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Moodle Platform Evaluation For Secondary School Industry Training Programs

Kevin Ault

Eric Bankes

Michael Bui

Mary-Lynne Grant

Ismail Patel

The University of British Columbia

ETEC 565A
About Our Organization

Our organization is represented as a group of industry training programs facilitated out of the Burnaby
School District (BSD). As a public non-profit government run institution, we plan to use an LMS to
support and enhance student learning, student experience and organizational efficiency.

Platform​: Moodle

Background

The BSD’s industry training programs enable students to receive credits towards high school
graduation through the exploration of specific areas of interest. These programs can be broken into
three categories:​ ​Ace-It Apprenticeship​,​ ​Industry Certification​ and​ ​Industry Connection​. The main
distinction between these divisions are the level of official certification that students can achieve. For
example, though the Industry Connection programs have articulation agreements with post-secondary
institutions, that often include advanced credits, no official diploma or certification is obtained upon
completion of the program. In contrast, the Ace-It Apprenticeship programs require students to
complete industry recognized practicals and examinations so they can achieve various levels of
official certification.

Even though these programs differ in official industry recognition, each program’s basic structure is
common. These commonalities are three-fold. Firstly, all learners must leave their home schools for an
extended period of time in order to participate. Secondly, all students engage with both specific
theoretical content and project based learning. Lastly, all students must participate in a minimum of
120 hours of relevant community based work experience.

LMS Supported Collaborative Design

The industry connection programs are facilitated out of nine physical locations. Given this
fragmentation, vital communication is conducted by the usage of non face-to face practices (email,
phone calls and district mail). The problem is that these methods lack a sense of history and
precedence; moreover, this form of management could force an authoritative top down model. Bates
(2014) suggests that the community of practice model is more of an effective approach to collectively
bring together appropriate educational communities to share common interests and expertise.

The benefits of collective LMS facilitated communication far outreach the practicalities listed above.
Globally, the vision and design of the industry training programs can now be opened up to include
learners, facilitators, counselors, management, career advisors and community partners. This
inclusivity leads to a more robust, flexible and engaging design; a design that can be recursively
evaluated to ensure that the programs are organically evolving to meet their intentions, rather than
rigidly sticking to a concrete pre-determined plan (​Parker, Holesgrove & Pathak, 2015​).
 

BSD Industry Training Program Goals

● Students will individually and/or collectively propose, organize and evaluate projects based on
individual interest through Moodle.

● Students will create digital portfolios to showcase their learning.

● Students will complete a variety of self-paced activities that situate their community work
experience and collaborative project obligations.

● Students will examine and analyze previous content to further evolve and/or change their own
project.

● Students will implement time management skills and organize appropriate work life balance
within a blended environment.
Moodle’s Functionality

To address the current inefficiencies of the Burnaby School District’s (BSD) training programs,
Moodle has been chosen as the LMS to best accomplish the identified goals. Since its inception in
2005, Moodle has quickly grown from 73 million users to almost 87.3 million users, becoming the
most widely used LMS in the world (Ali et al, 2015, p.869).

Available Tools

Moodle contains a variety of communicative and collaborative tools in its core environment such as a
chat function, wikis, forums, and file sharing (Ali et al., 2015, p.870). This connectivity will allow all
stakeholders in the BSD training programs to communicate efficiently in many digital formats. ​In
addition, Moodle provides a shared, synchronous, collaborative creation environment for structured
lesson plans, slideshows, weblinks, text documents and user simulations (Kumar & Sharma, 2016,
p.38) that allow students to both stay connected to their classrooms and utilize the practical skills of
working in a virtual environment.

Nels, Dreyer & Carsterns (2010) indicate that the primary criteria for evaluating the potential of
educational technologies should be their ability to enhance learner-centred learning principles (p. 243).
On this front Moodle scores very high. It's survey module incorporates peer, teacher and self
evaluations with such features as the Constructivist OnLine Learning Environment Survey and
Attitudes to Thinking and Learning Survey tools (COLLES and ATTLS) which encourage student
independence and responsibility​. Furthermore, Moodle contains plug-ins that can enhance higher order
thinking skills such as simulations or games which introduce students to realistic problem solving
scenarios (Kumar & Sharma, 2016, p.42).

The Moodle interface has also been found to be easy-to-learn and user-friendly, and “is highly
efficient with its compatibility and extendibility features with third party systems and plug-ins”
(Kumar & Sharma, 2016, p.39). This should mitigate some of the monetary and time-consuming
burden of training both students and staff to use the application. The fact that it is an open source
program also ensures a cost effective solution for the BSD and means that it is scores well in terms of
access, cost and operability as outlined by Nel, Dreyer & Carstens (2010, p.243).

Moodle’s Impact on Teaching and Learning

A number of studies have been conducted to gauge Moodle’s impact on teaching and learning in
blended courses. In one study by Stasinakis & Kalogiannakis (2015), Moodle was found to have a
positive impact on the pedagogical principles set out in their course, specifically:

1. Incorporating an exploratory approach to learning


2. Facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration amongst teachers
3. Differentiating the content, procedure and the context of learning
4. Promoting group collaboration amongst students
(Stasinakis & Kalogiannakis, 2015, p. 53-60).

As the goals for BSD’s industry training programs tie in directly to the principles outlined by
Stasinakis & Kalogiannakis (specifically 1, 3 and 4), the observed successes in this study suggests that
Moodle would be a very effective LMS system for these programs. The study also found that “social
constructivism” was abetted by the use of Moodle as it allowed students to learn from each other and
incorporate each other’s materials and ideas into their work. There were also a lot of insightful
messages, comments and queries between students themselves as well as between teachers and
students (Stasinakis & Kalogiannakis, 2015, p.58). This research shows how Moodle facilitated
frequent contact between students and faculty, as well as cooperative and collaborative learning
between students, which have been identified as two important characteristics of good teaching
practice incorporating new technologies (Chickering and Ehrmann, 1996). It is this type of interaction
that the BSD will look to take advantage of by employing Moodle to accomplish its goals.

Another study by Florian & Zimmerman (2015) looked at the long term effects of utilizing Moodle
over a span of seven years as part of a plan to improve critical thinking, collaboration, communication
and the ability to connect different learning situations. It was found that by using Moodle, the options
for student learning expanded as did the teachers’ types of assessments, both collaborative and
individual. The varieties of lessons and interactive activities expanded as well. This multiplicity will
help the BSD instructors and students identify projects that suit each student’s individual interests and
give the students “opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them”
(Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996). These activities also allow students to communicate and connect their
learning in a constructivist manner, with Moodle offering opportunities to collaborate on projects
within the LMS, while students evolve their own projects throughout their program. In this respect, the
Moodle LMS will allow for the accommodation of different talents and ways of learning (Chickering
& Ehrmann, 1996) and support the BSD goals. In addition, Moodle was found to shift pedagogy from
teacher-centred learning to a student-centred model (Florian & Zimmerman, 2015, p.106) which
would help move the BSD programs away from the top down model that is currently being fostered.

Sustainability of Moodle

As an open source software, Moodle has the potential to continue growing and adapting to new
technologies as it benefits from its software being freely accessible (Martinez & Jagannathan, 2008).
This accessibility allows users to continue to develop and change the software to keep pace with
developing technology. The implementation of Moodle will have a significant impact on the teaching
and learning experience.

Impact on Resources/Learning/Teaching Practices

Teaching Practices

Moodle has the ability to bring together resources, media, assessment, and collaboration in a single
area for students and teachers to navigate and contribute. The collaboration between content creators
and users, has a tremendous impact on the ability of educators to unite and develop distinct and
tailored curricula to suit individual school or district needs (Fulton, 2012). The customization,
therefore, allows for teaching to be potentially streamlined digitally in fully distance, flipped
classrooms or blending learning environments. These options work particularly well with the BSD
career industry programs considering the time students spend away from a traditional classroom
setting. Moodle allows for teachers to promote technological learning standards including empowered
student learning, computational thinking, curation and appeal to design processes all within a blended
environment (ISTE, 2016). This will be demonstrated through the creation of digital portfolios and
self-guided learning environments facilitated through Moodle where students may choose to showcase
them to prospective employers. During the implementation of Moodle in a secondary school math and
science setting study, researchers Psycharis, Chalatzohlidis & Kalogiannakis (2013) found that there
was a positive attitude observed by students and teachers in a blended learning model and that for
teachers, Moodle provided analytical data such as duration spent on tasks and visits to site segments.

Resources

The adoption of Moodle on a district or school wide scale requires many sacrifices from all spectrums
of education: management, administrators, teachers and students. Despite Moodle existing as a “free”
platform, implementation still contains significant costs. To meet the requirements of FOIPPA (2014)
in the BSD, Moodle will need to be hosted locally. This requirement entails investing in IT department
staff for implementation and management of the program and infrastructure. Additionally, regular use
of this web based program can produce tremendous strain on the internet capabilities of each
individual school as Wi-Fi demand could exceed the constraints of each school, requiring expensive
updates to infrastructure. The other issue that arises includes providing students with devices to use in
the classroom to access these programs in the blended environment. The onus is passed onto the
student if they become required to bring a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone. Teachers may spend
too much time troubleshooting technological issues if the devices are not streamlined. Aside from the
increase in technological cost, there are financial constraints in ensuring educators receive the proper
professional development, and if needed, release time in order to become acquainted, trained and
proficient in utilizing the LMS.

Impact on Future Development

The trend of many software and LMS systems have shifted towards cloud based programs as the
demand for continuously up to date technology and accessibility have become modern day
requirements. In order to remain competitive, Moodle will need to continually develop its open source
software and schools will need to navigate whether their hosted Moodle servers require updates to
meet the demands of users, while balancing privacy and security laws. Without continuous
development, Moodle risks challenges from many LMS platforms that compete for ease of use,
accessibility and transformative learning and work environments. Moodle does not need to look
outward, however, to see where change may be demanded.
Moodle’s ability to create dialogue and support communication between educators, students, parents
and administrators has tremendous potential for future development. With it being digital and
accessible to parents and with parental media consent required in certain areas, parents may be able to
yield much more power in a school setting (Walse, 1998). Educators working together to understand
the unique needs of the students in the BSD industry programs may be able to use student feedback to
continually fine tune online learning environments and work together with Moodle developers to
improve the LMS. Many LMSs including Moodle will need to consider expansion to mobile
applications and connections to social media to better suit the needs of the students (Porto, 2015).
Moodle effectively suits the needs of the students in the BSD programs presently, but in the modern
era, Moodle’s market share in education will always be at risk unless they continue to innovate.

References

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