Comparisons and advocacy

 
 
Picture of Andy Kent
Advice needed about long term plans
 

Hi

In my University here in the UK we currently use Moodle in a small way to support some of our distance learning courses.  I am advocating expanding the service to make it available to lecturers and tutors to support face-to-face classroom teaching. However the committee that would fund this are nervous about the future of Moodle and want reassurance that Moodle has long-term plans and is going to remain a viable system for the foreseeable future.  Is there anywhere I can look or anyone we could talk to who could give the guarantees they need that will convince them to invest?

Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions.

 
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Mary Cooch
Does Moodle have a future?
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators
Hi there! I just changed the title of this post to better reflect your question because I am hoping people will come along and reassure you. Certainly Moodle is expanding and developing and becoming more popular. I wonder if your committee is thinking of going for a different LMS (ie commercial) instead or are worried because Moodle is open source and that that might affect its viability? I would say that on the contrary, being open source means it has a large community of supporters eager to see it continue and thrive. Just because an LMS/VLE is a commercial entity doesn't give it a better chance ( I know of one such that failed a couple of years ago, leaving establishments in the lurch) Moodle Partners are the business side of Moodle and the ones I am familiar with certainly seem to be doing very well. But - I would say this, wouldn't I? As I want to carry on Moodling for as long as I can smile So let's see what others have to say on the matter.
 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

Hi Andy:  Your story sounds so familiar! A mere six years ago, I was sitting on the same side of the table as you are now - listening to people make statements like "Moodle is open-source, meaning it could disappear at any time" and "I think we need to wait a few years until Moodle gets established; in the meantime we need to stick with this crappy commercial CMS - better the devil you know."

Here are some facts you can give to your committee:

Your committee wants exactly what my committee wanted: ironclad proof that whatever they select will endure. I'm here to tell you: it doesn't exist! I know an entire system of colleges that almost practiced hari-kiri when Angel was purchased by Blackboard and all of their work went down the toilet.

IMO, Moodle is much more likely to be around in ten years than a commercial CMS, no matter what they tell you.  Your committee now needs to do the hard work of researching individual CMSs and judging their history, present position, and long-term viability. Read financial statements and listen to what their leaders have said about their plans for the CMSs. Check out who owns them (a holding company that could sell at any time?) and what is the leadership situation (Is the CEO planning to leave soon?).

For my money, the community that has grown up around Moodle offers the best chance for its long-term viability. Good luck!

Peter

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

Some other links:

http://docs.moodle.org/dev/Future gives another answer to your question.

https://moodle.org/dev/contributions.php?version=2.4.x lets you see how many people from around the world contributed to each release, which is another measure of the project's robustness.

https://moodle.org/plugins/ gives an impression of how many people are contributing add-ons to the basic Moodle package.

 
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Picture of Peter Seaman
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers

I hadn't seen the question, "What happens if Martin gets eaten by a kangaroo?" and the answer - hilarious!  Thanks, Tim.

Peter

 
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Picture of Jel Coward
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
 

So true.

Open-source solutions give the _best_ assurance of longevity.

I use an electronic medical record (EMR) (I am a physician).  I chose OSCAR (I am in Canada) becuase it is open-source....and because of my experience in the UK where I had been burnt twice by proprietary EMRs insisting on very costly upgrades.....with their leverage being that my patient records were in their systems.


.....and now in Canada I watch proprietary EMRs fold as OSCAR goes from strength to strength......it is _because_ it is open-source that it is is robust.

(oh, and it works as least as well as the proprietary offerings...better than most?

(oh, and just in case....I have no financial interest)

Cheers smile

jel

 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

With all the enthusiasm of what has been said by others, perhaps your colleagues need to be thinking a little further afield. Computers are the most disruptive technology we have ever developed, there is no aspect of society, politics, economics, technology that has been left unscathed by them. Things change so readily, and so frequently, we can no longer percieve much beyond the next 5 years. People claim that we do, but we really don't.

I suspect you are asking the wrong qestion here, it is the underlying technologies that need be questioned.

Essentially, does the system we want to use offer us long term flexibility? Some technologies are evolving but are enduring, like HTML, preprocessing, sql databases, as used by an LMS like Moodle. Other technologies, Ruby and Java, have promised a lot, but have yet to realize that promise, but maybe they will one day. However, they use SQL databases. Increasingly, proprietal systems also use SQL databases, so  whatever system you pick, it has to be an SQL database, and that is what I see as the key. 

The database holds all the information you need to transition between different products. For the moment PHP and an SQL database are providing the most stable platforms and most useful products, but no-one can guarantee that this will continue. If something better comes along, Moodle.org will probably respond to that by producing a version that uses the new platform, but my money will be on there being an SQL database at the core of the product. 

So does Moodle use web based interface, yes, does it use an SQL database, yes. If Moodle is no longer a useful tool, can it be converted to another platform relatively easily, I suggest yes because of those reasons. The onus is on the user to have access to a skill base that can make the transition, but a university has that already. 

So for me, it does not matter too much about the longer term presences of a product any more, it is my ability to transition to another product, hopefully better, that is the real issue today. Moodle, I think, can fulfil this criteria botter than most other products.

There is also another important aspect, I can access both the database and the code as it is open source. Far too many other systems are not, so transitioning to another product is difficult if not impossible, that is the trap that needs be avoided.

Food for thought.

 
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Picture of Andy Kent
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
 

Hi

I'd like to thank you all for your quick and very helpful responses. I'm certainly convinced about the longevity of the software, based on its growth, the size and commitment of the community and the fact that it's open-source nature protects it from commercial takeover or costly upgrades. All I have to do now is convince the committee!

Interestingly, the committee isn't so much considering using Moodle as opposed to a different LMS or VLE. Others in the University are advocating using a content management system, specifically Drupal, instead of Moodle as a large part of the use of a VLE here would be in resource sharing. I have started another topic about this comparison, but I would be very grateful for any advice about whether Moodle sees Drupal as threat and if anyone else has had similar debates.

Cheers

Andy

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
I see tools like Drupal/Joomla/Word press as complementary to Moodle. There will always be things that one does better or not at all by comparison. For example there is a gazillion plugins and themes for Wordpress but you really don't want to be doing quizzes or assignment submission with it.
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Advice needed about long term plans
Group Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers

I suspect there needs to be a clarification about what things are what. I see Drupal and Joomla as content management systems, that is they play specific roles for some things. Moodle is a Learning Management System, that is something different. Moodle can be used inside the Drupal or Joomla shell, so they are not competitive, but rather, complementary, as Marcus has suggested. They are two different things. We need to not get too carried away with these terms, LMS v CMS, they are different tools for different segments of the market. One thing I have thought of is to use a Drupal or Joomla shell, and inside you have a range of PHP applications, Moodle, MediaWiki, Mahara, WordPress, and a decent diary tool, which Mahara may or may not be useful for and an email tool. The shell provides some security but more importantly, provides a single login device. Whatever tool you want to use, the shell provides the login so you actually do not have to log in to each tool separately. I have no idea how to make this work, of course, but there are some smart people out there who could do it.

Of course, if you really wanted to get serious, you could, as these are all Open Source, integrate them into a single tool, add in a Student Management System, and you would be developing a hugely powerful tool that you could maintain yourself irrespective of anything that might happen to the products you are using. As long as the web shell, Apache, PHP and MySQL, remains intact, without consideration to versions, then you could have a system that will last for as long as you want to support and the hardware does not outgrow it. That could be decades and in this world, that would be a phenomenal achievement.

 

 
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