Saturday, 30 January 2010

Implementing MOODLE

I’m in the middle of a major new MOODLE implementation. For those who don’t know, MOODLE is an open source virtual learning environment; the initials stand for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, although enthusiasts (and there seem to be plenty of them) also use “moodle” as a verb. More information at

We haven’t yet got to significant content development. We’ve started by downloading the platform to a staging site, and we’re concentrating on the branding and styling, on allocating roles to those who are going to be user administrators, content developers, and those who are going to support learners, and on organising training for them. We have modest plans for some initial content, and a big vision for what the platform can offer us.

I’ve been surprised by some of the language, including referring to every module you can build as a “course”, and surprised that there isn’t really a virtual classroom module, although we’re integrating Dimdim, a compatible open source application.

I’d be interested to hear from others who have experience of implementing or managing MOODLE, and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences as our site takes shape. Comments welcome.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Learning Curve

The learning curve is a bit of a cliché, frequently used and misused. People talk about any new learning experience, especially a challenging one, as a learning curve, which is fair enough up to a point. So what’s it really about?

The learning curve is an S curve. You could think of it as a journey, where you’re travelling along, steadily, on a straight road; then the road turns uphill and the journey becomes harder work; before it levels off again at the top of the hill, and you find yourself making steady progress again, but at a higher level.

Without wishing to labour the metaphor, if you apply it to a work situation, you may be working away steadily until you encounter something new, whereupon you struggle a bit until you learn how to tackle this new development, and then you continue to work away, but now perhaps more productively, or to a higher standard, as a result of the learning.

But this is an example of the classic misuse, which is to talk about a steep or sharp learning curve when what is meant is that the learning is difficult; the metaphor of the uphill journey encourages this misunderstanding. In fact, if the curve is steep, this means the learning is quick and easy; a slow ascent of a more gentle curve would indicate a more challenging learning experience.

Perhaps we should conceive a new metaphor, but the best I can suggest is to reverse the gravity, so that the steep curve goes downwards like a slide, working in the learner’s favour. I’m sure there must be a better way of representing the curve to correct the misuse and render its undoubted relevance greater clarity. Any suggestions?