Thursday, December 2, 2010

Early Impressions of Moodle2

It has been a few weeks since I attended a distance learning conference in Durham, and several days since the eagerly awaited release of Moodle2. In that time I've tried to connect the info in the sparse notes I've taken and resources on the web with what I am seeing in Moodle 2.

I owe my early impressions to both the "tire-kicking" I've done in a few Moodle2 servers and my attendance in an excellent session on Moodle2 from Michelle at Remote-Learner and Martin Dougiamas's keynote at the NC3ADL conference. I'll limit my post to a few elements I think are "big deals," as well as a few areas I'll be watching before I get too excited.

The Big Deals:
  • Files - File Management in Moodle2 will be a big change. The ability to easily access files over different courses and the adding of repositories from external sites like Flickr and GoogleDocs will be game changers. The "file picker" is easy to use, but this will be a significant change from the current system and the way files operate.
  • Hubs- I love the idea of a moodle hub as a repository sharing courses. I hope this will not only create some opportunities for openness and collaboration but also might encourage more discussions about the elements of a good online course. Sharing quality course materials across institutions, colleges and departments seems like an idea whose time has come.
  • Conditional Activities & Completion Tracking- Completion Tracking might be the perfect tool for allowing students and instructors to track their progress in a course. Activities could be set for automatic marking or allow students to check when complete. Conditional Release is one of the additions Moodlers have anticipated most. The ability to allow an activity only when a condition has been met might change the ways many courses are currently setup. I did hear at least a few calls for caution in using this lest your course become a series of conditional releases creating a maze for your students to navigate.
Cautiously Awaiting Word on....
  • Backups - This is also a big deal. The file extension for Moodle2 backups is different and given some of the significant differences between the two versions, I wonder when (don't want to think "if") there will be a way to restore a Moodle 1.9 course backup into a Moodle 2 course.
  • Blogs and Wikis -I have never liked the blogs or wikis in 1.9. Maybe its because there have always been better tools provided outside the walls of Moodle. So I am interested to see more of how these will look in Moodle2. The new blog in Moodle2 allows comments, and they may be linked to create a “blog about it” scenario. For Bloggers already using an outside/external blogsite, content can be easily pulled down into the improved Moodle blog. The new wiki tool has supposedly been rebuilt, but I haven't yet explored or seen the differences.
  • Mobile Moodle - Although it is not a part of the new release of Moodle, Mobile Moodle was mentioned by Martin Dougiamas as a part of his conference keynote. I'll continue to be interested in the development of the official Mobile Moodle App and how it might create more anytime environments for learning in Moodle.
As with any release of a new version of any technology there is level of of uncertainty. I have heard more than once from several sources, "I'll probably wait until 2.1 or even 2.2". But I like what I see so far, and this version doesn't seem to be adding more but possibly making better what is already in Moodle.

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