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.
Does Moodle on a stick run completely free of any need to install anything on the host PC (it is just for PC, presumably?)
I go into schools and colleges from time to time, and some of the networked machines are pretty well locked down, only allowing you to move text file, .doc/xls and media files between the host and the memory stick; there’s absolutely no chance of installing anything at all…
Given technologies like Google Gears and Adobe Air, along with improved local storage for e.g. the next generation of Mozilla/Firefox browsers, would it be possible to consider using them for offline support? (Any idea when browsers will ship with their own webserver built in?)
Just by the by, how does offline Moodle sit philosophically with the apparent attempt to discourage – or at least, not encourage – students to use the online/offline First Class client in favour of the online First Class web interface?
I guess you could say getting students to use First Class online is part of the migration path to online Moodle forum, in a sense of: a) getting users used to online conferencing, (rather than using the FC client for online of offlinne access), and b) giving them a rubbish experience* so the Moodle forums can only be seen as an improvement…
*just relaying what I’ve been told from students and moderators…
From signals I’m picking up, a small but increasing number of people are starting to engage in course related discussion activity on social networking sites/in the cloud…
Hi Tony. In response to your first point. Yes it does. We currently have a proof of concept version of Offline Moodle that runs from a USB stick without installing anything to the host machine. We’ve been successfully plugging the stick into a laptop, starting the web server on the stick, and running the Moodle site from there.
Tony, in answer to the other part of your email I presume the lack of encouragement to use the First Class client was primarily because of the complications of supporting client software rather than systems accessed through browsers. We will face similar issues if we roll out Offline Moodle across the OU and will have to look closely at the costs and benefits. What is clear is that Offline Moodle is potentially extremely useful as most of the Moodle modules including forums will work in this mode. The wiki, by the way, doesn’t make a lot of sense in an offline environment!