I know, I know… Wimba sounds like an animal in a Disney flick. Wimba is an integrated set of voice tools which are available in your Moodle course shells. The primary reason for licensing these tools is to help teachers add “human presence” characteristics that are missing in learning management systems like Blackboard and Moodle. Adding a Wimba voice activity is simple if you have a microphone (generally <$20) for your computer.
To add a voice tool, turn the editing on in Moodle and in the activities pull-down menu in your center blocks, select one of the five Wimba voice activities.
- voice authoring (limited to 20 minute maximum per recording) – shows as a popup audio file that students can play. You can add as many as you want to each center block or you can them to side blocks.
- voice email (limited to 3 minute max)- students can send a voice email to other students or teacher. Wimba makes use of the email address in Moodle profiles. Email recipients get an email with link to the voice mail which is hosted on Wimba’s site.
- podcasting (limited to 20 minute maximum per podcast)- Teachers can add a podcasting tool with links to separate podcasts. Teachers can also import audio-only podcasts made with other tools like Audacity or Quicktime provided the files are in MP3 or WAV format. Teachers can also enable it so that students can post their own podcasts.
- presentation- (limited to 5 minute maximum per slide/web page)- Teachers can annotate web sites/files. Students can add audio comments that are associated with the pages directly in the presentation.
- voice boards -(limited to 5 minute maximum post) – Both teacher and students can post audio posts and comments in a voice board. Teachers can export portions of the voice board as MP3 files.
Like other Moodle activity tools, you can set the availability for most of the tools listed above but you cannot assign a grade in the tools themselves yet. Instead, grades have to be entered directly in the gradebook. Wimba reps have stated that they expect the “grading functionality” will be added over time beginning fall 2009 with upgrades to their product. Also, as always, both teachers and students need to type text transcripts with their posts for hearing-impaired students. Some proponents have suggested that you write your script, record it, and post a copy of your script as the transcript.
Finally, with the integration of Wimba and Moodle, teachers may finally be able to make use of human presence tools that require little technical skill and little money – just a USB microphone. Even with these tools, the challenge, as always, is designing good authentic collaborative activities that reduce “transactional distance” and add to your “classroom community.”