Opinion: The Social Learning Environment and Moodle

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With the introduction of several new learning platforms in 2011 (Instructure, Sophia, CourseKit, OpenClass and others) there’s a new buzz word in the realm of LMSs: “Social”.  Which is ironic since Moodle was built to introduce the “use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning” [emphasis mine, link].  Check out a few of the “Social Learning Platforms” below:

WIRIS

My personal opinion about any specific Learning Management Systems is driven by two things: 1 the ability to control/customize the system to do what is necessary and 2 the availability of content and resources that can be integrated into said LMS.  Those two driving forces really open the door to utilize any learning management system (and deep down if you really look they all provide the same basic tool set and could each be customized to mimic one another, Blackboard included).

The most recently released LMSs have embraced a few distinct usability features.  Specifically, they each showcase activity streams, updates, email and text notifications, social network integration.  These are all great ways to make a learning management system sticky, but the real value I think comes from the community and here’s why:

  • A community of developers provides additional LMS capacity and capability (and/or the wherewithal to contract your own customizations)
  • A community of practitioners have a depth and wealth of knowledge on how to take X and delivery Y
  • A community of users equates to a worldwide repository of content for all levels, subjects and uses

I’m certain that each new learning management system offers something novel and great to its growing user-base.  I’ve had a chance to try each one or at least get an in-depth view through a webinar or online tutorials and each works to put the learner central to the experience.  While social is the buzzword, learning-centered is still the most important feature and I think that Moodle is the leader by miles.  As it goes with LMSs though, it only achieves this with the right configuration.

Is your Moodle learner centered? How do you ensure that students have a simple and easy interface? What’s your opinion of the other “Social” learning management systems?