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Making the most of your Moodle

May 5, 2014

Moodle is world renowned as a powerful learning management system, making e-learning possible for students across the globe.

Although the system is on occasion lambasted by some quarters, Moodle ‘does the trick’ for most organisations.

RTOs are typically on a limited budget and need an e-learning solution that ‘won’t break the bank! For most organisations and most systems, the old Pareto Principle applies: 80% of the beneficial use of the system comes from just 20% of the functionality.

With Moodle, most RTOs want a reliable e-learning solution to launch content, administer assessments and assignments and track results. That said, no two RTOs are the same, each using Moodle in different ways and varying capacities.

The simple answer is, in a multitude of ways.

Some use it as single unit of competency with some theory and/or a quiz complimenting a practical demonstration to complete the competency assessment.

Some enterprise RTOs will invariably use Moodle to deliver both non-accredited (e.g. induction courses) as well as accredited/compliance courses.

Others utilise the system for blended programs (qualifications in the old terminology!), in both classroom and distance education, combined with e-learning components including theory content and assessments.

This blended use is one of the more complex scenarios for both RTOs and students: Two systems for RTOs to enter course and enrolment information, two systems for students to access course progress information and two systems to manage results information and reporting.

Some RTOs use Moodle to it’s fullest to facilitate full e-learning programs (yes there are some RTOs doing this!).

Whilst some RTOs are reaping the full benefits of Moodle, others are just beginning on their e-learning journey.

The perceived downside of Moodle is a lack of support due to the open source nature of the application.

However, the reality is that there is a large community of users and service providers that support the product throughout Australia.

There are also a range of value-added service providers who take the base Moodle offering and ‘overlay’ their own custom-developed navigation systems to simplify the standard Moodle interface.

Some of these providers even create other “tools” and “plugins” to enhance the user experience for both students and administrators (e.g. www.otrain.com.au)

Budding e-learning developers and instructional designers can now create great e-learning content much easier and faster without having to spend a fortune.

Moodle recommends using its’ own inbuilt authoring and assessment/quizzing tools which are adequate for many organisations and learning scenarios.

There are also available a number of very powerful e-learning authoring tools that include both open source (free) and commercial products including Articulate, Camtasia and Captivate.

Some of these more advanced tools make it easier to capture and embed media content such as photos, images, video and audio and provide for more stable and efficient downloading.

All can be hosted and delivered via your Moodle Learning Management System.

  • Moodle was not built for the VET sector.
  • Notion of Programs (Qualifications) and Subjects (Units of Competency) was not thought of when Moodle was designed.
  • Many RTOs have successfully created their own Moodle implementations and provide logins via their web site BUT either have to have a separate login to their Student Management System (SMS) or don’t use a SMS student portal.
  • Complexity around managing different student enrolments into different subjects.
  • Configuring Moodle to enrol some students into some elective subjects but not others, whilst keeping  track of outcomes from each of the subjects can be a challenge?
  • Transferring outcomes data from Moodle to the SMS to update subject completions  can be time consuming.
  • Moodle is not AVETMISS compliant so RTOs may struggle to easily produce compliance reports where Moodle e-learning elements are incorporated into the program.
  • While systems integration with Moodle have been attempted in the past, the maturity of Moodle’s web service APIs (how Moodle talks to other web-based systems) simply didn’t allow the level of integration that VET providers needed.

Moodle’s web service APIs have developed dramatically over the past 12 months allowing cloud-based platforms such as Student and Training Management Systems to effectively leverage the power of Moodle.

By combining Moodle and an appropriate SMS, resource-constrained RTOs can save their administration and compliance staff considerable time and effort by removing the duplication required to maintain course and student data in two systems.

It is now possible to ‘have your cake and eat it too’ by combining Moodle’s strengths in e-learning with the reporting and compliance capability of an AVETMISS compliant Student Management Systems, such as VM Learnings, aXcelerate.

For example, aXcelerate allows for automatic subject resulting based on Moodle and/or aXcelerate assessment rules making AVETMISS compliance reporting a streamlined process for time-poor RTOs.

The combination can be good for students too.

Having a single online space for students to view all program/course information, progress and outcomes as well as access to other learning resources related to their courses has obvious time-saving benefits for students undertaking some or all of their course online.

Just as many social networks and other web-based applications are utilising ‘single sign-on’ technology, (e.g. sign into ‘your-favourite-app’ using Facebook), now students using an RTO’s aXcelerate Student Portal can single sign-on into their enrolled program which may include one, many or all subjects delivered by Moodle.

Moodle has come a long way from its early days and with the additional support community and inbuilt authoring tools, the readily available advanced tools and the Student Management System plugins now available, Moodle is well worth another look for the busy and growing RTO.

For more information on the aXcelerate Moodle integration visit aXcelerate Integrations.

To learn more about aXcelerate's Learning Management System, including our award-winning online assessments, click here.

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