It is always difficult as an educator to locate tools that are both simple to use as well as giving a teacher solid insight into student behaviors. As part of the online learning journey or even as part of a flipped classroom experience a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle ( Moodle.org, 2015) can become a critical piece of technology.
Bowen (2008) discusses the importance of identifying the affordances of a technology to assess its suitability for particular learning situations.
Moodle includes the below affordances with a short explanation as to why.
Media affordances: read-ability – students have content loaded into html pages, book and lesson modules, write-ability – students can use wiki, forums, blog, journal tools, view-ability – students are able to see and interact with images and content (where applicable), listen and speak ability – students are able to use plugin integrations for voice shat, teachers are able to post up sound bites and podcasts watch-ability – students are able to watch any video content either loaded or hyperlinked into the LMS.
Spatial affordances: resize-ability –using a mobility option within the LMS configuration for theme setup you are able to set a mobile theme which will resize the LMS interface, move-ability – interactive and non-interactive (text) elements can be loaded into a Moodle course and placed according to the learning design.
Temporal affordances: accessibility – as long as the students have access to the internet then they can access the LMS anywhere/anytime, , synchronicity versus asynchronicity – this is predominately an asynchronous software, but also has the ability for some synchronous work such as through live chat or through a virtual conference software plugin.
Navigation affordances: browse-ability – the content, once loaded by the teacher remains constant so can be browsed, search-ability –students are able to search content within the LMS, data-manipulation – the teacher is able to manipulate sort and sequence content and results.
Emphasis affordances: highlight-ability – the teacher can highlight sections of the content using inbuilt tools and course layout tools, focus-ability – similar to highlight-ability the teacher can give a focus on specific tools using the block area to focus students to a new point.
Synthesis affordances: combine-ability – multiple tools can be embedded, uploaded or created in a Moodle course to create a mixed media learning environment, integration-ability – other tools and systems can be integrated into the Moodle course.
Access-control affordances: permission-ability – a Moodle course site has many levels of permissions from the high end Moodle Administrator (effectively the owner of the site, this role can add users, content modify course site and themes) down to guest access where the site is similar to a website and interactivity does not work. Authenticated users on a Moodle site means that all activity can be tracked and reported on about that user on the whole Moodle site, share-ability –within a Moodle space more than one teacher can be added to a course site, also students have the ability to share content through forums, blogs and wiki assignments.
Technical affordances: this software is multi-platform; depending on the level of interactive content or video links it can use relatively low bandwidth and speed required. For organisations that do not have a LAN to be accessed by all students (such as a prison) Moodle can be loaded on a stand-alone computer that does not point to the internet. Backup of a course created can be reloaded into the system by visiting teachers. The course can be backed up upon leaving which can include users, results and coursework. This can then be re-installed on a LAN enabled system for storage.
Usability: Teachers need to learn to create, manage and teach in a Moodle course. It is a fairly simple tool to use with the edit interface being the same for every resource being added. Students will have access to the resources and activities which are intuitive to use, however, it is recommended that a simple step by step screen grab guide is used for students unfamiliar with the system.
Aesthetics: clean and simple user interface and design. Themes within Moodle give the Administrator and possibly teachers (depending on how the system has been setup for teacher permissions) the ability to contextualize and mimic a website look and feel that will make the experience intuitive for end users.
Reliability: The software itself is robust, however, as it is a web tool internet connection via Ethernet cable, 3/4G or WiFi is critical and if dropouts are experienced this could cause issues. Firewalls of organisations could also cause issues on the initial use if ICT has not opened the port to allow this software to be accessed.
Issues and key considerations
Accessibility – the Government of Australian requires that all websites and web material meet at least level A WCAG3 requirements. The Moodle software is currently rated at a level AA. With the accessibility options enabled it also means that support software , such as screen readers can be used by end users on this site
The outlined affordances demonstrate the possibilities of Moodle in a VET or corporate setting. It allows teacher and presenters to push content out, provide avenues for synchronous sessions and enables the teacher to assess students via a wide range of assessment methods. This is then stored within the Moodle course site and can form part of the backup of the course for archival purposes..
Through the use of plugins this too can be a simple ‘vanilla’ out of the box version or a complex system that fully reports against many key performance indicators.
As this is software can be used across multi-platform, it is an ideal option to use within a VET classroom context.
Bower, M. (2008). Affordance analysis – matching learning tasks with learning technologies. Educational Media International, 45(1), 3-15. doi: 10.1080/09523980701847115
Morgan, M., Butler, M., & Power, M. (2007). Evaluating ICT in education: A comparison of the affordances of the iPod, DS and Wii. Paper presented at the ASCILITE, Singapore.
Moodle.org,. (2015). Moodle – Open-source learning platform | Moodle.org. Retrieved 12 January 2015, from https://moodle.org/