Our department (Educational Technology Boise State University) will be migrating to Moodle 2.0 right after the grade submission deadline for fall. We have been using Moodle since 2008, making the decision to move from Blackboard (supported by Boise State) to Moodle. We preferred Moodle over Blackboard for many reasons–but perhaps the main reason was simply having more control over how we could customize the user experience. Also, we felt (and still do) that Moodle offered a more constructivist, social environment for teaching and learning. The ability to see instantly online participants, messaging, and online chatting make the experience more engaging and interactive.
So now it’s on to Moodle 2.0–an even more customizable interface and active learning environment.
I like the way the navigation appears on all pages and displays links based upon the content. Unlike the multiple clicks to navigate to content on a Blackboard course, Moodle is simple and intuitive, with content easily accessible. Blocks can be added to any page one a Moodle course. Using the dock icon, they can be placed on the side of the screen, or undocked (if the theme allows it), appearing as horizontal tabs along the left side of the web page.
The file system has been replaced with a “File Picker,” allowing instructors to associate and select content globally, rather than solely course-based. Instructors can select files from the Moodle server, their private folder, DropBox, Google Docs, Picasa, Flickr, and others. Students even have their own private file storage. This new systems allows files to be placed in global repositories, where other instructors can select and link to the same content. This not only saves space on a server, eliminating identical files placed in multiple course folders, but permits instructors to link files to activities or resources rather than simply the course.
The messaging system offer more options. Users can now choose their preferred notification method (email, chat, pop-up) for a variety of events (private messages, forum posts, quiz submissions, and others). Moodle blogs now allow comments from other users (yes, like a blog should behave) and system administrators can set the ability for blogs to be visible outside the Moodle environment. Users can automatically import blog posts from external blogs to their Moodle blog. Instructors can now add course blogs by adding a forum activity and selecting “Standard forum displayed in a blog-like format” type. And a comments block can be added to any page, allowing students to comment on page content.
I’m looking forward to using the wiki activity more, as this has been rewritten, offering better functionality and an improved interface. Having all of the tools available in one area makes the experience more seamless and efficient for everyone.
Google Apps Integration
And finally, we SHOULD be able to connect our Moodle site to our Boise State Google Apps, allowing users to authenticate in just one location. Once a student is logged in to Google Apps at Boise State, (s)he will automatically be logged in to our Moodle site. We still need to wait for OIT at Boise State to work out the wrinkles in Boise State’s Google Apps setup (students and faculty are on separate servers), but they assure me they can do this. This would allow:
- Automatic creation of users in Google Apps (Google Docs™, Google Calendar™, and Gmail™) when they are created in Moodle
- Automatic log in to Google Apps when a user logs in to Moodle
- A Gmail block in Moodle that displays latest Gmail messages on the Moodle Front Page
- A Google Apps block on the Moodle Front Page displays links to Google Start Page, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Gmail
- A Moodle app on the Google Apps Start Page. There is a contributed code block that can be added to Moodle and a widget which can be added to Google. It will allow for a single sign-on for users from Moodle to Google.
These are just of few of the many improvements Moodle 2.0 has to offer. We know there will be bugs and issues along the way, but we feel that it is time to move forward with this version of Moodle, to benefit our students and faculty.