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In his post, George describes Moodle as being one of many "content-centric" systems. Martin Dougiamas (founder of Moodle) then comments:
Moodle itself is actually activity-centric. Facilitators using Moodle start with an empty course container and use a handy collection of tools/apps/modules to build a collection or series of focussed collaborative activities for a group of people. Through roles, these same capabilities can be provided to any user (eg students) in the system. Moodle itself is fairly neutral pedagogically – most things are possible.
However, I strongly agree that a large proportion of Moodle administrators and teachers don’t necessarily understand all this, and end up USING the system in a very didactic and locked-down way, reducing write capabilities and focussing on “dump and pump” learning designs (resources and quizzes). I do understand some of the reasons – many of them have never had the exciting online learning experiences we know are possible, or are constrained by very outdated brick-and-mortar policies at their institutions.
Based on Martin's explanation, actually where Moodle differs from network-based systems like Elgg, is that Moodle is teacher-centric, whereas Elgg & co are learner-centric. Both have their place. It depends on who is deciding what is to be learnt, and on the confidence of the learner to learn.
I will admit, I'm just as guilty of creating locked down learning systems with "dump and pump" learning designs, and using Moodle to do so - knowing full well that we're only using a tiny proportion of its capabilities. But there are often very good reasons.
The primary reason to adopt content-centric approaches is that good, constructivist online learning takes time. If you follow Gilly Salmon's excellent, practical 5 stage model, you can easily be talking about at least 3-4 weeks before meaningful learning takes place - particularly if you're dealing with part-time learners. Yes, we know that this type of learning is long-lasting and far more effective than behaviourist or cognitivist approaches, but most purchasers of learning services would baulk at the cost of it. Constructivist approaches do not scale at all well, whereas content-centric approaches do - thus making them far more attractive to the purchaser.
The secondary reason is about why we use Moodle. It's just so easy to maintain, to adapt and to integrate. The code is perhaps not ideal for computer-science purists, but it's written pragmatically - making it easy to work with. Moodle's also such a stable platform. The size of the development community helps here. It gives corporate IT departments confidence.
So Moodle's a good choice from an IT perspective, but perhaps not always the best choice from the corporate learning perspective.
It's a fantastic tool in the hands of a skilled online facilitator. Yet, circumstances dictate that it's often used inappropriately. Many times that is simply because the people buying the service just don't realise the potential and capabilities of online, constructivist learning approaches.
Elgg, similarly, is a fantastic tool when used with a community of motivated and skilled learners. However, trying to persuade those who hold the purse strings that Elgg will help them deliver their compliance training etc is almost impossible.
Perhaps we need a halfway house. A system that:
- allows organisations to push content to all or groups of their learners - learning from Amazon's marketing model
- allows learners to connect with other learners in similar situations and with similar needs
- allows learners to select content based on ratings, recommendations and what their network is doing
- allows tutors/trainers to provide a sense of direction, synthesise ideas, coach...
If your organisation is content-centric, then give them content plus connections. Show them Amazon. That way you'll start to pull them towards a more learner-centric approach to learning.
To be honest, I can't see how we will ever get corporate training departments to adopt constructivist approaches. Perhaps we're just asking too much. Although Moodle does work in corporate training, is it really the best fit?
Yes, the post was a bit of a ramble... I'm not sure that Moodle is by-default content-centric, but it certainly how people use it - because it's so easy to do so.
I hadn't realised how easy it was to crack MD5-hashed passwords. Although, I believe this is only possible if the passwords use simple words and do not mix lower and upper case letters.
Just adding a password policy and tweaking the teachers' capabilities in Moodle would solve a lot of this.
I have done some reflection on Moodle here, which might be of interest:
As for halfway house, why not just add a Elgg in Moodle, just like what they did with LAMS :)
Now, that would be a good start :)
Cheers and thanks for sharing your VLE frustrations and reflections.
Greetings from Perú
I'll have to take a look. Thanks for the tip.