Paul Nelson convened the first meeting of what he hopes will be a Oregon Moodle user group. As one participant said, running Moodle for three years makes you an expert! A dozen or so of we experts got together and shared tips and questions about Moodle. We observed three Moodle hosting systems available to different Oregon teachers. The Northwest Regional ESD hosts Moodle sites at http://nwonline.nwresd.org/, and both the OSU OSL and OETC offer free Moodle hosting, the former through http://orvsd.org and the latter at http://www.eduhost.org/. In particular ORVSD has licensed multimedia instructional content from the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC, created by the Monterey Institute) for all Oregon public school to use for free.
The first exciting demonstration of the day was the ability to move courses from one Moodle site to another. When offered on the above mentioned sites, this allows a teacher to install a local copy of a published course on their own Moodle server. Since the ORVSD courses offer mostly instructional content, the teacher may then add homework assignments, assessments, discussion spaces, and so on. It of course also allows one to create and share derivative works.
The second “wow” moment was an in-depth demonstration of the quiz module by a health teacher. She showed how you may import quiz questions in GIFT format, a simple markup language that one may create from a word processed document through the creative use of search and replace! This is a lot faster than rewriting questions in the Moodle question bank, and it provides teachers with an upgrade path from paper to Moodle.
I thought about why I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Moodle quizzes up to this point. The public school teachers and tech staff around that table loved how much more efficient it made the distribution and correction of quizzes. The health teacher indicated that it cut time spent on quizzes in half. Moodle also allowed her to let students take re-takes without having to grade each one — a good match to her pedagogical style. This is where I see direct application to independent schools. The Moodle quiz module allows a teacher to set up a powerful practice environment (and potentially allow students to write quizzes, too). What if graded assessment took place during the evening at home instead of during class time? The teacher could preserve class time for actual interaction and discussion by moving individual assessment and feedback into homework time.
I went into the session with two technical questions, one the ability to auto-assign parents a read-only role in classes without requiring them to enroll in each one, and the other some help with MoodleSpeex. I didn’t get the chance to ask about the first, as it seems that most people are in Moodle 1.6 or 1.7 at this point (wisely, I believe). However, I did get the chance to pitch MoodleSpeex to the OSU Open-Source Lab! They have the expertise and motivation to take on this project, which could make a virtual language lab environment available to Moodle users in Oregon and beyond! If you would like to support this request, contact Greg Lund-Chaix.
Ultimately, I was delighted to finally meet Paul and Greg and become part of what will hopefully become a regular meeting of Moodle enthusiasts, working together to improve each other’s practice.