Mobile App Review – MLE

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This week I’ll be focusing on reviewing the various released and soon-to-be-released Mobile (both native and web) apps for Moodle.  These apps each are for Moodle 1.9 or previous versions and are available either through the App markets on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android or by download directly from the developing organizations websites.  If you have specific questions about usability or features which I haven’t covered, just let us know in the comments.

In most cases I am testing the sites/apps using a borrowed iPad or my Android 2.1 handset and am accessing a copy of the Moodle Features Demo Course from http://demo.moodle.net.

For a complete and growing list, check out our new Mobile services collection: Moodlenews.com/mobile

Mobile Learning Engine (MLE)

Despite the attention to new Android and iOS apps that are coming out (and have been released) here on Moodlenews, there does exist a really great mobile module for Moodle which I tested more thoroughly this weekend: MLE.

Post Pages - Post Inline - WIRIS

The Mobile Learning Engine, according to the website (http://mle.sourceforge.net), was and is the “first true mobile learning application for mobile phones”.  It’s been under development since 2003 and to this day provides one of the most flexible and feature friendly mobile experiences.  With FTP access to your Moodle site, MLE is a snap to install [installation step-by-step] and is a web-app.  As opposed to a native app (most often downloaded or purchased through app markets) MLE adds the files necessary to make your Moodle site more friendly to a phone’s web browser (though it does also offer a download-able phone-client for many mobile devices¹).  Once installed MLE basically has created an alternate mobile viewing experience for anyone who wants it on a mobile phone or device available through a block/specific link-URL which must be shared with mobile users.

First Impressions: After installing the necessary files, MLE requires that you add a block to your Moodle’s main page.  This block provides two things:

  1. A link to the MLE version of your site
  2. Access to the dozens of device-based download-able phone-clients that MLE has worked to create (there are over 30 carriers listed and each carrier/manufacturer has many of the current and past devices available on the mobile market¹).

Using the new link formats the pages narrowly (you can give them a try locally through any browser).  If you’re curious, just check out www.Joedle.com, look for the MLE block and login with Barkley/barkley.

The experience, while it looks slightly rough, is very smooth and the course experience is nearly as good as through a regular browser (with the added benefit for formatted and simpler pages (which load faster over 3G for sure).  Once logged in users start at a simple myMoodle/Start page (with My Courses, Messages, Community² and a link to my profile.  It’s even possible to upload a picture from my phone for my profile picture).  I was able to navigate the courses without any trouble, only 1 module didn’t work as expected (SCORM).  There was a little bit of a problem playing an mp3 embedded.  But otherwise there was very little that didn’t translate from Moodle through my browser to Moodle via MLE.  Consistent navigation between the two environments is a definite plus.

Also a definite plus is that this “app” is free and open source.  Find it at http://mle.sourceforge.net/

Breakdown:

The good:

  • Persistent menu (start, back, messages, logout) throughout experience
  • Most modules work inherently (no showing frame of your course)
  • Simple but adequate start page (including access to blogs)
  • FREE!

The bad:

  • Aesthetics -1
  • Scorm not supported
  • No block support
  • Couldn’t open any files except for images (PDFs, mp3s unavailable at least through Android)

Screenshots:

¹I have a T-Mobile myTouch 3G which is Android based.  While their is a download available for the phone (jad.php) I tried it but it didn’t work.  Instead, I just saved a bookmark to my home screen which was more than adequate for quick access.  I would however be interested to hear if anyone uses the downloadable apps on their handsets.

²The Community link provides access to My Profile, Upcoming events and My blog.