Virtual Learning Environments Raise Questions and Opportunities

By IGI Global on Sep 13, 2011
Moodle? If that word brings to mind some new, expensive dog breed, think again. Moodle, according to their Web site, "is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites." Professors, college students, and prospective college students who aren't already familiar with Moodle may want to learn more about it, because the system is gaining popularity across college campuses.

While many students and faculty have used course management systems like Moodle or Blackboard for years, it appears that an increasing push is being made by campuses for full implementation of one of these systems by all faculty members. At Elon University in North Carolina, USA, some professors are currently in the process of switching from Blackboard to Moodle, according to a recent article in The Pendulum, the university's newspaper. Many faculty have already attended training sessions on Moodle and begun to implement it in their classes, but a full transition is to be made by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, at which point all faculty and courses are to be using Moodle.

Although there will always be faculty and students that are hesitant about or resistant to making changes, many are optimistic that all will be able to make the changes smoothly. According to the same article, Barbara Taylor, an associate professor of computing sciences, said of her students who were using Blackboard in some classes and Moodle in others, "I don't think the students had any problem adapting to it or switching from Blackboard even during the same semester." She also contended of her fellow faculty members, "All of us, whatever generation, get used to and become comfortable with things. […] Technology these days just doesn't let us sit still for long."

Nicholls State University in Louisiana, USA, is also switching from Blackboard to Moodle. According to a recent article in The Nicholls Worth, the school's newspaper, some students and faculty don't appreciate having to learn the new system to make the switch, but most are gradually making the change. Cal State Fullerton in California, USA is also making the change from Blackboard to Moodle, while Morehead State University in Kentucky, USA has selected the latest version of Blackboard over Moodle. Whether Moodle, Blackboard, or any other system, course management systems, or virtual learning environments, are making a big impact on the world of education.

Moodle also has the potential to bring innovative learning to K-12 classrooms. The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra is launching an online classroom through Moodle with tools for music educators based in North Carolina, USA, according to a recent article on their Web site. Presentations, materials, and online forums are now available to music teachers even in the most remote areas of the state, opening up a new realm of opportunities to students.

Even the most innovative technologies, however, are never without problems. Moodle can pose problems for blind students, according to a recent article in The Kaimin, the campus newspaper of The University of Montana, USA. When professors properly scan documents and upload high-quality PDFs to Moodle, optical character resolution software can read the digital documents aloud to blind students. Travis Moses, a blind student at the university, notes, however, that professors often don't scan the files the right way, and he has to rely on other students to read the documents to him. "It's not laziness," he says, according to the same article. "It's not an excuse. I honestly couldn't access the files."

For professors, students, and other readers interested in learning more about virtual learning environments, IGI Global offers a variety of relevant publications including the following:



To further explore IGI Global's full collection of Virtual Learning Environments publications, visit www.igi-global.com/bookstore/results.aspx?type=1&cid=152.

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