Classes Are Making the Switch to Moodle

Angel Silva, El Vaquero Staff Writer

In a move to save money, GCC is adopting Moodle, a free online class supplement program, to replace the older Blackboard program that has been in place for approximately 7 years.

According to Brett Miketta, business department coordinator and GCC Moodle team member, one of the main reasons Glendale switched to Moodle was the cost of subscribing to the Blackboard service.

“The Blackboard program costs us a significant amount of money,” said Miketta. “By using the Moodle program, we can use the money to keep classes.”

Chair of Technology Mediated Instruction Michael Dulay stated the low end of Blackboard’s costs were $30,000 per year.

“At one point we paid for a test to try a new version of Blackboard,” Dulay said. “I think in that year the cost for Blackboard was well over $60,000.”

According to Miketta, the money saved by transitioning to Moodle will help class offerings on campus.

“The switch will translate to the keeping of courses rather than the addition of new courses,” said Miketta.

Not only is Moodle cost-alternative, the interface is more user-friendly.

“We’ve actually been testing and researching Moodle for nearly three years, so (the switch) wasn’t as abrupt as it might seem,” said Dulay.

The college is using the latest official update of Moodle, 2.1. The service offers a discussion board, a mail client, and a chat room, is integrated with the anti-plagiarism service and has connections with YouTube and Dropbox.

“Moodle is very capable; you can embed audio, video, animations, and graphics,” said Miketta. “For example, when you have a biology class you can have the students identify body parts in a video.”
Moodle has a format which Dulay likened to that of Facebook — users have a “wall” or a hub page with all their classes on it. To the left are navigation and settings boxes, and to the right are boxes where an instructor can make features available to students, such as forums, calendars, activity updates and more.

Clicking on individual classes brings up content that professors post on Moodle for students to access, such as lessons and readings. According to Miketta, content can be organized by weekly updates or by topics.

“[Instructors] can post the whole semester all at once, or they can release things week by week or by topic,” said Miketta.

Weekly updates make it easier to keep up with classes.

“I think Moodle is a lot more convenient, I like how it really updates on a weekly basis,” said sociology major Diana Ramos, 19. “Blackboard doesn’t notify you.”

In contrast, Blackboard has a branching format, where users have to click individual links to reach the content they want to access.

“My art professor posts on Blackboard, and he just puts down folders,” said Ramos. “Moodle is more calendar based, more organized.”

According to Dulay, Moodle’s user-friendly format helps keep students centered on courses.

“If I’m a student and I have to keep learning the new technology, it gets in the way it gets in the way of the content that I want to learn,” said Dulay. “Students can just focus on the learning — they can focus on economics rather on to where to click to find a quiz.”

Glendale’s transition to Moodle would allow students to familiarize themselves with a program already in place in other campuses.

“A lot of our transfer schools use Moodle, specifically CSUN which is our largest school for transferring,” said Miketta.

Currently there are approximately 500 Spring courses and 40 test courses on Moodle, according to computer applications instructor Connie Lantz.

“The test courses are a place for instructors to build a course before actually enrolling students,” said Lantz.

Lantz said that faculty were trained to use Moodle before the start of the semester.

“During the winter break we had courses for the instructors covering every aspect of Moodle,” Lantz said. “We tried to cover everything that we felt the instructors could use.”

Both Blackboard and Moodle are in place at GCC this semester.

“There are quite a few courses that use both systems — that way when we do get down to the wire they can have something in Moodle ready,” said Lantz. “We wanted to give them some leeway before the switch.”

GCC will fully transition to Moodle in June, when the subscription to Blackboard ends.

“Summer classes will be entirely on Moodle,” said Dulay. “We’ll be a Moodle-based campus by then.”