I would say that the underlying philosophy does affect design and therefore can attempt to influence that way the system is used in the classroom. I also believe that if you WANT to do something a certain way in your classroom, then you will be able to do it that way!
For example, I had instructors who used Blackboard for several years. They originally organized their content by putting all the powerpoints in a folder, all the readings in a folder, all the lectures notes in a folder, etc. They categorized according to resource or activity type. I would say that Blackboard encouraged this idea of segmenting resources because the standard "buttons" we used were course assignments, course documents, discussion, etc. They were rather segregated. I spent a LOT of time trying to force my courses into a chronological, coherent sequence.
Then, I discovered Moodle! Aha! Now, the software itself made my vision of how learning should progress--readings, exploratory activities, independent work, final reflection or assessment--easier to implement! And my students could always use the "activities" block to locate an course resource or activity by type. To my mind, much more natural and sensible.
But, the rest of the story is that those instructors who found segmentation by activity or resource type more natural now put forth more effort to make that same structure happen in Moodle.
So I think two things:
a) Yes, the design of the software can make adhering to a certain instructional method either easier or harder. This means that it can influence what you do, particularly if you are new to using an LMS. You might be shaped by the path of least resistance!
b) If you really want to do something a certain way, you can find a way to do it. Moodle is extremely flexible and you can customize it in many ways.
I think you would want to find out which system more closely matched the natural tendencies of your faculty and which system is designed to facilitate the delivery of what your group considers the "ideal" course. The less work you must do to get what you want, the better!
I too will be interested to hear the opinions of the community. Thanks for asking the question!
Very good questions and thoughts. I can't compare Moodle and Sakai for you, but I can say that the subject you are considering is very important to me. My story is similar to A.T.'s regarding Blackboard and Moodle.
I was very enamored by Blackboard at first because it allowed non-techie teachers a quick way to get course material online. I myself am a techie, but I knew if online education was going to take-off, it would have to bring in good educators who may not have much skills with computers and the Internet. After awhile though, I soon became frustrated with the user interface of Blackboard. I felt forced to choose one of two paths: keep it easy for me by dumping powerpoints, pdfs, ... into folders, or make it easy for my students by designing my own pages inside of Blackboard with activities and resources laid out close to the way I wanted them used. Neither solution seemed like a good one. Ultimately, I found another solution, Moodle. For me, the interface just seems to fit. I actually enjoy creating courses now. I think my students enjoy it more as well. If you look in the Moodle documentation, I think you may be able to find the reason behind this clearly different approach. Here's a link if you haven't seen it yet : http://docs.moodle.org/en/About_Moodle
Good luck on your decision making process! I'm sure your faculty will greatly appreciate the time you are taking to research this topic.
I'll chuck in my 2p worth by talking about powerpoint. Last summer I read most of what Edward Tufte has written about displaying information in figures, he attacks powerpoint as driving people to plan their presentations in a flawed way. The argument with Moodle and Blackboard (I'm comparing 2 of the VLEs I know) is the same, Moodle drives you to costruct your course in a better way, as you put forums (or other activities) alongside content rather than artificially separating them (it also allows you to look at all the content or all the forums if you want too so you have the best of both worlds).
However, IMHO this is not the 'killer app' feature of Moodle, despite the talk of a constructivist structure its still possible to write a dreadful course in Moodle, proper training/QA in putting together online courses is the chief control on quality of courses not software format. Most attractive features of Moodle to me are:
1] Excellent usability (for admin, tutor and student)
2] Open Source (free and completely customisable)
3] An excellent, large community of users and developers pushing the software ever onwards.
I couldn't compare Sakai and Moodle for the above as I don't know Sakai but I suspect Moodle wins out on ?
It is worthwhile to make a distinction between media and methods. Media refer to the delivery systems for communication such as books, , or PowerPoint presentations. Methods refer to the instructional methods used to help people learn, such as the coherence principle or personalization principle summarized in my previous answer. Research on instructional design has shown that the presentation medium does not create learning, but the presentation method does affect learning. Thus, PowerPoint does not create learning but the method you use for presenting information on PowerPoint does affect learning. For this reason, instructional methods that work with paper or e-learning are likely to also work with PowerPoint.
One problem Moodle shares with PowerPoint is in it's potential to overload the learner's visual channel with a plethora of blocks and content competing for the viewer's attention. Of course blackboard and Sakai also share this potential.
Going back to Mayer's statement above, to a large extent you could replace "Powerpoint" with "Sakai" or "Moodle" (or Blackboard) and the statement would work, again IMO, pedagogy should be implemented at local level to match local needs, even at a discipline level, rather than be constrained (or constructed by the software. In my opinion Moodle's advantages over Sakai are in the lower barrier to entry, e.g. course setup and administration are easier to learn, and in the much more naturally formed support and development community. While Sakai is attempting to create an open source support and development community 'artificially', in a top-down manner, the Moodle community has developed in a manner more common to successful open source projects. Sakai has also only been implemented in full production at a few, mostly US universities, while Moodle is an international product with production sites all over the world. Sakai requires a good deal more technical expertise to get going, which means that it is not very likely to spread 'virally', which to me means that it will need continued significant investments by R1s and foundations to keep it going.
Yes, learning management systems can limit instruction and learning by not supporting a needed specific method of instruction.
In Jason Cole’s “Using Moodle” Chapter 15 he lists four broad categories of course design: Introductory survey course, skills development course, theory/discussion courses, and capstone course. Patrick Suppes and his colleagues at Stanford University have, over three decades, demonstrated the effectiveness of drill and practice and sequenced learning in introductory survey and skills development courses. In his use of Sakai, Joseph Hardin has demonstrated making current materials available to graduate students in a structured format and supporting communication within the class and with the instructor is very successful for "capstone" graduate courses in rapidly changing fields of study.
Sakai Chief Architect Chuck Severance addressed sequenced instruction in his January 4, 2006 personal comments on the plans of the SUNY Learning Network. (Available at http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/U_MICH/M060104S.pdf). He implied sequenced learning may not be necessary for many courses. He referred to LAMS (Learning Activity Management System) as an example of sequenced instruction. There is an integration of LAMS with both Sakai and Moodle. See www.lamsfoundation.org.
The most effective courses for skill development, as the experience of the Aviation Industry CBT Committee has documented, is a series of 20 minutes “chunks” of learning with an assessment. These fine-grained instructional sequences will be fully supported by the IMS Learning Design specification. Learning Design will be available in Moodle version 2 likely to be available mid-2007. (See http://www.imsglobal.org/learningdesign/index.html).
Sakai may also support learning design, though it is not clear when. In Chuck Severance and Joseph Hardin’s June 6, 2006 “Strategic Directions for Sakai and Data Interoperability,” they write: “Learning Design (LD) is an important teaching pattern that deals with organizing learning activities so that groups of learners can go through the activities together in a sequence controlled by the instructor.” They use LAMS as an example. Also they point out that Foothill College’s Melete does learning sequences though not yet using either IMS Simple Sequencing or Learning Design. (See www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/SAKAI_US/S060606S.pdf).
The choice of instructional methods depends upon level and discipline of the course, the type of learning most effective for the students, and the long-term course development strategy. After analyzing both the current and future needs, then you can compare this list with the current learning management systems.
William H. Rice IV’s recent text “Moodle: E-Learning Course Development” as an excellent reference illustrating the learning system features necessary to support different methods of instruction and different media.
You may also want to consider the availability of learning materials. The Moodle community has created a series of templates, several universities now offer open content, and such projects as Open University's Open Content will be making content available in standard formats. Be sure to see if any of these materials are going to be important to you and, if so, the learning system supports the formats of these materials.
I think we agree on most things but I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on 'overloading the learner's visual channel'. I think we've touched on this before re your work on the Moodle control panel but I prefer lots of stuff on one, well designed page rather than spread across lots of slides I can get lost amongst. (for an example of a well designed, data rich graphic put 'east cowes' in the search box here)
I'm going to be writing a chapter in an elearning text in the near future about how to use powerpoint as a simple multimedia editing tool to break down such complex diagrams so they can be understood by students (most of diagrams happen to be maps as I'm from a Geography Department). Powerpoint isn't particularly good as a multimedia editor (and its certainly not what it was designed to do ) but it is fairly simple and most people are already comfortable using it. But I'm getting off the point. IMHO if you can build such a diagram up layer by layer to explain what is going on then its better to have one, well designed, data rich graphic than a series of slides holding data thin ones. Isn't the problem with the design of rather than the data density on a Moodle page?
Don't we all decipher an incredibly rich graphic instantly and accurately when we look out of the window each morning?
Hopefully this will entice you to produce one of your well thought out and excellently worded replies
Just my 2 cents...
Constructivism and/or pedagogy doesn't come packaged with Moodle any more than it does with Blackborad, Sakai, or a box of crayons. Moodle is a collection of tools...nothing more.
I've been teaching online and web assisted classes for years and I choose to use Moodle as the tool to assist me in doing that, but my choice has nothing to do with Moodle's supposed superior constructivist structure...it has more to do with the the things you listed above...open source being chief among them for me.