Integrating an Open-Source Learning Management System (Moodle) in an English Language Program: A Case Study

By Chen, Xin; Guilbaud, Christa et al. | Distance Learning, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Integrating an Open-Source Learning Management System (Moodle) in an English Language Program: A Case Study


Chen, Xin, Guilbaud, Christa, Yang, Hongxia, Tao, Congwu, Distance Learning


Introduction

An east coast institute will open a new English language program (ELP). It will have two campuses located in the same state. An effective learning management system is urgently needed to meet their instructional needs.

At present, they are not using a learning management system (LMS). Instead, they are using various other technologies offered by the university to generate grade reports and track class attendance. Their current process is time consuming, repetitive, cost-ineffective, and at various times inconsistent. Another complaint is that students are not able to assess their school performance with real-time teacher feedback. Additionally, in order to comply with immigration laws, international students must adhere to a strict attendance policy. There have been reports of students being counted as absent for a whole day when they may have been only late. This can be very problematic. With increasing enrollment, these issues are becoming more complicated. They desire a system that offers greater grading flexibility, allows for ease of communication and collaboration among teachers and administration, reports and tracks student progress efficiently, and offers methods for course control.

Although many commercial LMSs are available, such as "Blackboard," they are very costly. More and more institutions chose to use open-source systems to take the advantages of cost efficiency and functionality (Wheeler, 2004). Similarly, Moodle was adopted by ELP to solve the problems mentioned above as well as meet the requirements. The word "Moodle" is the short form of modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment. It is a free, open source, online LMS. There are no associated license fees and the content, design, and tools provided are driven by the needs of Moodle user community (Moodle, 2010).

DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY

The primary goal of the ELP is to prepare international students for university admission through a rigorous and progressive series of intensive English courses. They desire a system that enhances communication, collaboration and across the board consistency of processes.

In this mixed-method study, the researchers intended to evaluate the use of Moodle in ELE Many studies have been conducted to explore students' opinions of using Moodle (e.g., Carvalho, Areal, & Silva, 2010; Wood, 2010). We addressed the use of Moodle from a different perspective; that is, from opinions of faculty and administrative staff.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The purpose of this study was to find out what were the perceptions and experiences of teachers and administrators in their use of Moodle and to assess the technological affordances of Moodle. The results were used as part of the decision to determine whether Moodle would be implemented as their learning management system. More specifically, this study answered the following questions:

1. What are the ELP instructors' needs in terms of a learning management system?

2. What are the technological affordances of Moodle, particularly in light of ELP instructors' needs?

3. To what extent does Moodle meet the identified learning management system needs of ELP instructors?

METHODOLOGY

SAMPLE

The ELP consisted of the director, two associate directors (one for each ELP location), one ELP administrator and seven instructors. To obtain a sample that is representative of the entire group, all of them were given the survey and encouraged to fill it out. All key stakeholders (director and associate director of the ELP) were invited to participate in the focus group interview. The formative interview was conducted with the site contact and one of the instructors at the ELP.

DATA COLLECTION

Data collection methods used in this study were the formative interview with two ELP representatives, an e-mail interview with a current Moodle user, a survey, a focus group interview with ELP administers and instructors, and a Moodle assessment rubric. …

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