MET:BCLN as a PLE
The BC Learning Network is made up of 44 BC school districts working together to develop online courses that meet the Provincial PLOs for numerous subjects. Teachers from around the province develop courses that are submitted, edited and shared with others. BCLN has choosen Moodle as it's standard learning management system. Some of the courses are old Cool School courses that have been converted from the Nautikos (owned by Odyssey) platform to Moodle. Others are courses developed by Open School and converted to Moodle, while new courses have been created using the Moodle software.
Distance Learning in BC
As student numbers decrease in BC, rural areas are finding it more challenging to provide students with the curricular options available in larger schools. In the past Correspondence and Open School paper based courses were the only choices for these students. In 2000 the Kamloops, Kelowna, Veron and Salmon Arm School Districts formed a consortium, Cool School, with a mandate to develop online courses to fill in the need for Distributed Learning (DL). The courses they developed or upgrades were delivered on 2 commercial platforms, Nautikos by Odyssey and WebCT. This small consortium of 4 districts was producing courses that were soon being used province wide.
In 2004 BCEd Online, a government sponsored program, was created. BCEd Online was a joint venture between the BC Ministry of Education and public school districts to develop online curriculum. Unfortunately it faltered after 2 years. Disagreements over who controlled what, how content was developed and how things were administered led to its collapse.
BCLN was created in February 2006 to fill in the online education void. Again Vernon, Merritt, Kamloops, Kelowna and GrandForks formed a consortium of public school districts focusing on development of online courses. These were volunteers who saw there was a need and decided to work together to develop courses for students. These courses included updated Cool School courses and new resources created by teachers. One year later a board of directors was formed from the creators of BCLN. The Board of directors meet 4-5 times a year and development group also meets 4-5 a year to keep the focus on student learning and course development. The focus is "practical side of course delivery – stay away from policy." There are now 44 School Districts in the BCLN with 47 districts delivering the course content on line.
Membership fees from participating BC school districts fund the development of new resources and the improvement of existing courses. Membership gives the participating district access to all the courses offered by the BCLN, access to the discussion area for teacher feedback and interaction, and group purchasing power for extra programs that are not available from the BCLN. BCLN has negotiated deals for licensing for Rossetta Stone (languages), Scientific Learning (reading skills), and Content Connections (mathematics). In return BCLN expects it's members to be involved in the shared development strategies and in the building of the virtual teaching community. (B. Weitzel, personal communication, March 2, 2012)
|English||7 - 12|
|Science||7 - 10|
|Social Studies||7 - 11|
|Art||7 - 12|
|Visual Media Art||11|
|Communications||11 – 12|
|Biology||11 – 12|
|Chemistry||11 – 12|
|Science & Technology||11|
|First Nations Studies||12|
Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a provided freely as Open Source software. This means Moodle is copyrighted, but that you are allowed to copy, use and change Moodle as long as you share it and say that it is in fact Moodle.
The word Moodle is an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. The courses offered in the Moodle framework are broken down into modules with activities and quizzes within each module.
The Moodle design is based on the "social constructionist pedagogy". The constructionist theory states that learners actively build interactive models to make sense of the world or situation they are in. Social constructionists extend this into social settings where learners construct the knowledge for one another. Within Moodle this can be accomplished through online group work, online discussions, blogging forums and message boards. The teacher can then move from being the knowledge provider to a guide who influences the direction discussions are going, rather than dictating how to get there.
Moodle is an active and evolving work in progress. Development was started by Martin Dougiamas who continues to lead the project. As Moodle has spread and the community has grown, more input is being drawn from a wider variety of people in different teaching situations. For example, Moodle is now used not only in universities, but also in high schools, primary schools, non-profit organisations, private companies, independent teachers and even homeschooling parents. A growing number of people from around the world are contributing to Moodle in different ways.
Why does BCLN use Moodle?
BCLN decided to move from Nautikos and WebCT to Moodle because Moodle is open source software so there are no fees, costs are reduced and there is no corporate control. All efforts and benefits are going to the students, not a corporation (B. Weitzel, personal communication, March 2, 2012). Moodle is user friendly, easy to learn and modify for different delivery styles.
BCLN has developed a Student Management System (SMS) that is integrated into Moodle. When students are signed up for a course, they are automatically given a Moodle account and placed in the appropriate course. Their personal data is stored in a database where teachers and admin can keep track of students, their activations, contacts, grades, attendance (if desired)....... Marks are easily accessible by both students and teachers whenever they are logged in.
Moodle Hosting Using Moodle allows for inexpensive hosting options. Some districts host their DL Moodle themselves, while others prefer a separate hosting service. Using a hosting service is an additional cost but the worry of keeping the the server up and running 24/7 is the host's responsibility.
- KnowPlace is an official Moodle Partner
- KnowPlace also maintains the SMS
- Open School BC
- Open School also has a long history of hosting in BC.
- OSBC offers hosting packages for Moodle and Blackboard.
Limitations to BCLN
DL does have a few drawbacks.
- Some courses still require textbooks.
- Courses are being revamped and upgraded continuously as students work through them.
- Difficult to make indiviual adjustments for online students.
- Maintaining communications with borderline students can be problematic.
1. BC Learning Network. Retrieved from http://bclearningnetwork.com/m2/
2. BC Learning Network, Member Downloads. Retrieved from http://moodlebcln.sd23.bc.ca/downloads/
3. Moodle. Retrieved from http://moodle.org/
4.&7. Moodle. Retrieved from http://moodle.org/about/
5. Moodle. Retrieved from http://docs.moodle.org/22/en/Philosophy
6. Moodle. Retrieved from http://docs.moodle.org/22/en/Background
8. BC Learning Network. Retrieved from http://bclearningnetwork.com/m2/mod/page/view.php?id=60816
9. BC Learning Network. Retrieved from http://bclearningnetwork.com/m2/mod/page/view.php?id=60808
Mol, Anne Marie. Retired DL Teacher, SD50. Personal communication, March 3, 2012.
Weitzel, Bruce. BCLN Administrative Director. Personal communication, March 2, 2012.