May 2005, Volume 9, Number 2 pp. 16-23
ARE YOU READY TO "MOODLE"?
Klaus Brandl University of Washington INTRODUCTION With the rapidly increasing popularity of the Internet in recent years, the delivery of learning programs has gradually shifted from local desktop to online-based applications. While the XML programmingenvironment has evolved as the new standard for the Internet, building customized learning programs requires the use of authoring systems such as Macromedia Director, Authorware, Dreamweaver, Flash, and Microsoft Frontpage (for a detailed review see Godwin-Jones, 2003), which places high demands on design, programming skills, and time. An alternative to using such applications is the deployment ofcourse or learning management systems. One such system that has been gradually gaining worldwide popularity is known as Moodle (http://www.moodle.com). What is Moodle? Moodle is a course management system for online learning. The acronym MOODLE stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Among its many users, however, Moodle has already become a term of its own synonymous with asoftware package designed to help educators create quality online instruction. It was the brainchild of Martin Dougiamas (http://dougiamas.com), a former WebCT administrator with postgraduate degrees in Computer Science and Education. The design of Moodle is based on socio-constructivist pedagogy. This means its goal is to provide a set of tools that support an inquiry- and discovery-basedapproach to online learning. Furthermore, it purports to create an environment that allows for collaborative interaction among students as a standalone or in addition to conventional classroom instruction. One of the advantages of Moodle is that it has been developed as an OpenSource software project. It is entirely supported by a team of programmers and by the user community. This also means that Moodleis available free of charge under the terms of the General Public License (GNU) and has no licensing cost attached. As such, it is accessible to anybody in contrast to commercial software such as Blackboard (http://www.blackboard.com) and WebCT (http://www.webct.com), whose licensing fees have skyrocketed in recent years. Deployment and Technical Background Moodle runs without modification onUnix, Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare, and any other system that supports PHP (HTML-embedded scripting language), including most Web host providers. Data is stored in a single database: MySQL and PostgreSQL are best supported, but it can also be used with Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server, Borland Interbase, Informix, Visual Foxpro, SAP DB, SQLite, Sybase, Microsoft Access, ADO, and genericODBC database access, since it uses ADOdb (http://www.adodb.sourceforge.net). MOODLE AND LANGUAGE LEARNING Since the development of communicative skills in language learning requires social interaction between the teacher and the students and among the students themselves, the use of computers has for a long time been regarded only as a support tool with regard to certain skill areas. Rapid advancesin technology (e.g., fast Internet connections, ample storage capacities, increase in bandwidth) and more compatible crossplatform applications now make the implementation of synchronous and asynchronous learning tasks, in oral and written modes, feasible from a pragmatic point of view (see Cziko & Park, 2003, for a review of computer-mediated audio communication [SCMAC] software). Furthermore, agrowing body of research
Copyright © 2005, ISSN 1094-3501
Are You Ready to "Moodle"?
is gradually emerging that provides concrete suggestions on how to exploit instructional online tools effectively or how to integrate the Internet for different language learning goals (Brandl, 2002; GonzálezLloret, 2003). As a courseware package and learning system, Moodle has...