Moodle is ‘WebCT meets Facebook’

Donnella Collison

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CSUN has begun the process of phasing out WebCT as the learning management system used by the school and integrating the use of Moodle.

The shift, according to Director of Academic Technology David Levin, was prompted by the eventual elimination of the WebCT program by the company that owns it, Blackboard.

WebCT is a tool for online learning. It’s utilized in about 200 courses, including face to face courses. Faculty use the learning management system for online support, quizzes and other applications.

“We have been using an older version of WebCT,” Levin said. “We had to make the decision to change systems after Blackboard bought WebCT and made the decision to phase it out.”

After the decision to change systems was made, Levin said a pilot of different systems was conducted last spring and Moodle was chosen.

“The best quote I got back from a student was the feeling that Moodle was WebCT meets Facebook. Moodle has more social networking, more student involvement in learning and more blogs and wikis,” Levin said.

Moodle is an open source system, and according to Levin, is not owned by anyone. According to the Moodle’s Web site, “It is a free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.”

For Moodle to work, the management system must be installed on a home computer or for use here at CSUN on the school’s server. WebCT on the other hand, has to be purchased for use by the school.

Junior and biology major Vanessa Mosi describes Moodle as a “more advanced WebCT” and said she prefers Moodle to the former learning system. She said that she began using the system in biology classes in spring 2009.

Levin said that so far the shift has been fairly successful and more faculty have already made the move than was anticipated. Currently, he said there are 150 courses using Moodle for the fall 2009 semester.

“The feedback from faculty has been positive. They said it’s easier to use and more intuitive,” Levin said.

Mosi said, “So far I like it. It’s cool how you can upload your pics and see the rest of your classmate’s profiles. And you can also include what you like to do. It’s a good way of getting to know people in your class. There are group discussions and a lot of other things that makes it great.”

According to Levin, a company was contracted to help CSUN in its transition.

“There were some problems with slowness due to the updating of the system. These issues will soon be resolved. We are increasing our capacity,” Levin said.

He added that right now they are training faculty in using the system and expect that by summer 2010 the shift to Moodle will be complete.

However, some students are unaware what Moodle is and whether this is the right time for the campus to make any technological changes.

“What is a Moodle? I’ve never heard of that before,” said third-year psychology major Darrius Harper who still uses WebCT in his classes. He said he was unaware of the shift and wondered why it was necessary.

“Why are they doing this now? Doesn’t it cost money to shift systems? I just feel that our school should be focused on other things and this could wait,” he said.