Learning is more than consuming knowledge. The grant challenges to learning in knowledge societies are not limited to how effectively helping learners to acquire knowledge and skills, but in helping them to learn how to manage, work creatively with ideas and to contribute to the creation of new knowledge. By integrating learning with knowledge management, the understanding of education will be dramatically extended towards learning through practical work, lifelong learning, and self-directed learning, particularly when linked to dynamically changing circumstances.

Learning and knowledge management share a common strategy of creating a learning organization. Organizational learning implies that learning should be noted beyond individual level; an organization should be able to continuously and effectively learn and adapt to the environment. To achieve this, knowledge management is important to build an organization’s intellectual assets as well as improve individual, group, and organizational performance by knowledge sharing and dissemination. Different from formal learning in educational institutions, learning in organizations serves for organizational goals and needs, and focuses on organizational systems, structures, policies, and institutional forms of knowledge to link individual and organizational learning. The challenge is to facilitate learning in such a manner that organization, technology, and pedagogy create a coherent and manageable system for working, learning and innovation.

The integration of learning and knowledge also raises the question regarding the competences of e-learning initiatives traditionally associated with the design of learning resources. Is the creation of learning resources the whole solution to e-learning, or is it more the creation of learning environment enabling learners engaged in learning and knowledge management processes for active construction and contribution of knowledge? For example, how can we facilitate the conversion between tacit and explicit knowledge, and the development and cultivation of the channels through which knowledge flows and transfers? How will future approaches to e-learning and knowledge management reflect these concerns, and how will technologies contribute?

Collaborative learning technics may give partial answers to these questions.

4.1 VLE, CMS, LMS

The software systems designed to help teachers by facilitating the administrative and learning management of educational courses for their learners, students, are called virtual learning environment (VLE). The most universities nowadays have VLEs embedded within their usual education activity. The following levels of virtual learning environments, based on a usual pedagogical approach, are well-known:

  • virtual educational site,
  • virtual center for e-learning,
  • virtual classroom,
  • virtual library,
  • virtual laboratory,
  • virtual school,
  • virtual department,
  • virtual faculty,
  • virtual university or virtual campus.

The virtual learning environments by its functions can be classified into four generation:

  • The first generation of VLEs (the early 90’s) can be described by static databases of learning materials, tests, discussion forums etc. with the absence of integration and interaction between separate components.
  • Second generation VLEs (from the second half of 90’s) are software platforms for e-learning with integrated database and organized learning process. The functions of second generation are extended in some areas: planning, administration, function for creating and supporting learning materials, function for testing student’s knowledge and for getting statistics of their results but the use of modern communication and multimedia technologies is scanty.
  • Third generation VLEs (nowadays in use) are much more advanced in pedagogical and administrative functions and in communication and multimedia technologies (audio conferences, videoconferences; specialized virtual “centers” and platforms for the development of educational courses, library and administrative functions, interactive environment for asynchronous and synchronous communications and online collaboration).
  • The main “leitmotif” of fourth generation (nowadays in use) is intellectualization, personalization and adaptation of learning materials to the needs of each user; orientation to new learning paradigms (connectivism, social constructionism).

Present-day VLEs can be seen as software tools or platforms constructed with different types of applications. Moreover, there is a widespread, “traditional” division into content authoring/content development tools and course/learning management systems. In spite of the fact that there are very popular, sophisticated authoring tools, the most course/learning management systems more and more integrate the functions of the two types of that development tools. Because of the spreading new pedagogical paradigms the division may be unneeded.

The synonyms of VLE make the content of the term more complicated. VLEs are sometimes also called Learning Management System (LMS), Course Management System (CMS), Learning Content Management System (LCMS), Managed Learning Environment (MLE), Learning Support System (LSS) or Learning Platform (LP). A more accurate term may be a virtual environment for learning, rather than virtual learning environment; because it identifies that it is the environment which is virtual and not the learning.

Most LMSs offer the following functions, or in other terms live up to the following expectations:

Tools for educators:

  • course development tools - a web platform for uploading, managing, creating, modifying resources (text, multimedia materials, simulation programs, etc.) embracing calendar, course announcements, glossary, and indexing tools,
  • course syllabus development tools with the ability to structure learning units,
  • quiz or survey development tool for creating tests, course evaluation etc.
  • grade book,
  • administrative tools to track student activity both as individuals and in groups.

Tools for students:

  • password protected accounts for access to course materials,
  • course content bookmarking and annotation,
  • personal webpage publishing,
  • accounts for access to the collaborative tools (email, discussion groups, collaborative webpage publish-ing),
  • access to grades and progress reports,
  • group work areas for collaborative webpage publishing
  • self-assessment tools.

Administrative tools:

  • management of student and instructor accounts and websites,
  • monitoring and reporting activity,
  • e-commerce tools for sale of courses,
  • communication and survey tools.

Some rarer features:

  • learning object management (course content management for reusability),
  • e-portfolios,
  • file and workflow management,
  • streaming audio and video,
  • access to electronic libraries,
  • e-commerce module, online paying systems.

Compared to the list above, the present learning management systems often offer more sophisticated functions. Moreover, the spread of systems, based on constructivist, social constructionist or recent connectivist learning theories, attacks the mentioned functions and expectations usually based on “traditional”, behaviorist principles. Learning management systems must also increasingly support common problem search and knowledge construction. Maybe the popular of these systems, Moodle lives up to not only the traditional expectations but the support for new directions of e-learning.

“Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities.” (Moodle Docs 2008a). The abbreviation and technical term that describes the Moodle as a CMS (course management sys-tem) is acceptable, but it can be confused with the term of content management system, based on a similar structure, therefore the use of term “LMS” seems to be more expedient.

4.2 Development and characteristics of Moodle

Martin Dougiamas, an Austral software developer and research worker, at the end of ‘90s was very unsatisfied with the functions offered by learning management systems (WebCT, First Class, Lotus Learning Space etc.) that were widespread in those days. “I try to present a different perspective, based on developing new tools for teachers and learners to enable richer forms of dialogue combining content and communication through which teaching and learning can occur. The tools allow both teacher and learner to construct environments in their computer within which they can construct representations of their understandings of the subject and share them with others in a variety of ways.” (Dougiamas, Martin, 1999)

The prototype of a new system, based on that new pedagogical approach, was trialled in 1999. “The results suggest that Moodle as it stands is relatively successful as a tool to produce structured content with work-book-like responses. Two areas needing the most improvement are internet knowledge and student interaction. This encourages me to continue development on two fronts: firstly the Internet Overview course as a tool for students to learn about the Internet; and secondly, functions within Moodle to encourage and man-age educational discourse among a class of students within its content-based framework.” (Dougiamas, Martin 2000) On 15 November 2001 the start of Moodle was announced. Its all-conquering success began. (Moodle Docs 2008b)

4.2.1Pedagogical antecedents

A declared, primary source of the pedagogical creed of Moodle is Deschooling Society written by Ivan Illich in 1971. In this provoking book, Illich proposes radical and exciting reforms for the education system. In Illich’s opinion schools don’t answer our individual needs, supporting faked and deceptive notions of progress and development cherished by the belief that increasing production, consumption and profit are real measures for the quality of life. The universities have become recruiting centers for the members of the consumer society, certifying them for service, for the competitive rat race. Illich says the deinstitutionalizing education may be a starting point for a deinstitutionalized society.

Particularly interesting and a theoretical antecedent of Moodle is his call (in 1971!) for the use of advanced technology to support "learning webs". “Educational resources are usually labelled according to educators' curricular goals. I propose to do the contrary, to label four different approaches which enable the student to gain access to any educational resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:

  1. Reference Services to Educational Objects – which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning. Some of these things can be reserved for this purpose, stored in libraries, rental agencies, laboratories, and showrooms like museums and theaters; others can be in daily use in factories, airports, or on farms, but made available to students as apprentices or on off hours.
  2. Skill Exchanges – which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models for others who want to learn these skills, and the addresses at which they can be reached.
  3. Peer-Matching – a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.
  4. Reference Services to Educators-at-Large – who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self-descriptions of professionals, paraprofessionals, and free-lancers, along with conditions of access to their services. Such educators, as we will see, could be chosen by polling or consulting their former clients.” (Illich, Ivan 2008)

The concrete details of plan proposed by Illich in 1971 reflect the technical level of those days, so seem to be technically out-dated. However the four points of this proposal can be interpretable as important antecedents of constructivist, social constructionist philosophy preferred by the developers of Moodle.

Constructivism asserts that people actively build new knowledge as they interact with their environment. Every-thing you perceive is tested against your prior knowledge and if it is viable within your mental world, may form new knowledge you carry with you. Constructionism extends the ideas of constructivism and maintains that learning is particularly effective when constructing something for others to experience. Social constructivism or constructionism extends the above “isms” into a social group building things for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings.

4.2.2 Features of Moodle in short

Moodle has more features than you would expect from an average learning management system. Because of its free software (open source and free) license and modular construction it can readily be extended by creating plug-ins for specific new functionality. Moodle supports many types of plug-ins:

  • activities,
  • resource types,
  • question types,
  • data field types (for the database activity),
  • graphical themes,
  • authentication methods,
  • enrolment methods,
  • content filters.

PHP is usable to author and contribute new modules. Moodle's development has been accelerated by the work of open source programmers. It has contributed to its fast development and rapid bug fixes. Hundreds of sophisticated modules created by enthusiastic developers can be downloaded from http://moodle.org.

The most popular core modules:

  • Assignment module,
  • Chat module,
  • Choice module,
  • Database module,
  • Forum module,
  • Glossary module,
  • “Hotpot” module,
  • Lesson module,
  • Quiz module,
  • Resource module,
  • SCORM module,
  • Survey module,
  • Wiki module,
  • Workshop module.

Moodle runs without alteration on Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, Mac OS X, NetWare and any other systems that support PHP, including most webhost providers without those offer free webhost services. Data is stored in a single database (MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle or Microsoft SQL). The newer versions of Moodle were released with improved roles management.

Moodle has a significant user base with over 66,734 registered sites with 58 million users in 6.2 million courses. (As of June 5 2012)

In short, Moodle is the most popular among free, open-source LMSs and one of the most popular LMSs in general.

The Moodle has rich dimensions to interoperability for e-learning systems:

  • authentication, using LDAP, Shibboleth, or various other standard methods (e.g. IMAP),
  • enrollment, using IMS Enterprise among other standard methods, or by direct interaction with an external database,
  • quizzes and quiz questions, allowing import/export in a number of formats: GIFT (Moodle's own format), IMS QTI, XML and XHTML,
  • resources, using IMS Content Packaging, SCORM, AICC (CBT), LAMS,
  • integration with other Content Management Systems such as Postnuke (via third-party extensions),
  • syndication using RSS or Atom newsfeeds - external newsfeeds can be displayed in a course, and forums, blogs, and other features can be made available to others as newsfeeds.

Moodle also has import features for use with other specific systems, such as importing quizzes or entire courses.

Moodle support to Social Constructionist views

The declared social constructionist features in Moodle are the following (Moodle Docs 2008c):

“All of us are potential teachers as well as learners - in a true collaborative environment we are both”

Lots of activities in Moodle are constructed to allow students to control the shared, common content of courses, such as forums, wikis, glossaries, databases, messaging etc. This stimulates students to share course experience for others.

“We learn particularly well from the act of creating or expressing something for others to see”

Moodle has a lots of ways in which people can create representations of their knowledge and share them:

  • The course structure itself is an important way to construct a shared representation of the learning “path” that everyone can go through.
  • Forums are spaces for discussion and sharing of media and documents (media plug-in filters, attachments, hyperlinks).
  • Wikis are outstanding tools for group work and other discussions.
  • Glossaries are collaboratively-built “cyclopaedias” that can then appear throughout the course.
  • Databases allow participants to enter structured media of any type.

“We learn a lot by just observing the activity of our peers”

The participants’ page, the “online users” block, the “recent activity” block are the main places where you can see everyone’s activity in your course.

“By understanding the contexts of others, we can teach in a more transformational way (constructivism)”

There are many different ways to find out about the participants:

  • The user profile includes fields where participants can provide information about their background.
  • Blogs allow people to express thoughts in a public but reflective way.
  • Activity reports show all the contributions from a participant in a course.
  • Log reports show detailed logs of every action taken by a participant in Moodle.
  • The survey modules provide a variety of questionnaire tools.

“A learning environment needs to be flexible and adaptable, so that it can quickly respond to the needs of the participants within it”

  • You can create flexible and easily adaptable courses in different ways:
  • The course page itself allowing the teachers to structure and restructure activities if necessary.
  • The roles from Moodle 1.7 can be applied individually in every context.
  • Preferences of appearance and behaviour allowing educators to fine-tune the behaviour of Moodle in many ways.
  • External systems can be integrated into Moodle, to maintain authentication, enrolments etc.

4.3 Networks, communication overload and knowledge map

A characteristic feature of traditional teaching in industrial societies is the hierarchical distribution of knowledge.

The model form of this is the non-interactive conventional lecture with a top to bottom transmission of information. In the framework of traditional seminars discussion and communication takes place within a restricted temporal and spatial framework. The limited circulation of printed books make it necessary for professors to hold a lecture based on their own course books (or to imply read them out) and the students try to note down what they hear just as students did in the Middle Ages. In the framework of traditional seminars discussion and communication takes place within a restricted temporal and spatial framework.

The new communicational tools expand these limitations. Technology in the information society enables the organisation of persons, knowledge warehouses and institutions into networks. With the help of Web2-based technology the teacher and students are able to keep in constant contact with each other with no temporal or spatial hindrance. The teacher can be reached anywhere by electronic mail. The teaching material (and even teachers’ lectures) can be accessed and commented on from any Internet workstation in the world – as can the students’ work posted on the Internet. The students can independently upload the knowledge material and can easily store their tasks and comments in a learning environment.

The whole process is a big opportunity for learning activities, learning courses in SMEs which haven’t enough resources and time for traditional learning.

However, this opportunity also gives rise to new problems. One of these is information overload. In network learning essays, exercises and requests for support can be forwarded quickly and efficiently by electronic mail. However, if the teacher remains the only source of knowledge and the only tutor, sooner or later he/she will be lost amidst the overwhelming amount of electronically stored texts, exercises and messages.

Thus, a contradiction arises, namely that if network education is used in the traditional system of centralised knowledge distribution with every student turning to the teacher with their questions and everything else, and the teacher checking every step of the knowledge acquisition process, this will in the short term lead to an unmanageable overload of information.

The methods of traditionally centralised knowledge distribution and the opportunities afforded by the network are thus difficult to reconcile. The network virtually forces learning from one another, i.e. decentralised knowledge distribution. In this system students have to learn from each other and ask for help from other tutors. Following this path frees the teacher from information overload. However, this method is only possible if we know what kind of experience, knowledge and competence the other network partners have, since armed with such facts we can decide whom to turn to with what questions. This can be facilitated by the exploration, storage and presentation of personal knowledge, which necessitates the creation of personal e-portfolios and knowledge maps.

Hence, a whole new series of questions arose:

  • Do the students have the knowledge (informal, tacit, experiential) that fits in with the themes of the course?
  • Do the students need to adjust to the course or does the course have to be adjusted to their preliminary knowledge?
  • How can students learn from one another (and indeed how can they be taught), if personal knowledge is not represented? Does the present organisational framework have the potential for such intensive work to be done so that individual competence-portfolios and knowledge maps enabling students to use each other as sources of knowledge could be created?
  • How does the role of the teacher change in such an operational method?
  • What does the “knowledge” which must be transferred actually mean?

If we take co-operative, network learning seriously and also take it seriously that students use each other as a source of information (and we involve the experts of other universities in tutoring), a professional competence-portfolio system facilitating well-documented and generally accessible sources of information needs to be set up. This necessitates a well-constructed internal knowledge-management base and that other universities be part of the knowledge network (in a technical sense too). Such logistics require that every participant has an individual (professional) knowledge map and competence-portfolio.

Again, several questions arise:

  • What should be included in the knowledge maps?
  • How can knowledge intended to be used by others be understood and recorded?
  • How should we go about self-exploration through which tacit knowledge and informal experiences acquired in everyday life, can come to the surface and be made explicit?
  • How can we articulate this and give it form?

With the help of narrative knowledge management it is possible to reveal the tacit knowledge of individuals and organisations through an analysis of narratives. The students’ introduction of themselves is the first such narratives. A whole storehouse of life experience can be revealed during these narratives. The success stories built into these narratives provide help in formulating the speaker’s tacit, experiential knowledge.[1]

The function of the database-management function (wiki) built into Moodle provides help in the preparation of an e-portfolio, for which the following short list of possible themes can be proposed:

  • learning biography,
  • learning style,
  • completed tests, exercises,
  • selected sources of study,
  • hobbies,
  • success stories,
  • family background,
  • participation in real and virtual social networks,
  • work experience,
  • experience abroad,
  • knowledge map.

The competence-portfolio table planned through joint work serves the goal of guiding students in the preparation of their own individual knowledge map, thus providing a source of knowledge, which is more systematical and easier to document than biographical narratives.

We can supply the particular competence-requirements (learning objectives) of the chapters in a separate list. The students are able to give marks for each item of the competence-list at the beginning and end of the course, which allows them to follow the development of their knowledge.

4.4 “Creative projects”

In every instance Internet supported tasks can be assigned to the competences that are to be mastered. We can design these project-type tasks in such a way that their completion would lead to the acquisition of the desired competence. In theory, the students are able to select those tasks to complete which (revealed with the help of the competence catalogue) can compensate for their gaps in knowledge. All of these elements of the integrated learning environment (competence catalogue, project ideas, information, opportunities for self-evaluation and communication) enable participants to develop that particular competence that they are the most motivated to achieve based on their personal drive. Toolbars containing checklists, tables, flowcharts and methodology guides, as well as accessible lists of online and printed literature can be provided for the projects.

Exploiting the opportunities provided by the Internet and Moodle, we can organise search, knowledge management and database development projects. The chapters can contain self-fill-in multiple choice test questions and traditional revision questions.

Which are the typical tasks and creative projects of the course that could be used for every chapter?

4.4.1 Glossary development

The students look into whether there are expressions in the text of the chapter which they cannot understand. These are placed in the glossary (lexicon) of the given chapter. If they are not able to find a suitable definition, they then use the Internet to find explanations that help them to understand the expression. These are stored in the glossary of each chapter. Thus, by the end of the semester a glossary is developed through collective work, which helps with individual problems of understanding.

4.4.2 Analysis of Internet forums

The students select an Internet forum suitable for the topics of the chapter and analyse it in regard to what kind of information exchange is taking place in them. Possible questions:

  • Information flow (centralised vs. decentralised diffusion of information).
  • Content of information (alternatively: their position on the data, information, knowledge/master knowledge scale – relative to the level of the question posed).
  • The degree of information-spread/proliferation spontaneity/organisation.
  • The relevance of the information to the set objective.
  • The degree to which the credibility of the information can be validated.

The students organise a type of information exchange forum in which their own collection of links, parts of texts and book titles connected to the chapter can be stored, and these can be exchanged and commented on by them. They organise debates on the Internet forum on selected problems from the chapter.

4.4.3 E-portfolio

The students make their own e-portfolios with the assistance of Moodle’s (or other LMS’s) wiki function. The e-portfolio facilitates network, co-operative learning. One of the important points when creating the e-portfolio must be that when a given piece of information is provided it must help the other participants of the network to understand the tacit knowledge and knowledge source the portfolio’s maker offers.

4.4.4 Learning diary (blog)

The students can comment on their own learning experiences in Moodle’s blog. The suggestions, ideas and difficulties they express provide help in the ongoing development of the course.

4.4.5 Essay on personal experiences

In an essay (a short, informal study, a report on events, or a diary) the students describe their personal experiences related to the topics.

4.5 Digital storytelling

Storytelling is an ancient art form and a valuable form of human expression.

Storytelling is also an ancient form of teaching. Before books or reading and writing became widely spread and available, oral storytelling was the only form wisdom and knowledge of the people were passed down from elders to children. Nowadays, technology has given us a new twist to this ancient teaching method. We are incorporating storytelling to paint a picture of our world in order to teach others about our knowledge, culture and people once again. Digital storytelling gives us the ability to reach and disseminate our stories further than ever before in history. Storytelling, no matter in what form or media created in, is a powerful tool to transmit knowledge, culture, perspectives and points of view.

Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination. The main characteristics of storytelling:

  • Storytelling is interactive.
  • Storytelling uses words.
  • Storytelling uses actions such as vocalization, physical movement and/or gesture.
  • Storytelling presents a story.
  • Storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners.

All these components together make a great recipe. It creates an opportunity that allows students to truly use cross-subject skills and knowledge. Students can be creators of new stories, but also listeners of stories created by others who are unlike them. These components can be adjusted and appropriately tuned by the storyteller to the age level and knowledge of the intended audience. Wherever there is a story told, there are listeners exploring new worlds, scenarios and developing critical thinking skills to connect them to their world and their own experiences.

Storytelling is a useful teaching tool, not only for language arts but science as well. It’s a widely-usable tool in an SME too. A Story is a basic principle of mind. Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories. The mental scope of story is magnified by projection - one story helps us make sense of another. The projection of one story onto another is parable, a basic cognitive principle that shows up everywhere, from simple actions like telling time to complex literary creations.

New technology tools allow us to connect, communicate and collaborate easily with others around the world. Stories are all about these three C's and lend themselves naturally to create a bridge between teaching and integrating technology. Digital Storytelling is a tool that can support teaching and learning in any subject area.

  • We connect on an emotional level with people and events in stories and we connect them to experiences in our own lives.
  • Stories let us communicate our perspective and perception.
  • Stories are usually a collaborative effort of stories' characters, their actions and points of view. Stories that have been passed down through generations allow voices from the past to be intermingled with voices from the present. Remixing and re-makes of stories add new twists, allow new perspectives, and shed new light storylines.

Available tools for digital storytelling:

  • Audacity is a free digital audio editor and recording application, available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other operating systems. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
  • Google Maps is a web mapping service application and technology provided by Google. https://maps.google.com/
  • Microsoft Photo Story is a free application that allows users to create a visual story (show and tell presentation) from their digital photos. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11132
  • Mixbook is a free, online service to make customizable photo books, cards, and calendars on the web. http://www.mixbook.com
  • VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). http://voicethread.com
  • Windows Live Movie Maker is a video creating/editing software that is a part of Microsoft's Windows Live initiative. http://download.live.com/moviemaker
  • Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. http://www.wordle.net/
  • Etc.