Archives For Online learning

Uses of online learning tools like forums, Moodle, etc.


29 Sep 2006

This week’s Inside the Net with Leo Laporte and Megan Morrone featured Digication, a new online learning site. The main product is Digication Campus which the creator describes as:

… a web-based classroom for teachers and students. You can post assignments. Share ideas. Talk. Listen. Learn collaboratively. Get and give help. Post articles. Record grades. Collaborate online. And digitally archive the entire educational experience.

The site looks interesting. It’s much more basic than Moodle, which the creators acknowledge, but their “simple by design” motto has some merit for educators that don’t have a tech department that is willing or able to install Moodle. The site is free for the first 1,000 users at any one school.

What do you do when your technology isn’t enough to set you apart? How about making questionable patent claims and suing your chief competitors? That seems to be Blackboard’s new strategy.

In a nutshell, Blackboard has apparently received a broad patent that seems to cover almost all learning management system concepts in current use. As a big Moodle fan you might think that I would be concerned by this. I’m not particularly worried. There’s a great effort underway to document all sorts of prior art to demonstrate that Blackboard hasn’t really invented anything new and isn’t worthy of patent protection. Let’s just say that I’m not going to hold off installing Moodle on a new server in my new job.

Moodle fans everywhere rejoiced yesterday with the release of version 1.6. The new version brings some significant improvements. Here are a few of the ones that matter most to me:

  • My Moodle” page now presents a summary of all the work going on in whatever courses a student is enrolled. We have a quite a few students who have more than one teacher using Moodle. This will help them keep up across the board.
  • Multiple group membership means that teachers can create multiple groups and students can be members of more than one group. This is a huge improvement and will allow teachers to do much more flexible grouping on a per assignment basis while preserving course-wide groups.
  • The database module is a totally flexible module for creating all kinds of custom activities that include multimedia, comments, votes, etc. Nothing like this existed before, and it’s really going to open Moodle up to some creative uses.
  • Blogging comes to Moodle in version 1.6. Every Moodle user will now have their own blog that supports tagging and even podcasts. There was a lot of discussion about this and Martin himself explains the rationale for why blogs work the way they do in 1.6. Bottom line: this is just a start for blogging in Moodle and integration with the rest of the Moodle tools is really complicated.

There a bunch more, but those hit closer to home than most. If you’re just learning about Moodle you may be interested in the podcast interview I did with Moodle creator Martin Dougiamas last November.

I had the privilege of participating in a Web 2.0 panel discussion sponsored by the Digital Media Center at the U. of Minnesota recently. My fellow panelists were David Ernst from the College of Education, Shane Nackerud from the U. library, and Clancy Ratliff from the Department of Rhetoric.

Dave introduced the topic, Shane showed and demonstrated UThink, and Clancy covered social bookmarking. My role was to give the professors and others in attendance a glimpse at the kind of work that’s being done in the K–12 world by students who will be theirs very shortly. I showed the Hopkins Moodle site and some student podcasts.

If you’ve got about an hour to kill, you can watch the whole thing as an archived Breeze presentation. (I believe the Flash plug-in is the only requirement to watch it.)

web2.0, uthink, uofmn, umn, breeze

H2O Playlists

24 Feb 2006

I’ll be sitting on the panel for a seminar at the U. of Minnesota in a few weeks discussing Web 2.0. I met recently with my co-panelists and we decided to put our money where our mouths are and use a wiki to organize our presentation and invite input in advance on the topics we plan to cover. (U. of MN login required to edit the wiki.) In the course of our planning discussion I was introduced to H2O Playlist, a wonderful site at Harvard’s Berkman Center For Internet and Society.

According to the site, an H2O Playlist “is a series of links to books, articles, and other materials that collectively explore an idea or set the stage for a course, discussion, or current event.” Further, the site says that H2O Playlists allow you to:

  • transform traditional syllabi into interactive, global learning tools
  • share the reading lists of world-renowned scholars, organizations, and cultural leaders
  • let interested people subscribe to playlist updates and stay current on their fields
  • promote an exchange of ideas and expertise among professors, students, and researchers
  • communicate and aggregate knowledge — online and offline.

One of the best ways to get to know H2O Playlists is to read the H2O Playlist about H2O Playlists. My co-presenters and I are looking at a Playlist entitled “UDL and Web 2.0: Confronting the Drunk Librarian” for a bevy of useful links about Web 2.0.

I started my own Playlist about ITIL, the set of IT best practices I posted about a while ago.

h2o playlist

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually picture -40°F and roving polar bears when think of the perfect classroom. But for Prof. Aaron Doering and the rest of the GoNorth! team, spending a few months in their arctic classroom is the perfect way to connect with millions of school children from around the world.

Aaron is a proponent of adventure learning, and the GoNorth! team is putting the concept to the test this spring for the second time during a trek from Circle, Alaska to Prudhoe Bay. They’re calling the trip “GoNorth! Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 2006” and along the way the team will be interacting with native peoples, exploring environmental issues, and providing an amazing learning opportunity for any student, teacher, or parent who signs up at their Web site.

It’s not too late to sign up at and participate in this year’s trip. There is a ton of free K–12 curriculum at their site that cuts across content areas and will really draw students into the trip and the issues it raises. If nothing else, at least take a look at the huskies. If you and your students check out the site, the frequent trip updates via text, audio, and video will keep you coming back.

Download: STP-AaronDoering (29.5 MB, 39:26)

adventure learning, polarhusky, anwr, online learning, podcast, environmental education

I sat down with David Glick recently at a local library that just happens to have a coffee shop. We talked about online learning while I sipped my chai latté. Dave has been consulting with organizations that are developing online learning programs for a couple years now, and before that he was the first online learning coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Education. Check out his company’s Web site for more info about the kind of work Dave does around the country.

We talked about the characteristics of quality online learning programs, some pitfalls to avoid, and wondered aloud what would become of the course management system software space now that Blackboard and WebCT have merged and Moodle is gaining ground quickly. Cook this podcast for 15 minutes per pound, baste frequently, and enjoy with a hearty portion of sweet potatoes and that green bean casserole with the crunchy onions on top.

Other sites mentioned:

Download: STP-DavidGlick (18.3 MB, 39:57)

podcast, blackboard, moodle, mit opencourseware

Moodle is the biggest open source course management system in the world. It competes head-to-head with Blackboard on features and crushes the commercial competition on price. I’ve posted about the use of Moodle in my school district in the past, and anyone who’s read any of those posts knows that I’m a huge fan. I thought it would be cool to go to the source and ask Martin Dougiamas, Moodle founder and project leader, a bit more about the project. I think you’ll enjoy this podcast very much!

I continue to be impressed by Skype. Martin’s in Perth, Western Australia, and our conversation from (literally) halfway around the world sounds like we’re sitting in the same room. Is Skype worth $1.6 billion? eBay thinks so. Premature or not, VoIP is going to be huge.

Download: STP-MartinDougiamas (13.1 MB, 28:20)

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