, first released in 1998 by JonesKnowledge, is a mature, full-featured commercial solution that has both commercial development and a user development community. I have used it in a variety of roles since 1999, and have never seen any course management system more intuitive and user friendly for students.

The site is at http://www.jonesadvisorygroup.com
and a Flash demo is at http://www.jonesadvisorygroup.com/standard_demos.php.

The current version is 2004.3, and 2005.1 will be released in July 2005.

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