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Moodle: The Start

This semester I am using Moodle for online course content, after six years of Blackboard use (including WebCT, WebVista). I thought I'd chronicle my experiences; I know it helps me refine my thoughts and it might help other instructors.

As I design my course, which starts Jan. 19, 2010, I am finding some things take a bit of extra work with Moodle. This is because the system tends to present every possible variable for an activity, even when only two or three are required. It would be nice to have a "show basic" option for some tasks. I realize some instructors use every option, so those should be easily accessible, but cut the clutter is a good design philosophy.

When I do use an option, such as setting the maximum points for an assignment, the system uses a "pop-up" or "drop-down" list, when I would rather key in the numeric value and tab to the next field. Scrolling through every number, from 1000 to 1, for "points possible" is annoying. I commonly use 10, 20, 25, 50, and 75, and 100, but there are times I use other scales so setting up my own lists would be inefficient.

The sheer number of options and the lack of clear naming forces even the most tech-savvy user to read the help system. Moodle definitely has more options and power than Blackboard platforms, but this flexibility can be overwhelming. The problem with "everything anyone wants" is that the software risks being too many things. The balance between usability and features is tough to manage, I realize.

So far, I do like Moodle much more than Blackboard. It will take me a bit of time to complete the setup and see how students respond.

I am trying to organize the course design my units, instead of weeks. So far, that seems to be working well. I'll post some detailed thoughts on specific features in the weeks ahead.

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