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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

Moodle: A new connection

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, September 24, 2004

When students and faculty returned this year, they found a new quick link called Moodle on the St. Olaf homepage. Moodle is a new course management server installed for St. Olaf this summer. Its customizable features include a calendar, a syllabus page, news, photos of each class enrolled students, forums, grade book and even online quizzes. Each class offered at St. Olaf has a Moodle page of its own that can be customized with class material.

According to Roberta Lembke, director of Institutional and Instructional Technologies, Moodle was installed largely because of its easy-to-use format. WebCT, the course management system that has been used for the past few years, has a more complicated format. Few faculty members were using WebCT, and many had found it too complicated to use in their classes.

Additionally, WebCT charges a maintenance fee; this fee has sharply increased every year since St. Olaf began using the program.

Moodle, however, is an open source system without a maintenance fee. WebCT is still in use, though its future is uncertain.

Moodle was installed in early July. Two inservice trainings were held for faculty on Aug. 26. At that time, 32 faculty were trained in the use of Moodle. Now, Lembke estimates that 40-45 faculty members use Moodle on a regular basis. The number of faculty using WebCT has decreased since the implementation of Moodle.

Assistant Professor of English Mary Steen recently heard about Moodle after a department meeting. She has been using Moodle to help her match student names to faces.

"Moodle seems to be kind of a central thing, Steen said. They have it on the quick links, so I expect the word to spread and for it to be important in classes as people learn more about it."

Student reaction to Moodle seems positive so far.

"I think Moodle is interesting and I wish more classes would use it. Its easier to have assignments posted online, especially since the SGA book wasnt as available this year," Krista Germeroth 07 said.

Like Germeroth, John Bartholow 07 uses Moodle for his American Conversations class.

"Its kind of cool to see whos in your classes. It seems like its still a new thing for professors, since I have only one class using it, Bartholow said. We use the forum for class a lot and it seems like theres a lot of possibilities with Moodle."

Meredith Shay 06 agreed.

"I think it's organized better than WebCT and more user-friendly," she said. "There are many more options for professors as well as students, which is kind of cool. However, there are still some professors who are using WebCT instead, so it's also a pain that there are two types of online class organizers being used."

In the near future, Lembke expects "lots of experimenting with Moodle. Students like to be online and this is a place where they can get all they need for a class in one place."

Lembke also sees Moodle as an enhancement to the learning experience by "helping professors cut down on routine paperwork and allowing them to spend more time with students.

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