Moodle is an open source virtual learning environment (VLE) designed to support e-learning. It provides a range of facilities for developing and maintaining e-learning courses and claims to be distinctive because of its basis in sound pedagogical principles, its emphasis on creating effective online learning communities and its scalability. A key consideration for an educator looking to develop e-learning courses with Moodle is finding out how to manage courses with Moodle, and how to do this effectively, as this will determine the amount of time (and therefore money!) the educator will have to invest in managing learners.
How to Manage Courses with Moodle
Moodle provides a range of options which allow you to determine how your course is managed, and by using these, you can reduce your workload significantly. Three key areas to consider are
The easiest way to control access to your resource is to use an “enrolment key”. A course enrolment key is what keeps unwanted people out of your course. You supply the key to authorized learners by private email. Learners who are trying to get in for the first time only will be asked to supply this word or phrase. At any time as administrator you can see who has enrolled. If the password "gets out" and you have unwanted people enrolling, you can unenrol them and change this key. Any legitimate students who have already enrolled will not be affected, but the unwanted people won’t be able to get back in.
You also have the choice of allowing "guests" into your course perhaps to gain a taster of the course. Learners can log in as guests using the "Login as a guest" button on the login screen. Guests only have "read-only" access – meaning they can’t leave any posts or otherwise mess up the course for paid up learners. You could set up a subset of your course as a marketing taster and allow guest access to this
Moodle can run in week or topic mode. If you have a group of learners studying together to a prescribed timetable, use week mode. This encourages timeliness of study and creates a community of learning. If you do not then topic mode allows people to study at their own pace. You can still set global start and finish dates for your course.
This is very important if you want to make money is the ability to charge for your course. Moodle has a PayPal enrolment plug-in, which is part of the core Moodle system, allowing you to set up paid courses. It may be enabled via Site administration > Courses > Enrollments. You can use the edit link to set a standard course cost default. You can also override this in the course admin settings with a specific figure for each course.
Finally if you wish to collect payments by other means you can use the enrolment key to control access, once people have paid, but if you do this, you should rotate it on a regular basis.
Moodle has a range of useful course management tools. In order to make best use of them you should think through your mode of study, access and charging policy to help you manage your e-learning courses with minimum effort for maximum effect.