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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.