Three Thirds & Real World Technology Solutions have developed a native Moodle iPad app written in Objective C for The Timothy Partnership
- App accesses Moodle LMS directly through database API’s.
- Non-html fast native iPad browsing of courses and materials.
- The app material is locked down via student logins.
- Lecture course notes, PDFs and audio files are able to be downloaded and accessible offline.
- In app notes creation.
- Forum access available but limited as Moodle are currently in the process of rolling out their Forum API’s.
- Staff continue to use and manage courses, logins and materials via Moodle as usual, but experience is optimised for the audience.
Interacting with Moodle Learning Management System (LMS) is a core experience of online student interaction with educational institutions. It is so basic it can be overlooked.
Learning management systems are what Windows Explorer is to Windows OS and Finder is to Mac OSX. In its most basic form, Moodle is the file browser for students and staff. Courses are the “folders” of educational institutions giving structure and organisation to course materials. If we can improve student interaction on tablets at this basic level with the LMS, we have improved their learning experience.
Mobile is disruptive to the education space. The iPad is a wonderful addition to mobile learning, however learning management systems are playing catch up to be relevant in the mobile space.
Students are tech savvy, they want to access their course material not just on their laptops, but also on their mobile devices.
If an organisation doesn’t have a mobile responsive way of enabling students to access their learning management system (LMS), the organisation no longer looks “modern”.
Furthermore, students know what a single focus fast performance native app feels like. Even mobile responsive websites don’t cut it because they are slow, dependent on an internet connection and have limited integration with the iPad’s native functions.
This is why we built a custom native apps for students to optimise their learning on iPads.
Moodle is the primary learning management system used by educational institutions in Australia.
We built this custom app to improve the online learning experience in a way that exceeds the current browser only experience students are used to.
It has been released for 2013 first semester students. The app is live and is being improved as we receive feedback from students.
What’s next? Native LMS cross-platform mobile apps
One of my long term goals is to contribute to scalable education in the mobile space.
I have previously consulted for educational institutions like Macquarie University in migrating legacy systems to more modern content management systems. It is important for us to understand not just where we want to go with scalable education, but what steps are required to transition from current legacy systems to the education future that we desire for students.
There are many practical steps software developers can contribute in this area. I believe we can leverage the strengths of already operational legacy learning management systems like Moodle but create better experiences of mobile learning on tablets and other mobile devices positively disrupting education around the world.
I loved working on this Moodle iPad project but improving Moodle for iPads is just the start. Students don’t just use iPads. They use iPhones, Android & Windows tablets and so many different types of phones. A better Moodle for the iPad is an important start but educational institutions need to provide optimised access for cross-platform devices beyond iOS alone.
I have begun rewriting this Moodle iPad project from the ground up so that it will work on both iPhones, iPads, Android tablets and phones.
My tool of choice for this cross-platform ground up development is Appcelerator Titanium Alloy (MVC). For the Australian Christian Lobby app, instead of using Objective C that is locked down to iOS, we chose to write the app using Appcelerator Titanium Alloy (MVC) so that we could support both iPhone and Android devices. Having worked with both toolkits XCode Objective C (iOS) and Titanium Alloy (iOS & Android+), I believe that Alloy is a good fit for mobile development in the education space because educational institutions should support Mobile Operating Systems beyond iOS alone. Titanium Alloy allows cross-platform apps to maintain a shared code base for logic, controllers and database functions, while adapting User Interfaces for each different platform. Alloy utilises genuine native hardware APIs and performance and is not an app wrapper running html. The benefits however of sharing a code base reduces development and maintenance in the long term as organisations branch out to support more types of devices.
Moodle is already used by many established educational organisations around the world. I look forward to contributing a small part of how these organisations can improve scalable education for students on mobile devices.
Contact me if you are interested in providing this kind of mobile experience for your staff and students.
* Update: 2014, Mobile Learning Pty Ltd has been created to help organisations using Moodle create mobile apps for their students, staff and employees.