Saturday, March 31, 2012

Individual Tutorial & Reflection - Rhetorical Analysis of Moodle is "a free, open-source PHP web application for producing modular internet-based courses that support a modern social social constructionist pedagogy." According to Moodle, the site's principles of development are based upon four concepts: constructivism, constructionism, social constructivism, and "connected and separate." These concepts can work together to provide a dynamic, student-centered, interactive learning experience in which students themselves can essentially become teachers, while the instructor "change[s] from being 'the source of knowledge' to... and influencer and role model of class culture (Moodle)."

The philosophy held by the developers of this site is in line with my own teaching philosophy, which is what attracts me to this site.  Additionally, this site is one that I would like to start using in the near future as an online tool to support my face-to-face ESL classes.

The authors of the site are careful to establish credibility and authority by providing an in-depth explanation of its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) on their "About" subpage, which is easily located on the navigational toolbar at the top of the site.  This subpage provides a description of the site's features and why people like it; documents describing the terms of use, philosophy, pedagogy, basic structure, and key terms; statistics of its use; and a demonstration site.

The intended audience for this site is primarily teachers and students. The developers clearly state their philosophical and pedagogical values in order to appeal to teachers like me who may think along the same lines.

Moodle has a visually appealing, user-friendly interface that seems to follow the CRAP concepts of visual design nicely.  

The developers achieve contrast by taking advantage of juxtaposing the white space on the page with various shades of orange. There is an orange border around the edges of the page that is solid toward the top of the page, and then fades through different degrees of transparency as you move toward the middle and bottom of the page until it blends into the white space altogether. The authors of the site encourage you to click on the subpages by providing clickable boxes, most of which also have a graphic and are filled in with a relatively transparent, light orange color.

Repetition is another nice feature of the site, and I would use its navigation features as an example of that, because one can move easily through the different subpages by clicking on the various toolbar buttons at the top of the  home page, the menu on the right-hand side, or a set of large buttons on the main page. Sub-pages include the About section, which I have already explained; a news page with announcements about the application; a support page with information about documentation, forums, books and manuals, and commercial services; a community page with information about forums, events, registered sites, connected sites, Moodle jobs, recent participants, donations, and the Moodle shop; a development page with information about the developers, documentation, a tracker, and open source code; and a downloads page where you can find standard packages and language packs.

Another example of repetition is achieved is through the manner in which a great majority of the headings are designed. The headings and subheadings are always in a large, bold font, with an long line underneath them. This allows the users to clearly see when a section on a page begins and ends. Additionally, the site consistently uses bullets with links, and alignment is almost always left justified.

Items are grouped together on the page in a logical way to achieve proximity.  This can be seen on the front page in the arrangement of the navigational buttons:

The format of this site seems to work well for its intended purpose, and the only complaint that I might have is that it's a little difficult to figure out how to actually get started with setting up a Moodle site. That information seems to get buried under all of the "this is who we are, and this is what Moodle can do" type of information.

With just a small amount of searching, however, it is easy to locate a page that will help you to get started. In the near future, I hope to start playing around with the page (or, as Shelley might say, "I'll bang my head against it...") to see how I can incorporate it into my teaching toolbox. Analyzing the site itself was a great way to get started, because it allowed me to familiarize myself with the basic components.


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