By Teachers, For Teachers
A Learning Management System (what is often called an LMS) has become foundational to blending technology in the classroom into education experiences. Without its one-stop curation of class management activities such as attendance, homework, grading, discussions, resources, and more, each with their own separate website, login, and password, technology in the classroom would be defined by chaos. There are many LMSs to choose from, but none as flexible, scalable, feature-rich, and affordable as the open source ecosystem of Moodle. Moodle got its start years ago as a method to organize blended learning and online classes. Now, it provides more than 90 million educators, administrators, and learners in more than 200 countries with a single robust, secure, and integrated system to create personalized learning environments. Besides thousands of K-12 schools, users include the State University of New York, Microsoft and the Open University, and the London School of Economics. Because it's open source and platform-agnostic, it has few limitations, but this flexibility and scalability comes with a price. Setup and use are reputed to be more challenging than other LMSs. In fact, I can attest to that from experience. There is help, though. Following "How to Get Started With Moodle" (the next section), I'll share an easy way to unpack Moodle as part of the technology in the classroom you use in your school.
With a reminder that Moodle is open source, which means the basic framework can be augmented with just about any addition conceivable (as you'll see in the below section “23 Ways to use Moodle”), here's how to start:
There are many companies out there that will assist in training your stakeholders and troubleshooting issues associated with your new Moodle LMS. One of these is the free VerveEd. It uses an experiential, self-paced environment to walk teachers through all the steps needed to create and use the Moodle platform and then provides nine hands-on "Challenges" that users complete to assess their Moodle knowledge in a real-world (albeit sandbox) Moodle environment. Challenges include topics such as:
All learning takes place within Moodle, not through videos or quizzes. Progress is memorialized with badges for each category and a "Professional Development Certificate" which shows all badges collected during the training. By the time educators complete VerveEd's exercises, they have the confidence to excel in their own Moodle classroom. If you're an Administrator, you can track the progress of all your teachers through your VerveEd dashboard.
VerveEd offers fee-based premium and enterprise licenses that provide in-situation or customized training.
Moodle works off of modules, which are activated by downloading mostly free plug-ins. This is similar to what you'd do for a self-hosted Wordpress blog -- find the plug in, download, install, and then customize. Because it is open-source and has a robust developer community, as of this printing, there are more than 1300 plugins (click the link for an update). This means that, unlike most LMSs that offer a finite set of tools, with Moodle, you are only limited by your imagination.
The most popular plugins with schools include:
Overall, there isn't a more flexible, scalable, affordable LMS that will allow you to differentiate for varied needs, personalize content, and respond quickly and facilely to the ever-changing demands of teachers and students. The learning curve, though steeper than most LMSs, is well worth it. Let me know if you disagree.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.