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Moodle Workshop

As I mentioned earlier, I have been asked to give a workshop on moodle. Last week it was held in Bilene As you can see from the pic below, it’s a great site to relax and enjoy the blue waters. Apparently in November until February this place is full of people. But it’s not a bad site to have a workshop, eh?

View of the beach from the hotel. It’s a lagoon that’s open to the Indian Ocean …. Just absolutely crystal clear water!

It involved representatives from INED (Instituto Nacional da Educação à Distância, national institute of distance education), IEDA (Instituto de Educação Aberta e à Distância, institute of open and distance education), DINES (Direção Nacional de Ensino Secundário, national department of secondary education), INDE (Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento da Educação, national institute for educational development) and DTIC (Departamento de Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação, information and communication technologies department). So why so many departments? INED has the mandate on distance education, they’re the ones in charge of all programmes involving distance education. DINES and INDE have the responsibility for the pedagogical and educational material development, IEDA is responsible for implementation, and DTIC, technical support and infrastructure development, which also means capacity building of all involved with the computer resource centres within the education system and the ministry.

What made this workshop very interesting to begin with was that this group of people were chosen to setup and implementation plan using moodle as the core technology. But it became apparent quickly that more is needed for this to be useful in helping out the educational system. There are problems of teachers and school administrators guarding the computers and hoarding the Internet access for themselves. Or in some cases, computers were sent to the wrong location, others, the computers have been sitting in their boxes uninstalled for a year or so. Most of this is due to lack of proper communication and training, or the lack of technical support. So you can understand my confusion when asked to give a workshop on moodle: if we have so many issues with the basic infrastructure, how can we implement such a programme?

The answer is to proceed with what we’ve got. People here are very resourceful and very eager to make their country a better place for all Mozambicans. As advisers we need to assist them by pointing out the options and their respective pros and cons.

The workshop in the end was a success. We managed to get through an introduction of moodle, understand how this technology could be adapted, and, more importantly, what needs to be put in place and the amount of work needed to get a pilot project up and running. It was also great as we managed to shift the focus from using a tool, in this case moodle, to focusing on who was the client, in this case, the students. This meant answering the questions of what is it they need, what is lacking, what do they want, what do those helping them learn need and want, what would be the challenges, and so on. It is quite important in projects like this to consider the context and target, then look to configure the tool accordingly. Not the other way around.

Going back to computer programming, when I started learning it was more of forcing on the user the programming needs and behaviours. Today form and function are a must, no need to look far: look at the smartphones in your hands, look at the user interfaces of some of the dynamic websites, like Facebook, look at the Apple and Android products. It was really great to see the shift within this group.

It was also quite an intensive workshop from the content and language point of views. An entire week of working and having meals wit everyone meant that it was quite the language immersion, no doubt that this has greatly improved my competency in the language. Not only did I learn new expressions, but I learned a good set of technical terminology.

This past week was the conclusion of the workshop and proposal development. Yesterday, we, as a group presented it to the directors. All are in agreement with our proposed model: a central server within the Ministry of Education (MINED) that would synchronise with the satellite servers located at each of the resource centres. This helps us minimise the need to send out technical support staff to the sites, streamline content delivery, and keep the system up and running even with interruptions in Internet service. Furthermore, the satellite servers would then become central servers to the provinces’ schools upon expansion of the programme. So far there will be 6 schools involved in the pilot project: 2 per province, the provinces being Gaza, Sofala, and Nampula. We would then have a central group of administrators of the server and moodle who will be responsible for the direct training of resource centre managers, tutors, students, and professors (those who would be adapting the content to moodle) – thereby avoiding the cascading training model, a proven failed model. These would be drawn from those who have the technical background to handle such responsibility. In addition, those would be adapting the content would be drawn from within MINED, but it is unclear whether we would be outsourcing the work. So far the discussion is in favour of developing the capacity within the ministry, as outsourcing, while could be cost effective, might hurt us in the long run – it would create an unsustainable dependability.

So with the green light from the directors of all these units, we are now charged with the responsibility of writing the budget, terms of reference, and the exploratory work needed to fix the project plan. Part of the exploratory work is visiting Namibia, apparently they’ve been good at rolling out a distance education programme using moodle. So it would be good to see how they’re doing this from a technical and policy aspect. It also is a relevant project as there are regional issues to take into account. By the way, I was informed that I would be leading this project 😉 This is wonderful news, as this is an exciting project and an opportunity to tie in all the capacity building plans we have, and start introducing the use of Linux systems along with the associated technical development. In terms of the latter it would be the beginnings of the foundation necessary to start making a move towards using open source systems within the educational resource centres. But of course, as a volunteer I’m not supposed to lead these projects, that’s INED’s job, I’ll be working from the background.

But step by step …

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Posted: January 5th, 2013
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