Moodle Web Hosting Guide

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Moodle is a free software e-learning platform also termed as a Course Management System (CMS), Learning Management Systems (LMS), or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Moodle is actually an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.

Moodle was the creation of Martin Dougiamas, a former WebCT administrator at Curtin University, with graduate degrees in Computer Science and Education. This free software is designed to help educators create online learning communities with use of sound principles and methods of instruction, also called pedagogical principals. Its user base comprises of 25,281 registered sites with 10,405,167 users in 1,023,914 courses; and these figures are on the rise.

It enables educators to create online courses further facilitating productive interaction. Moreover, its modular structure enables users to enhance the software’s functionality. Development is undertaken by a globally diffused network of commercial and non-commercial users, spearheaded by the Moodle Company based in Perth, Western Australia.

This open source software is available under the GNU Public License and helps in producing rich and valuable internet-based courses and web sites. Users are allowed to copy, use and modify Moodle while adhering to the license agreement. Users can provide the source to others but not modify or remove the original license and copyrights, and apply this same license to any derivative work.
Moodle can be easily installed on any computer that can run PHP and support a SQL type database like MySQL. It can be run on Windows and Mac operating systems and many flavors of linux like Red Hat or Debian GNU.

Moodle offers robust and highly utilizable features and these too are evolving actively; further enriching the user-experience. Its key features are explained below:

1. Design:

  • Provides and promotes a perfect platform for collaboration, activities, critical reflection, etc.
  • Suitable for 100% online classes as well as supplementing face-to-face learning
  • Simple, lightweight, efficient, compatible, low-tech browser interface
  • Easy to install on almost any platform that supports PHP. Requires only one database (and can share it).
  • Full database abstraction supports all major brands of database (except for initial table definition)
  • Course listing shows descriptions for every course on the server, including accessibility to guests.

2. Site Management:

  • The site is managed by an administrator user and can be completely defined during setup. Defaults can be edited during setup or globally accepted.
  • Using the Site Administration Block; the site can be modified.
  • The plug-in themes allow the administrator to customize the site colors, fonts, layout etc to suit local needs.
  • The plug-in activity modules can be added to existing Moodle installations.
  • Plug-in language packs allow full localization to any language. Over 70 language packs are currently available.
  • The code is clearly-written PHP under a GPL license which implies easy modification to cater to various needs.

3. User Management:

  • The primary emphasis is to reduce admin involvement and maintain high security standards.
  • Supports a range of authentication mechanisms through plug-in authentication modules, allowing easy integration with existing systems.
  • Standard email method: students can create their own login accounts. Email addresses are verified by confirmation.
  • LDAP method: account logins can be checked against an LDAP server.
  • IMAP, POP3 and NNTP: account logins are checked against a mail or news server. SSL, certificates and TLS are supported.

4. Enrolment:

  • Teachers can add an “enrolment key” to their courses to keep out non-students. This key can either be provided face to face or via email.
  • Teachers can enroll students manually.
  • External database: any database containing at least two fields can be used as an external authentication source.
  • Each person requires only one account for the whole server – each account can have different access
  • Meta courses can group related courses so participants can interact with each other.

5. Roles

  • Roles for specific participants can be defined for each course
  • An admin account controls the creation of courses and creates teachers by assigning users to courses
  • Course creators can create courses, teach in them, and assign others to teacher roles.
  • Non-editing teacher roles are available for adjuncts, and part-time tutors.

6. Course Management:

  • The teacher can wield control over all settings for a course, including restricting other teachers.
  • Choice of course formats such as by week, by topic or a discussion-focused social format.
  • Course Themes. A course can have its own theme of colors and layout.
  • Flexible variety of course activities – Forums, Quizzes, Glossaries, Resources, Choices, Surveys, Assignments, Chats, Workshops.
  • Groups – teacher(s) and students can be placed in one or more groups
  • Recent changes to the course since the last login can be displayed on the course home page.
  • Most text entry areas (resources, forum postings etc) can be edited using an embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor.
  • All grades for Forums, Quizzes and Assignments can be viewed on one page (and downloaded as a spreadsheet file)

6. Assignment Module:

  • Assignments can be specified with a due date and a maximum grade.
  • Students can upload their assignments (any file format) to the server – they are date-stamped.
  • Late assignments are allowed and the delayed duration is available to the teacher.
  • For each particular assignment, the whole class can be assessed (grade and comment) on one page in one form.
  • Teacher feedback is appended to the assignment page for each student, and notification is henceforth mailed.
  • The teacher can choose to allow resubmission of assignments after grading if regarding is required or desired.

7. Chat Module:

  • Allows smooth, synchronous text interaction
  • Includes profile pictures in the chat window
  • Supports URLs, smilies, embedded HTML, images etc
  • All sessions are logged for later viewing, and these can also be made available to the students.

8. Choice Module:

  • Students can optionally be allowed to view an up-to-date graph of results
  • A poll can be created to o vote on something, or to get feedback from every student; like research content.

9. Forum Module:

  • Different types of forums are available, such as teacher-only, course news, open-to-all, and one-thread-per-user.
  • All postings have the authors photo attached.
  • Discussions can be viewed nested, flat or threaded, oldest or newest first.
  • Individual forums can be subscribed to by each person so that copies are forwarded via email, or the teacher can force subscription for all

10. Glossary Module

  • This module helps Moodle improve upon the experience of a traditional classroom.
  • Allows participants to create and maintain a list of definitions, like a dictionary
  • Student entries can be previewed by instructors before publishing
  • Entries can be searched or browsed using alphabet, category, date, and author
  • A glossary of terms can be easily referenced by students
  • Almost any module of Moodle can be set to hyperlink

11. Lesson Module:

  • A lesson is a series of pages which can be presented in a linear fashion, like a slide show, or in a non-linear, branching manner, or a combination of the two.
  • Pages can allow students choices through teacher directed questions or branches
  • Offers different scoring and grading potentials
  • Navigation through the lesson can be straight forward or complex, logical or random.

12. Quiz Module:

  • Teachers can define a database of questions for re-use in different quizzes
  • Questions can be stored in categories for easy access, and these categories can be “published” to make them accessible from any course on the site.
  • Quizzes are automatically graded, and can be re-graded if questions are modified
  • Quizzes can have a limited time window outside of which they are not available
  • At the teacher’s option, quizzes can be attempted multiple times, and can show feedback and/or correct answers
  • Quiz questions and quiz answers can be shuffled (randomised) to reduce cheating
  • Questions allow HTML and images

13. Resource Module:

  • Supports display of any electronic content, Word, Powerpoint, Flash, Video, Sounds etc. that are stored locally, or remotely
  • Files can be uploaded and managed (zipped, unzipped, renamed, moved, etc..) on the server
  • Folders can be created and managed on the server and linked to

14. Survey Module:

  • Built-in surveys (COLLES, ATTLS) have been proven as instruments for analyzing online classes
  • Online survey reports always available, including many graphs. Data is downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet or CSV text file.
  • Survey interface prevents partly-finished surveys.
  • Feedback is provided to the student of their results compared to the class averages

15. Wiki Module:

  • Wiki is a web page that anyone can add to or edit
  • It enables documents to be authored collectively and supports collaborative learning
  • Old versions are not deleted and may be restored if required

16. Workshop Module:

  • This module helps in assessment of documents, and the teacher can manage and grade the assessment.
  • Supports a wide range of possible grading scales
  • Teacher can provide sample documents for students to practice grading
  • Very flexible with many options.

System specifications/Requirements:
Moodle runs without modification on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare and any other systems that support PHP, including most webhost providers. All data is stored in a single database: MySQL and PostgreSQL. The current version of Moodle, version 1.8, was released in March 2007 with improved roles management.

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