Moodle and Social Constructivism: Is Moodle Being Used as Constructed? A Case Study Analysis of Moodle Use in Teaching and Learning in an Irish Higher Educational Institute
Keywords:active learning, knowledge construction, Moodle, social constructivism, virtual learning environments.
Moodle was originally developed by Dougiamas in 2002 to help educators create an online teaching and learning platform that embodies a social constructivist pedagogical framework. Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), an Irish higher educational institute, began using Moodle in 2006 but very little research has been carried out on whether Moodle facilitates social constructivism in practice in GMIT. The main research question for this study is to explore if engagement with Moodle facilitates social constructivism principles in the final year of a GMIT business degree. The paper begins with a literature review which considers theoretical perspectives on social constructivism. It abstracts four principles from the overall theoretical framework to support a methodological basis to gauge what is occurring in Moodle in this GMIT business degree from a social constructivist perspective. These key principles include scaffolding, knowledge construction, active learning and social interaction and shows that Moodle can facilitate such principles in theory. The research strategy was a case study using a mixed methods approach. The data collection instruments include surveys and focus groups with final year business students and lecturers. The main finding that emerged from the study is that Moodle does not facilitate social constructivism principles in this group to any great extent. However, the study found that Moodle does facilitate limited scaffolding and in particular, conceptual scaffolding. In addition, a number of barriers were identified to using Moodle to facilitate social constructivism principles. These include a lack of training and time, availability of alternative technologies, more effective face to face social interaction and student inhibitions. The study concludes by offering some recommendations on how GMIT’s School of Business might move closer to a position that harnesses Moodle’s potential to facilitate the social constructivism principles which underpin it. These recommendations are categorised under cultural, technical and policy enablers.
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