Difference between revisions of "Moodle myths"

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 3.2. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version of Moodle is probably available here: Moodle myths.

(The total Cost of Ownership is actually higher for Moodle than it would be with a wholly commercial platform)
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Revision as of 07:06, 3 July 2008

The top 10 list started life in a post by Josie Fraser, as part of the 2005-6 HUGToB campaign.

Once Moodle is stable, it will be put under licence. If it were any good, they’d already be charging for it

Martin Dougiamas is on record that Moodle will always be free and under the GPL. Even if it weren't, the community could take the latest GPL code and continue development from there. One of the reasons why Moodle's so good is that it's open source code, and so the world wide educational community can contribute to making it better still.

In other cases where such things have happened, the community quickly "forked" the tool and continued it, with ongoing improvements, as an open-source project. What is out there up to this point will stay out there - legally - even if something in the future did not. Nobody can "buy" Moodle, and any coopting without the consent of the global community wouldn't get very far.

Moodle needs a full time, php developer on your staff- or at least a lot of technical support to run it in house

There are plenty of institutions running Moodle as is, without any php developers in sight. You don't need to know any programming if you just want to run an out of the box, feature rich Moodle site.

That said, PHP is actually a fairly easy language to pick up, and the Moodle code is well documented, so if you did want to help with development, it's a fairly gentle learning curve.

It is also fair to say you need a certain amount of technical know-how to run any program on the web securely. But this has more to do with getting a web-server, SQL database and scripting language up and integrated than a Moodle instance itself. If you can run your own webserver, you should be OK to run Moodle on it.

You don't actually have to run Moodle in house though - there are well respected Moodle Partners who'll run Moodle for you, some of the more enlightened Local Authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia (in the UK) will provide Moodle hosting, and Moodle will work on plenty of commercially hosted webspaces too.

Moodle won’t be compatible with our other systems/software

Moodle will run on FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris, Windows and many others. It's compatible with a huge range of databases through ADODB integration. There's a whole host of authentication and enrollment mechanisms, including LDAP and arbitrary external databases. Moodle will allow teachers to integrate content in a wide range of different formats, including SCORM, Flash, MP3s and RSS feeds. On the Roadmap for future releases is a Web API which will allow easy integration with other web-based applications.

Finally, remember that this is open source software, with a well documented data and file structure. If Moodle's not compatible with a particular application at the moment, then you can pay a developer to code up that integration, or develop it in-house.

Moodle just doesn’t have the commercial experience we’re looking for

Check out the partners. Moodle is also in use throughout the world by corporate clients for in-house training, including flight schools, pilot and mechanic certification, and all other varieties of professional development. Moodle as a tool is an application, not an organization. The PEOPLE that make up the Moodle world-wide community have experience across the board in every industry and every sort of education. In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more committed group of educators and trainers in one place than on moodle.org. Further evidence of the commercial applications of moodle are supported by the fact that Microsoft Corporation funded the modification of moodle to work on their SQL Server platform (if you choose to use that instead of mySQL) and that the support for features ranging from clustering to built-in payment mechanisms is growing with each version.

You can’t just use Moodle out of the box – the basic Moodle install just isn’t that sophisticated

Have a look at the feature list, all of which comes as standard. Additional themes, blocks and activities are easy to integrate and the vast majority are free, open source code too. It is true that is basically easy to install all those features out of the box as a standalone desktop or on a web server.

You can do a full install on a Windows-based pc in the time it takes to download a 50MB file, unzip it, change a folder name, double-click a file, and open a webpage. This install includes a webserver, the database, and the moodle installation. While this basic install is not appropriate for an enterprise installation, the simplicity with which it offers the full power of moodle is remarkable, and a testament to the robustness of the platform.

There’s no documentation, training or technical support available – you’re on your own

There's excellent (and expanding) documentation online, provided by the user and developer community. Being online and digital, this resource is updated daily and keeps abreast of moodle developments as they happen - with far more details than any book could provide, and certainly more than any commercial vendor offers for their product.

The Open University's Jason Cole has written an excellent introduction to Moodle for teachers, available as a proper book from O'Reilly. In addition William Rice has written a Moodle book Moodle E-Learning Course Development available from Packt Publishing.

Most users find the Moodle interface intuitive and this helps reduce the training requirements. It's possible for institutions to run in-house training and many have successfully adopted this approach. Some Moodle Partners moodle.com also specialize in training.

High quality, timely technical support is available from the user and developer community in the Using Moodle course on moodle.org. Some LAs and RBCs (Local Authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia in the UK) support Moodle in their areas. Commercial support contracts are available from authorized Moodle Partners moodle.com.

The total Cost of Ownership is actually higher for Moodle than it would be with a wholly commercial platform

Stop and think for a moment. With both Moodle and commercial platforms, you'll still need to pay for hosting, support, training and content, one way or another: with Moodle, more of these costs can be brought in-house, because the code's open source and Moodle's great at providing the tools teachers need to write online activities themselves, but that doesn't mean you have to.

The difference is that with Moodle, there are no licence fees to pay. None. The money you do spend can go back into making the software better, or remain within the educational community for the common good. None of it needs to go to meet shareholder dividends or pay back the venture capitalists. Furthermore, you're not exposed to the risks of commercial suppliers unilaterally increasing their licence fees, or going out of business. You are also not restricted by license agreements - you can use it however you like. There isn't an "Enterprise" version that costs many times more than the basic (but has the features you actually) need - Moodle comes with everything you need.

It's therefore not surprising that when the UK government agency Becta examined the Total Cost of Ownership of open-source software on desktops in UK schools, they found significant savings compared to commercial alternatives. The savings on support costs were particularly impressive. It's likely that these savings would have been greater still had they examined web-based applications like Moodle.

A 4 page summary of considerations can be found at Using Open Source Software in Schools.

Moodle is just no good for an institution as large as mine

So, that would be one larger than the UK's Open University, with 180,000 students, yes? The OU has announced that they're moving to Moodle as their institutional VLE, and there are plenty of other large institutions officially using Moodle, and a good number of others where sections are.

Moodle is just not designed to cope with my specific group of learners or customers

Moodle's being used successfully from elementary education, including early years provision, up to higher education, in all subject areas including art, languages, the humanities and mathematics. It's also established itself in the world of life-long learning, teachers' CPD, corporate and government training environments.

We have all our stuff on *******, it’s just not worth the hassle of switching to Moodle

The switch may not be that much of a hassle, as Moodle will happily import content in a wide range of standard formats, including SCORM, Blackboard and WebCT questions. There are an increasing number of Further and Higher Education institutions that are making the move.

Pedagogically, there's much to be gained from moving to a VLE which puts social, collaborative learning at the centre, and acknowledges the vital role that learners have to play, as well as providing teachers with the tools that they need to build effective on-line learning communities, rather than just presenting resources and activities.

From a financial perspective, the costs involved in switching to Moodle should be quickly recouped through savings in licence fees.

Moodle is free and therefore can't really be as good as something produced by a large company which earns millions in Licence fees every year

The fact that Moodle is Free (not free as in no money, but Free as in Free Speech) means that the efforts of the core team are entirely public. You can watch progress in the tracker, download the code they have just written and take part in their conversations in the forums. This means that anyone who wants to (and there are literally hundreds that do) can assist in developing either the core code, custom plugins and modules, integrations and themes, or by reporting bugs that appear. There are over 150 such third party extensions in the modules and plugins database and a quick look at the tracker will show you how effectively the community keep bug reports coming in.

On top of that, many institutions that use Moodle decide to devote some of their own in-house expertise to maintaining parts of the Moodle code, or developing new features. Because Moodle is free, this makes sense. If they were using a commercial product, they would not only be unable to do this due to licencing, but also would have to continue to pay every year to keep using what they have made, so this doesn't really happen with commercial software.

This means that, as is generally the case with Open Source, Moodle develops much faster for a given amount of cash input than commercial software does, where everything must be done by the company developers in house.

Additionally, a commercial company selling a VLE is in a poor position in marketing terms because their product is big, complex and hard to sell to people who know little or nothing about it and don't have the time to invest in learning it and several others so they can make an informed choice. This means a big marketing budget with lots of sales reps, which takes up a large chunk of the licence fee income. Moodle has no such overhead, leaving more money for development in the first place.

The above factors also tend to make Moodle more innovative than other platforms, because when someone wants a feature, they are free to either write it themselves, or pay for a developer to do it. With a commercial VLE you would only get an extension made if you could convince the company it would be profitable for them.

Put together, the stable core and dozens of custom plugins means that Moodle can be tailored to fit your institution much better than a monolithic one-size-fits-all offering.