In its 10 year history, Moodle has been confined to computer screens around the world; with countless fields, description areas and scrolling filling the screen. There have been attempts at mobilizing Moodle in the past, but as a user you either didn't have the time to use it or it simply wasn't worth using. With the proliferation and widespread availability of web-capable phones, however, mobile customers worldwide now have in hand a versatile portal into the web and to Moodle.
Over the last month or so, a Moodle Mobile community has exploded into existence and is making major headway releasing Moodle-focused web and native apps for web-enabled phones. There are two major initiatives:
Moodle4iPhone (http://iphone.moodle.com.au): is a web app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android and Symbian phones and is based on wpTouch software by Brave New Code. The project was initiated by a trans-national team from Antwerp, Peru and beyond. It now has an official home with Pukunui Technology, an official Moodle Partner. The app, which is by far the most versatile, is installed to the Moodle site's theme itself, recognizes web traffic from mobiles and renders pages especially to fit on the screens that fit in your hand.
MoodleTouch (http://moodletouch.com): is a native app for iPhone and iPod Touch only. The project is proprietary and will provide one app in the Apple app store which works on all Moodle sites -- nothing needs to be installed to the Moodle site itself. It'll be a paid app, but schools/organizations will be able to commission their own customized apps to be submitted to the store (which might be freely available to mobile users connecting to the site). Note that mTouch was released 4/13/2010 for $2.99 in the App Store.
The apps, at least in terms of rendering Moodle for a phone, both deliver. Public availability of the apps will truly mean that Moodle has gone mobile. It's a huge step for Moodle in general, but it's a giant leap for mobile education at large.
Perhaps what is most exciting about these two projects is that they are retrofitting the large scale LMS with a simpler gateway to anytime/anywhere learning. What users will love about using Moodle on their phone is that the apps force a view of Moodle that is less cluttered and inherently simpler. There aren't any slow loading blocks, fancy graphics embedded in labels, or non-functioning media filters to frustrate students with slow connections. The clutter of Moodle activities and resources on a regular computer screen may not be available on the iPhone or Nexus One, but the basic pedagogical underpinning still is. That alone is a huge win for this new era in Moodling. Even in their first iteration, the apps provide a simpler UI to the software than a computer screen does today.
Since Moodle can now be seen through a simpler interface on a phone, why not pursue simpler interfaces for the computers in classrooms around the world? It'll take time and effort to rethink what's necessary for learning (mobile or not) in terms of features and general functionality -- but luckily, one of the largest beta tests is about to kick off.
Could the widespread embrace of mobile learning skew the development roadmap of the computer based software for modules, plug-ins and features that are more phone friendly?
Here's to hoping so.
More information about either project is available at their respective websites or the specific tag sections of http://www.MoodleMonthly.com:
- Moodle4iPhone: http://iphone.moodle.com.au/
- MoodleTouch: http://www.moodletouch.com
- Moodle4iPhone on MoodleMonthly.com
- MoodleTouch on MoodleMonthly.com