e-learning elearning LCMS LMS Moodle Open Source Uncategorized

Moodle: B4 U Go Yes! Know the Pros and Challenges

Many people turn to Moodle without knowing some of the pitfalls and challenges that await them. The biggest challenge is having someone with the strong technical expertise to assist you with implementation and long term development.

Many people are turning to open source LMS/LCMSs solutions, including Moodle without knowing ahead of time, the potential challenges that might befall them.  This is not an end all for Moodle and these systems, rather just some points to think about, before moving forward.

Moodle:  Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment

Much has been written about the pros and cons of Moodle. I will identify the highlights.

Cons

  • Administration is difficult, confusing and not user friendly
  • User management
  • Reporting is limited
  • More of a course management system, than a LCMS/LMS as they try to push it. I say this because its real strength IMO is in the education sector, and you see it,  in its overall presentation.  Yes, corporations are using it, but a significant number of schools, colleges, universities are as well.
  • Flexibility efficiency is lacking
  • Help materials within the system are awful
  • You can either have all open, which many companies do not want, or are stuck with course keys and other additional non-necessary steps
  • You need technical skills (More on this in a second, as this is crucial)

Pros

  • Free
  • Unlimited users  (BTW, some paid LMS vendors – smaller ones with robust features are moving into the unlimited users space)
  • Enormous amount of add-ons and plug-ins
  • More and more tutorials online, a result of a vast online community of user groups
  • Resources – guides, etc. all free
  • You can host it on your server or on an outside server (can also be seen as a con)
  • If you host on an outside server, many will install it ahead of time for you and have the experience in doing so

Evil Realities of Moodle – Tech Demons

The biggest challenge you will face with Moodle, and in many cases with open source LMS/LCMS solutions is that you need to have strong technical skills. Having a skill set of using the Net, MS Office, Articulate, etc., will not work.  Rather, you will need skill sets that would include programming – javascript, HTML, CSS, XML, perhaps Ruby on Rails, .PHP, databases, .SQL., etc.

Even if you have it hosted on an outside server, while it will automatically provide you with a vast amount of programming languages, typically it is not WSYWIG.  If you host it on your own servers, you will need to have someone – a minimum of one person who knows programming languages and can customize.

Customization

Moodle and some other open source LMS/LCMS solutions are not really “out of the box” solutions. They provide the features, software, etc., but  their real strength is for you to customize it, and continue to tweak and you build, add on and develop.  So, you need to have someone who can do this in your organization. You need someone dedicated to provide this to you, whether they are in your IS/IT areas.

Interoperability

Sure you can upload courses into your open source LMS/LCMS, but with third party off the shelf courses and with some 3rd party developers, you will still face interoperability issues. So tweaks with code with the third party vendors/developers – tied to your system still applies. Again, another reason you need someone who has technical skill sets, unless you have those skill sets yourself.

They would also need to know and ensure that the courses would work with your SCORM system (whether it is 1.2, 2004 or SCORM in general).   To learn more about interoperability challenges, please read my blog article.

Bonus Challenges

  • What if something goes wrong with your system, while you have end users in it? Do you have a process on how to handle that? Worse, what if your key IT/IS person is sick, injured or leaves the company, do you have a back-up that can and knows the system to handle anything and make mods, etc?
  • You have unlimited users, but with off the shelf courses, the same issue still applies with seat purchases. You still have to purchase seats for that content and that will cost. They will not give you unlimited seats – okay they will – but it will cost major $$$.   For your own content/courses, it is free – so you can have unlimited users.  Please see my blog article on how seats work in a LMS.
  • Do you have someone who can dedicate the time needed for your open source LMS/LCMS? At many companies, it can be difficult to have someone who has unfettered amount of time to do so, considering everything else on their plate. Scheduling becomes a challenge in of itself, especially with small IS/IT departments, where the person is expected to handle multiple tasks.

If you use Moodle, please visit – Moodle Tutorial Sites, which contains a list of some nice web sites that offer, well..tutorials – videos, help..seriously better than anything you can find within Moodle itself.  The page can  be found under my Essentials section.

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5 comments

  1. Thank you for telling it like it is. There is so much hype around Moodle in the ed sector, but for every Pro there is a Con. Simply stated, the UI is utterly horrible for administrators, teachers, and end users. This is supposed to be changed in 2.0, but I would imagine that would require an entire rewrite. We’ll see.

    True, it’s free. But as we all learned in economics–there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It costs to have personnel to administer the system. If you want to run a robust setup with 100s of simultaneous users then that will cost you as well. There are just a lot of factors involved that most people don’t take into account when they run with Moodle.

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    1. Even if you pay for an LMS, you have to pay someone to maintain it. I’ve never understood the “no free lunch” argument. It is one of those axiomatic statements that is supposed to end the conversation or give someone something to stand on. The software is free, that doesn’t mean it will run by itself. If you purchase an LMS, would you not have someone maintain it?

      I’ve been using Moodle for two years and have never had to write a single line of code or use a single custom SQL statement to get Moodle to work. I simply took time to look at the interface, see what the options are and try it. I could have purchased support from an organization or have gone to training on how to use moodle. That’s the same process I would do with a commercial application.

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      1. Actually that is not true. The vast majority of LMS or learning platform vendors will take care of your issues, fix problems, etc. without any hassle. Many vendors are now offering at least the first year of support for free, inc. tech support.

        Sure there are systems out there that frankly their support and service are the worst, but there are many who do an outstanding job.

        Lets not forget that for companies who implement Moodle or other open source solutions, when there is an issue, they have to have people who can help end users and solve tech issues – i.e. u need a help desk. You don’t with a commercial system. Equally, updates and fixes happen automatically, not so with Moodle.

        While you are an expert in Moodle, the vast number of people who implement and use it are not.

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  2. Thank you for the definition of MOODLE…I keep hearing this buzz word in the industry, but did not truly understand it until I read your Blog. Great insight.

    I will definitely think before I recommend the MOODLE aspect, while it sounds perfect, you identified the true horrors one faces with it.

    Thanks!!

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