Although Moodle is the most popular Learning Management System (LMS) for higher education in Quebec and although its large developer community helps it to continuously evolve by creating modules that meet multiple educational needs, other resources, which are attractive options, are arriving on the market at an unimaginable rate. Consider Facebook, WordPress, Pinterest, Google+, ThingLink and other tools for facilitating publication or for simply sharing information!
If only we could integrate them all into our secure area reserved for our groups and classes. The best of Facebook, but just for my group! Would you consider using a social networking tool such as ELGG to create communities? What about taking advantage of the power of WordPress to create an online journal - but with 60 user codes to create and manage. If only we could all use our favourite LMS and break down the barriers!
Integrating Tools and Platforms into Moodle
Moodle can integrate many services already. Among the hundreds of available modules for installation on Moodle.org, a good many target interoperability. For example, you can access BigBlueButton, a synchronous communication tool, by installing and configuring a module that allows a seamless passage from one environment to another. With one click, the teacher and students use Moodle to enter a synchronous meeting room.
At Bois-de-Boulogne, this year, math teachers are using the WeBWorK platform, which can easily create complex problems to solve. Student authentication is managed entirely through Moodle. It is not necessary to create new accounts. WebWork even returns student results into Moodle's grading records.
This is the same kind of integration that will soon be tested with the Sherpa portfolio application. Not only will users be able to go directly from Moodle to Sherpa seamlessly, but they may also publish and keep some work done in Moodle, such as a significant contribution to a forum, in their portfolio.
The Moodle of Tomorrow
Interoperability may become the base of the LMS of tomorrow. In this regard, by chance, I found an interview with Marcel Lebrun, a professor and technological pedagogical advisor at the Université catholique de Louvain, who was passing through Trois-Rivières in 2012, using the French terms for "merger", "reorganization" and "gateway" to describe the platforms of tomorrow. Thus, the classic LMS, very focused on teachers and their classes, will become more open and flexible.
Moodle has risen to the challenge in Version 2 by adopting the IMS-LTI standard for "Learning Tool Interoperability" and by making a default module available called the external tool. This module is very simple in appearance and could, in the medium term, become the gateway to a multitude of online services to enhance a course in Moodle. Concretely, when a link to an external tool is in place, students in the course are automatically enroled in this new tool, which can be anywhere in the world, through a secure exchange protocol. Service providers, including publishers, have grasped the potential of this protocol. Moreover, the directory of certified IMS LTI tools is increasing fairly quickly.
This secure protocol exchange may also allow passage from one Moodle to another. This is how I allowed three colleagues to go directly to my personal Moodle version 2.4 with a single click. This is also how we will consolidate our vast community of practice by providing teachers using Moodle across Quebec direct access to common tools like forums or databases.
Some Concrete Examples
To make things more concrete, I made this homemade video showing two examples of how to use the external module tool in Moodle.
Examples of how to use the External Tool Module of Moodle.
If you want to try it yourself, leave me a message in the comments below, and I will send you the secret formula!