Don’t get me wrong – you may be thinking that I think that this whole blended learning thing is a breeze. It’s not. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of trial and error, and sometimes it’s a lot of staring at the screen shaking your head, wondering “but how do you do that??”.
That was me, a few days ago, after about the fourth time watching the Stage 3 video, and countless times going through the manual. I was missing something so basic that I didn’t want to have to ask the trainer. I “ordered” my course. It comes with a number of units already set up and ready to go. The instructor can pick and choose the elements he or she wants for their particular learners. Well, I was staring at the screen, looking for what I thought would be a no-brainer – “add topic”. It didn’t seem to exist. I finally did a search on moodle and figured it out – you don’t actually add a topic in moodle; rather, you change the number of topics in the settings (administration block).
So, let’s say that your pre-ordered course comes with 10 units. You would like to add a few of your own ideas and material, web links, etc. You go into the settings in the admin block, find where it tells you how many topics you have, then you add as many as you want. These appear at the end of the topic list. Then, if you want to move your topic up the list, you just choose the arrow. It moves up one topic at a time. This part is painstakingly slow and annoying – it could be improved. I have about 30 topics now, so if I add one, then I am moving it up the list one topic at a time.
I still think that moodle is better than D2L, but D2L does have a better interface. It looks nicer, and more organized than Moodle. Also, I saw the other LMS, can’t think of the name (Web 2.0?) that Western University uses, and it was nice looking as well.
So now, in order to become more Moodle-proficient, I will enroll my learners and use the program starting next week. I have already loaded a tonne of information on the site. I have to remember to book the computer lab for twice a week (sometimes three times). I ran into my learners who are just finishing up their co-op placements at Home Depot and one of the things they said they would have liked, was to have had more time in the computer lab. Well, they were pre-LMS, and we only used the lab for research and for some navigation exercises. I like the idea of rolling this out with the SLT group, because they are very workplace focused and recognize the need to have these skills.
Anyhow – about the training. I am in Stage 3 of the CIC funded Moodle training course. There is some PD available for successful completion of each stage. We are required to do some reflective writing on the process. I understand how this is necessary, and I predict that Stage 3 will take me until November. There are 4 stages, and I hope to get to Stage 4 by the 2014.
But forget what’s in it for me! This LMS will give the learners enhanced opportunities to review classroom material, and chances to do extra work should the learners finish tasks quickly. Computer skills, online web navigation, teamwork, all of these are skills needed in the workplace. The learners will use WIKIs; they will post ideas and opinions in the forums; they will keep a reflective journal of their journey in this program using the Blog tool. They will have a chance to try out customer service lines, and record themselves for instructor feedback (the oddly named “Nanogong” tool). The group will also be responsible for up-keeping a classroom glossary. Oh, and did I mention, the instructor can keep track of grades, quizzes, etc.
Note to self – can I use the Clarity SCORM in Moodle? I don’t see why not. I’ll just have to figure out how I did it in D2L. Probably the same kind of procedure.
I’ve also been reading up on blended learning. I can see why some instructors would be reluctant to use an LMS in their classrooms. It takes a lot of work to set it up (unless you are only using the LINC material, then it’s ready to use). It takes time to work through the stages of LearnIT2Teach; in other words, you need the stages. You can’t just expect to be plunked into Stage 3 and start your course. There is method to the madness. And you can’t expect not to be frustrated from time to time, or for everything to work exactly how it’s supposed to. I know that some of us think that there are those in our profession always trying to find the newest best thing, the thing that’s going to revolutionize ESL, and well, not everything new is practical, useful, or even always a good idea.
You want to pilot an LMS in ESL? Well, do we have enough working computers? What about the school’s bandwidth? What do we do with the one-fingered typists? How do we ensure that the instructors have support they need and don’t feel overworked? And what if an instructor very plainly mistrusts computers, and is disinclined to want to use them in her class?