1 – Moodle description

Moodle is an online learning platform: LMS, a freely-licensed learning management system, used to create learning communities around content and educational activities. The word “Moodle” is an abbreviation of “Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment”.

In addition to creating courses using integrated tools (resources and activities) for trainers, Moodle offers interesting possibilities for organizing courses in the form of courses – categories and subcategories … also give characteristics specific to the setting up of complete teaching devices.

To a content management system (CMS) already mentioned, Moodle also adds many educational and communicative interaction tools creating an online learning environment: this application allows you to create, via the network, interactions between pedagogues, learners and educational resources.

In recent versions (since Moodle 2.5), the extensive customization of its homepage also gives it the opportunity to act as a single home portal for learners.

Such e-learning systems are also called “open and distance learning” (ODL) or “media learning environments”.

2 – Technical configuration

Moodle works without modification on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare and other systems that support a web server, PHP and a database management system (MySQL, PostgreSQL …). It is also integrated with the Free-EOS service server.

3 – Main characteristics

Moodle has many features shared with other online training platforms: forums, resource manager, tests and nine turnkey modules (homework, corrections, chat, polls, glossaries, journal, labels, lessons, wiki, tests , database, blogs, RSS feeds …). It also includes a module for creating training tests. The questions created with this module can be shared and reused in different test contexts.
    Moodle is very flexible [non-neutral]: it was designed from the outset in a modular way. It thus makes it possible to meet the needs of an isolated trainer as an academic institution. Today, Moodle’s development is also influenced by the demands of Moodle’s community of administrators and users (teachers, pedagogues). One can develop new modules easily since Moodle relies on PHP, the language currently [When?] Most used for the development of web applications.
    Some developments try to integrate a CMS with Moodle or integrate it into CMS such as Joomla or Drupal.
    It presents a user-friendly interface [ref. desired] with trainers, learners and administrators.
    Several languages ​​can be used simultaneously in the various courses of the same platform.
    Filters allow you to use multimedia files or mathematical expressions within Moodle pages.
    Detailed usage reports for each learner help supervise learning efforts.
    The Moodle community (several thousand individuals) is structured through forums on the moodle site: these are communities of practice focused on specific issues [contentious relevance] The French-speaking community is the second in the world, after the anglophone community [ref. necessary].
    Inspired by the pedagogical trend of social constructivism, Moodle offers knowledge management tools: wiki, RSS feed, forums and blog. These tools promote the collaborative work of a community centered around a learning project.
    Moodle facilitates the dynamic management of a course with the calendar. Each course is a portal composed of blocks that the tutor can display as he wishes throughout the course of the course, avoiding information overload.

4 – Moodle site administration

The management features that Moodle offers are:

    General administration by an administrator user, defined during the installation.
    Personalization of the site using “themes” that redefine the styles, colors of the site, typography, presentation, distribution, etc.
    New activity modules can be added to those already installed in Moodle.
    Language packages allow a complete localization of any language. These packages can be edited using an integrated editor.
    The code is written in PHP under GNU GPL version 3.
    Better potential.

4.1 User roles

    Administrator or manager: You can create courses and categories, modify and assign roles within the courses, create access accounts and assign roles, install blocks, modify the graphic theme, etc. In general, this account can make any modification and there may be more than one within the platform.
    Course creator: You can create new courses and categories.
    Teacher: You can create, modify and delete activities or resources within the course to which you are assigned. In addition to registering, qualifying, giving feedback and establishing communication with the participants to the course.
    Teacher without editing permission: You can only qualify, give feedback and establish communication with the course participants.
    Student: You can visualize and carry out the activities, review the resources and establish communication with the other participants in the course.
    Guest: You can only view the course or platform, but you can not participate in it.

The privileges of these roles can be modified to have some of other profiles or they can be created new depending on the needs or limitations of the role to be created.9
User administration

Moodle supports a range of authentication mechanisms through modules, which allow easy integration with existing systems.

The main features include:

    Standard method of email registration: students can create their own access accounts. The email address is verified by confirmation.
    LDAP method: Access accounts can be verified on an LDAP server. The administrator can specify which fields to use.
    IMAP, POP3, NNTP: access accounts are verified against a mail server or news server (news). Supports SSL and TLS certificates.
    External database: Any database that contains a table with at least two fields can be used as an external source of authentication.

Each person needs only one account for the entire server. On the other hand, each account can have different types of access. With an administrator account that controls the creation of courses and determines the teachers, assigning users to the courses.

    Security: teachers can add an “access key” for their courses, in order to prevent access for those who are not their students. They can transmit this key personally or through personal email, etc. Teachers can manually unsubscribe students if they wish, although there is also an automatic way to remove students who remain inactive for a certain period of time (established by the administrator).

Each user can specify their own time zone, and all the dates marked in Moodle will be translated to that time zone (the dates of message writing, task delivery, etc.). Also each user can choose the language that will be used in the Moodle interface.

Regarding its disadvantages, it can be said that some activities can be a little mechanical, depending a lot on the instructional design. Because it is based on PHP technology, the configuration of a server with many users must be careful to obtain the best performance. It needs to improve its interface in a simpler way. There are disadvantages associated with security, depending on where the installation of Moodle is hosted and what the security policies and the technological infrastructure with which it is installed during the installation.

5 – Administration of courses

The teacher has full control over all the options of a course. You can choose between several course formats such as weekly, by topics or the social format, based on discussions.

In general, Moodle offers a flexible series of activities for the courses: forums, journals, questionnaires, materials, queries, surveys and tasks. On the main page of the course you can present the changes that have occurred since the last time the user entered the course, which helps to create a sense of community.

Most areas for entering text (materials, sending messages to a forum, journal entries, etc.) can be edited using a built-in WYSIWYG HTML editor.

All ratings for forums, journals, quizzes and tasks can be viewed on a single page (and downloaded as a spreadsheet file). In addition, activity reports are available for each student, with graphs and details about their passage through each module (last access, number of times they have read it) as well as a detailed “history” of the participation of each student, including sent messages, journal entries, etc. on one page.

Moodle has the ability to send by email (if the server where it is installed has this service enabled) copies of messages sent to a forum, comments from teachers, communication between users by internal messenger, etc. in HTML or text format.

In versions after 2.0 it is possible to restrict access to the resources or activities of the course through three types of conditions; activity grades or the final grade of the course and date / time. The access restriction can be formed by a single condition or by a group of conditions that can be of any of the three mentioned types.

From version 2.3 it is possible to restrict access to sections or topics of a course through the same three types of conditions that are used to restrict access to resources and activities. In later versions other possibilities have been added to condition access as they are; some field of the student profile.

6 – Main modules in Moodle

6.1 – Task module

You can specify the final delivery date of a task and the maximum rating that can be assigned, students can upload their tasks (in any file format) to the server. The date in which they have been uploaded is registered, it is allowed to send tasks out of time, but the teacher can clearly see the delay time, for each particular task, the whole class (ratings and comments) can be evaluated in a single page with a single form. The teacher’s observations are attached to the homework page of each student and a notification message is sent, and the teacher has the possibility to allow the return of a task after its qualification.

6.2 – Questionnaire module

Teachers can define a database of questions that can be reused in different questionnaires, questions can be stored in easily accessible categories, and these categories can be “published” to make them accessible from any course on the site. The questionnaires are automatically graded, and can be requalified if the questions are modified, the questionnaires may have a time limit from which they will not be available. The teacher can determine if the questionnaires can be solved several times and if the correct answers and comments will be shown, the questions and the answers of the questionnaires can be mixed (randomly) to reduce the copies among the students. The questions can be created in HTML and with images. Questions can be imported from external text files. The questions may have different metrics and types of capture.

6.3 – Consultation module

It’s like a vote. It can be used to vote on something or to receive a response from each student (for example, to ask for their consent for something). The teacher can see a table that intuitively presents information about who has chosen what and can allow students to see an updated graph of the results.

6.4 – Workshop module

Allows course creators to add an activity for peer evaluation. The functionality is similar to the task module where students can send their work in an attachment or with the online text tool, with the advantage that the classmates can access those tasks to evaluate them using different strategies that are predefined .

6.5 – Forum module

There are different types of forums available: exclusive for teachers, news of the course and open to all.

All the messages have attached the photo of the author. Discussions can be nested, by branch, or present the oldest or newest messages first, the teacher can force everyone to subscribe to a forum or allow each person to choose which forums to subscribe to in order to send a copy of the messages by email, the teacher can choose not to allow answers in a forum (for example, to create a forum dedicated to advertisements), the teacher can easily move the discussion topics between different forums.

6.6 – Resource module

It supports the presentation of an important number of digital content, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Flash, video, sounds, etc. Files can be uploaded and managed on the server, or they can be created on the fly using web forms (text or HTML), web applications can be linked to transfer data.
Survey module

Pre-prepared surveys (COLLES, ATTLS) are provided and contrasted as tools for the analysis of online classes. You can generate reports of the surveys which include graphics. The data can be downloaded in Excel spreadsheet format or as a CSV text file. The interface of the surveys prevents the possibility that they are only partially answered. Each student is informed about their results compared to the class average.
Wiki module

    The teacher can create this module so that students work in groups in the same document.
    All students will be able to modify the content included by the rest of their classmates.
    In this way each student can modify the wiki of the group to which he belongs, but he will be able to consult all the wikis.
    The wiki serves as a basis to maintain constant communication with the members of a study group.

Younes Derfoufi

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