Moodle Must Move Mobile
I had a conversation this week with a teacher in my former school district that works with middle school gifted and talented students. She has been working hard to use Moodle as a supplement in her classroom, but is frustrated that her students are not using it like she expected. A few years ago, that would have surprised me: I know of a lot of middle school instructors that very successfully use Moodle and their kids can’t get enough.
I have a theory, however, about her specific situation. I think that is further evidence that students aren’t accessing platforms that aren’t available on mobile. We are witnessing a revolution-during-the-revolution: technologies that aren’t easily access on mobile platforms (tablet OR smartphones), are going to slowly become antiquities in educational technology. I’ll admit I was skeptical of this just six months ago, but, it is becoming clear to me students are abandoning desktops and laptops for mobile devices.
This makes the newly available Moodle App for iOS that much more important. Moodle will lose its power as a learning platform if it can’t easily be mobile.
I have been generally disappointed with third party apps in the past as they require a server-side plugin or are wildly unstable. This app represents a serious commitment by the Moodle Development team to make Moodle relevant as its constituency moves mobile.
Installation is simple. You can download the app in the App Store
and it is free.
Installation: Server Side
The app requires no server side plugin (hallelujah!), however, the app only works with Moodle 2.1+. Although I understand this decision and the reasons behind it, this makes wide adoption of this platform problematic. My organization won’t be adopting Moodle 2.x for at least
18 months, perhaps longer, because of much of our 1.9.x content is plain broken in Moodle 2.x. Although I have been encouraged with my latest experiments
, I am still concerned about the transition.
After downloading the app, it took some time to get it hooked up with my play Moodle 2.1 site. I am using a free site from MDL2
(great service, but, heavily ad-based) to play with Moodle 2, and thought all I had to so is turn on web services. After 20 minutes of fiddling with this, a little Google-Fu uncovered that I needed to fiddle with multiple settings
. Although I understand not setting up web services on default, I would argue that the app should work with all servers automatically without settings. Students should be able to download and use this app without any input from the Moodle server admin. I am also concerned that it took Google searches to fix this… directions on getting the app and running should be more user friendly.
Although the Moodle Mobile app roadmap
promises some impressive functionality, this initial version of the app is quite limited. There is a simple menu:
…that sums up the potential functionality. From here, I was able to get a good sense of what it will do. Perhaps the most functional and useful feature is the integration of contacts. The app interfaces with the user database and allows you to add Moodle-based contact to your iOS contacts. This is an incredibly useful features, although I would note that the image associated with my test user didn’t make the transition:
Interfacing with courses is still quite limited. There isn’t really a way to so much in a course and all of that functionality is limited to a browser:
Of course, this is a serious limitation most Moodle themes work well either in desktop conditions or mobile but, rarely both. This makes the app little better then a plain browser.
I was extremely interested in the prospects of the media sharing features, which seem to allow you to take images, video or audio from your device and upload in your course. Great in theory, but, it plain didn’t work. Image? Fail:
The native audio recorder (great idea, by the way)? Fail:
I wasn’t able to find much on the error, and, my server is set up for substantially larger uploads:
So, I am not sure the error.
Although it looks promising, the app is far from ready for primetime. That said, I am impressed with the overall look of the app and hope that the developers are able add the functionality planned in the roadmap.
(Crossposted at my new blog, Moodle Recipes
, currently in beta. Stop by and give your feedback!)