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The Fifth Edition of the Moodle Moot UK took finally place at the Loughborough University, in the Midlands, from the 7th to the 8th of April 2009. This Moot edition has been drastically affected by the financial hardship that most of the so called “FE and HE” institutions are suffering in the UK; an economic uncertainty that put the conference at the brink of being cancelled. The event was organized by Sean M. Keogh, the man who invented the term “Moodle Moot”, and who started this tradition in July 2004, when the first world Moodle Moot was held in Oxford.
In addition to the expected keynote presentation about Moodle 2.0 by Martin Dougiamas, this year’s edition offered an interesting variety of topics, such as: a case study about Mahara as an eportfolio platform, the Mr.Cute plugging as an institutional repository for Moodle, or the integration of Moodle with other external systems.
My contribution to this- my first- Moodle Moot was the 50 minutes presentation “Keeping Moodle tidy: how to obtain accurate statistics and get rid of obsolete users and courses”. I have to say that I was surprised by the high number of participants, taking into account that my humble presentation was scheduled at the same time that Workshop “Looking for the future: What is coming in Moodle 2.0?” led by the famous MoodeMan.
Unfortunately, one of the most expected presentations for this Moot -the session about Wikis and Webservices in Moodle 2.0 by Ludo, from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya- had to be cancelled, as the speaker could not attend the event.
I realised too late that I have forgotten my camara when everybody started taking photos of Martin Dougamas and uploading them in Facebook. Shame…
Moodle 2.0: The Never Ending Story
Time has gone by, since I first listened to Martin Dougiamas talking about Moodle 2.0 at the University of Glasgow in October 2009. As he is now able to show more Moodle 2.0 features in action, it is evident that much technical development has been done during this time. Yet there is no release date for the first stable version 2.0, like if the development of these new features would have to continue forever and ever… In his keynote presentation, Dougiamas announced that this long-time-expected stable version would be launched before Christmas 2009. He also invited the community of UK moodlers to take part in the testing of the current alpha version, providing feedback to Moodle.org.
Among the new key features of Moodle 2.0, Dougiamas enumerated:
- The Wiki and Blog 2.0 new pluggings.
- 2. Full repository integration.
- 3. Full portfolio integration.
- 4. Webservices integration.
- 5. File storage management.
- 6. Conditional activities and monitoring of course completion.
- 7. Totally flexible users fields, etc.
Moodle, both the wiki and blog pluggings have been designed to be integrated with Google. Although this statement created a great deal of excitement among the audience, Martin Dougiamas did not go into the point in depth, since it was going to be covered by Ludo’s presentation.
The full repository integration will allow moodlers to pull multimedia contents into Moodle, as well as push contents out, to the web, in different formats. This integration will work for most of the web 2.0 content sites, such as Googledocs, Wikipedia, Flicker, Piccasa, Twitter, etc.
With regard to the Eportfolio integration, it is significant the change in Dougiama’s view: in October 2007, he announced two eportfolio platforms as the most likely candidates to be integrated with Moodle 2.0: MyStuff, mainly developed by the Open University UK, and Mahara, the result of a joint venture between Catalys Ltd and several Universities from New Zeland. Almost two years later, in the Spring 2009, Dougiamas did not mention at all MySutff, while the portfolio platforms considered are now:
By considering these platforms, Moodle org acknowledges that users want to use their own portfolio system, rather than the ones provided by institutions. Moodle 2.0 will facilitate the integration between the learner’s chosen platform and the institution’s VLE.
The webservices’ protocols supported by Moodle 2.0 are:
· REST (Representational state transfer)
The new file management system in Moodle 2.0 makes possible that only one physical copy of the same file is stored in the server, reducing therefore the unnecessarily use of the storage space.
Teachers will be able to customize the course’ menu, so that certain activities will only be displayed provided a given condition is fulfilled (for instance: that the leaner obtains a certain result in a previous activity). Likewise, the learners will be able to track the activities that they have completed.
An example of community hub architecture shown in the presentation.
In his presentation, Martin Dougiamas also emphasised the importance of “Community hubs” as a part of the cultural change that Moodle 2.0 brings. These hubs will allow moodlers to easily share resources among their sites, without having to worry about technicalities. For instance, teachers will be able to “push” their courses to a central repository, just by clicking on the “Community button”, so that other teachers over the world can browse and use them.
In addition to these developments, Moodle 2.0 will have a “cooler” appearance, as all the pages will include menu, administration and navigation blocks, all of them completely customizable by administrators/teachers. An example of this new look is the current front page of Moodle org.
In conclusion, I feel honoured of having had the opportunity of attending the British Moodle Moot both as speaker and moodler. The only thing that I would change is the inevitable and forseable British lunch -a soggy vegetarian sandwich, plus another even more soogy sandwich if your stomach still bears it, plus orange juice from concentrate- , by a real continental French buffet.
The power of Moodle is, all in all, the power of the Open Source Movement.
E-portfolios –also called “webfolios” or electronic portfolios – can be defined as a collection of work in electronic form that allows the learner to provide a record of academic accomplishments (National Learner Infrastructure Initiative, 2004). As this collection of work is usually displayed on a web platform, from a technological point of view, e-portfolios can be also described as a “web-based information management system that uses electronic media and services” (EPortfolio Portal).
Although the original concept of portfolios was linked to artists, the possibilities of the web 2.0 technologies applied to education allowed to expand the concept to all sort of academic disciplines. In my opinion, electronic portfolios represent a powerful tool for:
a) empowering learners as ultimate owners of their own academic achievements
b) developing most sustainable ways of measuring that achievement.
The development of e-portfolios is still embryonic, with a great number of uncertainties around them. The E-portfolio Conference I attended in Edinburgh covered some interesting aspects such us:
- · Accessibility of e-porfolios.
- · MyStuff: The E-porfolio software of the UK Open University.
- · Plagiarism detection .
- · Blogs a platform for developing e-portfolios.
- · Legal issues of portfolios.
Yet it failed to address other relevant ones such as:
- · Standardization and interoperability of the portfolios.
- · Ownership of the e-portfolios: institution or learner? (a repeated question throughout the conference, but never answered).
- · Resistance from the educational establishment.
The conference’s path was likewise stressful due to the amount of workshops. In some sessions, such as the legal issues, there was no time for questions and answers. There was very little time for networking and sharing experiences and, and off course, as it is traditional in the UK, “lunch” means: fill your plate with (cold) food and scoff it all in a slot time of 5 minutes.
Here are is the summary of some of the sessions I attended:
- MyStuff: The E-porfolio platform of the Open University.
The Open University in the UK supports at present 180.000 online students (undergraduates and postgraduates). 70% of them are mature students in full time employment. This predominant learners profile has compelled the OU to develop an online platform for electronic portfolios based on the concept of Web 2.0, and designed to be conected with Web 2.0 applications: MyStuff.
MyStuff is an open source information management software that allows students to create, store and organize their own learning contents. It also allows to re-use the materials stored (supporting, therefore, the sustainability of the resources). It can be accessed from any PC an students can decide what they want to share and what not.
The technical implementation of MyStuff was not mentioned at all, which was a shame, because the “father” of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, talked in his visit to the University of Edinburgh about the possibility of integrating MyStuff into the new versions of Moodle.
Nevertheless, despite the increase in the use of MyStuff, the speaker from the OU admitted that the project was still in its early stages, facing still important challengues such as:
- Conectability with web 2.0 applications
- Embedding the application effectively into courses.
- Legal issues of e-Porfolios
This was probably one of the most expected sessions in the conference, delivered by the director of the Centre for IT and Law of the University of Bristol. The speaker highlighted the importance of addressing the legal risks and costs of electronic portfolios from the beginning, rather than waiting until legal problems arise. When launching an e-porfolio project, HE and FE institutions should be aware from of the cost involved in tackling legal issues/risk and should include the financial provision of these costs in the project’s budget. Implementation of e-portfolios can be, therefore, more expensive than it was planed from the technological side.
According to the speaker, basic legal knowledge is becoming an essential skill for educational professionals. That is why some institutions, such as the University of Bristol, have started to provide with legal advice in-house.
Most of the legal problems usually arise from a poor operational and strategic planning. Institutions fail to embed the legal risks and costs throughout the planning process as a result of ignorance of the relevant law.
The most important legal issues around e-portfolios identified by the experts were:
- Ownership and intellectual property not only of the contents, but the software and tools.
- Liability for system failure, data losses and security breaches. The speaker advised to arrange an insurance cover against this possibility.
- Maintaining data protection, privacy and confidentiality rights.
- Accessibility of e-portfolios systems and risks of social exclusion.
Albeit the speaker introduced these interesting issues, there was no time for discussing them in detailed, in particular the first point: who owns the electronic portfolios. For what I have researched, it seems that, in the UK, the ultimate intellectual ownership of the contents stored in e-portfolios belongs to the institution, while in Europe and Canada the tendency is, that this ownership belong to the learners (as it should be).
The legal expert ended up his intervention by quoting some remedial strategies again legal risks:
- Provide clear guidance, from the beginning, to both staff and learners about their rights and their legal responsibilities.
- Document effectively all the decisions regarding legal risks.
- Undertake a legal impact assessment while planning the project: who, for what and how can be legally prosecuted. Set up legal responsibilities from the beginning.
- Audit the project on a regular basis.
- Ensure that the institution has an effective disaster recovery processes and adequate insurance.