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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

Moot Moodleing

By Carl Schroeder
Staff Writer


Friday, September 24, 2004

To Moodle, or not to Moodle. That is precisely the question many St. Olaf students and faculty have pondered in recent weeks. Last summer, the techies at Informational and Instructional Technologies (IIT) added a new course management system called Moodle to St. Olafs website.

You can find Moodle at moodle.stolaf.edu. Moodle provides tools that allow web-savvy professors to manage many basic educational tasks online, including organizing course materials, giving tests, assigning homework and calculating grades. Students can then log on to the system and find out, for example, next weeks lecture topics and quiz dates.

If online syllabi were all it offered, Moodle would have quickly joined the ranks of the Ride Board and Bon Appétits online menus amid the many slightly useful but essentially unnecessary tools that clutter the St. Olaf website.

However, one much-discussed Moodle trait appears to have saved the system from cyber-obscurity. After logging in, selecting any of your courses and clicking the "Participants" link, Moodle displays the names and photographs of everyone enrolled in that class. Thats right, kids; thanks to IIT, you no longer have to learn or remember your classmates names.

Once word begins to spread about this amazing feature, Moodle is sure to become the hottest thing to hit Northfield since the St. Olaf Online Telephone and E-Mail Directory (known colloquially as "Stalker-Net").

Within a matter of weeks, students will no doubt wonder how past generations managed to survive campus life without Moodle. Previously unanswerable questions, such as "Whos that cute girl in my religion seminar?" can now be solved with just a few mouse clicks.

While I suppose I could continue by pondering the philosophical and ethical ramifications of Moodle (Is the class view tool just a harmless memory aid for the overstressed 21st century college student, or is it one more step toward the complete cultural demise of privacy and anonymity?), there really is no point in trying to write a serious editorial about anything with a name as ridiculous as "Moodle."

The important question I think everyone wants answered is: Why on earth is our new course management system called "Moodle?" Disappointingly, the IIT website lacked a "Moodle" etymology, and a visit to the "Frequently asked questions" page at moodle.org, the official Moodle website, proved similarly fruitless. Further research led me to the online Moodle Paraphernalia shop at www.cafepress.com/moodle, where one can purchase t-shirts, baseball caps, lunch boxes and even boxer shorts adorned with the Moodle logo, but a definition remained elusive. One website indicated that "Moodle" is an acronym, but gave no further details. In the end, I was forced to conclude that "Moodle" stands for "Mildly Ominous Ole Designation Learning Eliminator."

All jokes aside, we should acknowledge that the combined forces of Stalker-Net and Moodle give anyone on campus the power to look up the name, photograph, e-mail address, phone number, dorm room number and home address of everyone in their classes, in a matter of seconds.

At a school other than St. Olaf, that might cause problems. However, here on the Hill, IIT could probably whip up just about anything short of a "St. Olaf Online Social Security Number Database," and things would still be hunky-dory.

Heres a helpful hint, though: if you want to know the name of that cute girl in your religion seminar, why not try walking across the classroom, introducing yourself and asking her?


Staff writer Carl Schroeder is a senior from Minneapolis, Minn. He majors in music composition.


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