Moodle 2 and so on

I’m just coming to the end of a longish period of time, working with a great team of ‘e’ people.

Since June this year we’ve been working on a Super Moodle for a College in Leeds. The team was put together and managed by the wonderful Lilian Soon.

Now that the work is gradually coming to a close and we’ve begun to reflect upon the outcomes, we have realised that all VLEs could be like this – if only colleges and university departments had the vision to set such a thing in motion and if staff (academic and non-academic) could comprehend the benefits.

We’ve used Moodle 2 at the core of this development and integrated lesson capture tools like Adobe Connect and Panopto. Panopto has a plugin called Unison that allows video and audio to be uploaded ready for streaming to the user a’la YouTube. Mahara is integrated to allow easy portfolio building by learners – but which also allows easy sharing and collaboration by all. Xerte too, is incorporated – giving staff the opportunity to easily create interactive, accessible multimedia resources. There have been other more technical developments as well – but far too clever for me to understand.

At the college, they wrap all of this up in a fairly seamless learning environment. Whatever you think of ‘naming’ VLEs (and this college does have a ‘name’ for theirs), it has worked – because all of the various non-Moodle integrations have been skinned to have a similar look and feel – all down to the careful planning by Lilian and her team.

My part in all this has been quite small (on the huge scale of things) – I’ve worked with various staff to prepare them for using the end-result and to help them build both on-line and in-line learning pages.

Furthermore, I’ve been involved in the generic preparation and training of staff for use of ILT/e-Learning and with the preparation of extensive on-line ‘help’ and training materials for all users. I’ve learned a lot about Moodle 2 and those many peripheral tools.

But most of all, I’ve learned a lot more about what a learning environment can be – if we put our minds (and expertise) to it. Well done Lils, Ron and everyone else. (Contact any one of us if you want more details)

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Updating

I know it’s an old saw (sore?), but how odd would it be (in fact how downright unsafe, unprofessional, irritating and gridlocking would it be?) if car manufacturers sold vehicles that needed updating all the time, especially if they ‘needed’ updating whilst on the move, or when an inexperienced driver was behind the wheel. I’m not talking about ‘whoops we’ve got it wrong despite thousands of hours of testing recalls, but cars that are released knowing they are so not ready for market and that the updating needs to happen on a weekly basis?

We wouldn’t be happy would we? We wouldn’t buy such rubbish would we?

Then why do we put up with computer software (both paid for and free) that needs constant, often daily, updating?

I have my Mac set to update OSX 10.6(.7) on a Sunday afternoon and if it ever happens, I am rarely bothered by it. My Windows computer however, seems to need updating every time I turn it on (which admittedly isn’t usually more than once a week) – so to be fair, Microsoft Windows may be victim of my ‘I don’t like Microsoft Windows any more’ attitude to computing. But they cannot be blamed for Adobe’s sheer incompetence at getting anything right first time. I’m not entirely sure why I use Adobe Reader because it updates so often you’d think it was an exclusive piece of software (which of course it isn’t: there are so many other .pdf readers out there they should be very careful) but I do – sadly on both Mac (with Windows 2003 available via Parallels) and PC (so I have thrice the weekly pain!). It’s not just the updating, it’s the fact that it doesn’t happen in the background, the fact that it often wants to restart my machine and the fact that it couldn’t give a damn whether I’m working on a document, giving a demonstration to hundreds of people or just sitting mumbling in the corner.

And while I’m ranting about Adobe – let’s not forget the Flash player updates, the Shockwave updates and the updates to updates. These are doubly irritating in educational institutions because the ‘update now’ capability will have been disallowed by the innovation prevention department – leading to all round fear and disillusionment of and for teaching via technology.

Come on guys – get it right, test it, get it right again and THEN release it!

It’s getting a little bit the same with iPhone/Pad Apps. i sort of ‘get’ them updating as the iOS settles down but I’m constantly having to turn off 3G, open up my WiFi, enter my iTunes password and leave the device to update. I know I can still work on the device, but some Apps make me click a button to say I’m 18! [e.g. CaskMarque Pubs] What’s that all about – if I was 12, I’d still click the button, surely age-aware Apps should be dealt with via the iTunes registration?

Rant over.