Saturday, February 2, 2008

Moodle Frustrations


I am seriously considering bringing on Moodle as our company’s first LMS but I am a little nervous about setup and support. I recently had a discussion with a high school teacher going through the aches and pains of using Moodle with his classes and he is having a much harder time getting other teachers in his district to take advantage of Moodle.

Although I work in the corporate sector, I work with a team of “Trainers” that could be described as Teachers. I have a hard time getting the Trainers to take advantage of any technology that might be a little complicated. If they become frustrated on their first experience there is a rare opportunity for a second chance. I would hate for this to happen with any LMS.

So, how do you overcome the support hurdles that may come along with an open source solution such as Moodle? I referred the Teacher to Moodle.com for outsourced support but I wasn’t able to give him any kind of cost estimate.

I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to give some of the more expensive options a second and third look. Although they are more expensive at startup it may be cheaper than occurring expenses at each roadblock with a Moodle implementation.

Any nuggets of wisdom out there?

10 comments:

Barry Sampson said...

Hi Joe,

When you mention support, do you mean technical support, or user support? I wasn't quite clear on that.

Barry

Joe Deegan said...

Hi Barry,
Thanks for the comment. I mean technical support. From what I have seen, Moodle is very easy from the user standpoint. Mainly I am concerned about handling SCORM issues, creating reports, customizing pages etc. I haven't begun using Moodle and don't have any prior experience with LMS's and I am wondering if somebody like myself, or the teacher mentioned in the post are capable of implementing Moodle without outsourced support.

Barry Sampson said...

First off, I'm not a current Moodle user, although I do I have a copy set up locally to play with. I have seen some really good implementations of it though.

One in particular that springs to mind was set up by someone with no technical background at all, who simply went on the forums and got help there.

I certainly think that someone with a willingness to learn and a degree of patience could implement it without going the paid outsourcing route. There are plenty of people in the open source community who are likely to help - hell, give me access to your server and I'll install it in half an hour for you :-)

There are some bigger questions though (and if you've gone through this process, excuse me for being presumptuous).

1. What exactly do you need an LMS for?

2. Why Moodle? In answer to question 1, did you go through a process that led you to believe that Moodle does everything you need?

3. Culturally, will your organisation be happy for you to have an LMS that doesn't have some kind of support contract in place anyway?

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for the insight Barry. That sounds encouraging and is what I have heard from most people.

I am in the process of writing an RFP that is really helping me pinpoint all of our requirements. It's a work in progress otherwise I would send it your way.

We have been getting by using Quia in combination with MS Sharepoint and we have been able to do most everything we need. What's killing us is all the administration work of setting up class rosters in Quia and we would like the ability for a little more robust reporting, as well as basic features such as discussion boards. A couple of key requirements would be the ability to integrate it with "Active Directory" and the ability to create custom reports using Crystal.

Most LMS vendors I have spoke to have tried to sell me the whole kit and kaboodle and we really don't need that. We don't want to allocate much of a budget to an LMS because we get most of what we need through Quia and Sharepoint. However we feel we can improve the effectiveness of our current distance ed programs by taking advantage of several of the features of Moodle and most other LMS's.

Culturally my organization is open to solutions without a support contract. We recently installed MediaWiki and are off and running with that. We have hit a few roadblocks but have been able to find answers through forums as you described. So far our success with Media Wiki is building my confidence for moodle.

Before making any kind of a commitment I would like to take Moodle for a test drive on a current project that I am currently working on. I am creating a Distance Ed course for a recertification of a Management Training Program and it seems like it would be a good opportunity to try out Moodle.
Thanks again

Barry Sampson said...

The RFP should definitely help you clarify your needs.

I know what you mean about vendors wanting to sell you everything. I manage an enterprise level LMS, and we probably use 30% of it's features - and that was without buying all the other optional extras

It sounds like Moodle could well fit the bill, as it supports Active Directory, and Crystal will happily report from a MySQL database (I used to be a Crystal Reports developer and it's still one of my favourite tools).

Have you looked at The Open university's Moodle set up? It's a very slick implementation.

http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/

I hope you'll be blogging about your experiences. It will be great to hear how you get on.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for the tip on the Open University. I'll be sure to check it out.

I will definitely blog about my experiences as I am sure I will need help along the way. Thanks again.

wiredinstructor said...

Joe, I've been running multiple Moodle installations for my own consulting company and several universities for the past three years.

By running I mean teaching with them. I don't handle any of the tech side of things like upgrades or installing new resources.

I use http://moodlerooms.com for all my support. They host all of my Moodles and provide fine support at several levels. Cost for the basic package is about a buck per user per year.

Well worth it!

Good people!

Dennis O'Connor
aka wiredinstructor

my Moodles:

http://21cif.mrooms.net
http://wiredinstructor.us

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for the tip Dennis. Moodlerooms seems like a great way to simplify it all. I might be able to get a better return on investment through Moodlerooms rather than spending time on figuring it out myself. Downside is I wouldn't learn as much from the experience.

Greg Rodenhiser said...

Has anyone found a way to purchase Moodle support if you do NOT want to host it externally. We need to run Moodle from our own servers, but also need formal support. This is been HUGE Moodle-minus for me.

Joe Deegan said...

Hi Greg,
I think your best source for that will most likely be Moodle.com. With all of the resources available there I am sure there is a vendor that can help you out. Good luck and let me know if you find anything interesting.