We’ve been working with Intel over the past year to develop an offline version of Moodle. So how does it work and why would students want to do away with the advantages of Internet connectivity?
First of all virtually no-one has the Internet available 100% of the time. You might also live in a remote spot with no broadband access or take a laptop with you when you’re travelling and have only occasional Internet access. Globally 5% of people have broadband, a further 12% dialup and 83% of the World’s population no Internet access at all (Point Topic, March 2007).
As more interactive course content, administrative features and formative assessments become available online, and you’re engaging more with others through forums and blogs, you’ll become increasingly disadvantaged if you don’t have regular internet access. Offline Moodle allows you to continue to access critical parts of your course at times when you’re not connected.
How does it work? You install a mini version of Moodle on your laptop – or run it from a USB stick or CD-ROM. It’s a web server which only you can access – via your web browser as if you were interacting with the main copy of Moodle on the institutional server. You can make a forum posting, carry out an online assessment, view your calendar or play a podcast. When you next log onto the Internet your Moodle will synchronise with the institutional Moodle. All the latest course information, forum postings etc are transferred to your machine while your most recent forum or blog postings get sent to the main server for viewing by others.
That’s the vision – and we’re a large part of the way there. Much remains to be done if we’re to release this to all students at the OU, and Colin Chambers, Offline Moodle’s main architect, has listed some of the security and technical issues on the offline Moodle site. This isn’t the moon on a stick if you’re in the 83% of the World’s population without any internet access at all but it has the potential to make web-based study a lot more convenient for millions of students with sporadic Internet access.