Supporting learners without Internet connection using Moodle
HowToMoodle uses its in-depth Moodle expertise to devise a cost-effective, open source solution to further enhance learning in areas where it can really make a difference.
World Bank contacted HowToMoodle in November 2009 regarding a cost effective solution to translate their online courses from their Moodle site into a format that could be sent out to users with no Internet connection.
Roy Parizat, Agricultural Risk Management Specialist at The World Bank explained that the agricultural risk management team work with farmers and other agricultural workers across Africa, South America and other regions where Internet connections are slow and often non-existent. Roy was seeking a provider who could provide a realistic, cost effective solution and after being disappointed by other suppliers approached HowToMoodle.
Ray Lawrence, Director of HowToMoodle immediately recognised the opportunity to replicate the online courses onto portable media. This could be inserted into end users’ laptops or PC’s and operated on a self-contained basis with no need for an Internet connection. The major benefit of this approach would be that the existing courses on Moodle could be re-used with minimal work by the World Bank team and the end result would be virtually identical to the online courses as far end users were concerned. This approach also reduces the need for both groups to learn new skills and would help to make the project sustainable and remove the potential issue of some users being presented with two interfaces for the same course. Although USB launched Moodle sites have been successfully implemented by HowToMoodle in the past, the client insisted that the portable media to be used should be CD.
The final delivery of the project was a CD of each course contained in its very own Moodle site. The interface was reduced as far as possible with all unnecessary elements removed or hidden, the login process was as simple as possible for end-users and all resources were changed to more “open” formats, e.g. PowerPoint presentations were changed to web-friendly Flash, Microsoft Office Word files were converted to pdfs . HowToMoodle provided full instructions and troubleshooting tips for the World Bank to be incorporated into their branded distribution.
The final version was a World Bank branded Moodle site launched from a CD in the default browser in English and Spanish versions. In addition the client found that if copied to the computer’s hard drive, the speed of access to the Moodle site improved even further thus providing further opportunities to distribute to many users from a single CD or USB stick.
Parallel to the work of sourcing a solution for the CD implementation work commenced on tidying up and revising the online version of the courses on the Moodle site. Also HowToMoodle created and deployed a bespoke theme that reflected the look and feel of the main agricultural risk management site so that the reworking and additional development could take place in the branded environment.
Creating CD versions containing static content, such as presentations and documents is relatively straightforward, the ability to set up an activity that is dynamic and responds to the end-user’s interactions on a non-writable CD, provided some challenges for the HowToMoodle team. In fact, when faced with Moodle in this local environment, there were many additional challenges to overcome to ensure that Moodle worked seamlessly.
Prolonged testing and debugging of the CDs containing the Moodle site by the HowToMoodle team resulted in the CD‘s working on virtually all PCs.
This was a really great project to be involved with. We were able to use our Moodle expertise to devise a cost-effective, open source solution to further enhance education in areas where it can really make a difference
Face-to-face courses for the topics covered have taken place since the initial batch of CDs was produced and the response from all is extremely favourable. The World Bank agricultural risk management team now have a branded production site with streamlined courses. Users who visit the site will have a near identical experience on the courses that they access whilst away from the Internet and crucially the World Bank team do not have to learn additional skills to create or maintain their courses as the local versions are exact copies of their online courses.
Roy said after one of the face-to-face training sessions “Everyone was really excited about receiving the CDs; they look great. The delegates without PCs looked a bit sad. Early reports from the field are that people are finding them easy to use, and that there is a great deal of interest in them. We’ve not seen a solution anywhere else like this, I’m sure it will be of interest to other charities and organisations that work under similar constraints to ourselves”.