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Moodle, One Year Later

Tomorrow I’m joining a panel made up of me, our resident web-app coder guru, a faculty member, and academic technologist, and a student to talk about how things have changed one year into our adoption of Moodle as our campus’ course management system. We’re presenting this as the first of the term’s LTC lunches (generally a weekly gathering at which someone or some group presents on a topic relevant to learning and teaching while the audience munches away). I’ve only presented at two other LTC events, so I’m a little nervous, but apparently not nervous enough to have carved time out of the last week to actually prepare. I mean, I’ve thought about it a little bit, but not actually prepared.

And now, tonight, I find myself a little on the burned out side. Fall term is just not a good time for sustained or creative thinking. Fall term is a time to put out fires as quickly as possible and not look back. So, sitting here, thinking to myself how much I’d prefer reading or writing blog posts to planning this 8 minute spiel, it suddenly occurred to me that I could con myself into preparing for tomorrow if I wrote it up as a blog post!

So, here are my thoughts about how Moodle has affected the library, one year into implementation:

Moodle and Teaching

  • Preparing for classes: For those classes where the instructor makes use of Moodle, we librarians can now supplement the information the professor gives us about the class with direct observation of the readings students have been assigned, the context into which our sessions fall, and even the over-arching themes and questions that are important to the class. There are a lot of ways to tie our sessions to the course content, with the goal that they will interrupt the flow of the course content as little as possible. Everything from the examples we pick to the discussions we lead to the actual content of our sessions can be tailored to fit into the themes and goals of the course. When this happens, library sessions can actually augment rather than simply supplement course content.
  • Class logistics: Moodle makes it easy to find the exact course title, the number of students enrolled, and what students have been told about where to meet us, and other such useful information. I’ve also been able to compare lists of registered students to see if any in next week’s class already heard me speak last week. And if so, I work extra hard to make sure they’ll get as much out of the second session as they did out of the first.
  • Interacting with Students: Including contact information on a course’s sidebar (now made easier due to some custom coding which allows professors to simply turn on their librarian’s contact information), setting up shop in a class’ forum, or (though this hasn’t been tried) joining the class’ skype buddy list are all good ways of meeting our students where they are when they’re doing their assignments. Now, if I could just get my MeeboMe widget in there… but that’s probably asking a lot.

Moodle and My Other Work

  • Hey look, it’s an easy intranet! Whether it’s collecting useful information and links or hosting departmental discussions and schedules, Moodle has offered an easy way to set up quick and dirty intranets. The liaisons have one, the Library Leadership Group has one, the SCIC workers have one… and that means that we can manage our work easily. It’s made the biggest difference in the case of the SCIC site because now the SCIC students and the librarians they work with all have a common place to communicate, norm our expectations, and gather information.
  • Working with librarians at St. Olaf: Since we share a catalog but do not share network space, we and the St. Olaf librarians really benefit from an online space where we can house our meeting minutes, operational records, and other such useful stuff.
  • Project Management: We’re using our Moodle spaces to manage fairly complex projects. Not only are all the standard features (forums, places to keep documents, wikis, calendars, etc) important, but a couple of less standard features have come in very useful. One example is our newly formed eResources group. They’ve realized that very few people in the library operate with the same terminology when they’re thinking and talking about eResources, so one of their first projects this year is to create and define a uniform eResources vocabulary. To do this, they’re using Moodle’s glossary feature. They’ve divided the key terms among themselves, assigning themselves those terms in the glossary by categorizing the glossary entries according to their initials. And once the terms are defined, anywhere they’re used in that Moodle site they’ll appear highlighted with available definitions if you hover over the word.

So I think that’s what I’m going to talk about tomorrow, unless inspiration hits at the 11th hour. It seems like a representative sampling of the key ways that Moodle has impacted our librarian-ish existences in the past year.

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