Moodle: A fantastic tool for informal learning – and not just "e-learning"

Last week I hosted a webinar called “Come Moodle with Us: Straight Talk on Moodle as an LMS Solution.” Along with two of my colleagues at BLP, we showed attendees OUR Moodle site – and attempted to illustrate many of the cool features Moodle provides and how Moodle facilitates informal learning and not just functions as a place to house and track e-learning. If you’d like a copy of our session slides – or a link to our Moodle site, please feel free to sownload my notes: moodle_08272009_sessionnotes.

A few “highlights” that I want to share:

1) Moodle is about creating a learning community. Those who want to use it just to track learning are missing its point. In our case, it connects all the employees in our organization to each other. Our employees can now easily locate other resources inside the organization who can help them with a variety of things such as instructional design, Flash development, game design, simulations, etc.

2) Moodle CAN host e-learning courses….but it can do so much more. Example: I created a “course” in Moodle called Adobe Max. Six of our employees are going to the Adobe Max conference in October; by creating a course using the “social” format in Moodle, I am setting up a way for them to share learning on specific topics (i.e. After Effects, Acrobat, CS4, etc). Also – I can give many, many people the ability to become course creators. If you have something you want to teach someone else, Moodle can let you set up a course and do it!

3) Moodle can provide a company-wide calendar of learning events that everyone can see. This is a simple feature…and yet one we didn’t have before.

4) Moodle can make it easy for me to post links to great blogs – and to get everyone in our organization blogging. Even better, I can create assignments within courses to blog on specific topics (such as learning to work in a virtual environment.) The blogger can create tags that make it very easy for other employees to find posts on topics of interest (such as working in a virtual environment).

5) Moodle makes it super-easy to share rich media. Links to our YouTube channel are embedded on our company’s front page. I can share any video from YouTube…or other video-sharing sites. I could also share photos from Flicker, etc.

6) I can help people acquire our BLP lingo by setting up a glossary. Our glossary lets people rate the entries for their value. Employees can also add to or edit glossary entries. Even better, the posts show the author’s picture and provide a link to the author so people can get in touch with the author if they’d like.

Moodle is going to be a major help to us in developing employees and fostering informal learning. I think many organizations could find it to be an answer to their quest for facilitating learning throughout their organizaton. My goal is to help people “discover” Moodle.

Lean times call for creative solutions

I read yesterday that during times of economic recession people actually become healthier. The reason is that during fiscally tight times people tend to drink and smoke less to save money. They also head outdoors for lower cost and healthier entertainment such as hiking. Yesterday on the BLP LOL Live webinar about Moodle, we heard that quite a few organizations are interested in Moodle due to budget constraints. As Lisa pointed out in her post Leveraging Learning, informal learning is gaining popularity at least in part due to the economic crunch as some organizations can’t or won’t pay for a formal learning solution.

Implementing Moodle as an LMS or social networking as a tool for sharing knowledge still has a learning curve and costs associated with them. They’re not necessarily easy to implement. The implementation process will take time and require new learning by staff. BLP invested 160 hours to set up our Moodle site, load three courses and 16 users. The folks on the project learned a lot along the way and at the end of the day we have quite a nice tool for a relatively low cost. Likewise designing and implementing an informal learning solution is new territory for most organizations. It will take time to properly design it and educate users as to how to use it. However, you gain a cost effective and useful tool. One of my favorite options on Moodle is the ability to identify a peer by area of expertise. I remember a manager once complained how she spent an hour and a half making five phone calls to find the person who could help her use the company’s accounting software. It would have been nice if she could have performed a two second search to locate the right person or search a discussion board that may have had the answer to her question.

By saving money and increasing the utility of new tools we can stay financially fit and implement effective solutions. I’d like to hear your stories. How has the need to tighten the budget helped you develop solutions that make your company or department fiscally fit while improving knowledge sharing?

Who Is Using Moodle? We are!

I checked today and since April we’ve logged about 160 hours getting Moodle installed and configured as well as getting 3 courses created in it. We’ve also input a whopping 16 users (who I still haven’t figured out how to send a mass email to). In general, we’re having a ball learning Moodle and I am extremely excited about its power to enhance learning in an organization.

When I say “we,” I mean two people with some peaks over the shoulder from a third one. Thank goodness I have a “techie” person who did the installation and some initial configuration tasks. I’ve taken it from there and done tons of work setting up courses and continuing to configure the site. Moodle is definitely a learn by trying it kind of thing; it also simply takes TIME to do system admin and course creation tasks.  Yes, it’s “free” in that the code doesn’t cost you anything, but I don’t work for free and neither does my “techie” partner, Kelly. We get paid, and when we’re workin’ on Moodle we aren’t doing the other parts of our jobs.

I’m excited by the possibilites and I really, really want to know: who else in the corporate world is Moodling? If you are using Moodle:

  1. Why did you choose it as your LMS?
  2. What have been your greatest triumphs?
  3. What has been your greatest challenge that you want to share with others?

If you aren’t using it, share what you’ve heard about it!

I’ll be posting more on Moodle the rest of this month. In my next post, I’ll share what two other Moodlers have done with it – and why they chose it for their organizations.

August Topic: Learning Management Systems

As Jenn first told you in July, Lessons on Learning has a whole new format. We’ll be covering a new topic each month, and I’m in charge of August. This month, we’ll be focusing on Learning Management Systems. We’ll explore:

  • Definition and features of an LMS.
  • Differences between an LMS and an LCMS
  • Questions to ask when creating a course for the LMS
  • The future of learning management systems: Web 2.0 and beyond

Learning Management Systems: The Basics

If you work in corporate training or higher education, chances are you’ve bumped into an LMS or two since ASTD reports that 91% of organizations use them. But do you know what a learning management system really is? According to PC Magazine, an LMS administers instructor-led and e-learning courses and keeps track of student progress. That means that an LMS can actually be anything from something like a very complex Excel database to a top-of-the-line information system that integrates with HR and CRM software.

Learning management systems have a range of features and functions. The most common include:

  • Tracking regulatory compliance.
  • Measuring course usage.
  • Managing logistics of instructor-led training.
  • Assigning e-learning courses.
  • Tracking course satisfaction and feedback.
  • Centralizing all learning functions.

With every thing an LMS promises, the results aren’t always what we anticipated. The 2007 eLearning Guild Annual Report on learning management systems found that nearly 30% of survey respondents plan to upgrade their LMS and around 11% plan to abandon their current LMS and move to a different vendor. Some of these changes are due to the complexity of the LMS. As TD’s Kodak case study from 2003 reveals, implementing a new LMS is challenging and you may not need all of the bells and whistles you think you want.

So how do you know what’s right for you? Each year, several reports review all of the different LMS options. Brandon Hall, Bersin & Associates, and the eLearning Guild all do a thorough job, reviewing between 75 and 90 products, focusing on a variety of functions. If you read even one of the reports, you’ll find the options are truly endless.

If you’re looking for a simple LMS, one low-cost solution that BLP is focusing on this year is Moodle. Moodle is a course management system that helps with the creation and distribution of quality on-line content. It’s open source software, which means it’s free and allows for personal customization. Sharon will have more on Moodle later in the month.

I’m looking forward to sharing our experience with Moodle and other learning management systems throughout August; be sure to check back for more about the basics of an LMS. As always, I’d like to hear from you. What questions do you have about learning management systems that I can answer? What advice can you give?

Moodle – a great way to NOT blow a budget on an LMS

Hey everyone,

It’s Day 2 at DevLearn, and I can tell you that Day 1 was an absolutely great learning day for me. I’m going to make several posts about what I’ve learned. This is the first.

Moodle was the start of my day – and it was fantastic. I learned that Moodle can be an excellent choice for many corporate users who want a low-cost LMS – and many, in fact, are using it to manage courses delivered to employees and to customers. Though the tool was originally created to be a course management system (CMS) for educators in the k-12 and university system, it’s rapidly migrating over to corporate users.

One very large company, whose name I will protect here to keep their secret safe from their internal IT folks, is using it to host the course offerings they provide to external customers. A healthcare organization that provides continuing education to nurses is doing the same thing.

The tool sounds fantastically easy to use. The course list an individual learner sees can be customized to their needs, Moodle can track registration for instructor-led courses as well as provide the entree point for e-learning courses. Administrators can received reports on course completion and even where learners clicked in an e-course. An instructor can set up a variety of learning tools such as discussions, wikis, chats, etc. Users can be “batch-entered” into the tool if they are all going to have the same learning path, which makes it very easy to add learners to the LMS.  In short, it looked like a fabulous learning tool – and the participants in my session who use Moodle all raved about it. It is, in fact, the #1 LMS choice of eLearning Guild users – even though it has never been promoted as an LMS. It has high satisfaction ratings among its users…and did I mention it’s FREE?!?!

Check out Moodle for yourself. There is a huge user community to support it, which is a definite plus. Be aware that it is open source, which means there is no Microsoft, Skillsoft, Outstart, or any other big company out selling it and making upgrades. There is also no “official” documentation…though there are a plethora of books and articles now available on Moodle land how to get started with it.

Who is on Moodle now that wants to share their success story (or horror story) with using it? Please share! Also…tell me if Moodle won’t work for you and why.