Mobilizing Moodle – a review of “Moodle for Mobile Learning” video course

Being forward thinking I installed a responsive theme for Moodle when we upgraded to 2.0. I tested the site on an iPad and my phone and the page displayed, I could login and access course content. We were all set for the mobile age. I hadn’t spent much more time thinking about mobilizing Moodle until I had the opportunity to view the video course “Moodle for Mobile Learning” from Packt Publishing.

9123_Video (1)This video course, authored by Graeme Boxwell, revealed a whole world of customization that needs to happen to truly make Moodle mobile friendly for learners. “Moodle for Mobile Learning” covers issues such as reshaping content for  effective delivery on mobile devices, using the audio and video capabilities of mobiles for education and integrating social media in your course. Graeme clearly explains, and illustrates, methods and pathways through Moodle that will insure that your well crafted course becomes an engaging and well crafted mobile learning opportunity.

The video modules of this course are short (generally 3 to 5 minutes), focused and well scripted. Graeme has a deep knowledge of Moodle and uses it well, filtering out the extraneous and stepping the viewer through each process patiently and efficiently. Packt has developed a reputation as a reliable source of learning and this addition to their offerings reinforces that reputation.

Section 6 alone, which addresses Mobile Assessment, is worth the cost of this course. Some points raised in this section are seemingly self evident but (speaking from experience here) easily overlooked. This section also reinforces the point that there is some actual work that has to happen to make a course engaging for mobile learners. It (and the whole course) also points towards a deeper understanding of the potential of mobiles to enliven education, if a course is approached with intent and understanding by the course creator.

I was surprised that the module on “Fostering Reflective Learners through Mobile Blogs” (8.3) made no mention of Mahara. The integration of Mahara with Moodle would seem to naturally recommend this combination as appropriate for reflective engagement. And while Mahara may not yet have the range of mobile flexibility that Moodle has, I find it hard to imagine that it will not catch up soon.

Having worked with Moodle for a almost a decade now, I look for new learning resources that can deepen my knowledge in a usable way. “Moodle for Mobile Learning” is a treasure chest of new learning that will help me as I work with instructors and course creators to reshape their courses for a mobile world. If I had any kind of consistent rating system I would give this video course five stars (out of five).

More information, including a complete listing of course content by section, is available online at

Evolving Web-based Online Courses

An Evolving Web-based Online Course (EWOC) represents a method for the use of online technologies to create interactive, engaged, and engaging, learning opportunities. An EWOC is meant to be responsive to the needs of participants, with course topics being fluid, open to amendment and able to reflect the interests and learning requirements of participants. EWOC’s rely heavily on social interaction, peer learning, and reflective assessment as techniques for creating meaningful learning experiences for participants.

Common technologies used for the creation of an EWOC include:

  • Webinars
  • LCMS’s
  • Twitter
  • Etc…

woven together to create a dialogic learning space online.

In many ways an EWOC is a counter-MOOC. The role of course facilitator is in-depth and essential in fostering a dialogic learning space that can evoke new knowledge while encouraging equitable, and sustained, participation over the duration of a course. An EWOC is solidly grounded in the Freirean sentiment that “there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know.”

Distance learning (a work in progress)

Starting out from two options:

Synchronous (same time): For example a webinar, or live lecture/presentation via video

Asynchronous (any time): For example an online course, discussion board, recorded lectures

Each has advantages/disadvantages.

Synchronous learning activities can be captured for reuse in asynchronous settings. Lectures can be integrated into online courses, etc…

Ideally it would be a cycle of content creation, capture and re-use.

Synchronous technology:

Videoconferencing – High end = polycom or similar. Low end = Skype, WebEx

High end has higher costs and more intense bandwidth requirements (generally speaking) with specialized equipment.

Low end videoconferencing is less expensive, often desktop based, quality can vary wildly.

Interactivity may or may not be a feature of videoconferencing (can participants ask questions or is it a lecture)

Asynchronous technology

Learning content management systems (Moodle, Blackboard) – Allow for the presentation of learning content that can be accessed by participants at any time. A LCMS integrates tools for content creation, assessment and presentation into a common application.

Asynchronous learning can be either interactive (integrating discussion forums, peer discussion, etc) or non-interactive (tutorials, recorded lectures)

Capturing content for re-use


Video can be an effective method for capturing and re-presenting learning opportunities. Whether it is a lecture or a demonstration of a specific technique, video can extend the reach of an expert to a larger audience brining new knowledge and content to underserved audiences. Video can stand alone to function as a tutorial, or be integrated into a LCMS as part of a structured learning experience.

Video capture has become much more affordable, and it is possible to produce high quality video for instructional use with fairly inexpensive equipment. Key to producing good quality video is a familiarity with the equipment and good audio quality. Someone who is comfortable using a video camera can produce more usable video with low end equipment who compared to someone who has expensive gear but doesn’t know how to use it.

This is a fairly universal lesson – knowing the tools and how to use them can produce effective and meaningful results. Deploying new, expensive, fancy tools and technologies for the sake of ‘using’ the latest and greatest will not have the same impact if you do not know how to use them effectively. This may seem like stating the obvious, but where technology is concerned it must be said- over and over again.

Narrated PowerPoint

PowerPoint can too often be deadly. However, when used properly they can help structure material for discussion or content dissemination. Being able to capture a PowerPoint with narration can create effective modules for learning use.  There are effective software packages that make the creation of narrated PowerPoint easy and potentially interactive. Again, one of the key elements to creating a narrated PowerPoint is the audio quality.


Webinars can be recorded. This can be an effective means of capturing content, if the quality is high enough. Audio problems can be an issue with webinars. Inexperienced users can also make it challenging to produce high quality content for re-use.

Jus to re-emphasize – knowing the tools and how to use them can produce effective and meaningful results. Spending time working with any potential instructors who are going to be using Webinars so that they feel comfortable with the tool is time well spent.

Digital literacy – the key to unlocking distance learning

Regardless of how much technology we throw at an issue, the measure of effectiveness comes down to people knowing how to use the technology to accomplish tasks. This is universally true.  In order for distance learning to have the desired outcome digital literacies must be present in both the instructor and participant.

At this point in time, with rare exceptions, any effort to use distance learning technologies as a tool for outreach and engagement must include elements of digital literacy training. I would argue that this is more important than any given technology choice. Tools, a variety of tools, can be used to create the end result – but no tool can do it on its own. Developing the necessary skill set to effectively use distance learning technologies will be the make or break factor in any effort.

Useful Citations

Araque, J. C., Maiden, R. P., Bravo, N., Estrada, I., Evans, R., Hubchik, K., … & Reddy, M. (2013). Computer usage and access in low-income urban communities. Computers in Human Behavior29(4), 1393-1401.

Borthwick K., Dickens A. (2013), The Community Café: creating and sharing open educational resources with community-based language teachers, Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, v.9, n.1, 73-83. ISSN: 1826-6223, e-ISSN:1971-8829

Clary, R. M., & Wandersee, J. H. (2010). Virtual Field Exercises in the Online Classroom: Practicing Science Teachers’ Perceptions of Effectiveness, Best Practices, and Implementation. Journal of College Science Teaching39(4), 50-58.

Jaggars, S. (2011). Online learning: does it help low-income and underprepared students?.

Jung, I., & Latchem, C. (2011). A model for e‐education: Extended teaching spaces and extended learning spaces. British Journal of Educational Technology42(1), 6-18.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R. F., & Baki, M. (2013). The Effectiveness of Online and Blended Learning: A Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature.Teachers College Record115, 1-47.

New York Library Association, 21st Century Information Literacy Standards for the Digital Learners of New York

Simonson, M. R. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Boston ; Munich [u.a.: Allyn & Bacon.

Books that have shaped my perspective of online learning.

I’m cleaning up an online course and wanted to preserve this list, while removing it from the course. And since I’m here I might as well update it a bit.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paulo Freire – back on the top of my list again.

On Teaching and Learning: Putting the Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education into Action. Jane Vella

e-Learning by Design. William Horton

Learning Theory and Online Technology. Linda Harasim

All links lead to Amazon.

2010 List

Creating Significant Learning Experiences L. Dee Fink – New to my booklist. Highly recommended by Marcia Eames Sheavley.

Discussion-Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning: Theory, Practice and Assessment Tisha Bender

Building Online Learning Communities: Effective Strategies for the Virtual Classroom Pallof and Pratt

Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity Etienne Wenger. A classic? I think so- helped form some of my thinking on boundaries, tangibility and so on.

Online Communities: Designing Usability and Supporting Sociability Jenny Preece – Published in 2000 but one of the more influential books I read back then. 10 years is antiquity online, it seems like, but this was an important read for me, and still relevant.

Planning Programs for Adult Learners: A Practical Guide for Educators, Trainers, and Staff Developers Rosemary Caffarella

Education for Critical Consciousness Paolo Freire – Less well known than Pedagogy of the Oppressed but equally important, in my opinion. Includes “Extension or Communication”.

Science Education from People for People: Taking a Stand(point) Wollf-Michael Roth especially, in our context, chapter 3 – Faith in a Seed and chapter 6 Sister City,Sister Science.

There are more but that’s probably more than enough, for now. One note on prices- should you decide that any of these are invaluable and necessary but costly and prohibitive – be sure to check the used listings at Amazon. Many items are available used and fairly inexpensive.

Open, Online Learning – Before and Beyond MOOC’s

Sildeset I used on February 20 to introduce OER’s and MOOC’s to colleagues. Some of the attendees were still quite puzzled by MOOC’s and how they differ from the model for online education that we have developed. This was a start to making that difference plan, but more work is needed. A large part of my life is engaged in work with distance learning and it is increasingly necessary to make plan distinctions between the many ways technology can be employed in learning. MOOC madness has obscured, at least for folks I talk with who are not paying a lot of attention to the subtleties, distinctions and (imho) threaten to damage the appropriate uses of technology for learning.