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We have been using Moodle, an open-source Learning Management System, in our department for the last year and a half or so. Most of our faculty are now using it and really like it. Compared to Blackboard, the proprietary system that is currently being offered at Boise State, Moodle is a refreshing, engaging, and interactive learning platform for instructors and students. We are using it for more than just courses, however. We are using it as a communication portal for our students (the front page forum acts as a powerful, versatile, and attractive listserv), a place for faculty to share Moodle information, a Student Advising resource, and a place for our students to create their own online courses.
One of the best features of Moodle is its open-source nature. Anyone can download a working version of Moodle, to his/her own computer or to a hosting platform and practice using it. If you have developed a Moodle course, you can create a backup copy of it and restore it to just about any Moodle installation. Try to do that with Blackboard!
I recently had to create a tutorial for students, to show them how to backup their courses they had created in Moodle for a class project and then how to restore their courses to a local Moodle installation. I had never tried out the all-in-one Moodle packages offered by Moodle and am delighted to report that they are easy to install and work great. By encouraging students to backup their courses, install Moodle locally on their computer, and then restore their courses to that Moodle installation, we are encouraging them to continue their work with Moodle while also working on their courses.
If you’ve never heard of or used Moodle before, you should know that it runs on a combination of the Apache web server, MySQL database system, and the PHP interpreted scripting language. This is the most popular web server environment in the world. The all-in-one packages offered by Moodle are for Mac OS X and for Windows operating systems. Select your operating system, download the package, follow the easy instructions, and you have a complete Moodle system installed on your computer, ready to start learning and building courses. And the neat thing about this is you can then backup your course and put it on any Moodle system. Our faculty could create their own courses locally, back them up, and then submit them to our Moodle administrator for use on our public site.
To find out more about Moodle and these installations, go to http://moodle.org/download and select one of the package installations, either Moodle for Mac OS X or Moodle for Windows. Read through the instructions if you run into any snags. Each of the packages also comes with detailed instructions, along with screenshots. After you install Moodle, you can start working on your course. Or restore a backup to this local site. Once you start working with Moodle, you will never want to go back to Blackboard. I can pretty much guarantee that.