Future of eLearning

Extended quote from  John Battelle’s Searchblog: A Brief Interview with Michael Wesch (The Creator of That Wonderful Video…)

As a university professor I have also found Facebook to be useful. I was inspired to use Facebook for teaching by something I saw while visiting George Mason University. Like many universities, they were concerned that the library stacks were rarely being accessed by students. Instead of trying to bring students to the stacks, they brought the stacks to the students, placing a small library right in the middle of the food court where students hang out. We can do the same with popular social networking tools like Facebook. Facebook is not only great for expressing your identity, sharing with friends, and planning parties, it also has all the tools necessary to create an online learning community. Students are already frequently visiting Facebook, so we can bring our class discussions to them in a place where they have already invested significant effort in building up their identity, rather than asking them to login to Blackboard or some other course management system where they feel “faceless” and out of place.

I hope the community of Moodlers are listening. I keep seeing the potential for Moodle (or another Open Source course management system) to become more like Facebook or to integrate Facebook-like features.  As it stands, Moodle and other CMS tend to force the idea of individual “courses” with subgroups of people with stable roles. Though Facebook could use more role-/status-differentiation, there’s something to be said about user communities going beyond labeled roles in a specific course.

(I’ve discussed some aspects of “that wonderful video” elsewhere, and also here.)


Author: enkerli

French-speaking ethnographer, homeroaster, anthropologist, musician, coffee enthusiast.

5 thoughts on “Future of eLearning”

  1. Hey – just ran across your post and the comment from Michael Penney.

    I actually just put together a “family moodle” with the exact same setup at Penney described! Each family member has her/his own “course” that they can control. It works quite well with the automatic RSS feeds and simple commenting setup within the e-mails that get sent out and the forums.

    The “course enrollment password” also allows screening so that outsiders can only access certain pages. For example, I gave my friends my course password so they can get in – but they are “locked out” from my brother’s course and news.

    Naturally, there is the main news section on the front page, along with other items for everyone to share. I’ve found using the “dictionary” is a more user friendly database that be used to store files and content. (Inspired by John Clayton of the Waikato Institute of Tech and Jun Iwata of the Matsue National College of Technology at the Illinois Online Conference 2007)

    I even use one “dictionary” as our master family recipe book – which allows for easy searching and printing! (and pictures too if we want)

    So what’s next? Networking would open up simple cross connections that moodle 1.7 lacks. I just started toying with the networking feature in 1.8, but have yet to get it working properly. Here’s a few other “facebook like features I’d like to see:”

    1. Universal recent news feed or Enhanced blogs
    –>I’ve seen a mod for recent blog entries – but the blog function in moodle still is quite basic and doesn’t have the same capabilities as forum mod

    2. User friendly picture gallery & upload
    –>I’m using the jpeg gallery right now – which works… but it’s not user friendly at all – especially for non-moodlers or non-computer people. A solid mod that would allow for the uploading of MULTIPLE photos simultaneously and automatically resize them, create thumbnails, and maybe even do a slide show would be hot.

    3. User friendly theme modification
    –> As we all know, the big thing with MySpace, Facebook, etc is the ability to make the page “your” page. There still are a limited number of themes out there, and it’s not easy for simple people to create or edit their own theme. I think this is an essential enhancement if the general public is ever going to get into moodle as a facebook like system

    4. Simple navigation between “courses”
    –> Perhaps the main issue at the moment is that when a user looks at his/her list of courses he/she is enrolled it – it can be a massive list of 20,30,40+ family members! Some type of simple visual method of navigating through the forest of “friend courses” you’re enrolled/connected to is needed.
    –> There also needs to be some type of differentiation between a “person’s course” and a “group” course. For example – I might setup a separate course to serve as a group homepage for everyone coming to my wedding. It’s separate from my personal course (because not everyone is invited) but it still just shows up in the general list of “courses” in the site. Although now that I think about, I could use course categories to create this differentiation. I’ll have to test that out-

    Thus – Penney is right on with the fact that people buy into the terminology of moodle and fail to see its flexibility. I honestly sat down and mapped out ways I could pull off my “family moodle” and what setup would give me the best options … forums for everyone, courses, for everyone, etc. Even the use of the dictionary as a user friendly database that allows commenting never crossed my mind until I heard John and Jun. But at the end of the day, I need to keep reminding myself that Moodle is FREE and I’m lucky enough to even be able to use it as a tool. It truly has changed education.

  2. Excellent news!
    What you describe is quite close to what I have in mind, especially if Moodle supports OpenID or some such. As it stands at Concordia University, it’s not even possible to log into Moodle directly (we have to go through Concordia’s portal). It makes everything more difficult.
    I still have a hard time figuring how a person’s “group” would work because I tend to think of other/older models of online social networking (SixDegrees, Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, Explode). As I see it, a course is a different type of page structure from most networking sites. But maybe this way will work better than the old one.
    Thanks a lot!

  3. As it stands, Moodle and other CMS tend to force the idea of individual “courses” with subgroups of people with stable roles.

    Hi, I think this is mainly because people tend to get focused on the language rather than the functionality. For instance, if each user had their own ‘course’, they could invite people (by sending them the link) to ‘enroll’ in their ‘course’. Users could define RSS feeds to pass info. back and forth between ‘courses’, etc. Change ‘course’ to ‘site’ or ‘group’ via the language editor, and ‘teacher’ to ‘administrator’-or set up new roles in the very granular new roles system (1.7/1.8), and you could be on your way.

    An invite friends/requet to join group block would be pretty minor code chunks that would enhance the existing functionality (instead of copy pasting links), but much of the underlying architecture to do a facebook like site in is already there in Moodle 1.8. When you mix in the community network code (which enables separate Moodle sites anywhere in the world to set up trust relationships with each other–which allow single sign on and joining of open ‘courses’ at any trusted site, things get pretty interesting…

    All it really needs is funding/energy to set up the initial sites, with some minor time/funding for theme/interface development (much of the the needed interface work has already been funded by Intel as we described in Albuquerque last month : http://mr.suitelearning.com/vtwo).

    Michael Penney

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