And the winner is...Moodle!

MoodleI recently replied to a discussion question on Tech Director, a forum for tech people in international schools.  A member asked about what LMS (Learning Management System) we are use. Here is my (edited) response:

We are using Moodle with Live@edu integration.  While we take advantage of the features of Live@edu, which are similar to Google Apps, having Moodle as the foundation for our courses works very well.  In our primary school, the teachers use it mostly for posting class announcements and newsletters, links to online resources, and photo galleries for parents.  In middle and high school, the teachers take advantage of its interactive features to foster collaboration and a constructivist approach to learning.  It is a very versatile system that is able to meet the needs of diverse users.  The interface is available in a large number of languages which helps when you have parents whose native language is not English; individual users can choose their own interface language. 

I know a lot of people promote Google Sites for this sort of thing as well, but while it may be somewhat easier to use, Google Sites does not provide the same range of functionality or tools designed with learning in mind as Moodle does.  For example, out of the box, Moodle provides student-created glossaries, wikis, chat rooms, discussion forums, online assignment submission, online marking of assignments, a gradebook, polls, databases, quizzes, and others.  On top of that there are a large number of plugins that you can download for free to add functions such as a photo gallery or survey tool.  All user activities are logged which comes in handy in cases of cyber-bullying or verifying student claims that they did or did not do something.  Having all of these functions together in one place simplifies management and reduces training.  It integrates with other software quite well, for example, TurnItIn and Mahara.

I think the following blog post sums it up quite nicely and is well worth the read: Why use Moodle when you can use something shiny?

Also, in the case of Google sites, what do you do when a teacher leaves and a new one comes in?  Does the new teacher have to start from scratch, or can one teacher take over a previous teacher's site with a new login?  As we are able to rollover our Moodle courses from year to year, teachers can slowly add to their Moodle page and build it up over time.  The benefit for incoming teachers is even greater - they simply take over the Moodle page of the previous teacher with all the resources and activities intact. This gives the teacher a great starting point to refine the course and helps maintain a higher level of continuity between school years and instructors.  Also, for departing teachers, we create a zipped copy of their course which they can take to their next school.  If the school has Moodle (or even Blackboard), their IT team can simply upload the course and have it ready to go in a few minutes.

The fact that Moodle is free and open source is also a benefit, not only cost-wise, but in that you can customize it, providing you have the requisite skills or can pay someone to do it for you.  If you have something you'd like to change in Blackboard (or other proprietary software), you are completely at their mercy and are reduced to begging for features to be added in their support forums.

So as you can see from my response, I'm pretty pro-Moodle.  Google sites and other single purpose-websites can't really hold a candle to the range of functionality provided by Moodle.  And the winner is...Moodle!

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