As part of our Moodle training anniversary celebrations this week, we have interviewed one of our very first clients of our Moodle training workshop, who attended our first workshop ten years ago. Here, Dawn Buzzard, Learning Technology Adviser at The Education and Training Foundation, tells us about her use of Moodle following the training, and what she is doing today.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about your role at the time of and following your training with us?
A. In 2003 North Oxfordshire College and Oxford College merged to form Oxford and Cherwell Valley College. I secured a post as Assistant Principal Learning Resources and ILT, a new and senior role which demonstrated the value the new College attributed to both Learning Resources and Technology. E-learning was very much in its infancy at the time and our main platform was an intranet created by a talented Learning Resources Manager. He coded the platform and adding new materials was an intensive process that very few people could manage.
With the commitment of the new College I developed (with Chris Miles, the e-learning Manager) a new e-learning strategy. The main strand of this was to find a virtual learning platform that would put the power of digital learning into the hands of the teaching and lecturing staff, to give them tools that they could use themselves. In 2004 following a period of intense research, we selected Moodle to be our first Virtual Learning Environment. We were impressed by the flexibility Moodle offered, that it was designed for education, supported by a community of enthusiasts and, with a little training, was easy to use.
The HowToMoodle course provided an intense introduction whilst we were waiting for our IT team to install our first Moodle server. During the course we developed the skills we needed, had time to realise Moodle’s wider potential and were provided with the space, time and support to start to develop an implementation plan. In our first year we planned to engage ten enthusiastic lecturers, but by Christmas we had an additional thirty staff wanting to get onto the training programme, spurred on by both our original enthusiasts and their learners who wanted greater access to online learning. Moodle is now home to 436 courses and every curriculum area making use of it.
I continued at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College (now Activate Learning) until the end of 2013, serving on the Senior Management team with a range of responsibilities but remained heavily involved in the development of e-learning in the College. In 2014 I set up my own education consultancy business, Buzzard Associates, participating in projects and taking interim assignments. This included leading a six month project, specifying, tendering and procuring IT and e-learning systems for three women’s Colleges in Saudi Arabia. For Saudi Arabia I specified Microsoft 365, linking it into the other largely Microsoft systems and free cloud services for education. I also joined the Education and Training Foundation as the Learning Technologies Adviser where I developed a response to the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) report and programme managed the Edtech-Assess and Learning Futures programmes designed to support the Further Education and Skills sector in responding to the FELTAG recommendations. The Learning Futures programme includes a blended learning project created in Moodle to help lecturers look at their courses using a digital lens, moving at least 10% of their delivery online. Later this year, this and series of other resources from the programme will be made available to the FE and Skills sector.
Q. Do you know if Activate Learning still use Moodle?
A. Yes they do. The College has upgraded numerous times and is now on 2.8. Moodle is still run from an internally hosted server, although the College has in recent years explored moving to an externally hosted service but has not yet made this change. The major challenges have not been with Moodle but with Teaching and Learning and adapting the way teaching colleagues use Moodle to support open collaborative learning, making Moodle less of a repository and more a space for collaboration.
Q. Can you give any examples of how Moodle has benefitted you or the organisation you were working for?
A. One particular success was a project noted for making one of the Colleges sites paperless. Behind this acclaim was Moodle. It was used to provide all learners with 24/7 access, important for the large number of apprentices using the site, to provide a repository of learning resources, for communication and collaboration and was our first centre to introduce 100% online assignment submission, marking and feedback, an innovative approach at the time.
Another successful user of Moodle is the Colleges PGCE course, they use their Moodle course across the group, really encouraging new teachers to engage with learning technology. This team have adopted the grid format and student feedback has shown that the students find this more effective.
Q. Do you have any recommendations for anyone using or considering Moodle?
A. One of my favourite tools for engaging colleagues in e-learning is Deb Millar’s Learning Wheel, whist not solely focused on Moodle, it certainly appears frequently. You can see examples of her learning wheel from a Prezi for the Jisc Annual Conference, 2014, see slide 17.
Moodle is still my VLE of choice, but I am always on the lookout for something innovative. The ability of Moodle to embed other tools is important and its tracking systems are invaluable but in the modern rapidly changing world of technology the Moodle community will need to continue to develop Moodle to maintain and grow its market position.
Thank you for your time, and the best of luck with your future Moodling!