Monday, December 14, 2009

Why Moodle?


Why Moodle?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get from blog readers is "Why did I choose to go with Moodle" over other Learning Management Systems. The answer is simple; Moodle gives you the most bang for your buck, especially if you don't have a lot of bucks. A huge factor in my case is that I had zero budget to implement eLearning in my organization so I didn't have many options. However, when it comes down to it, Moodle met most of the requirements I had listed out and met those requirements at the lowest cost by a long shot. I spent a lot of time researching LMS systems that added on a lot of expense for bells and whistles that my organization didn't need so why pay for it when with Moodle all you need is a little hard work.

However, Moodle is not all rainbows and unicorns. Although Moodle is turning out to be a good fit for my situation, it is not the ideal solution for all organizations. It is important to do your research and testing before making the leap to Moodle or any Learning Management System. Below are some factors I took into consideration and some tips that may help you in the LMS selection process.

Making the Decision
Thinking back on my LMS decision making process there were 3 key steps I took which helped me narrow down the huge amount of options and make a final decision. This is just a high level description of the steps I took to come to a decision that works for my organization. There are many more details to drill down into but I could go on all day with the small stuff.
  1. Write an RFP - Writing a request for proposal (RFP) really helps you to analyze what exactly you need in an LMS. Starting out by describing everything you want to use the LMS for in an RFP helps to ensure that you take everything into consideration before making a final determination. If you go straight into the research without listing out your requirements it can be easy to get swept away in LMS features that you may never have use for and end up overpaying for a system that you don't need. You also want to make sure that you don't make the mistake of going with an LMS that doesn't meet your requirements and end up having to go with something else down the line. For more information on RFP's and samples to help you get started, check out this blog post about LMS RFP's by Tony Karrer.
  2. Research - Plan on spending a lot of time with Google researching the wide array of LMS options. Don't get stuck in the research phase forever but make sure to talk to plenty of LMS vendors and take the time to view their Demo's. A great resource that got me off to a good start was eLearning Guilds 360 report on Learning Management Systems. This gave me a good starting point of LMS's to begin researching. Because there are so many options with subtle differences it is a good idea to put together some kind of tool to take notes while viewing demos so that later on you can easily compare the key differences and narrow down your options. I put together a simple excel spreadsheet that later turned into a great tool for narrowing down my choices. Once you have your list of contenders narrowed down you can send them your RFP and start testing out their trial versions.
  3. Get your hands dirty - This is the most important step of the LMS selection process. Don't make any decisions until you dive in and test out the trial versions of your finalists. This can be a little time consuming but actually putting together a sample course and testing out administration features tells you a whole lot more about the LMS then any demo will ever tell you. Many LMS vendors provide trial versions and in Moodle's case it is a free download anyway so you can test out the full version at no risk. This is how I ended up deciding on Moodle. I was able to easily get it up and running on my own and it met most of the requirements I had described in my RFP.

Going through these steps helped me come to the conclusion that Moodle would fit the needs of my organization at the lowest cost. You may come to the conclusion that you would be sacrificing too much by going with Moodle. Either way it's important to do the work involved in selecting an LMS before you go too far down the wrong path and waste money. Do you have any suggestions that will help others decide whether Moodle is the right choice? If so, please leave a comment with your suggestions, tips, or questions.

In this post I brought up that there are a lot of pro's and cons to Moodle that are helpful to know about when trying to decide on whether Moodle fits your needs. In a future post I will be asking for contributions to a list of Moodle pro's and cons that will help others in the decision making process. I hope you'll contribute your opinions of Moodle for the sake of others struggling with the decision.

14 comments:

Steve said...

Thanks, Joe. Your post goes into the STEPS you took to make the decision on choosing Moodle, but what were some of the deciding factors that went into the actual choice of going with Moodle for your organization. What features does Moodle provide you that other LMSs do not? What features are missing from Moodle that other LMSs do provide?

Brent Schlenker said...

Great post! I think the other points involve technical savvy and the mission critical nature of your org's needs. I also think a big question is defining your $$$ situation. There are good LMS solutions for $5k to $10k that I think are great solutions. To some people that's "pennies" to others that's way out of budget. It all depends.
BUT you've nailed some GREAT points in a well written blog post that will stimulate conversation and help others down the path...and THAT'S awesome! Nice work!
Cheers!
Brent

JFDragon said...

Nice post... as usual.

I agree with all your ideas and I'll like to add one that's related.

When we choose an LMS, we must keep in mind that's a choice for a period of time. Maybe in 3 years we will need to change our plateform and it's necessary to stay inform of our others «finalists».

OK, somebody will say to me that we already know that LMS, such as other Web plateforms, are evolving rapidly. So we must keep in touch with the possibilities to be able to change when it's become a necessity. But I have faced some peoples in my organisation that where thinking that the choice of an LMS will be done for the next 10 years.

Making a good RFP and testing process is important, but we must be prepare to do it several times in our life...

See you!!

JF

Joe Deegan said...

Hi all, thanks for the comments.

@Steve - I'll be going more into Pros and Cons in my next post but for me it came down to the fact that Moodle met my core requirements at the least expense. You can get all of Moodles features in other LMS's, the differences are that you don't have to pay more for them with Moodle. In my opinion, Moodles downfall is in reporting and user management but can be addressed through plugins. I was willing to give up a few bells and whistles for something that fits in my budget. More to come in my next post.

@Brent - Thanks Brent!Absolutely agree with you. The other finalist I was looking at was course mill LMS which came in at a very manageable number. If you ask for quotes on 10 different LMS you will receive 10 very different estimates with wide ranges in price. This is why it is so important to do your research and test them out. I'm sure you would agree that the eLearning guild is a great resource for LMS research.

@JF - Very true about possibly needing something different down the line. Before Moodle, eLearning was non existent in my organization and there was a very limited view of it business use case. After seeing the benefits in action executives are seeing more potential in eLearning which helps to increase budget. While I had no budget for eLearning before, things have changed now that it is making an impact on the business. But we need to make sure we do the best job possible forecasting business needs so that the time to change doesn't come at too high a price.

Audrey at CodeBaby said...

Hi Joe thanks for sharing your insight. We are a tool provider, that complements any eLearning LMS or authoringware, but we seem to get a lot of questions on how to export CodeBaby swf files into this open source format. We export as swf, flv and avi. Sorry to bother you here but I'm just curious as to how that's done. Thanks very much, Audrey, you can reach me at audrey.dalton@codebaby.com

Joe Deegan said...

Hi Audrey,
I mainly use .swf files with Moodle and they work well. There are many options for accessing .swf files on moodle. Most commonly, you can upload the.swf files to a course site on Moodle then create a link to the file, or you can embed the .swf file in a web page on Moodle. This should also work just fine for .flv, .avi, and .wmv files. Maybe I should write a post with more specific instructions for doing this. Let me know if you have any other questions about it and I'd be glad to help.

Syed Amjad Ali said...

Hi Joe,

On the softer side what you have suggested works very well but on the harder side we need to even take care of technical aspects like:

- Does the Open Source provide security patches updates regularly.
- How quickly they do the bug fixing identified by any users.
- Do they provide any technical support.
- How often they update the LMS with new feature.

Regards,

Amjad
http://www.commlabuniversity.com

shoshana said...

Thanks for the great post. Your links are as important as your overall message. I'm curious to read your next post.

helenfoster said...

Joe, thanks for your interesting blog post which I've just added to moodle.org/buzz.

For anyone else considering Moodle, you may find the following Moodle Docs pages helpful: Case for Moodle and Documents useful for decision makers.

Joe Deegan said...

Thanks for the links Helen. I've never come across the Moodle buzz site. That looks like a great way to keep up with all that is Moodle.

Joe Deegan said...

Syed,
You brought up some very important concerns when it comes to an LMS especially if you are considering Moodle. Unless you outsource the administration to a Moodle partner you are on your own with security patches, updates etc. Without the help of a Moodle partner you definitely need a little tech savvy or help from your organizations IT dept. Thanks for the comment.

Deon said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Alena

http://smallbusinessgrant.info

Anonymous said...

After using Moodle for about 3 years now I find it a breeze to work with, and the online community provides a great sounding board for ideas or issues. The only limitation I can see for the corporate world is the built in reporting mechanisms (e.g. for compliance etc.), but even then they can be developed fairly easily.

If I was being picky, maybe there's still some messy and inefficient code, and it isn't easy to really extend the look and feel of a site. I'm guessing some of this will be addressed in the upcoming 2.0 releases.


Our site is here if anyone wants to have a peek: www.theartofservice.org

Happy moodling!

Tim Malone

EJ said...

Moodle is great for the budget conscious educator but for more comprehensive features of learning management system, one may opt for cloud based services.