Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fancy a free Moodle site?

So, you're at a school where the Local Authority / Regional Broadband Consortium hasn't made its mind up yet about a Learning Platform (or hasn't even reached the "shall we have a VLE?" stage yet), or if it has has chosen something you don't like (though if it's Talmos be careful that you don't say so in public or who knows what might happen). You'd like to give an alternative like Moodle a go, but don't feel confident enough to install LAMP on your own PC/Mac or on a memory stick.
What's a teacher/ICT co-ordinator/network manager to do?
How about this... hop on over to NineHub.com and create yourself a Moodle site. Yes, you read that correctly. An entire Moodle site (version 1.9) with you as an Admin. Complete with:

  • unlimited usernames;
  • unlimited bandwidth/storage;
  • any number of classes you like;
  • interesting Moodle blocks like the Flickr and YouTube ones.

There are a few downsides - no custom modules like Feedback, Questionnaire, Audio Recorder or Slideshow, but it's not to be sniffed at.

You can select a theme - though most have a black ninehub banner across the top, but it's a pretty good deal. Fill in the registration form and you have admin access to your own Moodle server - mine's at http://iusher.ninehub.com/ but I've disabled self-regsitration, so you won't be able to join at the moment, sorry! The full suite of authentication methods are there, but I've not tried them out yet... you can edit the system's roles, filters... pretty much everything. Unfortunately, GD appears not to be installed, so image manipulation (including, frustratingly, profile images) isn't available by default.

While you're there, why not consider using something like iSpring Free to convert any PowerPoints you have to Flash? You'll reduce the load on your server, and could start to standardise on Flash and/or PDF as a way of delivering documents - and release more than a few people from the tyranny of having to have MS Office before they can take part in your online course...

This is an excellent - and importantly, dead easy - way to familiarise yourself with a tool like Moodle - and if you're moving to a school or institution which uses Moodle, to prepare resources which you'll be able to Backup from your free server and then Restore onto your new school's server. If you're running an informal learning group for a voluntary group, a church, an evening class, or are a school wanting to support its adult education courses - or anything really - you can get your own Moodle for free. Of course, I would never base my school's online learning environment on a service with no service guarantees or backup (though you could turn the automatic course backups on and get a client to automagically download them), but as a way for an individual teacher or department to do some guerilla online learning, it's a great start. If you give it a go, let me know how you get on by leaving a comment.