From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Moodle is a free software/open source e-learning platform (also known as a Course Management System (CMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)). It has a significant user base with 18,204 registered sites with 7,270,260 users in 712,531 courses (as of November 15, 2006) .
Moodle is designed to help educators create online courses with opportunities for rich interaction. Its open source license and modular design means that many people can develop additional functionality, and development is undertaken by a globally diffuse network of commercial and non-commercial users, spearheaded by the Moodle company based in Perth, Western Australia.
Moodle has many features expected from an e-learning platform including:
- Content managing (resources)
- Quizzes with different kinds of questions
- Database activities
- Peer assessment
- Multi-language support (over 60 languages are supported for the interface )
Moodle is modular in construction and can readily be extended by creating plugins for specific new functionality. Moodle's infrastructure supports many types of plugin:
- Resource types
- Question types
- Data field types (for the database activity)
- Graphical themes
- Authentication methods
- Enrolment methods
- Content Filters
Many third-party Moodle plugins are freely available making use of this infrastructure .
PHP, an easy script language to learn, can be used to author and contribute new modules. Moodle's development has been assisted by the work by open source programmers . This has contributed towards its rapid development and rapid bug fixes.
Moodle runs without modification on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare and any other systems that support PHP, including most webhost providers.
Data is stored in a single database: MySQL and PostgreSQL were the only feasible options in Moodle 1.6. The current version of Moodle, version 1.7, was released in November 2006, and makes full use of database abstraction so that other databases can be used just as easily (Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are two specific target DBMSes).
Moodle was the creation of Martin Dougiamas, a former WebCT administrator at Curtin University, with postgraduate degrees in Computer Science and Education. Martin's later Ph.D. studies examined "The use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning within Internet-based communities of reflective inquiry" and this research has strongly influenced some of the design of Moodle, providing pedagogical aspects missing from many other e-learning platforms.
The stated philosophy of Moodle  includes a constructivist and social constructionist approach to education, emphasising that learners (and not just teachers) can contribute to the educational experience in many ways. Moodle's features reflect this in various design aspects, such as making it possible for students to comment on entries in a database (or even to contribute entries themselves), or to work collaboratively in a wiki.
Having said this, Moodle is flexible enough to allow for a full range of modes of teaching. It can be used for simple delivery of content (e.g. HTML pages) or assessment, and does not necessitate a constructivist teaching approach.
Constructivism is sometimes seen as at odds with accountability-focused ideas about education, such as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in the United States. Accountability stresses tested outcomes, not teaching techniques, or pedagogy, but Moodle is also useful in an outcomes-oriented classroom environment because of its flexibility.
Origin of the name
The word Moodle is actually an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment, although originally the M stood for "Martin", named after Martin Dougiamas, the original developer. 
Moodle sounds much like the verb noodle, which describes the improvisational process of doing things as it occurs to you to do them, an enjoyable tinkering that often leads to insight and creativity. As such it applies both to the way Moodle was developed, and to the way a student or teacher might approach studying or teaching an online course.
Moodle statistics and market share
- Moodle has a significant user base with 18,204 registered sites with 7,270,260 users in 712,531 courses (as of November 15, 2006). More than 70 languages are supported. You can also see Current Moodle Statistics online.
- There are 152 registered Moodle sites that are larger than 5,000 users. The site with the most users is moodle.org with 40 courses and 123,254 users. The site with the most courses is Online Campus with 8,282 courses and 54,955 users (as of August 2, 2006).
- Moodle market share according to Alexa Web Traffic for LMS Suppliers: Moodle only below Blackboard, above all other VLE, including WebCT.
There are many dimensions to interoperability for e-learning systems. Moodle's interoperability features include:
- Authentication, using LDAP, Shibboleth, or various other standard methods (e.g. IMAP)
- Enrollment, using IMS Enterprise among other standard methods, or by direct interaction with an external database
- Quizzes and quiz questions, allowing import/export in a number of formats: GIFT (moodle's own format), IMS QTI, XML and XHTML (NB although export works very well, import is currently not complete)
- Resources, using IMS Content Packaging, SCORM, AICC
- Integration with other Content Management Systems such as Postnuke (via third-party extensions)
- Syndication using RSS or Atom newsfeeds - external newsfeeds can be displayed in a course, and forums, blogs, and other features can be made available to others as newsfeeds.
Moodle also has import features for use with other specific systems, such as importing quizzes or entire courses from Blackboard or WebCT.
Deployment and development
Moodle has been evolving since 1999 (since 2001 with the current architecture). The current version is 1.7, which was released in November of 2006. It has been translated into 61 different languages. Major improvements in accessibility and display flexibility were developed in 1.5.
As of November 2005, nearly 7000 sites from 142 countries have registered their Moodle installation. The real number of current active Moodle installations is unknown, but Moodle is downloaded over 500 times a day. As there are no license fees and growth limit, an institution can add as many Moodle servers as needed. The largest single site has reported over 6,000 courses and over 45,000 students, and the Open University of the UK is building a Moodle installation for their 200,000 users.
The development of Moodle continues as a free software project supported by a team of programmers and the user community all over the world, meaning that users are free to distribute and modify it (under the terms of the GNU General Public License).
There are some autoinstall packages to facilitate the installation including Fantastico and the Moodle package for Debian GNU/Linux.
Similar e-learning platforms
- Brihaspati (Opensource, commercial variant also available)
- Sakai Project
Official Moodle resources
- Moodle.org - Original developer's Moodle site, communities, courses and software
- MoodleDocs - Moodle Documentation wiki
- Moodle.com - Official commercial services and support
- Official list of Moodle partners (approved third-party hosting/consultation/development/etc)
Third-party demo/documentation resources
- The Playpen - A demo site demonstrating the latest in Moodle functionality
- Using MOODLE - Documentation Screencasts
Third-party community sites
Note: This is not a place to list any and all Moodle-based sites. It lists notable third-party sites hosting information/community resources about Moodle.
- Moodler.co.za - South African Moodle Community
- FacultyRoom.org - Moodle instructors' communities and pedagogical support
- Blackboard vs. Moodle. A Comparison of Satisfaction with Online Teaching and Learning Tools
- Article explaining Moodle from techsoup.org
- Bob McDonald "E-Learning at Cranbrook: Up Close and Personal" (2004) Cranbrook Schools
- Graf S., List, B. (2005) An Evaluation of Open Source E-Learning Platforms Stressing Adaptation Issues - an evaluation of 9 open source E-Learning Platforms.
- "Moodle Buzz" list of articles relevant to Moodle