Sunday, February 06, 2011

Oodles of Moodles

For years now, I have been wanting to teach a course online; that is me in one place and my students in another. What do distance learning and Susan Boyle both have in common? They both had undiscovered potential. Needless to say, the economics of distance learning speaks loud and clear to institutions of higher learning. Yet, back five years ago when I proposed a course to my department head at ELTE, although I received the green light, the infrastructure was not in place.

ELTE did have Moodle installed on their mainframe, but the problem was few knew how to use it, let alone guide those of us who were try-curious. With Moodle available in thirty-four languages, at the time, it was only in Hungarian on the ELTE servers. Back then the only department to use it was psychology. My plans went on the back burner, until last semester. By accident I noticed a sign on a colleague's office door that said his class was meeting via Moodle while he was on a Erasmus scholarship. Well, it seemed the time had come and ELTE had come of age.

This semester for the first time, I will be teaching a course completely online called "Portrayal of Journalism in US Films". The course is on the schedule for Wednesdays 9:30 to 11am, but during that time I will be sitting in my office while the participants may still be in bed, at a coffee shop, or in another class. The point is it really doesn't matter where they are. They all received the list of movies and ways to access them. They watch the movie at their convenience, but within a one week time frame. 

Before the next "class" they will have had to blog reactions to the film as it relates to the sociological issues of the time, the veracity of the journalists' roles, and so on. They also have to take a test, again online. Although the first three tests are multiple choice, they are difficult. I am looking at the finer points of seeing a film as well as the role of journalism within. Eventually, I will figure out how to create short answer tests and I will move on to that mode.

Moodle will turn on and turn off the tests within the time frames that I have set up. The questions are shuffled, so they will not appear in the same order for each student to cut down on the temptation to cheat. I have also set it up so that each question only receives 3 minutes to answer, with a total of thirty for the test. This eliminates taking the test with the movie running.

I did join the Moodle teaching group on LinkedIn, but that group charges for Moodle instruction classes. What I have found is that not all Moodle users are created equally; some are more equal than others. Moodle modules are dependent on the organizations willingness to load them onto their mainframe. There is no sense in paying money for a course that is only going to make me drool over the creative gadgets I cannot access.

As I become more practiced with this technology, the world is my potential classroom. Once you have the basics, the rest is like a smooth ride on the highway of higher learning education.

Check out these stats. Click on the picture to increase the size. This is from the US Department of Education: Institute of Education Sciences.

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