15-Minute Manual: The Big Three

This short manual covers "The Big Four" learning technologies used at the University and serves as a quick guide for new students who are not yet familiar with MoodleListen again, FASER and Talis Aspire.

2. Moodle

Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

Moodle is the University's VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). Typically, it is used to enhance the face-to-face teaching that takes place at the University, but it can also be used to deliver distance learning courses.


Web address: moodle.essex.ac.uk.

Purpose: The University's online learning space. It hosts most learning materials for modules taught at the University, as well as extra-curricula learning resources for both students and members of staff.

How should I use Moodle?: As a bare minimum, you should be using Moodle on a weekly, if not daily, basis to access learning materials for your modules.

The majority of learning materials at Essex are stored in Moodle, but the platform can do much more than just host digital content. Moodle is guided by social constructionist pedagogy and includes more than 15 native tools that encourage collaborative learning. (Learn more about Moodle's feature set.)

In fact, some studies suggest that students who engage with learning materials in Moodle on a regular basis, e.g. every week, are more successful than their counterparts who only use the site when revising for exams (one or two times a term).

Moodle is a mature software platform supported by a dedicated global team of professional and volunteer developers. The core developers of the service are based in Perth, Australia. 

Moodle is open source software. This means that the University doesn't pay a licence to use it. However, we've spent years customising and improving our own installation of Moodle—which is hosted in one of our data centres on our Colchester campus—to work with all of the other IT systems at the University.

More information about Moodle can be found on the official documentation website for the project, which is called Moodle Docs (think Wikipedia, but for Moodle). This interview with Moodle founder and lead developer Martin Dougiamas is also worth watching if you want to learn more about the thinking behind Moodle:

Finally, for those wondering why Moodle is called Moodle, the word is actually an acronym which stands for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment.


Use the search feature in Moodle to find things more easily. Click on "My courses" > "Search" in the main menu bar to search for modules and other Moodle homepages.

Alternatively, you can use the search box in the main menu bar to conduct a "deep search": Moodle will not only search for your keyword(s) in all Modules and Moodle homepages, but will also search for hits inside the content that has been uploaded to Moodle, or created natively with the tools available within Moodle itself. Note: If you're just looking for a specific module page, you're better off using the search link in the "My courses" menu, as this does not search through content.