This report presents just a smattering of the activity in the NC Music Moodle space in its first year. Looking back over what students have achieved is quite staggering. Much of the evidence would not be available but for the Moodle space.
Here learners respond to the question: what are the benefits of our Moodle environment online?

ash1.jpgAsh - paper-light, better
organisation of work,
efficient, secure,

blayne1.jpgBlayne - your work is
organised online, a
continual portfolio.

craig1.jpgCraig - good communication,
peer review, storing work.

dario1.jpgDario - everything in
one place, efficient,
peer review, easy
to use.

fab1.jpgFabien - good organisation of
work, 24/7 access, peer
review, reflection,

mike1.jpgMike - helps organise
work, stealth learning
of IT and web tools.

paul1.jpgPaul - reflection on creative

rhi1.jpgRhi - organisation, peer
review, voice for every
learner, confidence building,
develop analysis skills

stew1.jpgStew - reflect on performance

tamara1.jpgTamara - portfolio building,
bite-sized chunks.

I then asked them how Moodle might be improved.

ash1.jpgAsh - more feedback
from all tutors.

dario1.jpgDario - more feedback
from tutors. Social
network features, own
profile for cross-course

craig1.jpgCraig - own profile page,
with media uploads.

rhi1.jpgRhi - own profile page
with media uploads.

fab1.jpgFabien -

mike1.jpgMike - time-out

stew1.jpgStew - regularly clean
out old postings.

The students' comments offer a real insight, based on regular, practical experience of the VLE. What they don't mention is an interesting as what they do mention! Hand-outs and assignment briefs for download and print - no comments; online practice and revision exercises for music language - no comment; links to other resources - no comment. All their positive experiences refer to what they have done themselves - predominantly in organising their learning by writing online and reviewing the recordings of their creative work. And for improvements - they mention more feedback from all tutors (this is informal, interim feedback) and more personalisation of the space with profile pages - just like the social networks they are accustomed to using.

In researching VLEs I've regularly come across the concept of Working, Lurking and Shirking. Working involves actively contributing to the community with forum posts and comments. Lurking takes place where a learner will visit the space and view various pages, but not make any contribution. At first I felt this was a negative outcome, but I now feel that lurking can still be a beneficial activity. Learning can take place to some extent by attending. The teacher's job is to encourage the lurker to become a worker by stimulating contributions, just as you would in a live environment. The shirker doesn't turn up in the space very regularly and to counter this, I will build moodle activities into assignment briefs, so that reflection, analysis, evaluation and peer support are assignment requirements. Make logging to Moodle part of an 'attendance' policy, to encourage those who stay out.

In the next academic year, I hope to make more use of collaborations, in glossaries, social bookmarking and wikis. I didn't have a great experience with the Moodle wiki, but wikispaces are excellent, managed sites.

Uploading Word documents is wasted effort in my experience! If an activity leads to 'download and print' keep it out of a VLE. Most writing in this course is done online; when I did resort to uploading Word documents for students to work on and return it lead to problems of losing work, incompatibility, difficulties in access.

The teacher sets the standard for forum posts. If a student uploads work (in this course that is often a recording) it is essential that tutors feedback - and ask another question, or learning fizzles out.

Either keep it social or clarify how student posts will go towards assessment. If you establish at the front end of a course how posting will lead to grades, then students are clear that their efforts have relevance to their achievement.

Moodle has proved to be almost entirely fit for purpose. I have identified only 2 shortcomings; Online identity and media sharing. If you look at the functions of social network sites, they promote ownership of content. Users project their identify online and demonstrate their skills and knowledge through user generated content. I am looking at a ning network to fill this gap - This is a 'closed' network, so you have to join to view, but another ning network that is very healthy and demonstrates the power of a social network online is