The economy sides with innovation. During times of economic hardship, college administrators often look for ways to reduce costs. Now that the open source software (OSS) movement has matured, open source offerings such as Open Office and Moodle look especially appealing, given the absence of liscense fees. With promises of reducing costs by moving to open source software, college administrators are scrutinizing the learning management system (LMS) market.
This new scrutiny is leading to change, as the University of Louisiana at Monroe announced a move to Moodle from Blackboard. A ULM press release indicates that the university will save approximately $100,000 per year by switching to Moodle. Of more importance though, is what Paula Thornhill, ULM’s Electronic Learning Facilitator, announces in the release: “Moodle is a powerful content management system that empowers faculty with the ability to create an environment in which students can interact with content” (Harris). While ULM identifies two distinct qualitative reasons for moving to Moodle, Cole (2005) reports that a mere 2000 universities had adopted Moodle by 2005 (xiii). Yet the number of registrations has continued to grow. In December 2005, Moodle reported just under 5000 total known Moodle sites, and the number currently rests at about 50,000 ("Moodle Statistics" 2010). That tenfold growth indicates conditions are perfect for large scale migration to the open source LMS. Thus, since faculty may appreciate Moodle as a LMS which fosters engagement with course material and administrators may appreciate Moodle for its reduced costs, the demand for the product is steadily growing.
The Moodle Trust promotes its LMS as a student-centered, social-constructivist Learning Management System where students may "interact with content," rather than a place to store documents, stating that Moodle fosters "richly collaborative communities of learning around their subject matter (in the social constructionist tradition)" ("What is Moodle" 2010). Blackboard, however, promotes its LMS as one that fosters "personalized and engaging learning experiences, the kind that when achieved on a wide scale can bring about big and measurable change in learning outcomes" ("Teaching and Learning" 2010). While these brief descriptions initially seem similar, they draw upon a deeply-rooted educational dichotomy: While Moodle purports itself to promote engagement with course materials, Blackboard purports itself to promote achieving student learning outcomes. It's upon that premis that the two LMSs compete, as a LMS that fosters collaboration and engagement represents a major shift in LMS philosophy, as the LMS has largely been used as a place to store and retrieve documents, not a place to “interact with content,” which is much different than merely participating on a forum.
While Moodle is not the only open source LMS (it shares its market with the likes of Sakai and Joomla!), I have experience using Moodle—both as faculty and as a writing program administrator. Thus, in this webtext, I will examine key ways in which Moodle, especially the Moodle Workshop module, creates a venue in which writing can be taught in social constructivist ways.
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Next: OSS CMS Data or My Story of Becoming a Moodle Buddy