Category Archives: Moodle

What’s New in Moodle 2?

 This summer IT Services is working hard behind the scenes to make sure all our campus systems are running well. Part of our necessary maintenance is upgrading our Learning Management System, Moodle to increase security and add functionality. We will be upgrading the entire SMC campus to Moodle 2  this coming February 2014, so please make sure to stop by one of our Fall and Jan Term training sessions in the Keck Lab (located in Sichel and the Department of Communications. A list of classes and course descriptions will be advertised after the first two weeks of class, Fall 2013.

We will be upgrading hosting a “Moodle 2” Faculty Tech Camp for the first two weeks of Jan Term, 2014. Be sure to mark your calendars if you would like to join us for any of the trainings . Please note, you are also welcome to request a Moodle 2 sandbox site in advance of the February 2014 transition to Moodle 2 in order to get a feel for the new system and see how your materials will look.  If you are interested in a sandbox site, please let us know and we will be happy to accommodate you. In the meantime, here is a brief list of the main NEW features of Moodle 2. We hope you will find this update useful and more user-friendly than our current version, Moodle 1.9.

New Features in Moodle 2 for faculty:

  • Interface
  • Docking tabs on the side of the page
  • Navigation

New Features in Moodle 2 for students:

  • How to upload a file to a post or within the assignments area of the course
  • Advanced Discussion Forums 
  • “Files” vs. “Personal Files”

The first thing you will notice about the upgrade to Moodle 2 next February are the docking panels that host the “administration” and “settings” blocks. You can unhide the blocks so they appear to the left side of your screen, or you can keep them open in the docking area. Docking these blocks is convenient if you would like more space to view the content of your course.

The second major change is the way data is stored. You may recall that in Moodle 1.9 all files associated with a course are located in the “administration” block > “file”s area. When we upgrade to Moodle 2 and import your course materials to a new course site, you will see that the content transferred over are called “legacy files”. If you plan to do an “import” of the content from your previous class, you will see that the files from your previous course still appear, however, if you start building your Moodle 2 course site entirely from scratch, you will notice that your (resource) files no longer appear in the same area. Moodle 2 stores resource files behind the scenes. This makes navigating the system faster, and more, user-friendly. Moodle 2 also has a new, “personal files” area where you can upload any files you would like to have associated with a course but do not need in the main content area of your course site. This area is a great place to store handouts you will present during class or notes regarding student participation.

The last major change worthy of your attention at this time is the addition of “advanced forums.”  Advanced forums have increased ability to mark posts, allowing instructors to signify posts they consider “substantive” The feature is especially welcome for members of hybrid courses or professional programs that rely on discussion outside of class as a feature to engage student’s with course content outside of class.

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Moodle Arrives

Blackboard is Going Away
January  2012

Please remember to download and save Blackboard course files!
Use reports from Blackboard  in 2009 showed that less than 35% of faculty in 2009 were using our on-line Learning Management System. This number has increased for 2010 and is expected to continue rising over the next few years as access to on-line resources become more important for research and productivity.  It is always a good idea to back up your files; if nothing else the process of backing up and moving your course materials will give you a chance to update and reorganize materials for students. Course materials will be available in Blackboard until May 2011 but you will not be able to get a new course site in Blackboard beginning Jan Term 2012. After May 2011, you will still be able to retrieve your course materials from Blackboard upon special request as CaTS will be archiving all existing materials.

To export and save your course got you your coure site in Blackboard > Control Panel > Course Options > Export Course. All materials will be archived and ready to import into GaelLearn Moodle. The caveat is that Blackboard code scrambles the file neames, you may need to use a converter such as bFee or the LSU converter to regain your file structure.

The Instructional Technology Team located in BUG Hall, room 114 are here to help you export and save your course materials. We are also happy to help you learn how to transfer course materials into GaelLearn/Moodle. Please make an appointment by calling x 4266 to set up a specific time so we can get you up and running.
GaelLearn/Moodle is based on constructivist theory. You will see the names of various areas within the course management systems are different from Blackboard for instance instead of discussion boards, GaelLearn has Forums and instead of a control panel, there is an administration block. One of the core differences is the use of folders. GaelLearn flattens materials and does not have a slick way of creating folders. Instead of folders, users are encouraged to use simple web pages or directories. Contact Instructional Technology for more advice on how to organize materials effectively in GaelLearn.

Gaellearn is scheduled to replace Blackboard by January 2012, so remember to export or archive your course materials in Blackboard before we make the final shift.

Heidimarie RamboCongratulations to Heidimarie Rambo!

Heidimarie has been recognized as an outstanding on-line course creator. Specifically she has been awarded for providing an innovative course design with few resources. Heidimarie is currently moving the TESOL certificate program to GaelLearn/Moodle as an on-line certificate. She created an x-Box avatar of herself to create a greater sense of connection with students and has structured materials in a clear, straight-forward way that guides students through their learning process within the on-line format.

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Transitioning From Blackboard to Moodle

Software is a rapidly transforming beast. No matter which type of software you learn and come to appreciate, inevitably you are going to need to update your skills and adapt even when the upgrades seem difficult at first. We don’t always like it but we know that in order to remain competitive in the academic world this is a reality.

A related truth is that when our learning management system, Blackboard creates a new version, aspects of the system that we come to know and love, change, such as how the discussion boards or the grade center functions. Sometimes the changes are wonderful, they save time and they make life easier for us. Other times they create havoc.

Lo and behold, it’s that time again and the latest version of Blackboard, Blackboard 9 has changed significantly though we have decided not to upgrade. Saint Mary’s College has instead moved forward with a transition to a new open source learning management system called Moodle. For now we are referring to this new system as “GaelLearn” until one of our campus literary types can come up with a better name.

Ironically, the latest version of Blackboard looks and feels more like Moodle. Blackboard feels the burn that open source is making on it’s potential revenue streams as more educational institutions are riding the wave of on-line learning therefore, Blackboard is making a last minute ditch to adapt before open source systems become too popular.

Rather than force our community to learn this new version of Blackboard while also footing a hefty price tag increase, we’ve decided to opt with Moodle, a flexible system that has received many outstanding reports from other campuses. Two case studies that you can refer to for information on the process of transitioning to open source learning management and specifically from Blackboard to Moodle, are San Francisco State University and Louisiana State which have recently made smooth transitions to Moodle.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term open source, in brief, it is free software distributed openly while allowing users to manipulate the underlying source code to suit their individual needs. See a more detailed definition here: Open source has become very important to higher education as many campuses participate in the open education community by contributing code and educational resources that allow for individuals to alter works to their own specific academic needs. Academics are also working together to create options free open source textbooks available on the internet. Some examples include: Open Educational Resources, and Wiki Books, offer free alternatives to expensive textbooks.

We are no longer dependent on proprietary companies to decide what is best for us. Just as the music industry and the publishing world have shifted their reliance on big publishing companies to disseminate work, the creators of software have also followed suit; or rather they have taken it upon themselves to design their own suit … from scratch. We want you to help us design a learning management system that is specific to you and your students needs. Moodle will allow us this possibility. It’s easy to learn and it’s powerful.

Although there are differences between Blackboard and Moodle, you will see that the functionality is the same and even better in many cases. Although the interface may not appear as slick, you can still upload documents, provide links to web sites and video, build assignments to be turned in electronically, produce grades and create wikis, blogs and podcasts.

Our goal is to completely transition to Moodle over the next two years so don’t be left behind. During this transition, the two systems, Blackboard and GaelLearn (Moodle), will run side-by-side allowing plenty of time for migrating course materials and to receive proper training. The Instructional Technology Team is here to support you during this transition. Please feel free to contact us at anytime should you wish to learn more or to receive hands-on training in Moodle. We look forward to working with you and want to assure you that we are here to help you!

Please note – We would like to invite additional faculty members to join the faculty advisory committee on Moodle. Please contact Carmel at 925-631-8003 if you are interested in joining. We will meet twice each semester to help with the process of rolling out the new system and shaping the look and feel of Moodle to meet the specific needs of our campus.

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