CUSTOMIZATION PROCESS OF MOODLE FOR A UNIVERSITY EXTENSION COURSE: AN EXPERIENCE REPORT
This paper presents the customization process of the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment for a university extension course, articulating a pedagogical proposal and the elements of information architecture, browsability and usability aiming at enhancing the learning processes and student permanence in the course environment. LMS Moodle is an open source software responsible for managing information and content and for enabling the interaction among users through several interactive tools. Developed in the 1990s and based on a socio-constructivist approach, Moodle is regarded worldwide as an important educational tool for managing courses, having been improved by the user community itself. Despite the improvements, Moodle still has a relatively unfriendly and inflexible interface. In this context, the following question was posed: to what extent would a new presentation of Moodle which values browsability and usability affect the students’ assessment of the environment, favoring the learning process and their permanence in the course. This question was central to the construction of a pedagogical proposal combined with the benefits of Moodle 2.5 and to the development of innovations in its interface, involving to this end a multi-professional team of teachers, graphic designers, developers, programmers, web designers, illustrators and Moodle managers. The course was developed for the training of volunteers of the Brazil Volunteer Program who worked during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The pedagogical proposal was focused on the development of competencies among the volunteers, based on a didactical sequence consisting of studying content, solving problems in discussion forums and answering objective questionnaires contextualized to the reality of the volunteer work. Browsing and making use of the resources available in the learning environment were among the competencies developed. The module presentations were simultaneous, without any prerequisites and available on the same screen for the students so that they could design their own itinerary of study according to their rhythm and interest, favoring a meaningful learning experience. The composition of the visual identity used customized iconographic resources with the theme of football, menus, videos, hyperlinks, avatar, movement and contrasting colors which made the environment more welcoming and intuitive. A feedback system was also developed in which the students followed their own achievement by observing a bar on the screen that advanced as the activities were accomplished. The results revealed that a constructivist pedagogical proposal aligned with the information architecture and a specific instructional design produced significant gains in student performance. In an impact assessment carried out with students and tutors of the course, more than 80% stated that the environment was inviting, functional, easy to browse and enhanced the learning process. The innovations that were developed enabled greater student-student, student-tutor, student-environment and student-content interaction in such a ways as to represent a new concept in Virtual Learning Environment. The new Moodle interface is currently being expanded for other extension courses, specialization, information management platforms and higher education.