Consolidating student resources
Steven Wainwright is the Assistant Network Manager at Hertswood Academy.
The school has used Moodle for a number of years, initially managing the entire system themselves. But once they found out about the option to upgrade to Moodle 2 and the possibility of MIS integration, they decided to contract out to a managed Moodle service provider and Overnet Data was appointed.
Steven joined Hertswood Academy 6 years ago and describes how Moodle was being used:
“Moodle was already in place (version one) but not really being used much at all; a couple of staff made use of it. We didn’t have categories set up for all of our faculties, and there was no kind of systematic training available to staff. So my first challenge wasn’t so much the development of Moodle but figuring out how Moodle works and ascertaining how best we could use it.”
So why did Hertswood Academy stick with Moodle?
“There was a lot of resistance to using Moodle earlier on, back with version 1. Moodle 2 was a significant update and made the whole system much easier to use. As soon as we rolled out with this new version, we received a lot more uptake from the staff members in the school and it was largely down to the drag and drop functionality that made using the system a lot more convenient.”
For a school with over 1,400 students split over two sites, what was the benefit of using Moodle? Steven explains:
“It is a well-structured central point for managing student resources. And you’ve got the other stuff on top of that; the ability to assign or pull work from students and all the other plug-ins. But it really just boils down to having an easy and centrally-manageable system for providing resources for students that they can access from school or from home.”
For Steven another reason they have stuck with Moodle is the thriving Moodle community.
“Moodle’s got a fantastic community around it. So, while we’ve got great support from Overnet Data, the open source community is fantastic and there’s a lot of freely available plug-ins for it. We’ve had Moodle for a long time and we’ve never had problems with it. It’s been able to pretty much do everything we’ve wanted it to do, and it’s easily manageable for us.”
From a senior leadership perspective, how did Steven feel Moodle supported their strategic agenda?
“One of the things decided by one of our deputy heads about two years ago was that we’d make it standard across the school that any homework needed to be listed on Moodle. So, for most courses on Moodle, we’ve set up a course page and a homework page, with a link back and forth between the two. It was standard that every teacher would have to put their homework on Moodle, so our senior leadership team could say to parents, that if they ever want to see what their child is doing, or what needs to be done, it will always be there available to view in Moodle.
Plus we integrated Moodle with our MIS, so parents could have access to their child’s data via a parent portal.”
With Moodle there is the added advantage of staff cover as Steven describes:
“If staff have to cover somebody else’s class, they can see what that class is up to in Moodle and the resources available in a nicely organised place.
We’ve got a couple of traditional file servers, with one dedicated for student resources that students can access. The problem with that is there is no organisation to it. You’ve got folders, but you can’t label a document and describe them and put them in the order that you want them to be in. Whereas on Moodle you can put those same resources on, make them available to the students, give them some guidelines, separate them out into categories etc, in a much more readily visible way.”
Do students see the benefits of using Moodle? Yes is the answer from Steven as he explains,
“Yes, massively. It’s a much nicer way for them to see and organise the resources available to them.”
What is the biggest benefit of MIS integration for the school?
“Well, one of the biggest benefits of MIS integration is that we can automatically provision students in Moodle and in just a few clicks, choose their class, enrol them in a course and have those students take part in those assignments and interactive activities.
The other benefit is parental engagement. Through Moodle we can give parents access to see their child’s timetable, the courses they’re enrolled on and their information held by the school.”
Steven explains why they chose Overnet Data to support Moodle.
“The biggest reason was because of Moodle’s prominent use across the school with so many students and so many staff members. If it ever went wrong, we needed somebody that we could trust. And for the most part, we could handle things ourselves, but we wanted that safety net that, if something did go wrong, we have somebody that we could call, who would be able to do it; who would be able to help us with that. And it was also a kind of a way of getting to best practise… We hadn’t used Moodle particularly intensively. Now that it was getting some uptake, that was very useful. Obviously, the fear of the MIS integration, in getting that setup… It’s much more comfortable having that done by someone else, rather than us.
In terms of choosing Overnet Data, we found that their help-desk support was absolutely fantastic and quick, and their knowledge on it has been absolutely brilliant, and when there have been problems, they had them resolved really, really quickly and we’ve been informed really clearly of what happened and why it happened and how we can resolve it in the future.
This is obviously very comforting going forward, with whatever potential problems that might arise.”