Murdoch Uni picks local program to manage online learning

Murdoch University is looking to leapfrog its peers by choosing an Australian-developed open-source software program for its global learning management system, in a huge vote of confidence for the niche player.

Murdoch University is looking to leapfrog its peers by choosing an Australian-developed open-source software program for its global learning management system, in a huge vote of confidence for the niche player.

The institution will replace its Blackboard system with the open-source Moodle - hosted by Adelaide-based company Netspot - in the second half of this year. Curiously, Netspot was acquired by proprietary vendor Blackboard in 2012.

Moodle, a course management system, was originally created in Australia by Martin Dougiamas, with the first version released in 2002. It is estimated there are more than 60 million students worldwide using Moodle, with more than 70,000 individual installations. It is often used by single lecturers or faculties, but Murdoch University is introducing it across all courses.

The university's director of library and information services, Liz Burke, said keeping pace with innovation in ICT was a challenge for all higher-education providers.

"In terms of the technology space, we have done innovative things over time but things can change so rapidly," Ms Burke said. "Three or five years ago you may have been a leader, but before you know it you can be really old hat.

"We have so many teaching periods as we teach year round and we have students in almost every conceivable time zone. So we were piloting our Moodle implementation with that group and are going live with the remainder of the university in the second half of this year."

While Moodle will allow academics to carry out the now-standard action of delivering their learning materials electronically, the university is also mulling the not-so-common option of electronic examinations.

Conducting electronic exams in an online world has its challenges but Ms Burke says they are not insurmountable. Murdoch expects to conduct a trial next year.