Learning and teaching has been changing dramatically in the last decade. The shift from class-based environments to blended and online settings has been driven by the advent of new ubiquitous and internet-driven technologies such as cell phones, MP3 players, personal digital assistants, digital cameras, games consoles, interactive TV, and so on.
Marc Prensky has coined the terms digital natives (people who have grown up with these technologies) and digital immigrants (people who grew up without them and adapted them later). The problem that has arisen in educational settings is that the immigrants are often teaching the natives! This disconnection causes friction among all participants and now there is a need for technology to close this gap as much as possible.
A plethora of new assisting technologies has been introduced in recent years, which helps to supplement the existing learning and teaching environments. Examples are interactive whiteboards, classroom response/voting systems, rapid e-learning authoring tools, and virtual learning environments. Wikipedia defines a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as follows:
A virtual learning environment is a software system designed to support teaching and learning in an educational setting. […] A VLE will normally work over the Internet and provide a collection of tools such as those for assessment (particularly of types that can be marked automatically, such as multiple choice), communication, uploading of content, return of students' work, peer assessment, administration of student groups, collecting and organizing student grades, questionnaires, tracking tools, etc.
The following diagram depicts the schematic components of a typical virtual learning environment:
The figure shows the main building blocks of VLE, each of which has its counterpart in non-virtual settings. The key to a good learning experience is good learning resources; the same applies in physical learning environments. Secure and flexible access is granted to learners, teachers, and administrators as well as to other users such as parents, inspectors, visitors, and so on. VLE can also be described as: "a content management system with an educational and pedagogical wrapper".
Moodle is one of the most popular virtual learning environments in this vastly growing market. First of all, let's provide you with a very brief overview of Moodle.