Using an Online Learning-Management System for Coaching

Article excerpt

Participating in organized sports I has many potential benefits, including the development of physical skills, friendship building, improvement of social skills, and enhancement of self concept (Kowalski, 2008; Smoll, Smith, Barnett, & Everett, 1993; Weiss & Hayashi, 1996). Unfortunately, many nonschool-based programs rely on parent volunteers who have no formal training in working with young athletes. Many parents agree to coach for the primary reason of spending quality time with their own children, even though they often lack the experience needed to provide young athletes with appropriate activities for developing competency and encouraging continued participation in sport (Barnett, Smoll, & Smith, 1992; Wiersma & Sherman, 2005). In addition, most youth sport programs provide little, if any, support, training, or mentorship opportunities for parent volunteers (Hedstrom & Gould, 2004).

This lack of support is often due to limited budgets or a scarcity of qualified individuals to conduct coaching workshops or clinics. When inperson training is offered, participation rates often suffer because of family or other work responsibilities. All these factors make turning to an online learning-management system (LMS) a potential solution. An LMS (also known as a virtual-learning environment) is a software program used extensively to deliver online courses and instruction across many disciplines, including education (Graf, Kinshuk, & Tzu-Chien, 2009), medicine (Johnson et al., 2004), and business (Hershey & Wood, 2011). Learning-management systems also have been shown to be an effective method of providing professional development in corporate settings (Martin, Quigley, & Rogers, 2005).

The appeal of using an LMS is that it is a flexible and convenient method of providing online education and training. Popular LMS software systems, such as Blackboard, Learning 9.1, WebCT, ANGEL, and Moodie, offer many features to support teaching and learning, including tools for online discussions and group chats (Yueh & Hsu, 2008).

Developing a Coaching Web Site

While there are many commercial LMS software packages available, Moodie is a product that is not "vendor specific." Many LMSs require the user to pay expensive licensing and maintenance fees.

Moodle, on the other hand, is a free, secure, open-source software package that anyone can access to develop a course or training program (Driscoll, 2009). Traditionally, Moodle has been used by educators as a means of creating online communities and classes.

This software package can support a small number of users or a large group. Moodie has over 300,000 registered users worldwide and has an extensive support group to help users when problems occur (Beatty & Ulaswicz, 2005; Cole & Foster, 2008). The underlying philosophy behind Moodle is that anyone can ask the extensive network of users for advice and feedback when developing a site.

In fact, Cole and Foster stated that "with so many global users, there is always someone who can answer a question or give advice. At the same time, the Moodle developers and users work together to ensure quality, add new modules and features, and suggest new ideas for development" (p. 5). To ask questions of the Moodle community, log onto http://moodle.org/course/view.php?id=5.

When building a Moodle-based web site, the first step is to establish an account by logging on to www.keytoschool.com. Key to School--a nonprofit web site managed by a group of Moodle experts who help new users become comfortable managing and operating their own sites--serves as the web site host. Two useful features of the Key to School's web site are the Support Forum and Help Desk functions. The support forum allows users to review frequently asked questions by clicking on various links that will help them install and use Moodle with ease. The help desk allows users to submit a ticket when they need specific questions answered by individuals who manage the site. …