Education is changing rapidly.
With the world of the Web waiting to be tapped, and with smartphone use on the rise, the ability of teachers to improve the learning environment for students across the globe is a hot topic. Smartboards are coming to classrooms, online resources are being accessed on a daily basis and there is an expectation that students will use the Internet to further their own learning.
Of course, just telling teachers and professors to “use the Internet” doesn’t provide a solution. The Web is vast and wild, and much of its content is unstructured, unpleasant and unsupported. Random pages will not do for a lesson plan, it is easy for students to get off-track when searching the Web on their own, and many claims made online are not properly sourced or backed up by facts that can be confirmed.
A number of tools have been developed to help teachers design courses and/or activities, post assignments, or assess learning using quizzes or exams. One that has proven consistently popular is Moodle, a free and open-source project from the Moodle Trust. Licensed under the GNU General Public License, this software is available for anyone who wants to use it to build an entire online course, add some Internet functionality to a current course, or create a collaborative community or forum around a particular topic or section of a program.
According to the information on the Moodle Web page, the application has the ability to scale and reach hundreds of thousands of students, but it can also be used in a single classroom setting. Moodle, which stands for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, can be used to make a class fully online, blend face-to-face and Web learning, or be used simply to deliver important content to students as part of a standard SCORM package.
As of May 2011, Moodle had 54,140 sites in 212 countries, with over 4.5 million courses created and 44 million users. The software has seen steady growth since its release in 2005, has been mentioned in Red Hat magazine, and is used by institutions of higher learning such as York University. Registration of the product is not necessary to take advantage of its full functionality, and Moodle is constantly being updated with the help of a dedicated and interested community. It costs nothing to download or use, but the developers are always grateful for donations.
When it comes to hosting Moodle, users have a number of options. Moodle hosting can be done on a local school or company server, and then used by all of those with the proper permissions. While in many cases this can be sufficient, a large school or one with an aging server network may wish to consider another possibility, such as Moodle VPS hosting or SaaS hosting of this product.
A Moodle VPS option, for example, will allow a user to host an instance of Moodle on a virtual machine (VM) that is not physically located on school grounds or on company property. Moodle can be installed alone and under a Windows or MAC OS X operating system, or can be combined with other programs on a VM server. By keeping Moodle hosting separate from other local network data and giving it full access to VPS resources, larger schools will often find that they achieve improved performance and that the program will respond more quickly when used apart from other local software.
Education is changing, and Moodle SaaS or VPS hosting can help options like Moodle reach the largest number of students.