Hosted by Unisa-MoodleMoot Africa 2023
Hosted by Unisa-MoodleMoot Africa 2023 -Educational technologists, academic and non-academic practitioners, scholars, researchers and students are attending the first MoodleMoot Africa conference hosted by Unisa, in collaboration with the Open University of Tanzania and other key partners, at Emperor’s Palace, Johannesburg, from 20 to 22 August 2023. The conference provides a platform to share best practices towards improving the quality of online education and training on Moodle, an open source learning management system (LMS).
In her opening address, Mathabo Nakene-Mginqi, Unisa Vice-Principal, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Chief information Officer, welcomed the distinguished guests, and applauded the efforts they took to attend this gathering.
She stated that the conference provides a valuable investment to strengthen the university’s students and meet them at their point of need. “We are intentional in delivering student relationship management,” she added.
Nakene-Mginqi explained that the Unisa 2030 strategy is to reclaim and advance the academic, scientific and innovative futures, and these will be driven by digital transformation and student centricity. “Digitisation and digitalisation are key enablers to advance teaching and learning, propel research and innovation, enable engaged scholarship, and strengthen student support services while resourcing the future of the university,” she said.
According to Nakene-Mginqi, the university’s ICT strategy drives digitalisation by delivering technology lifecycle management that advances student success rates, grows research outputs and enables the curriculum. This, she said, is achieved through five principles, mentioning the first, which she said is very important. She explained: “We are academic-focused and student-centric, this we achieve through elevating our customer experience by understanding our student personas and the academic persona throughout the student walk. Part of achieving this is through enabling a stable, secure, and evolving Moodle LMS that responds to the needs of students and academics.”
Hosted by Unisa-MoodleMoot Africa 2023 experience
“Unisa first started using Moodle in January 2022 after an extensive search for a new LMS replacing Sakai, which had been in use for more than ten years,” said Nakene-Mginqi, adding that this saved the university about R26 million in that financial year. “To date, Unisa has enabled successful online examination sittings on Moodle. Infrastructure management is still a challenge, particularly during the peak of assignment submissions, however, we are actively addressing this through our partner Adapt IT.”
She attested that since January 2022, Unisa has processed 10 275 342 assignments, and has provided over three million examinations. “During the current academic year,” she continued, “we have processed 3.8 million assignments and offered 943 481 examinations. We enjoy a 99.2% average uptime on the Moodle LMS with 360 000 registered students in this academic year.”
Nakene-Mginqi remarked that Moodle’s principles and values align, support and resonate very well with those of Unisa. Furthermore, she stated that this conference is additionally a celebration of Unisa’s 150th anniversary of teaching and learning excellence, and its outstanding historical achievements including being the leader of open distance and e-learning globally.
A global success story – Hosted by Unisa-MoodleMoot Africa 2023
Founder and CEO of Moodle, Dr Martin Dougiamas, recounted how Moodle has spread across the globe. The system now has 262 members in 23 countries, speaking 26 different languages. He stated that the Moodle updates that are released every six months are like those of an innovative operating system, and that, by continent, Africa has the most higher education users.
ougiamas explained some of the features that will be coming with the launch of Moodle LMS 4.3 in November, stating that there will be new icons, improvement in Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), and integration with messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Telegram.
“We are also working on Moodle NET 4,” he said, “whereby we will be adding artificial intelligence (AI) support for the classification of resources. So in other words, when you upload something, it will be reviewed by AI and summarised. It will have thumbnails and all the metadata automatically chosen to represent that item. Users will have the ability to personalise and customise their front page so they will see exactly what they want to see.”
Harnessing the power of AI – Hosted by Unisa-MoodleMoot Africa 2023
Dougiamas stated that his team ran a survey on AI in education in April. The positive feedback received from the 300 respondents is that AI can help students organise their studies and time, and give them feedback. “It is not a teacher assisting them with their studies, but rather a tool to keep them on track,” he explained. This tool, he said, can also identify students at risk, and additionally it can modify content to be more accessible and inclusive. He explained: “AI is very good at converting content from one form to another. For example, loaded documents can be converted into podcasts for a more holistic experience.”
Concluding, Dougiamas said: “We are moving into a world where a lot of programming is just telling AI to do things, rather than explicitly programming them, and this paradigm shift is so massive that I see it becoming bigger than the internet.”