Course Management Meets Social Networking in Moodle

Course Management Meets Social Networking in Moodle

Matt Crosslin (University of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Distance Education, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch073
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Abstract

Moodle is currently one of the more popular opensource course management systems in online education. Some evaluations have also indicated that Moodle is one of the top-rated programs when compared to other open-source course management systems (Graf & List, 2005). The creators of Moodle describe their program as a course management system built on social constructivist pedagogy. Social constructivist pedagogy is a collaborative approach to learning based upon the works of Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and Jean Piaget. Moodle’s unique focus on pedagogy allows online learning to cross over from the traditional educational realm of factual recall and rote memorization into the realm of social networking. Social networking has recently become one of the more popular uses of the Internet, with sites like MySpace and FaceBook attracting millions of users every month. Social networking Web sites began to appear on the Internet around 2002 (Downes, 2005). Social networks are now seen as an important component of modern society – even in educational contexts (Finin, Ding, Zhou, & Joshi, 2005). Current online social networking sites thrive on social constructivism pedagogy – whether the users or designers know this or not.
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Introduction

Moodle is currently one of the more popular open-source course management systems in online education. Some evaluations have also indicated that Moodle is one of the top-rated programs when compared to other open-source course management systems (Graf & List, 2005). The creators of Moodle describe their program as a course management system built on social constructivist pedagogy. Social constructivist pedagogy is a collaborative approach to learning based upon the works of Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and Jean Piaget. Moodle’s unique focus on pedagogy allows online learning to cross over from the traditional educational realm of factual recall and rote memorization into the realm of social networking.

Social networking has recently become one of the more popular uses of the Internet, with sites like MySpace and FaceBook attracting millions of users every month. Social networking Web sites began to appear on the Internet around 2002 (Downes, 2005). Social networks are now seen as an important component of modern society – even in educational contexts (Finin, Ding, Zhou, & Joshi, 2005). Current online social networking sites thrive on social constructivism pedagogy – whether the users or designers know this or not.

The following discusses research conducted on the relationship between social connection and success in online courses and examines how some tools in Moodle – such as blogs, Wikis, and chat rooms – can be used to support learning. Additionally, instructional design issues that can be addressed with these tools are also explored.

BACKGROUND

Generally speaking, most online courses are delivered through a program called a learning management system (LMS), sometimes also referred to as a course management system or virtual learning environment. Learning management systems are used in many fields, including education and business. From a business perspective, Szabo and Flesher (2002) define the LMS as “computer based database and presentation systems which manage the entire instructional program and learning progress of employees with respect to the competencies specified by the goals and objectives of an organization” (p. 2). From an educational perspective, students would be the employees and the school would be the organization. Therefore, learning management systems can be seen as the administrative storage area for online courses as well as the portal for content delivery.

Since some might consider learning as something that can’t be managed by a computer program, some LMS designers refer to their programs as course management systems or virtual learning environments. The designers of Moodle have chosen to use the term course management system (CMS). The stated goal of the Moodle CMS is to create online communities – not just deliver course content and store course records. This distinction is important when examining social constructivist pedagogy.

Social constructivism is a theory of knowledge used in many disciplines. Moodle’s official online philosophy looks at social constructivism as a “social group constructing things for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings” (http://docs.moodle.org/en/Philosophy). The creators of Moodle see social constructivism as an extension of constructivism and constructionism – constructivism being the point of view that learners construct new knowledge as they interact with their environment, and constructionism being the belief that learning happens best when you construct knowledge for other people.

Another key concept that Moodle developers find helpful in guiding their philosophy is that of constructed behavior. Learners that exhibit constructed behavior know when to work as a team (or connected behavior), and when to work as an individual (or separate behavior). Moodle gives instructors tools that allow for learners to learn on their own as well in groups.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Presence: Refers to a learner’s awareness of the presence and involvement of other learners in a course.

Constructivism: Learning theory that states that learners construct new knowledge as they interact with their environment.

Constructed Behavior: Refers to a learner’s ability to know when to work as a team, and when to work as an individual.

Immediacy: The perception of distance between two people in a class.

Social Constructivism: Learning theory that states that learners learn best when functioning as a social group that collaboratively constructs a shared culture of artifacts with shared meanings.

Learning Management System: Computer based presentation program that manages an instructional program and student progress.

Social Networking Service: Web-based program that focuses on building online communities of people with common interests.

Constructionism: Learning theory that states that learning happens best when learners construct knowledge for other learners.

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