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Calling all Moodlers!

10 January 2005

Calling all Moodlers!

Waiariki Institute of Technology will be playing host to an international conference about Moodle software next month.

Moodle, an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, is a learning management system used by many of New Zealand's top e-learning establishments.

The conference, which will take place on February 3 and 4, 2005, will be attended by representatives from universities and polytechnics as well as private training organisations such as airlines and defence forces.

Gary Benner, lecturer of information technology at Waiariki and organiser of the event, said that there has already been at least 70 registrations and he expects there to be over a hundred people attending.

"People are coming from all over the world. So far there are three coming from Australia, two from England and even one from Sudan."

As well as teaching at the institute, Mr Benner is a director of a web hosting service that provides assistance and support to Moodle users.

He said that there is a worldwide trend toward e-learning not only for distance learning but also for use in normal classrooms as a teaching resource. This is also called "blended learning".

"Although I do most of my teaching in a classroom, all the learning material I distribute to my students I do on-line. The convenience factor is great, and it saves on paper."

One of the most interesting features of Moodle software is that it is open source, which means that it can be downloaded for free and is able to be customised to the users requirements.

"Open source is a different model for the production of software, said Mr Benner. With most software you buy a user licence which usually restricts you from modifying it."

He said that the reason this software can be provided for free is that it is supported worldwide by a group of developers, who share in each others creative input. It is a beacon of success for the open source model. And each of them locally can provide organisation with the expertise to modify the software to their individual needs.

Another major feature of Moodle software is that it provides the students with a forum on which they are able to exchange information and discuss topics thereby helping each other to get a broad view of the subject rather being passive learners. It also extends the classroom into their own lives.

"If students are helping each other, they gain individually, as well as the person getting help. The process you go through when you have to explain something to another person teaches you far more than just listening to someone tell you something."

Mr Benner said that the beauty of Moodle is that it has been developed by teachers with a pedagogical or teaching perspective. It's not something being forced upon teachers by the IT guys". That makes it a very useful tool for teachers.

The conference will involve lectures and workshops, including a full introduction to Moodle, using Moodle effectively in schools, private training establishments and larger organisations, and future developments.

There will also be demonstrations on how to get Moodle running and an opportunity to meet the founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas who is flying in from Perth, Australia..

To learn more about Moodle or to register for the conference go to http://www.moodle.co.nz/conference.html and follow the links.

ENDS

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