Comparisons and advocacy

 
 
Picture of Peter Seaman
Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
I'd like to share with the Moodle community a story of one college's recent decision NOT to use Moodle, in hopes that it will be instructive to others. Many of you who are enamored of Moodle (face it: you're here!) may not be interested b/c you see only the face of your beloved; you don't see the warts that non-Moodlers see. wink

A large college in the western US (let's call it LCWUS) recently faced a decision to adopt Blackboard, Moodle, or Desire2Learn. They sponsored a sort of competition and allowed faculty to try each one. D2L was the winner, even though there were committed Moodle advocates at LCWUS. But the committed Moodle advocates (CMAs) were not persuasive. Why?

One CMA at LCWUS shared his reasons for favoring Moodle, which I'll transcribe below. Many of these reasons probably resonate with people in the Moodle community, though I'll speculate later on why they were not persuasive. I'd be interested in hearing whether or not people find these reasons compelling, or even accurate. So here is one person's case for Moodle (sorry it's a tad long), under the heading "Why I prefer Moodle":

"Why I prefer Moodle"

"I enjoy the features of Moodle - especially the lesson tool (a scenario-based instructional environment), the many kinds of assignments and activities, and the simple, clean Moodle interface - with embedded "help" balloons. But all of the CMSs have more or less the same features. There are more important reasons to love open-source solutions like Moodle:

* Moodle is open-source, meaning that the underlying code is free,
open, understandable, and accessible to anyone, forever. It's not
like a commercial product where the code is proprietary, secret,
inaccessible, and hidden from everyone, and which we must ask
(beg) to change or improve, and which could disappear anytime the
code's owner decides to go out of business.
* Moodle is not only open-source, but it's built with programming languages (PHP and MySQL) that are themselves open-source. This means that
ordinary people can look at the code and understand how the system
works, and there is no vested interest in promoting a commercial
programming framework like .NET or a commercial database like
Oracle (check out what Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is doing with his
profits: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/07/0703_asia_wealth/7.htm).
* No one makes a profit off Moodle, which is a lot like our college
- also nonprofit! (I have a problem with the college's taxpayers supplying
profits to private stockholders and/or Boards of Directors when a
perfectly adequate open-source solution is available.)
* Open-source software gets updated a lot faster than commercial software - we
could even update it ourselves!
* Moodle fits LCWUS's course development model - often described as
the "faculty craft model," meaning that faculty develop their own
courses as best they can. This means any software needs to be
very user-friendly and accessible, which Moodle (and other open-source software) is.
* Moodle is available in over 85 languages - great for our language-learning depts.
* Open-source solutions like Moodle can be hosted by an external
hosting service, providing the best of all worlds (no license fee
but reliable, responsive service). When you go with a commercial
host, you are completely at their mercy - as the college has been
with [another commercial CMS for several years]. Hosted open-source solutions divide
responsibility between the originators of the code (at Moodle, for
example) and the hosting service, so they keep each other honest.
* There's a huge worldwide community supporting Moodle and improving
it all the time. You can subscribe to active user forums that
provide free help and support at a moment's notice (no waiting for
a commercial help desk to get back to you - after you've paid your
support fee). People invest themselves in open-source software because they "own" it in a way that's not possible to do with commercial software - mainly b/c you physically can't do anything to improve the software (the code is not available to you) but also b/c any improvements you might make belong to the owner of the software (John Baker in the case of D2L, Michael Chasen - Blackboard, Larry Ellison - Oracle, etc). The Moodle community feels a very strong sense of ownership for Moodle b/c any improvements people make are contributed directly back to the Moodle project. The worldwide educational community "owns" Moodle in a way that will never be true for D2L, Blackboard, Microsoft Word, and other commercial products.

[the argument continues...]

I've watched LCWUS struggle since 2007 with a commercial CMS that has not supported the needs of the college well and has not supplied a good return on investment (ROI) for the college. I have used Moodle for many years and I've always found it reliable, stable, flexible, and completely adequate to my needs as a professional teacher and developer of online courses. Does Moodle look as "sexy" as some commercial CMSs? No, it doesn't. Some of Moodle's screens look a little primitive (such as the "Continue" screen with nothing but the word "Continue" on it). But research has shown repeatedly that there are no educational gains associated with "slick" interfaces. My bottom line is that Moodle is perfectly adequate and will provide the college with the best ROI. And as Moodle gets set to become even better (with the release of Moodle 2.0 this summer), I think it's time for the college to embrace Moodle - an excellent open-source solution for an open educational institution like LCWUS."

Okay, so that's a pretty persuasive argument to adopt Moodle, right? Well, it didn't carry the day at LCWUS! Why not? Some possible reasons:

1) Many people are actually frightened by the "open" nature of open-source software. They try to understand it and they struggle: "It's owned by whom?" (everyone). "Owned by everyone?! That's not possible!" (Well, it's hard to explain). "Well, when someone builds a plugin for Moodle, how will we know it works? Who will guarantee it?" It occurs to me that much of what excites the open-source community about Moodle - its flexibility, its openness, the fact you can actually get your hands under the hood and mess with it if you want to - is frightening and unsettling for a lot of people. What they are mostly interested in is risk avoidance: Who you gonna call when this thing doesn't work? In many organizations, the decision-makers are only too glad to have a corporation to blame when a CMS doesn't work ("Dear Faculty: We're sorry the [insert widget name] in CommCMS doesn't work, but we have filed a work ticket with CMS Inc and hope to have it resolved soon....").

2) Many people want to be told what to do with their CMS; they have no interest in making it do anything special. In fact, they are only too happy to click button after button, and have no curiosity at all about how it actually works. Perhaps a good analogy is the automobile commuter vs the automobile hobbyist. The commuter just drives the thing to work every day - she doesn't care how it works. The automobile hobbyist knows exactly how the car works and is constantly tuning it for best performance to meet his own needs. The commuter doesn't care if it's a rental car - just as long as it gets her reliably to work and back every day. The hobbyist would say, "Don't want no stinkin' rental car! It doesn't purr like my straight six, doesn't hug the curves like my Perellis do, and it doesn't have a stereo system like the Bose I installed."

3) College faculty are some of the most change-averse creatures the Earth has ever seen. They tend to get really set in their ways of doing things in online courses. Examples:
  • Wanting icons on the home page ("I hate that long list on the course home page in Moodle! Why do people have to scroll and scroll?").
  • Wanting a "discussion grading dashboard" as in Bb CE6/8 (WebCT 6): "I shouldn't have to click three times in order to see each student's postings, see how many times s/he posted, and see metrics about messages read!" So that's a case of instructors using the discussion boards (forums) mainly for assessment, not the "social negotiation" envisioned by the social constructionists who founded Moodle (yes, instructors could use the assignment tool to have students upload their best forum posting for grading, but they don't want to - it's extra work).
  • Wanting to be able to import HTML pages and edit them within the CMS: "I don't even know what HTML is, so there's no way I want to touch the code."
4) The "homespun" Moodle interface isn't appealing. People want a slick, shiny interface - presented by a smiling corporate salesperson in an expensive suit. This person promises to take care of them. "Sign with me, and all of your dreams will come true! Sign with Moodle and ... well, there's really no one to sign with, and whatever you've got - it'll be a project!" (Some of you have probably heard the saying, "Open-source is not free beer; it's a puppy" - the implication being "It's not all fun and you have to clean up a lot of poo").

I'm sure there are other reasons, which will become clearer over time. One factor that seems not to have played a very big role in the decision was the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty, doubt), though I'm still not completely sure that was the case. For reasons I still don't completely understand, people said "I don't want to work with Moodle" and had strong opinions in that direction, whether or not they were based on the FUD factor.

I know many of you will probably say, to counter the objections of MNAs (Moodle non-advocates), "The Moodle partners can remove the risks for you! They can host, fix problems, ensure 99.9% up time," etc. But even that was not enough in the case of LCWUS.

The outcome is obviously depressing for CMAs at LCWUS, and they now ask themselves what they might have done differently to assure a different outcome. Maybe there is nothing they could have done, but if you are a CMA at an institution that doesn't use Moodle, or you are hoping to move to Moodle someday, maybe you can learn from this case study how to anticipate and counter objections to Moodle that you are likely to hear. I hope others in the Moodle community will have ideas about how to counter the objections and will share them. - Peter


 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I am not going to rebut anything, but just put forward some ideas about how to respond to such dilemmas that Committed Moodle Advocates face when trying to promote Moodle against the slick and well sponsored products like Blackboard and Desire2Learn, and many others as well.

"Many people are actually frightened by the "open" nature of open-source software." Is an old and well worn argument. So do not raise the concept of open-source, but stress ownership. You can connect the idea of development to licensing. "If we have a Moodle license, Moodle allows us to develop it as WE want. We can suit ourselves or we can just do nothing and use it straight out of the box. We can't do that with any of the others. We actually own it - we can never own any other product, we only hold licenses!".

The fear is, I suspect, "free". Nothing of value is free and Moodle is certainly not free and should never be referred to as being free. There is always a cost, but comparisons of costs should always be made. Compare Blackboard licensing fee to Moodle licensing fee. A (US)$500 or (US)$1,000 donation to Moodle.org is always welcome, and so what if it shows up in your documentation as a "fee" rather than a donation, who cares? It is still tax deductible in most countries. Even on that basis, Moodle will come out well ahead.

"College faculty are some of the most change-averse creatures the Earth has ever seen." As opposed to whom? Appeal to their merchantalist side, after all, they are strictly mercenary when it comes to funds. Point out Moodle's position in the Western price model "lower cost equals more sales - therefore greater profitability". The fact that Moodle.org's perception of profit would be very different to theirs is irrelevant and does not need explaining, besides, the concept of "social profit" is something that few people actually have any real understanding of.

"...they are only too happy to click button after button, and have no curiosity at all about how it actually works." This is the "Microsoft way" - "Don't you worry about that." They have no curiosity until they see someone else doing something they did not realise could be done. And if you show people they have a power, they will, eventually, want to exercise it. Don't bother telling them, they will not listen, they will not understand, just show them - later, when they are committed - or preferably, before they are committed, to convince them of the flexibility of a great product.

Be clever, "the only thing "black" about Blackboard it the hole into which we will be pouring funds to get it working and keep it going." The trouble with Desire2Learn is the assumption that everyone has a desire to learn. It has been my experience that the majority students really have no desire to learn, but they want to be taught. They do not want to take too much of an active role in their own learning. A lot of students do, and fully engage, but far too many want to be spoon fed their learning, and Desire2Learn will do that, killing any desire along the way.

"The "homespun" Moodle interface isn't appealing. People want a slick, shiny interface -..." which is all too true, if somewhat cynical. But then, Moodle 2.0 is making it look too much like Google. Perhaps some more themes could be shipped with the download and just have the standard theme working at installation. Oh well, not my decision, thankfully.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Can anyone else add to Peter's useful insights here?We amateurs need to be a lot more slick than indicated here..thoughtful
 
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Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
Peter,

I think your comments are well put, and certainly right on the money. Often schools using faculty governing committee's to make important decisions like which LMS to use don't always come up with the best ones. While the profession of teaching has been around forever, online learning technologies are relatively new. Certainly LMS technology has gotten very good (and complex) over the past several years, however, they are still in a very early stage of development (IMO) compared with what is possible. For the most part, faculty who decide these matters are not experts in technology, or maybe even online instructional design, nor are they able to see how this technology can be deployed in a number of ways nor understand a vendors roadmap for what's coming up. But they do seem to like the authority of being a decider! No disrespect intended if you are part of a decision making group right now.

Selection usually comes down to how good a vendors proposal went during the RFP stage, or perhaps a certain single feature is perceived by the decision makers as personally important and that rules the day. D2L has a good product, so does Blackboard... and so does Moodle. The fear factor over open source is greatly exaggerated and often promoted by commercial vendors in their presentations. There is even a name for this; FUD, which means fear, uncertainty and doubt. Some commercial vendors still like to dish this out.

The facts are, when it comes to Moodle, there is no support advantage that a commercial vendor enjoys over the support offered by the two Moodle Partners here in the US (where you are located) and the 50+ other MP's located around the world. The combined support resources of the two US Moodle partners (Remote-Learner and Moodlerooms), and the current total number of schools supported, is fast eclipsing that of D2L and nipping at the heals of even Blackboard. Within 3-5 years Blackboard will likely be marginalized in the academic LMS space by Moodle and the efforts of the two MP's mentioned. One can look at the Moodle Stats page for evidence of this trend and the truth will be known.

One of the disconcerting things when these decisions are made is the fact that often faculty are told by their administrations that cost doesn't need to enter their process. This is totally at odds with today's realities when it comes to organizations that are taxpayer supported. To purchase something that essentially does the same thing as a system that costs 5-10 times less to support, because a single feature is cool, is a moral hazard IMO. Moodle is more than "good enough" in disruptive terms.
 
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Picture of FuD Control
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 

...or maybe those faculty know more than you think and are willing to admit?

Maybe they don't like doing business with moodle partners who think all college faculty sit around waiting for a paycheck from taxpayers...

Maybe they don't trust moodle partners who host vial porn on their sites and even deny it even exists until they are shown porn on public school sites where the moodle partner is actually the site administrator...

Maybe they are not comfortable with Moodle partners who hosts their sites and leave them open for people to download the entire user database and steal all personal (FERPA protected) data on the entire site...leaving the institution open to potential multi-million dollar lawsuits...

Maybe they don't trust moodle partners who, even after being forced to confront those issues, still host sites with these same problems....

Know anyone who fits that description Bryan? If not, let us know and I'll see if I can provide some evidence to refresh your memory wink

If you get this in your inbox before it's deleted from the forums by those who are in the business of protecting incompetent moodle partners, just know, there are very good reasons for people choosing to not trust Moodle...most of that comes from the demonstrated incompetence and arrogance on the part of moodle.com...

By the way...I thought there were 3 US Moodle Partners...it seems the only compentent one is no longer on the list...

But they do seem to like the authority of being a decider!

Yes, maybe they do like to decide not to blindly follow incompetence...

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
So... reading between the lines a tad.... am I to assume you don't like Moodle Partners much?? big grin

PS.
I'm intrigued to see what a vial of porn looks like wink

I'm just playing........
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Yess... there's two things I would add....

1. Senior management don't like not spending money. The bigger your budget the more power you have. Spending a wad of cash on an LMS makes you look powerful. A "free" product is a big obstacle to that. While there is lots of OS software around, most of it is in the domain of the IT department and nobody cares overly much about it. The LMS is a lot more front-facing than that.

2. Moodle isn't perfect and could "play the game" a bit better. I think this may improve in Moodle 2 but it wouldn't hurt it to look a lot slicker and more professional. We musn't be afraid to say "that's broken let's fix it". Also, some of these commercial vendors provide a lot more than the LMS software. That can be compelling. If you just need to write one cheque to get your whole (integrated) IT infrastructure sorted out it can seem like a very good idea. We need to get better at providing those integrated solutions.
 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators
Hi FuDbig grin Nice to hear from you; hope you're doing well.
(quote: I thought there were 3 US Moodle Partners) Bryan says 2; you say 3; I thought there were 4 US Moodle Partners? Now I am confused.
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
There's four listed, although one (New School Learning) is the themes "guru" (I'm trying not to say "only" - there's no only about it).

....unless anybody knows different....
 
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Picture of Bryan Williams
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
Of course there are 4 US MP's; one is limited to themes only and one usually doesn't compete for business in higher education the way the two mentioned do (i.e., go on-site to make presentations, go through the expensive RFP response phase etc.). All MP's have areas they are strong in and areas they don't do much in. My comment was limited to this discussion only.

Mary, you are so kind wishing FuD Control well! wink To those new to the community FuD doesn't use his real name for two good reasons:
  • He has the distinction of being the only person in 9 years at Moodle.org to be expelled from the community for lack of civility.
  • It makes it much easier to avoid responsibility for your behavior when you can simply act anonymously. People that refuse to be accountable in life tend to do that.
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
And the fact that you havent been banished, Bryan, for your ridiculous sniping doesnt prove the very points some of us argue made the banishment a ridiculous exercise? And here I thought you had finally overcome your fear of failure!

Enough with the ad hominem Bryan.
 
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Julian Ridden
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Translators
Ohh please guys, lets not go down this path again. It's been such a nice break. Let users read into FuD what they wish. Good or bad, the readers will hopefully be able to discern the difference.

in the meantime, the original post does raise interesting questions. The fact of the matter is that while my personal love of moodle has reached near evangelical levels (hey, at least I admit it) it should also be recognized that it does not fit every institutions needs. Be those needs technical, institutional or cultural.

Having worked now with an Australian Moodle Partner for the past year it has ben interesting working on scopes for a wide range of clients and even finding myself occasionally not recommending moodle as it does not achieve a perfect fit to the above requirements.

Keep the discussion going all. Im keen to read the thoughts. (yes, even from the infamous FuD. There I said it!).

Julian (aka Moodleman)
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
+1

Complaints, dissent, moaning, desperate cynicism and the like are all welcome but personal stick poking most definitely is not. Go somewhere else to do that wink
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
OK, well.. just to step back a little, Marc made the point that working towards greater integration is a goal that could be pursued, but HQ is opposed to that, possibly, I would think, out of the concern that Moodle may risk losing its own identity. That could be the case, but if other php products were integrated into Moodle, rather than the other way around as what seems to be happening, then I would think that there is little risk of Moodle being submerged. Unfortunately, without any adaptation, Moodle could really miss out. Remember the railways!
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I'm unsure of his evidence. Where did anybody from HQ say that?

If you take the Forum as an example, a simple, easy to use Forum module is all that is needed for most teaching scenarios. The only time it gets a bit ropey is when you try to use it in the way that moodle.org does. I can understand why Moodle was used but there are (IMO) better products for that job. This is a case where an *option* for an integrated solution would be useful. I wouldn't advocate throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Don't get me started about the railways - read my profile if in any doubt wink
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Interesting info, Howard, about the railways (I think we call them "railroads" in the US).

Howard, you said that "a simple, easy to use Forum module is all that is needed for most teaching scenarios." I'd like to use that example b/c I think it illustrates fairly well the dilemma that Moodle faces.

In the situation I described, faculty were enamored of the "forum dashboard" in the WebCT version of Blackboard. They had embraced it to the point where their teaching methods centered on its functionality - specifically the ability to grade student postings and student participation from one "dashboard" page (the page shows all student postings in that one topic, or forum, plus it provides metrics on the number of other postings "read" [clicked on] and the number of replies; and it provides a form where the teacher can enter a grade).

When these same faculty tried Moodle, they didn't like having to click around to get all of the info they could get on one page in Blackboard (not sure if D2L has the same "dashboard" view as Bb - maybe D2L promised to build it). So this was a situation where the "simple" forum didn't meet the needs (really "wants") of teachers, and they opted to go with something else.

Now, maybe many Moodlers would say, "Moodle is open-source, so you can build the functionality you want," to which I'd reply (1) They're not programmers, and (2) Even if they knew how, they wouldn't want to be held responsible when it breaks - much better to hire a company that's already doing it, and blame them when something goes wrong. Given that mindset, it seems impossible for Moodle ever to flourish in that kind of environment, which perhaps begs the question of why some institutions are hostage to FUD situations and others are not. I wonder what the non-FUD institutions are doing differently? - Peter
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
And I suppose I have to ask how the discussion at http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=111333#p659944 would be weighted by Peter's selection committee?
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Well, Howard, somewhere I have correspondence from MD that follows on to comments from a Dev (Petr, I believe, but don't hold me to that) and I think there is also a tracker item where TPTB make it very clear that providing integration with a different forum app, whether phpbb, phorum or what have you was not going to happen in no small part because of differences in coding styles. I believe the tracker item, which sought a cost/benefit analysis of developing an API that would permit such integration is still something one could vote on. MD asked if I wanted to take that on, and frankly as I don't think I am qualified I thought he was being sarcastic, but who knows ;)

If folk are interested I can dig that stuff up
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I can feel this one getting away from me a bit.

I specifically mean the ability to use these products side-by-side with SSO, data transfer etc. (all things that are facilitated in Moodle 2.0's architecture). This is to give users options.

What I do not mean is to stuff phpBB inside Moodle - that would be mostly difficult, unreliable and ultimately pointless.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I used the railway analogy specifically, not deliberately Howard.big grin as for me they are a brilliant example of how "self interest" and their narrow perceptive mindset managed to wreck them. Be aware also, I may be using the wrong terminology here, not being a big fan of jargon, but I am not talking about incorporating a phpBB inside Moodle but to integrate two apps to work together. In my circumstance, I am thinking here of mediaWiki, where the ease of slipping between the two is compromised by poor integration. For me, wikis are an extremely useful tool and Moodlewiki is just not up to what I believe is required. If I could create a single login that would allow movement, I would, but I do not know how. The patch that MD put up a while ago is not adequate, it is only a partial answer and does not allow continuous movement.

This is the sort of thing I am talking about and it may, in the end, come down to the phpapps Community developing a common standard that allows such movement. Or perhaps, one is actually developing organically, but it will take a while yet, I do not know. I do not want to see something that is trying to be all things to all people, but rather a set of useful tools that I can use to spread knowledge in non-traditional ways.

 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
"slip, sliding away....."

No, I was not suggesting then or now stuffing some other app into Moodle. I was suggesting spending time on rewriting APIs such that Moodle could employ the functionality of other apps, which I perhaps is somewhere between SSO (either brokered by an independent source or managed by one app or the other) and subsuming the other app. http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-14993

The downfall of subsuming the app is what we saw in erfurtwiki, which continues to be developed, though modestly, but that development is not available in Moodle wiki because erfurt wiki is subsumed, as opposed to access via a robust API. This is the same kind of worry we experience bringing dragmath into Moodle core. As long as API is respected by all parties there Moodle will be able to take advantage of continued DragMath development and this is an important benefit of adopting an editor interface that is standardized, as well as adopting an editor with a standard plugin API. I think many Moodlers will be simply WOW'D when they see what lays in wait Math wise by virtue of the move to tinyMCE, and much of what can be done in Moodle with tinyMCE can be replicated for other apps, because of the API.

I am not going to give Ludo a hard time over Nwiki (yet thoughtful) and media wiki, the last time I checked, and unlike wordpress, does not over an admin gui, but assuming for a moment an admin gui, it would not be much of a stretch to hijack same to provide the group and other features now separating Moodle's wiki from mediawiki (which is also still unable - mediawiki that is - to provide a full set of conversion tools....) So the question presented then, presented again by me with respect to the forum, and perhaps of issue here, is the degree to which Moodle might redirect funding to API's that allowed Moodle to integrate with other best of class apps, as opposed to SSO or subsuming of a code branch of such an app.

My understanding is that MHQ has rejected anything beyond SSO (in that SSO is arguably encompassed in Moodle 2 web services, yes?). But SSO is a complex subject in no small part because so many believe that SSO also connotes some integration between the apps made available via the SSO process, which is not the case. While SSO may be a convenience, I don;t see it as a substitutue for an API that offers some integration, and I don't see Moodle as having the resources to offer a full range of best in class apps (and I don't mean any disrespect to any dev by that.)


 
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Picture of Dan Marsden
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Translators
I guess part of the problem is that many of these Stand-alone apps that are good at what they do aren't really set up in a way that facilitates a deeper integration.

A while back Daryl Hawes and I both attempted to integrate an existing Blog application into Moodle - The amount of modifications we had to make to the application itself to allow a pluggable infrastructure made the end result an interesting learning experience, but not something that we could maintain long term - the advantage of using an existing application was no longer there - it was forked so much from the core application trying to upgrade it with changes from the upstream maintainers became a nightmare.

We can always do more to improve integration with other applications - 2.0 has a lot of good improvements to allow integration with repositories/portfolios/web services etc. But we need the "stand-alone" applications to also do the same!
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
It is certainly a two way street, Dan, and arguably an app Luke phorum, designed with an integration API, is going to easier than perhaps phpbb, but these conversations need to take place. I think we need to be able to say that of you do thus and such we will do thus and such which extends your community by x•10^n members. That's how synthesis is facilitated.....
 
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Picture of Dan Marsden
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Translators
IMO opinion Moodle is "on the right side" of the street... and these conversations are happening all the time with specific apps/areas in Moodle - Modules are pluggable, various hooks are in place to allow integration for SSO/Files/Repositories/new modules and we are continuously improving the ability to integrate with other systems.

As to integrating an external "app" and turning it into a core module - I wonder if this is the best way forward?

Lets take Mahara for example - there's no point in "dumping" it into Core Moodle - it has it's own developer community and maintaining a copy of the code in the Moodle repository makes little sense.

Now if someone created some cool app externally that provided easy integration, and someone else created a Moodle plugin to "connect" to that external app - this would be well received even if that app (Phorum) only officially supported MySql.
If that app required hooks in Moodle core that didn't already exist (events/local override functions) - then the core developers are usually very open to adding extra hooks!

If that app became widely used and was supported cross-db and provided better functionality than an existing Core module - I don't see why Moodle wouldn't pick up the "plugin" and include it in core.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Dan has asked:

As to integrating an external "app" and turning it into a core module - I wonder if this is the best way forward?

No, I would suggest not. There are ways in which the external app would develop that cannot be accomodated in such a subsumption, a point already made. No, my suggestion is a common supervision module that can be used/adapted to any php app. As an example, phpMyAdmin is, I understand, able to recognise and be used to supervise any number of php app databases. I was really amazed the first time I saw that not only was I getting Moodle's tables but also my very first install of mediaWiki as well. Pity that I do not understand enough of php to make a similar app work for a common module between php apps.

It may very well be that each php app has a module that will allow a common login process. It may require a database with all logins in it, and the apps refer to this supervision app, if it is present and enabled, for its logins. That strikes me as beig considerably more simple than trying to fully integrate each app into a single interface/database. It would be so easy to get monstered by it that we would all miss out.

Only today my immmediate boss asked if there was a program we could use that we could use for a number of options including social networking and e-portfoliosandso on - which I responded to say "yes - Mahara". Now I can see a real need for a Moodle-Mediawiki-Mahara integration pack but this is lacking.    

To come back to the original point of this thread, I would suggest that it would be an excellent selling point for Moodle if there was some real scalability between such php apps. (It would also help me to sell a much larger idea to my organization.) Moodle may not be that well known, but Wikipedia is and if it is promoted on the basis of flexibility and scalability and multiple use, as well as a very cost effective solution, then it won't be long before Moodle will be much better known.  

 
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Picture of Dan Marsden
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Translators
I guess my main point is regarding Marc's comment:
"My understanding is that MHQ has rejected anything beyond SSO"

This doesn't quite ring true with me....

Looking at Moodle 2.0 we have the new file and repository API - with plugins in Core to allow integration with:
boxnet, flickr, googledocs, picasa, mahara, alfresco, wikimedia, youtube, merlot, dropbox, etc etc

(and of course the plagiarism API I am working on too) smile

Integration hooks are available via the local dir, the modular architecture allows integration with other systems by "dropping" a folder into Moodle - which works in older versions of Moodle too - just check out the number of 3rd party plugins which connect to external apps via the use of a Moodle plugin.

Of course as always I'm sure we are all aware that we can continue to improve the ability to integrate with other systems but we are certainly not restricted to just SSO.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
This:

...with plugins in Core to allow integration with:
boxnet, flickr, googledocs, picasa, mahara, alfresco, wikimedia, youtube...

is, for me, a most intriguing aspect of Moodle 2.0. If this means that I can install Moodle, then mediaWiki, then Mahara easily, and be able to move between the three easily, without repeated logins, then you would have made my week, I can tell you. This is precisely what I need to be able to tell my boss. Simple fact is, the effort to manually create an integration is, for us, prohibitive. We could not pay for it and we do not have the time to develop it ourselves, so if Moodle is doing it for us, then I cannot believe my luck.
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Thanks, Howard, for the insight that spending less money = giving away your power. I had thought that the fiscal argument for Moodle would be persuasive (buying hosting and course conversion by a Moodle partner was less than half the annual cost of D2L). But it wasn't. As one administrator put it, "We have the money to do this right [=angering fewer faculty], and if that means going with a [more expensive] commercial CMS, we will do it." And so he is.

D2L also makes an argument about "total cost of ownership." Not sure I understand it completely, but I think the argument goes something like this: "Taking into account all of the time you would otherwise spend feeding, walking, and cleaning up after your 'puppy' [open-source software], our CMS will actually cost you less." The problem with this argument, as I see it, is it assumes a public college or university will fire the staff it will no longer need to feed, walk, and clean up. But my experience is that even if the commercial CMS did require less time (a false assumption, IME), no one will be fired. So the business case for TCO of a commercial CMS collapses.

I have to disagree with whoever said that Moodle should start bundling in a lot of other products. In LCWUS's search for a new CMS, they came across several vendors who argued they could do everything ("Let us register your students for class using mobile applications..." etc). But all the one dep't at LCWUS wanted was a CMS - registration is controlled by another dep't who is very happy with the way they currently do things, thank you very much. The larger the enterprise you claim to manage, the more people you have to convince to change. And also you face the danger of putting all of your eggs in one basket. So I think there are great reasons to keep Moodle small and flexible. I heard Martin say at a Moodle moot, "People learn by answering and asking questions," which I think is correct. So let's keep Moodle focused on helping teachers and students do that as easily and cheaply as possible, and not get taken off on other tangents.

The problem of public institutions using taxpayer dollars to buy commercial CMSs begs the question of just what taxpayers are getting for that extra money - whether D2L is actually $150K better than Moodle, and if so, how? - Peter
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I don't think that Moodle should start building in lots of other products. But - and perhaps I am talking with my Moodle Partner hat on - we need to get better at understanding how Moodle can fit with other likely products and have an answer to that. Furthermore, core Moodle needs to facilitate those links. Again, this will be better in Moodle 2 (of course).

Certainly in the UK, a lot of colleges (as opposed to Universities) have limited resources when it comes to IT staff. They seem used to the idea that major IT projects will *not* be done internally. Therefore - a write cheque, fit, forget solution is very compelling for them. Saying to them, "but you can customise Moodle how you want it" is more likely to put them off than to get their interest.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Howard,
Saying to them, "but you can customise Moodle how you want it" is more likely to put them off than to get their interest.

I would have to agree with that, there is a huge difference between management and leadership and what everyone is describing so far seems more like management than leadership. Management likes "flashy-thingies" so a flashy-thingy interface would be right up their alley.

Gawd, John Ralston Saul can be so depressing.big grin


 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
There's very little leadership about unfortunately. You'll know it when you see it - but don't hold your breath. A cynic (i.e. me) would suggest that committees exist solely so that no individual has to make an important decision. And therefore, no individual has to take the blame.

Leadership is the quality of being willing to be wrong and to take the consequences. My pitch for Moodle is that you can try it out on a few sample courses at very low risk indeed. If it goes well, the decision maker made a cautious but ultimately successful choice. If it goes badly it can be quietly forgotten about (or fixed).

I get very nervy about institutions who want to impose a LMS on the whole place from a standing start - no matter what it is.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
We live in an increasingly corporate world where responsibility is diffused through the corporate structure. The problem is that in such an environment, honesty is toxic. Honesty is a career killer - a sure and certain way to dismissal. Agh.. enough..

The only reason my employer, forever blessed shall be their name, selected Moodle was price. Someone suggested that setting Moodle up and maintaining it was cheaper than any of the other candidates and my bosses, may they always walk in sunshine, accepted this. It started out as a simple idea that someone tried and liked, then someone else liked, and one day, the Capo di tutti capi, forever be he blessed, saw it and said "So it shall be for all!" And it was!

So let us question the "its Free!" comment, rather use "its cheaper than anything else".

On a more serious note, I cannot accept that Moodle is not trying to be all things and that could be dangerous. The native inclusion of a seriously ragged wiki, and I have not looked at the wiki in v2.0 (and at the risk of getting flamed) but my bet is it is not much better, does detract from a great product. I would suggest that in future, perhaps better integration with other wikis, ie, mediaWiki, would be a better option. Would it not also be better for a Moodara rather than a Mahoodle? There are a whole range of options here, I would think, far more than I could envision. If Moodle was to place itself in a central role, then not only could that be a real selling point, its scalability, then adaptability would also be acceptable as a management tool as well as a strong service provider in its own right. It would not take long for people to not talk about mediaWiki, but rather the wiki in Moodle, or the Moodle e-portfolio and social networking tools. Think about it, guys - with great risk comes great reward, as someone else once remarked.
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
On your second point - it's a complicated argument. The de-facto Wiki is (arguably) MediaWiki, forum is phpBB etc.

Do we constantly chase the functionality of these already excellent products? Do we accept that we do not need all those advanced features and concentrate on building a solid and reliable subset? Do we integrate? All/none of the above?
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
While i would love to see moodle be able to provide comprehensive integration with other php apps, that undoubtedly entail some loss of moodle functionality (for example, groups) for some time to come, and though such a path has been repeatedly argued, HQ is not bending on this.

On the other hand, one could argue that erfurtwiki is not all that bad, but that because of the way it was absorbed into moodle, moodle did not benefit from community development of that wiki post it's incorporation.

"best in class" requires tremendous resources, and with an env that tries to offer multiple apps, one is going to come up short as compared to more narrowly focused communities unless you integration is light enough.

That being said we are witnessing such a transition, the move from htmlarea to tinyMCE. And we do need to be able to provide integration with best of breed apps (the short limitations of mediawiki integration for example would eventually be resolved.) While the apps Howard mentions are not necessarily the best apps in town they may indeed have the greatest market penetration, which often goes along with strongest development and broadest familiarity.
 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Maybe a doubting Thomas, Howard, but I think you have to be at risk of loss to wear Cynic and I'd have to argue the presence of 1 1/2 - lol (this community is the first where someone else was punished for my sins-lol)

but it is the fundamentalist's world view that i think you ate dubious of - one shoe fits all and it's the shoe I cobble - that is arguably the scourge of humanity.

and it is arguably the evangelist's role to proclaim the new fundament.

Which leads us where? evil
(got that emoticon right, Mary, wink )
 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I fear that we only nominally speak the same language. I regret that I have not the slightest inkling of what you are talking about thoughtful
 
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Me and da boys!
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 

 I am very pleased to see the school choosing based on a real evaluation as opposed to recommendations. One point to ponder is that the opnions of the teachers, not the students  were taken into the equation. That does seem pretty typical.

My business partner of many years was teaching at a blackboard based school in Equador a couple of years ago. When he asked about how the school came to use blackboard there was a 4 step process

  1. a committe was formed
  2. the committe asked for a recommendation from the IT department
  3. the IT head recommended blackboard Iread the recommendation- it boiled down to we can afford this and it is the biggest)
  4. the committe voted to accept the recommendation

I think we have to factor in that lazy department heads always recommend outsourcing.

 
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Picture of Marc Grober
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
While I'd have to agree that management incompetence is arguably the rule rather than the exception, I would also have to posit that this is the case re academic Departments at least as often as IT Depts. I would also have to note that it is fairly typical for entities to freeze out 'problem solvers' as their size increases and any critical analysis threatens emergent "sacred cows" (that last expression for reasons beyond me, still acceptable in US parlance, apparently because mocking Hindu beliefs is apparently part and parcel of the phobic reaction to brown skin sweeping our nation.) This could be seen as a corollary to the "Peter Principle",
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
The role of college and university IT departments in the selection (or non-selection) of Moodle is itself a fascinating issue. Perhaps one could posit the existence of a "risk aversion spectrum" and locate the IT dep't along this spectrum: Far to the right you'd find the IT dep't that wants nothing at all to do with open-source solutions, lest it open them up to the risk of being responsible for something that "breaks." Far on the left you'd find an IT dep't that accepts all comers, tries just about everything, and doesn't fret if something "breaks." I suppose it has a lot to do with the larger institution's attitude toward IT solutions generally - whether the user community has "zero tolerance" for problems and hiccups, or whether it takes a more provisional view of IT solutions (made and run by humans, who are not perfect - "The network is down again - oh well").

(I know, I know - we all use hundreds of open-source applications every time we turn on our computers - applications that run on LAMP, etc. That still doesn't convince the risk-averse.)

My guess is that institutions that want to customize and run their own instances of Moodle tend to fall on the left side of the spectrum. In fact, I'd wager that most Moodle institutions - whether hosted or not - skew toward the left.

If one works for an educational institution that has never hosted its own course mgt system - and would never even consider doing so, one is left to marvel at the courage of institutions that do. What do they know that the others don't?
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I like the term "risk-averse". This describes a whole range of people, particularly politicians, bureaucrats and business people in this country anyway, who are no longer demonstrating leadership but management. They are certainly risk-averse. They make decisions based on "will we get sued?" rather than "is this actually any good?" This certainly makes a case for the forcible deportation of lawyers and closing of law schools big grin.
 
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Picture of Joe Rowe
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
Good thoughts. Thanks for the original post and your follow up messages.
 
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me at a FIRST robotics competition
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Always interesting to hear about decision making processes in other institutions.
Here is my 2 cents about open source and software adoption-
I got into Moodle as a student teacher because it was free. My college used blackboard and I wanted to be able to offer a web class for my students. Well Blackboard wouldn't let me explore Bb as a teacher so I searched and found this cool site where I could play for free (important to student teachers!). I could edit a course page and learn about the options available to me as an instructor (oh discussions, glossaries, quizzes, how cool).
When I went to get a teaching job, I set up a Moodle site for my students and things went well.
So I think many people become enamored with Moodle (and probably a lot of other open source software) because they could pick it up and play with it without an institution "adopting" it and paying for it.
Then of course to actually adopt a piece of software requires usually one administrator (and at least a marginal committee) to approve of it. That administrator might see a few presentation sales pitches but not really use any of the products. In that scenario it is easy to see why commercial software wins.
I totally agree with the money=power argument. If the admin goes to the governing board and says we "evaluated" 3 different systems and decided on X and it is going to cost Y, the money will appear. No need to present TCO or ROI. People just trust the IT folks and don't ask too many questions or else they will sound dumb. How else could one company have dominated the market for so long? The purchasing and budgeting process in educational institutions is broken. I would argue that in order to preserve large budgets folks should choose Moodle (or Sakai or what have you) and then add the savings as ongoing training budget.
Final note about open source fear. We are switching to Open Office from MS Office 2003. There is a lot of concern about training, the timing of the roll out, etc. Meanwhile a few departments got MS Office 2007. No plan, no training, no roll out. While I think that is a stupid way to introduce new software and I am glad we are developing a training/roll out plan for our new office suite, I just have a feeling that if we were going to a commercial product there wouldn't be as much worry.
 
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Picture of Helen Foster
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
Peter, many thanks for your thought-provoking post and thanks for everyone's comments. I've added a link to this discussion thread in Case for Moodle. I think it serves as a reminder for us to not become complacent about the success of Moodle.


 
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here is my current college avatar
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
"Different strokes, for different folks", works for me. I happen to agree about the "adverse to change", "be told what to do" and "home spun" points for certain segments of our greater HE community.

Change is different, arguably unpredictable and thus scary. Educators are people. Group or organizational decisions are perhaps more complex, but still based upon emotions that are rationalized by facts.

Way back in the day when I was learning about rural development, I was told about Ryan and Gross's study of adaption hybrid corn in Iowa. I see Wikipedia has this page on Diffussion of Ideas. I took many these concepts to heart .


For what ever reasons, different tools work for different people when it comes to doing the same kind of tasks. That is life and why Bb or D2L might be considered by some to be the greatest thing since sliced Moodle smile

 
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Smores are yummy...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
I couldn't agree more!

Moodle works very well for us - thank you very much!

Unfortunatly these sorts of discussions are never 'helpful' as the author always intends. The forums here (and everywhere for that matter) are littered with those famous last words wink

As for me, I finished reading this thread and now I wonder where that time went and if I'll ever get it back! Nope! Ah well.. on to something more productive.

Take care all,

ns
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
Neil, there are hundreds (thousands?) of people working in technical positions in schools, colleges, and universities who would love to be using Moodle. But for all of the reasons I have discovered and enumerated, they are denied that opportunity. If you are enjoying Moodle at your institution, fine. It sounds as though your organization feels secure in its selection of Moodle, but this year and every year hundreds of others are in the process of deciding to switch from Blackboard to other systems like Moodle. If my posting can help just one educational institution know what to expect when it selects a new CMS (or VLS or whatever you want to call it), then the time was well spent.

Peter
 
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Picture of Roy Chambers
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
I am currently going through the process of evaluating a LMS. In competition to Moodle are a lot of one trick products, when I look closer Moodle seems to possibly, maybe, support that feature.

It is appealing to choose a product that matches one specific need.

Moodle would be much easier to choose if

1. Forums are supplemented by wikis where clear online guides are built.

2. Moodle looks better on the moodle page. Many new LMS systems have main pages with icons rather than menus.

3. Had a clear feature list (all the LMS systems could afford to have that as all)

But people will always choose other products, in no case does everyone want the same thing.
 
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Picture of Marvin Jacumin
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 
I think the reality is that most educators just want the "car to start" so they can get to work. While I respect your passion and advocacy for Moodle, I am afraid that many of your arguments make a better case for not using Moodle than they do for continuing to use it. The majority of end users do not want to "tune" their vehicle. In fact the vast majority couldn't if they wanted to. Instead they prefer to buy one with all the options already built in. This does mean that they are at the mercy of the dealership. But that's okay with most people (IMHO) because they don't want to spend every Saturday working on their car.
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Wow, Marvin - what a blast from the past. No one has commented on this thread in over two years! I wouldn't have even noticed your comment had the e-mail subject line not fortuitously caught my eye.

Perhaps my original posting left the wrong impression on you (and others), or you took the wrong impression away from it, but I think any experienced Moodler would object strenuously to the charactertization of Moodle as an old clunker that needs to be worked on every Saturday (like the old joke about needing two Jags: one to drive and one for the shop). In fact, I've heard advocates of commercial CMSs characterize OS CMSs that way - sowing the usual FUD.

I disagree strongly with your statement, "The majority of end users do not want to 'tune' their vehicle." My college uses a commercial CMS, and I can't go five minutes with any user - instructor, student, administrator, you name it - without the person asking, "Can the CMS do x?" And if not, then why not? But if you use a commercial CMS, you are limited to asking the vendor to add it to their "feature upgrade list." But people are making their own upgrades to Moodle all the time, and to me that's the real beauty of Moodle: don't care about tuning or custom features? - then use the Moodle core and you'll have no problems. But if you want to tune, go for it - you can!

It's not an either-or argument. I think the smart folks at Moodle HQ understand this. But people who don't understand it will always try to make it into an either-or argument - "Either you accept this locked-down commercial CMS that works or you get an OS jalopy."  It's a classic logical fallacy (the "false dilemma") yet it continues to hold sway in many organizations.

I guess that's the point I was trying to make originally.

Peter

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hear, hear,Peter. And I would still go with my original point, it is the language of advocacy that needs be consistent, clear and accurate.

A lot of really good points were made in this discussion, by a lot of people, and one telling point has not changed. Administrators of learning institutes may be good educators, may be better administrators, but will often lack the intimate knowledge of the technical aspects of the programs they use that they really need to understand. Self delusion is alive and well.

 
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Picture of Brian Peat
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 

I find this thread fascinating as I just took our company (we run 3 online schools) over to Moodle. One of our schools was already on it (using MoodleRooms, I moved it to our big cloud server), one wasn't using anything but a Joomla site (not much interaction at all except via email) and the third was on D2L.

I found the D2L structure confusing and disorganized. Some of this was due to an older, VERY non-techy person being the one who suggested D2L. He didn't fully understand it and forced everything into the discussions area. It was a gigantic mess. We're now fully moved to Moodle (after 80 hours of my development time) and the students love it, especially the topic/week setup (we're using the collapsable topics plugin).

Yes, we now have to offer our own support, but, we can pay to have mods made to the system instead of being locked into a hosted package stuck on the developer's time frame. We already paid the poodll developer to create a new video assignment function that dumps the video over to youtube (to save space on OUR server). It's PERFECT for what we need, and replaces the old "force the students to use dropbox to get the videos to the instructor" system we used with D2L.

I'm sure with time and training I could have figured out how to make D2L work better, but the whole "go to this tab for files, this tab for forums" thing was just terrible. Then the forums were ALL on one page instead of broken into week. I can't figure out how the students even managed on that system. They (and I) are much happer now on moodle smile

 
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Picture of Ray Morris
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Since Brian already bumped this - 

The argument for Moodle fell flat due to one of the most common mistakes people make when trying to advocate for or sell something.  The person making the case for Moodle tried to sell features rather than benefits.  Decision makers don't give a hoot about features, they want benefits.  Example:

He said: Moodle is open source source.  (feature, execs say "so what?")
Should have said: Moodle eliminates many risks involved with being   dependent on a specific vendor.  With Moodle we reduce costs and reduce risks by working with any vendor or internal programmer for maintanence needs, rather than hoping that one vendor is always available and effective.  (benefits such as reduced risks and costs get execs' ineterest.)

 

 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Ray, you make an excellent point about what convinces execs.

I guess one reason there are so many different LMSs is that there are so many different kinds of organizations.  One could perhaps do an anthropological study of organizations to see what attracts them to different LMSs (I know nothing about anthropology - maybe not the right field?). Seems to me that execs who know nothing about LMSs would need to be convinced that they have the internal resources to make an open-source LMS work.  If not, they are almost always going to be swayed by the argument that it's better to put all eggs in the commercial LMS basket so that they'll have someone else to blame (not their own staff) when things inevitably go wrong.

You could create a matrix: High/low confidence in capacity of self and/or staff to deal with problems vs high/low tolerance for problems within the organization.

I must say - I'm still amazed that this discussion still resonates strongly with people after almost three years.  We must have hit upon something timely, or timeless, in the discussion. smile

Peter

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

The "have[ing] someone else to blame" argument does not hold water. You can have someone else to blame with Moodle. Just hire a Moodle Partner. The point is that you have a choice of who to blame.

 
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King Crab Fishing in Norway
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 

Unfortunately using a Moodle partner is often like being stuck with a commercial LMS. A lot of the Moodle partners lock you down, so the smallest changes cost huge sums of cash. Except when certain things aren't working in Moodle, they avoid blame by blaming Moodle. Then they just put in a ticket which may get resolved within a couple of years... and the blame is completely off of the Moodle partner. Well, that is just my personal experience. big grin

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Another way of looking at this is we are talking around in circles. Also, even with the introduction of Moodle 2.x, things have essentially remained the same. What is this actually telling us?

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Developers

Talking in circles about Moodle being customizable and supported by Moodle Partners? Problem here is its expensive to test and support customizations. Core can make Moodle more configurable, but each configuration option then needs to be tested. That moves the cost from Partners to Core, which is probably right, but then Core needs more testes and documentors, many more, do it right. In that scenario Moodle becomes more like Salesforce, very customizable application. Also very (very) expensive.

Or do you mean that priority be given to good UI/UE? The problem here is more solvable - and arguably a better use of resources - people will forgive a really pretty application that is fun to use for not doing everything - because they enjoy using the features it does have. See Instructure Canvas, for example. Its doubtful Core will bring on an architect and put them in charge of design (like the way great buildings and great commercial software are madesmile, and Moodle will remain developer driven- maybe developers can learn to think like designers: http://kadavy.net/blog/posts/d4h-the-book/

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Barbara Ramiro may not be an architect, but Martin hired her over a year ago to work on the UI, and she is starting to have an impact.

There is other good work going on (driven by developers even wink) for example MDL-30637.

P.S. I am pretty sure Forum NG has the "see/grade all a student's posts to this forum on one page" feature. At least, we ahve that for OU Wiki, and if we don't already have it for Forum NG, it is on the to-do list.

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Developers

Hi Ray, I think Open Source, Customization, etc. are benefits, not features. 

Features I see as something like "In the forum module, I can collect all student posts in one sheet and grade them at one time". Ironically that was one of the main features Moodle lacked at the time the decision was made Peter's old post refers to.

I've been on both sides of a number of RFP selections, and I will say that often there is a feature count, and the application that loses it often loses the competition - even when these are features that very few of the faculty use (for example, in the decision in the original post, there was only one faculty at a very large institution who wanted to use the feature Moodle lost on). But they really really wanted the feature and they were tenured (and the CIO was not) so that desire carried alot of weight. 

Also ironically they ended up paying more than 3 times the price for D2L and for the amount more they paid (hundreds of 1000s of $ more) it would have been easy enough to build the feature and contribute it to core)*.

So all that said, feature counts are very important in the US market due to the nature of the US RFP process, and if an application wants to win consistantly in this environment it needs to be able to compete on feature counts. That and a slick interface will get you the quarter million USD/year contracts Blackboard is still bleeding, if you want thosesmile

 
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Picture of Brian Peat
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
 

I'm glad I work for a ministry who trusted me when I looked at moodle and said I can build it, save us $7500 a year (or more if we pass the 300 student mark) and that it would be better organized and easier to use.

I was right and everyone is happy. Heck, our support for the students is quiet for 209 students logging into a brand new site we literally launched the week before class started. The biggest glitch was new students not understanding that if they don't do anything for a few hours they get logged out. Sure wish there was a "You're about to be logged out!!!" message that changed to a "you are now logged out" message on screen if they don't do anything past the session time. I had to set it to 6 hours (hacking the session page) and encourage the instructors to PLEASE tell the students to copy ALL their work.

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
> The biggest glitch was new students not understanding that if they don't do anything for a few hours they get logged out.

How tragic! People want to reach the summits and stumble upon the next pavement.
 
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Picture of Elizabeth Dalton
Re: Case study: Moodle loses to D2L
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Since this thread has revived, I'd like to comment on this point:

3) College faculty are some of the most change-averse creatures the Earth has ever seen. They tend to get really set in their ways of doing things in online courses. Examples:

  • Wanting icons on the home page ("I hate that long list on the course home page in Moodle! Why do people have to scroll and scroll?").
  • Wanting a "discussion grading dashboard" as in Bb CE6/8 (WebCT 6): "I shouldn't have to click three times in order to see each student's postings, see how many times s/he posted, and see metrics about messages read!" So that's a case of instructors using the discussion boards (forums) mainly for assessment, not the "social negotiation" envisioned by the social constructionists who founded Moodle (yes, instructors could use the assignment tool to have students upload their best forum posting for grading, but they don't want to - it's extra work).

I think the scrolling problem is a serious issue, and has a considerable negative impact on student learning. Even if the faculty at my institution weren't complaining about it, the students would be, and rightly so. I'm very pleased to see some efforts to address this in core 2.3.

The forum issue is even more critical. I think supporting "social negotiation" is a fine and wonderful thing, but refusing to implement a cleaner interface to allow faculty to grade participation or understanding in the forum environment is imposing one narrow definition of a theory on a lot of people for insufficient reason, in my mind. We have a meeting today with a highly respected adjunct faculty member who has decided not to continue to work with us because she is too frustrated by Moodle's limited functionality. She works for other institutions and uses a variety of LMS software, and knows what else is available. She's a very good instructor, and she's not trying to implement behaviorist teaching (heaven forbid). She is just tired of fighting to import question banks, tired of having to click in half a dozen places to see incomplete views of what her students are doing in the forum, tired of the huge, unnavigable Gradebook interface. And I think Moodle has excellent potential, but I also think it's time to stop saying "Moodle is designed that way on purpose" or "we don't want to reinvent the wheel" and start saying, "Ok, you've described a need, let's figure out the best way to implement functionality to meet the need in a way that meshes with our infrastructure."

 
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