VLE Report 2015

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This is a report on the first three years of the WMUK Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) project, using the Moodle platform, set up in April 2012.


  • VLE set up at http://moodle.wikimedia.org.uk (account creation required)
  • Basic Wikimedia knowledge covered in 81 lessons divided into 16 courses
  • Browseable mirror of text (only) of courses at ModuleWiki (http://modulewiki.mediawiki.org.uk)
  • Additional course "Finding and Understanding Sources", addressing some basic digital literacy issues with a Wikimedia slant
  • Resources links in large numbers in sections of lessons
  • Image illustrations in lessons
  • Set of about 400 quiz questions integrated into most lessons, as 3+3
  • Screencast videos at the entry level
  • Lesson navigation to a standard model, including feedback links to ModuleWiki
  • Documentation for the lesson construction based on the study of "manual pages" on the English Wikipedia by Peter Coombe (WMF fellowship)
  • Documentation for the lesson dependencies, and a resulting division of lessons into seven levels, to refine the initial A-B-C division into introductory, everyday and expert levels
  • Software development: Single-sign on (SSO) module for MediaWiki to Moodle commissioned (see /Bugzilla closures), and a basic Moodle "theme" (CSS skin) customised by Doug Taylor.

All this content can be assumed to be CC-by-SA; lessons have individual attribution. Images are taken from Wikimedia Commons and are hotlinked from there.

Summary of main issues

  • Design. A VLE needs to be planned as a team effort. Its content needs to be defined by a clear and stable brief, on scope and audience. A consistent and visually attractive approach is required, as is a plan to keep the content current.
  • Moodle. Moodle cannot successfully be run in a matchbox. While the software is open source, the resources required to host and support a Moodle site are not negligible.
  • Participatory factors. There is currently not a good fit between Moodle’s instruction-driven feature set, and Wikimedia’s value-driven approach. Moodle cannot easily be adapted to “open” use, while retaining its full advantages, without encountering access and security issues.

In the WMUK context, these matters remain unresolved.

OER platforms compared

OERs (Open Education Resources) are the major content component of open online education. The term, however, refers to content and its licensing, rather than delivery. Moodle is a Course Management System, while MediaWiki is wiki software, designed with collaborative development of reference material in mind.

Natively, Moodle offers instructional design, and credible testing routes, for assessment and/or recognition by badging. On the other hand MediaWiki offers natively participation everywhere, and a quite different vision of technical parsimony, both in the wiki tradition, together with portability. Getting the best of both worlds is not a superficial matter.

One conclusion drawn from the VLE project, based on attempts to develop Moodle+MediaWiki integration, is that attention should be paid to Javascript as a platform. This observation provides the context for the Wikisoba project, which is still (as of April 2015) dealing with architectural issues and security principles.

What we learned