This is by no means an exhaustive listing of what should be done but it is the core of what needs to be done to make Moodle more functional and grab the attention of teachers. The issue with Moodle is often it is an after thought. It gets put on a server by the district tech and they are not teachers. They do not get to know the needs of teachers as they are wrapped up in Apache, PHP, and MySQL. The Moodle admin should have these things setup to make the lives of teachers and students easier.
Single Sign On
Number one roadblock is creating and managing accounts. Our district uses Microsoft Active Directory to manage all teacher and student accounts – over 20,000! We use Moodle’s LDAP authentication method so that teachers and students use their district credentials to login. The other thing we do is make sure that every teacher that logs in is automatically given the role of Course Creator. Why? Because that leads us to the next issue…
Many Moodle sites in K-12 put up roadblocks for teachers to create a course. Don’t do that! There is nothing worse than a moment of inspiration and motivation to begin using a new tool and find out you have to wait for someone to create and approve your course. We make teachers course creators on login so that they can click a button and create a new course anytime they want. We don’t require training. We don’t require waiting for someone to approve them. If they are a teacher and want to use the best learning tool for students that is good enough for us. We let the technology help facilitate getting started quickly and step out of the way of a teacher wanting to explore Moodle. If a teacher is inspired at 11pm on a Saturday night to begin exploring blended learning we do not want to stop that! We do, however, want to support and help the teacher at every turn to help get them started properly. We offer training and tech coaches to help guide them once the actual course is created and they are ready to begin building learning experiences.
In Michigan a large number of districts use a student management system called MiStar. Moodle has a MiStar plugin that allows teachers to map assignments in Moodle with gradebook items in MiStar. With the click of a button the teacher can pick and choose what grades to push to the official MiStar gradebook. Because Moodle has such incredible quiz and assignment capabilities this is a HUGE time saver for teachers. Take is a step further when teachers start sharing quizzes and assignments and co-teaching from a single course and now you have an amazing tool that allows for common assessments, sharing, and collaboration across the entire district.
Make Moodle Pretty
There are many themes available for Moodle which offer a variety of enhancements. Head on over to the plugins repository and check out the themes. Dearborn Public Schools has created two themes which are custom tailored for our needs but we share them with the community in hopes others find them useful. Be sure to check out Pioneer and evolve-D.