Online Course Design & Moodle

As a former technology integration specialist I was once responsible for evaluating, selecting, and ultimately deploying 2 learning management systems (Edmodo and Alma) and a GAFE suite to the international school I formerly worked at. In my previous master’s program I was able to explore building online courses and their orientations in Blackboard Course Sites. I have even used Canvas as an LMS in the graduate school I do teacher training at. In those six years I have come across and used a number of systems and tools, however, I have never once had the opportunity to work with Moodle.

Moodle was not as intuitive or simple as I was expecting. The modular nature does create a wide range of flexibility which is in stark contrast to Course Sites or Canvas (this can be aggravating or paradise depending on your perspective), however, that flexibility comes at a price. It’s not a steep price by any means, but I had to invest more time than I had anticipated on the Moodle YouTube channel to have more direct, didactic instruction over exploratory learning. I also found myself wanting to have more control over the look and feel of the visual style which simply was not an option. Additionally, some modular blocks were not available for use or installed in the sandbox that would have been ideal; instructor contact information for example. Nonetheless, there were plenty of other ways to add navigation redundancy or visual cues via basic linking and imagery. Simple solutions sometimes go very far!

While the intrinsic difficulty is relatively low, the creation-tools are less intuitive than those of other platforms in my opinion. No platform, of course, is intrinsically poor. For example, Moodle, Course Sites, and Canvas allow a user to have access to the mark up editor for stylised HTML, though inline CSS styling makes it inefficient to try anything sophisticated. As a competent amateur web developer, this is frustrating.

However, they have different approaches to operationalising the same features and it was great to finally experience first-hand just how Moodle does that, even if I found it to be less intuitive by comparison. That being said, online course shell creation is not new to me, however, complete online course creation is. And along with that comes the tricky concept of developing cognitive, social, and teacher presence and the redesign of activities to help learners persist, keep them engaged, and keep them challenged in order to do as much as possible to reduce the transactional distance of asynchronous education. While the unit of instruction was only designed to last 2 weeks (rather than a full online course in this particularly assignment), making appropriate use of forums to connect learners and explore each others’ work was still vital.

As with some of my previous experience in designing courses, online courses require a much more robust level of thought and planning in the structure of the course. While some aspects of a face-to-face course might be able to change abruptly, this is not necessarily so online. The amount of structure required makes change difficult, but even to create appropriate and effective structure, one must also be reasonably well versed in how the platform can assist in reaching that goal.

Moodle is a popular choice among higher ed institutions and it often shows up on job advertisements so this module was an excellent opportunity to have hands on experience with the platform as well as to better round out my own knowledge of the most common CMS’s in use today. I imagine that with daily use as a Moodle admin or instructor, it would only be a month or so before I could become much stronger at knowing the ins and outs of the system.

I have also spent this semester looking for full time and work and as luck would have it, I have an interview coming up for an ed-tech specialist position that also has the responsibility of managing Moodle courses, so it has been particularly valuable and rewarding to have had the opportunity to explore the Moodle sandbox and gain tangible experience with the platform.


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