Thank you for giving us the opportunity to look at this white paper, an interesting look at a tool I have worked with for a number of years now.
A bit of history here, I started as a student with Web-CT, then as an instructor. Later I shifted companies and started using Blackboard. Web-CT was deeply flawed for the purposes it was being put to, but it was usable. Blackboard at that time was a bit clunky and not that user friendly. (Now it is a bit clunky, not user friendly and extremely expensive.) For a short time, the company I was working with flirted with OLAT, but that did not last, too restrictive, as well as some other VLEs and CMSs. I left then and eventually became a teacher. Since then, I have been using Moodle, some 6 years now, on an off, becoming more proficient every year. So I have had some experiences across a number of tools.
When I seriously got involved in administering Moodles I had a huge problem with the language of Moodle, so I can relate to that comment about language. Much of the documentation work I have been doing is aimed at offering simplified, but not simplistic or patronizing, explanations of that language.
I have found that Moodle is far and away the best I have used, but never having heard of Fronter before, I cannot compare the two. Which brings me to the point of this long winded explanation. It is almost impossible to really compare technical aspects of two systems without extensive field testing. Although you refer to this issue, you proceed to do just that. You highlight advantages of each, and outline some disadvantages but you do not make mention of a couple of others that are not part of your study, I suspect, but should be.
As Chris mentioned, Martin is big on pedagogy, and he disagrees with Martin on some of the basic philosophy of Moodle. I suggest, to you and Chris as well, though, Moodle reflects Martin's perception of Community. We are all aware our communities are changing, and digital technologies are driving that change to places we have never gone before. (Frightens a lot of people out of their wits actually, but we are changing none-the-less.) Moodle, given Martin's outlook, actually does what few VLEs do, it encourages Community. What you have really missed is the depth that Community reaches today - all via the same digital technology that is forcing the changes to traditional communities.
Having said that, I must disagree with your comments:
An IT specialist to set up the system, customise, manage and upgrade it when required
This is a perception that just does not hold up to closer examination. Any half-competent IT user, like me, can install and administer a Moodle. It took me a few attempts to get it right, but like most males, if all else fails, read the instructions. Any network techie can install and set up a Moodle, and any IT teacher can administer it - it is that simple. At every school I have been at, someone else has set the Moodle up and the School runs it. Takes pressure off the techies and keeps the Moodle focused on curriculum delivery.
Resources to train staff and promote the site
Is this not true of every new program brought into any organization? If we have no experience of something, then how can we relate to it? You do mention the learning curve is a bit steeper for Moodle, but that is the price Moodle pays for its flexibility, scalability and adaptability. Why is this mentioned in terms of Moodle alone?
Again, would this not also be true of Fronter? Or is Fronter not a web application? This assertion is also not necessarily so, it can be done through the organization's normal website, in fact, the Moodle can be used as the organizations normal web site. If the organization does not want to go that far, it can have a separate computer for its hosting box, but it does not need to be a server, as such. The best setup I ever saw was 8 recycled computers, setup by the school's IT techie. It used Linux and was mirroring, or load sharing or something. Total cost - extremely cheap. Your statement implies something seriously costly, so it could be argued that it is not.
Sure Moodle is flawed, it is currently a bit clunky, but Moodle 2.0 is due out July I think, and what I have seen so far is that it is going to be smoother. It may be more intuitive, hopefully, and a bit less jarring on the eye from time to time. Yet, you do not mention that. Perhaps you could say it.
EDIT: My Motto: "Let there be no short answers!"