A Case Study: Using Moodle on the Undergraduate Music Programme

Dr Christopher Wiley, Undergraduate Course Director at the Centre for Music Studies at City University London won a runners-up prize at the 2011 Moodle Awards. Along with the other winners, he was recognised at the LDC’s Learning at City Conference in June.

Chris pioneered the use of electronic assignment submission for the BMus programme, working with Michelle Parker, the programme administrator. He also uses online repositories such as New Grove, IMSLP, and Naxos, which creates a blended learning environment for the level 1 Study Skills module.

In this case study he discusses his experience of building the Moodle course: the challenges of online submission in Music; the advantages of providing scores, recordings, and articles online; and feedback from his students.

Moodlemoot – two cases studies of using Moodle for Music education

I am attending the two day MoodleMoot 11 conference in London. This is an annual conference for those that are using/considering using the open source virtual learning environment Moodle.

There was a lot of choice in the sessions but I eventually chose to attend a session with two speakers, both from different Music schools. As a Learning Technologist that works with a Music department I was interested to see these examples of using Moodle in this specialist area.

Case study one – Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Dr Helena Gaunt talked about the introduction of Moodle at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Moodle was introduced in 2006 with Mahara being added more recently.  Initially, two members of staff in Music Studies (a supporting study rather than key course) took Moodle on. A very small piece of research with a tutorial group of eight students.

The feedback was:
– the students felt they had the IT skills they needed to use Moodle
– the students valued having the chance to review learning materials and learn at their own pace
– many students had English as a second language and valued the extra flexibility that Moodle gave
– however, they didn’t feel their use of Moodle enhanced collaboration with peers

Helena talked candidly about the problems with the culture of the type of teaching that happens at Guildhall and how technology was not a part of that culture. When they tried to bring in the use of Moodle for a new module for first year undergraduates in performance studies they ran into some problems. There was some basic staff training but problems with logging onto the system and firewall issues when accessing Moodle from home meant that staff switched off and didn’t use Moodle consistently.
Helena discussed some of the issues of using Moodle at the Guildhall in the question and answer session. She feels that she can see the benefits of its use, as the small scale tutorial pilot showed. It appeared, through the questioning session at the end, that there isn’t a lot of staff support available. One member of the audience recommended that Helena follow up more on the use of Mahara as, in his experience, it was user-friendly and engaged staff and students.

Case study two – Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Northern College of Music

Royal Northern College of Music

Peter Stacey e-learning coordinator from Royal Northern College of Music spoke about their planned move to Moodle 2. Peter took up his post in January 2011 so has not been with the College for very long. His role appears to have been created to bring in a virtual learning environment as they do not currently have one. He said that the current intranet is very slow and unusable which means that anything will be better! Peter himself came into post from an institution that had Blackboard but, after evaluation of a few virtual learning enviroments, the decision was made to go to Moodle instead of Blackboard. It was then decided to go to Moodle 2.0 as it wasn’t a good idea to move to 1.9. However, Peter is aware that there are less plugins currently developed for Moodle 2.0 and that it is untested in production.
Peter’s aim is to make Moodle the main hub for information, materials and communications and as such he is trying to structure it in the same way the college works. In the future looking to use Mahara and get video streaming server as the nature of the subject means there are a lot of recordings which are currently put onto DVD and left in the library. Students currently often use facebook to organise events but many don’t like to have university and private life in this social networking space so he envisages Moodle or Mahara being used for this.

My thoughts

It was interesting to see two Music Colleges with their own issues of implementing Moodle. They are issues that many smaller institutions have; implementing a new system does necessitate a culture change and that does not happen quickly. Both institutions were at an earlier stage of virtual learning environment implementation than City University London.

The issue of the subject matter and Moodle needs wasn’t really addressed which was a shame as I am interested in how this specialist area can utilise Moodle. The video streaming issue was brought up and this is something that we have also been looking at at City University London.