Tag: moodle online

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Where in the world is the Internet? Can a small business with global clients still use Moodle?

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Last week I was asked if I could burn a CD with a Moodle course on it, because there was concern that people in Asia-Pacific wouldn’t have reliable internet access.  

Uh, no”, I said.  

For a brief time, I was speechless, which is a rare condition for me.  There are two huge misconceptions embedded in this question, which I absolutely must write about! 

  1. Anything online can be copied onto a CD or DVD because “electronic is electronic”.
  2. Internet access is available only in the US and Canada; maybe England.   

Electronic media is a broad category, not a single characteristic.  The “power of the Internet” requires the Internet.

No, you can not burn a CD of Moodle! The explanation will have to wait for another day.  But even if you could, here’s why you would not want to: 

  • A CD can not be updated, edited, or controlled.  Once it is delivered into the hands of the user, it is what it is.  If an error is discovered, a change in policy or technology occurs, or any other reason to change the content comes along, the content of that CD can not be changed.
  • You can’t track the usage.  A CD running on a device isn’t traceable.  As the teacher or administrator, you have no idea if the content was viewed, where it was viewed from, or by whom.  You have at least some ability to obtain this information within an LMS.
  • There is no feedback.  Even if you have a fancy CD that is “interactive”, only the program interacts with the user.  The teacher (consultant or trainer) does not interact with anyone.  There are no chats or forums.  Students do not interact, and therefore, don’t learn from each other.
  • There is no other advantage that an LMS has to offer. There’s no “My Moodle” or other customization at the user’s end.   

In my opinion, a printed book is better than a CD.  It’s a little bit larger, but doesn’t require a computer to run, and I can sit under a tree with it. 

OK, so those are just a few of the advantages of online learning.  Not only is online better, there’s no excuse not to have it.  Internet access is ubiquitous. Perhaps we need to revamp Where In the World is Carmen Dandiego to… 

…Where in the world is the Internet?  

When I was an employee at Time Warner Communications in the mid 1990s, all the buzz was about broadband, a wild, new concept.  The vision of our company was to bundle cable TV, phone, and Internet access into one service. There was even talk of a “library of movies that a user could just watch whenever desired”.  Revolutionary!  Almost as far-fetched as indoor plumbing!  Of course, these ideas are very much reality 15 years later.  

What was also reality then – and still plagues us today – is the very difficult  task of dealing with legacy systems – not just computer programs, but with the infrastructure itself.  In parts of the world where reliable phone networks had never been put in place, it was easier to install fiber optics and cell phone towers than it was to replace the old for the new in many parts of the US.  Cell towers are often a source of community disdain because they ruin the view.  Back then, cellular phones were as common in parts of Africa as in Colorado.  

That was a lifetime ago (in technology years), so I did some quick Googling and came up with some interesting statistics on 2010 Internet usage: 

  • Three-quarters of a billion people use the Internet in Asia, according to Internet World Stats.  I don’t know how fast their service is, but it doesn’t take much bandwidth to run Moodle.   
  • Chinese is the second most spoken language on the internet, according to this Wikipedia article.  
  • Another Wikipedia article states: Singapore, as a small densely populated island nation and a pioneer, continues to be one of the few countries in the World in which broadband Internet access is readily available to just about any would-be user anywhere in the country, with connectivity of over 99%.  
  • The Agoda hotel in Thailand has an internet café. I’m willing to bet that there at least as many hotels in Thailand with internet access as in many North American locales.   
  • With XMGlobal, you can host your own hot spot just about anywhere in the world. So if you’re not lucky enough to be in Singapore, you can still Moodle! 
  • Registered Moodle sites exist all over the world.  Presumably, those places have Internet access reliable enough to use their Moodle sites. 
  • My favorite myth-dispeller from WebsiteOptimization.com:  Japan and Korea are way ahead of the pack in percentage of subscribers who have fiber (faster and more reliable than the wire that hangs in the air along my street).  The US is 11th in fiber penetration and 22nd in broadband speed.  

In my post about how small businesses (including authors, consultants, trainers, and other entrepreneurs) can expand their client base by using eLearning, it was implicit that this expansion was limited only by the size of your imagination and the value of your services to people worldwide.  A lack of access to the Internet should not be a concern!   

Last year, I built and hosted a Moodle course for a cruise line.  We trained 2000 employees, while they were onboard ships that were sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the open Atlantic.  Not one person had an issue with the accessibility of the Moodle site.  Not one.  

So, if you are being held back by the notion that Moodle won’t work for your business because your clients are “around the world”, let go of that idea.  Moodle is available everywhere…

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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

If Moodle is Free, Why Am I Paying You?

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One common question I get is “If Moodle is free, why is it going to cost me so much money?” 

Well, Moodle is free, but learning how to use it can take a long time.  Knowing how to create good training can take a lot longer.  You can invest the time to learn all the various aspects of training design and online technology, or you can hire someone who already knows. 

Moodle is “open source software”, which follows a different business model than “proprietary software”.  Both models require that someone - somewhere in the chain - has the skill to put together all of the elements.  This adds cost (because very few of us work for free), somewhere in the value chain, regardless of the model.  The open source software model isn’t about offering free software; it’s about free access to the software code

What you’re paying for is the expertise (mostly) and time associated with installation, maintenance, hosting, content development, and usage of Moodle.  

While someone who is proficient in computer applications might get the knack of the technical side of Moodle (or any other software application) in a few weeks, there’s no guarantee that he can design training that won’t bore the socks off people.  

On the other hand, someone who is a vibrant speaker or nurturing teacher might struggle mightily to figure out how to upload files or create online training courses.  Like anything else, merging these skills will take time, people…and money

The Moodle Community, just like those of other open source applications (such as WordPress), not only shares information (and code) freely, it is a thriving commercial entity where knowing Moodle is a useful job skill.  Individuals are hired by businesses (large and small), by academic institutions, and even governments, to design Moodle training, maintain Moodle installations, etc.  Small businesses all over the world take part in various ways, from obtaining Partner certification, to hosting, to theme design, to code customization, to course development activities.  The business model is built on trust and cooperation, not industrial espionage and law suits. 

What you pay for when you choose to become a member of the Moodle Community (a very wise choice!) includes:

  • Expert and worry-free Installation, Hosting, Maintenance of your Moodle site.
  • A deeply involved community where help is usually a forum-post away, if you want to “do it yourself”… if you have the time, skill, and desire to learn how.
  • Content development - the design and creation of your Moodle courses - if you don’t want to do it yourself. 
  • Training of your personnel as Moodle Teachers and Administrators (if you want) and/or someone to do this for you.
  • Third party plug-ins, custom code development, and modifications if what you want/need isn’t freely available.  Moodle Partners, Moodle Course Developers, and members of the Community usually know what’s out there already. 

Stay tuned for future posts on Open Source vs. Proprietary: What does it mean? and spotlights on members of the Moodle Community Working Together.

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Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

My Moodle site is up and running. Now What?

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OK, so let’s say you have followed all of my advice:

  1. Registered a domain name exclusively for your Moodle installation
  2. Hosted it with a certified Moodle Partner
  3. Hired a course designer to build it
  4. Launched a GREAT Moodle eLearning site

Now, it’s six months later (or next week or next year) and you want to make some minor changes.  Perhaps you want to update a quiz or edit some text.  Maybe you want to embed a really cool video you just found on YouTube.  You might even find that some of your external links and RSS feeds are broken.  (This will happen eventually, as the owners of those sites move things around). 

Who is going to do this?

If you’re anything like me, your first thought is to contact your course designer.  And, if your experience is anything like mine (with other such professionals, not course designers specifically), you’ll find that because she is in the middle of another large project, your request seems like a buzzing fly in her ear.  Not only does she find you annoying, but you feel like you’ve been swatted away.

So (again, if you’re anything like me), you decide to try it yourself.  Of course, if you knew how to do these things, you probably would’ve done them yourself in the first place!  But you try.  Maybe it takes you less than a day to do a 10-minute task and if you’re lucky, you didn’t break anything.  Maybe you took all day and maybe you broke a lot.  Now maybe someone will think your job is big enough to care about…

How can you avoid being a pest, wasting a lot of your time, and/or damaging your content? Some choices:

  • When you are choosing a course designer, make sure you ask about “going forward”.  Will she help you with that?  If so, what are the terms?  Get a Service Level Agreement (SLA) as part of your initial contract.  This document should define what it will cost you and what you will get in return.  One option  might be a flat monthly rate to check your entire Moodle site for broken links and incoming RSS feeds, as well as applications that are no longer optimal or viewable (because of upgrades to flash, Adobe Reader, etc.), and a stated amount of time making changes to your content.  (Remember, your Moodle host will do the back-ups and upgrades to Moodle so this should not be included in this SLA).  Another option would be an hourly rate, with a fast turnaround time, for changes to your content.  You would then be responsible for periodic checking of links and applications.

Or…

  • Find someone else whose business it is to do just these things.  Maybe your course designer can recommend someone.  There are many online “classifieds” where just such people post their skills and rates.  Search “Moodle”.  You can hire this person by the hour or on retainer.  If your business grows enough, you can hire a full time person to do this!

Or…

  • Take a course or two from a Moodle Partner.  Learn the basics.  Now that you have a working, revenue-generating site, you should have time to do this.  I’m not saying you will ever be a great Moodler, or that you even want to be, but you’ll be able to fix yourself a sandwich or heat up a can of soup (metaphorically speaking).

It’s easy to forget the need for ongoing maintenance of content when you’re all caught up in the initial phases of the project.  You don’t have to have all the details ironed out before you launch, but you should be thinking about it right from the start.  Good luck!

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Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Moodle 2.0: Is it good for business?

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I’ve had the chance to evaluate the “new Moodle” for about two weeks now. I don’t know what I was expecting, but as is so often the case with new stuff (like CDs and Windows®), I’m not sure I like it. My emotional side usually lets my analytical side take over in times like these, so over the next few days I’ll be posting my analysis of each of the new (or changed) Moodle features, as they apply to business uses.

Each feature will be evaluated on how well it:

  • Solves a Moodle for business problem, as defined by various posts, questions, and my own experience.
  • Focuses on the needs of students in a business training curriculum, (which are very different than those of students in an academic institution).
  • Improves the ease with which a small to medium business can create or edit content and administer the site (enrollments, payments, registrations, roles) without a dedicated IT department or Moodle expert.

I also plan to assess what functionality is missing; modules and plug-ins that will not be upgraded, core features that are no longer available, and changes of core features that affect the functionality. I am holding my breath in hopes that those wonderful people who contribute the code for these awesome add-ons have the time and energy to upgrade them for 2.0. Some, I just can’t live without!

Stay tuned and please send me your thoughts, impressions, and questions on Moodle 2.0 for business uses.

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Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Client Spotlight: Charity Uses Moodle to Reach More People

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From the April 2010 issue of Penny For Your Thoughts newsletter…

spotlightSmall businesses are not the only entities that can benefit from eLearning.  In this post, our spotlight is on how Moodle has enabled a charitable organization to continue to offer their grief counseling workshop, even in tough economic times.  The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) was founded in 1997 by Dr. Wallace Sife, author of The Loss of a Pet.  For many years, he had delivered his 10-hour workshop, Pet Loss Counselor Training, in the New York City area.  As travel became more difficult and budgets were cut, Dr. Sife began to search for an online alternative. Reliant on volunteers and donations, APLB could not afford an expensive IT solution.

In 2009 he selected Moodle as his delivery platform; Albany Analytical created the course and managed enrollments.  The first two sessions (summer and winter) have seen participants from more than a dozen states/provinces and three continents; such diversity would likely not have been possible without the online solution. 

Relying more on solid content than whiz-bang bells and whistles, the APLB course successfully graduated 33 in its first year.  With Dr. Sife’s commitment to excellence, each participant’s competency was assessed on an individual and thorough level.  Because of the nature of the material, all testing was accomplished through submitted essays, designed to measure understanding and ability to perform pet loss counseling.  The Moodle features of a participant forum, live links to relevant sites (such as the APLB newsletter archive), downloadable documents, and a calendar to remind participants of impending due dates, all supported the learning experience.

Dr. Sife plans to conduct these online workshops twice a year, as well as his traditional face to face session every other year (the next one is May 21). Many more people were able to participate in this workshop this past year as would have without the online version.  Moodle eLearning has allowed the APLB to continue to offer this important training even though a tough global economy prohibited travel by most potential participants.  We look forward to the continued success of this program.

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