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Blending with Moodle

This was originally posted by Simon Evans 25 October 2011. This is cross-posted as part of the transition of Software for Learning to Enabling e-Learning.

by Pinelopi Zaka

imageIn 2010, I collaborated with high school teacher Sue Parkes, who was implementing blended teaching and learning for the first time with her Home Economics NCEA Level 2 students, and we carried out a case study. The aim of the research was to look into the teacher’s and students’ blended teaching and learning experiences and to raise discussion on effective blended school education.

Moodle was used as an online learning environment, where the students could access a variety of resources, engage in online discussions and find more information on their assigned tasks. The blended course’s weekly schedule involved 1 hour of practical work, 1 hour face-to-face teaching, 1hour online study with the teacher’s presence and 1 hour independent online study at the school library.

During the blended course, flexibility and ubiquitous access was enhanced for both the teacher and the students. Moodle enabled access to a variety of resources – not always available in paper format – such as selected web sites, videos, Web2.0 tools. This often offered more contextualized learning and enabled student choice to select form a range of tools for their tasks. However, access to resources from school was often limited due to slow school computers and the school’s filtering system.

Learning online helped the students to improve ICT skills and confidence. For example, students who were less familiar with computer use grew to comfortably use technology after some weeks of learning online. Through the Moodle chats and forums, the students continued to interact after school hours, strengthening their relationships with each other and the teacher. The students developed at different levels, independent, self-management and higher order thinking skills; the online environment provided them with structure and guidance during their independent study, but this also allowed longer time to engage, practice and transfer their learning. However, for some, limited access to computers and internet from home was an important issue and teacher support was crucial in remaining engaged and avoiding distractions.

The whole process of implementation helped the teacher to develop her blended teaching skills, constantly reflecting on her practices and looking for resources that could further enrich her knowledge. The teacher was committed to walk the extra mile in order to adapt her pedagogy and effectively use the new tools. Professional development and support from the leadership was vital when implementing new ideas within the school and classroom programmes.