In 2003, Marty Cielens gave a talk on free and open source software in education at the Networking03 conference in Leura. Among the many tools and resource Marty overviewed that day, the “Course Management System” Moodle was one he mentioned quite a bit. I was really inspired by Marty’s work, and if anyone it was he that set me on the rocky path to enlightenment that I’m on today.

Marty’s a big user of Moodle and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was seminal in getting Education Network Australia (EdNA) using Moodle to facilitate online group communications. But I’m not happy with it. Here’s part of my reason why:

To use an EdNA Group, your organisation must be not-for-profit and non-commercial in the education and training sector, or a Registered Training Organisation (RTOs). School education students are not able to use these services.

EdNA Groups are not available to individual users, only to groups or organisations.

But my real reasons have to do with the ease and appropriateness of use that the use of Moodle offers EdNA groups. Those who know me, know that I don’t think much of Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems or Course Management Systems … and as great as it is to see Australian education showing interest in open source, and as much as I hope that will influence free and open courses and help bring Australian education into the gift economy, I think EdNA is perpetuating bad practices in online ed, generating lock in for its users and lock out for its would-be users, if someone was to take that quote I noted above too seriously.

I’ve been posting into EdNA groups for a while now. I even facilitate one for a group of RTOs looking into network tools for online training provision. I can’t say I’m enjoying the experience either. Its difficult to handle, doubles up on my normal way of communicating online, and confuses new users.

I don’t like posting in the EdNA Group forums but I have to.
I keep this blog (among others), I facilitate on eGroup, I collaborate in wikis, and I subscribe to newsfeeds from all around. I like it out in the open, its sunny, its rewarding and its vastly interesting. But my local peers are being attracted into EdNA groups, many of them closed forums, and are missing their opportunity to start up a dialogue with the open International Network. So instead of me reading the points of view of my local peers on individual blogs, or open eGroups, I’m having to join and log in to EdNA groups, trawl for new additions, join a group and post there in that tiny one off location so that my contributions can be heard. I’d much rather post to my blog with the confidence that there is a growing awareness and use of blogs in Australian education, and that more than my target audience will see it. But people only have so much time in a day, so they go where the crowd is at the moment, and that’s unfortunately in EdNA Moodle groups.

How long will the EdNA groups last? I mean it was just a bit of a bummer when the Australian Flexible Learning Communities shut down. All those contributions I and many others made… where did they go, where’s the record? Lucky the Internet Archive’sWayBackMachinecaught some of it! Moving the AFLF community forums across to the EdNA Moodle groups was not as easy as some might make out. Its a whole new CMS! A whole new login, a whole new everything… and just when I was getting used to that other CMS that the AFLF Community was using.

Nope! Its better if we use more global and reliable services I think. Not only are the best for free, but their social networking software is state of the art and quickly links you with other practitioners with similar interests, the possibilities for shared individual aggregation of content go way beyond what Moodle could possibly keep up with, and what the small EdNA network could hope to achieve.

I know, many people don’t want to blog, wiki, eGroup or what ever… They prefer the ‘security’ and relative privacy of an EdNA Moodle Group, even if it means they’re walking around with the lights off! I dunno really what to say to that, other than everyone is welcome, everyone is needed, the more the better.

EdNA Moodle groups is diluting the impact that individuals could be having on the global conversation. Its keeping many in Australian education disengaged from the world beyond EdNA, and is preventing people developing a confidence in their own abilities and opinions in the open Network. The use of an CMS to facilitate communication perpetuates a protectionist thinking that you need an LMS to build online learning and communities, and stifles the opportunity for Australian education to build an early presence in the open Network. The valuable time of teachers and educationalists would be better spent engaged with the open Network, learning the popular tools and understanding the nature of the Internet so that they may teach people how to learn in an open Network.

End of preach, you may be seated.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.