13 January, 2006

Auricle Podcasts: ELGG, Blogs and Moodle

The elearning team at the University of Bath have a public blog called Auricle, which contains several interviews with people who work in elearning on its Podcast feed. I found some of these very interesting as they might feed into our work here, and I've summarised them below.

ELGG has come up in conversation and on Cakes before, and March 2005 saw an interview on Auricle with one of ELGGs founders, David Tosh.

ELGG is introduced not as a VLE, or even really as an alternative to a VLE as its focus is not on holding course content at all. It is described as a 'Learning Landscape' and its focus is on providing tools which can be used to build "a community where knowledge transfer takes place".

ELGG gives a lot of control to the learner, to create groups and discussions. It is noted that many institutions would not be happy with giving students this level of control, but also that students who are used to using technologies like Blogs and Wikis are not going to be impressed with many of the VLEs in use, which (in my view) seem to restrict rather than enable in many ways.

Blogs: Warwick are well known for their elearning developements, and there is an interview with John Dale from Warwick from April 2005.

Warwick developed their own blogging software called BlogBuilder, as existing systems didin't do everything that they wanted, and there could have been issues with scaling and managing the number of blogs they wanted to plan for. There are over 3000 blogs on the system, but they believe they can cope with 10s of thousands.

Students at Warwick had always been encouraged to develop their own web pages, but blogging made it possible for those without much technical knowledge.

I think an issue that Edge Hill would be concerned about is what might be said on the blogs. There is no proactive policing of the blogs at Warwick, but the blogs are covered by the acceptable use policy and there is a link at the bottom of every page that people can use to report 'problems' with posts. This doesn't happen very often as people tend to comment on posts and potentially offensive messages are 'neutralised' by plenty of comments stating different viewpoints.

Moodle Migration: Dublin City University migrated from WebCT to Moodle in 2003. Unike ourselves they had only used WebCT in a pilot and so it wasn't as big an issue as it would be if we wanted to. June 2005 saw an interview with Morag Munroe from DCU.

They created a wishlist of what they wanted from a VLE, in close colaboration with the staff who would be using it. From that they created a short list of Caroline, Bodington and Moodle. In case you are interested there is a full list of VLEs on Wikipedia, and DCU if they had to migrate again say that they would be interested in Sakai.

Strengths of Moodle that have been identified by DCU are the user community, the rapid development of new functionality and the Social Constructivist model of learning that underpins its development. Quality support has come from moodle.com. On the downside, issues have come from the rapid development of many tools, meaning that the large amount of choice can be overwhelming for new users. Also functionality for group work needs improving.

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