Online assistance for teachers, students

Morgan Liggera

Say goodbye to sprinting to class after a long night of procrastination – for many students, handing in assignments will be just a tap of the keyboard and a click of the mouse away.

In almost 275 courses, more than 60 instructors at Pierce College are using Moodle to display course materials for students, according to the Moodle site for Pierce.

After a free download, students create a username and password and add their courses in order to view their teachers’ postings.

“Going to Moodle was a huge improvement,” said Title III director Michael Cooperman, referring to the change from the previous system, eTudes.

Moodle is an online course management system that was brought to Pierce in Fall 2006 by Title III, a program which, among other objectives, provides financial assistance to help improve the quality of education.

Jessica Kelpine, speech instructor, enjoys fewer trips to CopyTech by posting assignments through Moodle as well as changes to the syllabus or class schedule.

In her Speech 103 class, Kelpine’s students turn their assignments in through Moodle, where she can grade and leave comments for the individual students to view.

Dr. Pamela Brown, economics instructor at Pierce, uses Moodle to post lecture summaries, office hours, upcoming test dates and outside class meetings for students.

“Moodle allows you to post any type of content: Word documents, PDF files, Web links and videos,” said Dr. Pamela Brown, economics instructor at Pierce.

Moodle is very easy to use, according to Talee Rooney, a communications major at Pierce who uses Moodle to find locations and opportunities for her service learning course.

“You can talk to other students about assignments and check grades right away,” said Rooney. “It’s accommodating to students and teachers.”

Online courses are utilizing Moodle as well.

Tawny Sternstein, a communications major at Pierce, uses Moodle to access literature and other course materials, turn in assignments and check grades for her online English 102 class. “It’s really easy to use, and it helps me keep up with my class,” said Sternstein.

Moodle also has its own e-mail service, allowing students to communicate with instructors.

“I get several messages a week from students via Moodle and respond within 24 hours,” said Brown.

Students like Mia Swafford, a sociology major, find it beneficial to be able to contact the instructor so easily in Moodle, especially with many courses available online.

Swafford uses Moodle for her Administrative Justice 385 course, which is an online directed study.

“The future is moving towards online materials,” said Swafford. “With Moodle, there’s discussion and you can chat with the teacher.”

Honors Program director Barbara Anderson uses Moodle to post information about honors course offerings.

Kelpine uses Moodle to coordinate her Speech 121 group projects, but found that students had problems with online tests and quizzes.

“It’s a great product, but we lack the technological support,” said Kelpine. “I’d like to go further with Moodle, but it’s impossible without more instruction.”

Tutorials are available for students online and Cooperman personally meets with instructors to help them learn how use Moodle for their individual aims.

The Title III grant has now expired, but Moodle continues to be funded through Los Angeles Community College District funds.

Moodle is an open-source software and has many contributors, which Cooperman says is one of its strong points.

“It’s a great program and it’s inexpensive,” said Cooperman. The software is free to download and Pierce only pays a hosting fee.

According to Cooperman, two alternate programs which were considered by Title III before choosing Moodle cost $30,000 and $80,000 per year – while Moodle originally cost around $6,000.

The cost is higher now due to increased usage, but a current estimate was not available.

“For those that are less technologically inclined, it’s easier than managing a Web page,” Anderson said. Computer savvy or not, Anderson said, “It helps to get information out there quicker.”

A student uses Moodle, a tool to assist students in their coursework, to check for updates in his class. ()