Recently we attended the MoodleMoot UK & Ireland 2017 conference held at the Park Plaza Riverbank, London. It was a three-day event aimed at sharing the user experience with Moodle within the community, encouraging collaboration, and discussing best practices.
IT technologists, VLEs developers, providers, educators and Moodle users joined the Moodle HQ team to present to the community what they learnt, what worked and what didn't. Here are our key takeaways from the conference.
Moodle news and updates
Keynotes from the Moodle HQ team opened day two talking about the current Moodle 3.2 version, from the new base theme Boost to the User Tours to New Media Players.
In early May 2017, the Moodle 3.3 is expected to be released with new features, such as students submitting assignments directly from their dashboard and an integration with Google G suite and Office 365. In the future, Moodle 3.4's focus will be on improving the usability of the existing features, rather than new ones.
Artificial intelligence & learning analytics
During the talks, presenters highlighted their experiences and different uses of Moodle, and shared how the platform helped them deliver their educational objectives. For example, how Forum and Quiz activities on Moodle improved the staff-student dialogue and discussion, which had a positive impact on the overall level of students' engagement (especially for distance learning online courses).
Among the hottest topic this year were around the AI aspect of Moodle and data usage. Moodle HQ presented an overview of Project Inspire, a learning analytics program which collects and anonymously shares learning data in order to make better predictions on successful learning outcomes. This topic raised some questions around whether it is ethical holding learning data and not sharing it with students.
During the discussion panels, the question: "Can AI and learning analytics replace teachers?" triggered a thought provoking debate. A universal view was that AI should improve and enhance teaching, not be a substitute of tutors. Therefore, platforms such as Moodle should complement the interaction with students, supporting the learning process.
Is it time to get rid of your desktop?
Recent stats show that 70% of students access Moodle on their mobile. As such, 95% of the Moodle core activities will be supported on Mobile 3.3. Despite the numbers, further panel discussions were aimed at investigating whether developers should start focusing on the design of mobile first.
A question for debate was whether students learn better on mobile, and what are the pros and cons of mobile compatible sites?
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One of the conclusions was that for certain tasks mobile can be advantageous, but for others desktop still rules. Therefore, the question is much more about understanding the situation of usage.
Not just for higher education institutions
Moodle is used also outside the HE environments. Among the over 100 million registered users, there are a consistent number of workplace organisations that use Moodle for educational purposes – in particular to teach and train their staff.
An interesting case was the one presented by Sherol Fernandes, Business Manager at GAC Corporate. The VLE platform can be employed in the corporate environment to share 'tacit' knowledge with new employees through forum and online resources.
Get people 'Moodle-excited' by taking end-users on board
With more than 1300 available plug-ins, Moodle is designed to be easily tailored to the user's needs. However, end-users are not aware of all the potentials of Moodle, and what this platform can actually do for them. As such, Rebecca Barrington, with her popular session "Putting the OO into Moodle", suggested that as end-users, students and staff should be more involved in the development process.
She argued that tutors can perceive this platforms as a threat of replacement of teachers. Therefore, talking to them, understanding the challenges and making them aware of the myriad of personable features and resources on Moodle can be the key to get them 'Moodle-excited.'
Support and customisation is key
A number of valuable thoughts, ideas, and best practices came from this conference. At the heart of Moodle there is a dedicated and passionate community who work hard to make the platform a supported and constantly improvable platform.
We also believe that listening to users and providing them with the best support and customisable features is the key to an enjoyable user experience for all.
Here's how we helped the University of Roehampton with support, personalisation, and development.