This might be more suited to the comparisons and advocacy forum but I thought I'd post here since it's just raising the issue in general, gauging opinion, and I've just posted on the Moodle and SN thread, which is sort of connected. I spent a couple of days at BETT ( a UK educational trade fair) and did a whistlestop tour of some commercial LMS from a secondary school point of view. I'm also interested, for my own personal development, in how other Open Source LMS(VLEs) compare pedagogically with Moodle - ie, what they do better, what Moodle does better and what both do differently and how we could learn from other commercial and Open Source products in order to improve Moodle. Does anyone know of any in depth research on this? I've seen the odd "Moodle v Blackboard" type paper or blog post on ,say Moodle v Edmodo but nothing more. Have I missed anything? Would there be any merit in my doing some research on this? (Kind of objective "compare and contrast" Moodle with the best known other products) Personal research, in my own time, obviously, as I have no plans to go back off to college and write a Phd But I was fascinated when I questioned other providers at BETT at how they saw things different from (and similar to) Moodle, so I just wondered if it might be useful? From my point of view, it would also mean I could speak with authority about why Moodle is BEST (because I had studied the others) rather than just assuming it is because everyone I know uses it!
You may already be well aware of this (it's infamous) but just in case: http://oscmoodlereport.wordpress.com/
"This report is Part Two of the Open Source Collaborative Moodle Assessment Report by the same assessment team (Randall, Sweetin and Steinbeiser) of the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) Learning Technology Systems Department. The research question for this report was, “What is the best LMS solution for the North Carolina Community College System?” The two LMS’s reviewed in this study were Blackboard and Moodle."
For learning programmes that don't require the same kind of intensive tracking, rating and grading that Moodle supports, and for even more socially oriented platforms, I quite like http://elgg.org/ and http://mahara.org/, which are both free and open source and both have some degree of integration with Moodle. It's difficult to get access to closed source systems and try them out because there... well... so closed.
I'm interested to see what else emerges here
I would be concerned that it is difficult to do a meaningful comparison. Just think about how long it took you (or me or any of us) to really understand Moodle. Groups, Roles, Permissions, things you can do only if the admin enables them, ... and all the things you still don't know.
How much will you be able to find out about the other systems, in the time you have? Will you be able to do a fair comparison between a system you know well enough to write books about, and only you have only scratched the surface of?
So, basically I think what you are proposing will be quite hard.
On the other hand, it would be really worthwhile if you are up for it, and I cannot think of many peole who would be better qualified to have a good stab at it than you, so I hope I have not put you off
Also, in your role as documentation fairy, it would probably be a really good experience to go back to being a novice user of other people's systems. It would probably help you write better for novice Moodle users.
What an interesting area - I totally agree with Tim's and Matt's posts that this could be very difficult, but is really needed! - there are good things going on outside of moodle. However, when chatting to exhibitors at BETT I got the impression that moodle was very much the benchmark that others we're comparing their offerings to.
I can't think of a methodology for doing this that would have wide spread use that is not complicated. But off the top of my head you could look at splitting the various applications of use up and compare those functions of moodle with comparable products/systems.
For example you could look at the 'social tools' in moodle with tools like; elgg, mahara & blackboard (possibly facebook?) and 'content delivery' against; blackboard, intute & Sakai etc... and so on.
Perhaps a way to start might be to scan the landscape, we could do this by producing a collaborative mindmap outlining the core functions (probably the wrong word) and then adding all the other tools that also deliver that function.
I concur with Tim that "what you are proposing will be quite hard", for the reasons he gives. I have seen quite a few "LMS comparison studies" these past few years and have always been disappointed in their outcomes. The dilemma I see in such comparative studies is: either you keep at the surface of things and can compare the presence or absence of such and such feature or you go for an in-depth study which means - e.g. in your case - you'd have to spend quite a few years of real everyday use of other LMS such as the years you have spent using Moodle. Quite an impossible task!
You may argue that between those two extremes there lie a host of possibilities. I am―as often―skeptical, but do go ahead and prove me wrong, I'd love that.
Thanks everyone for your replies and constructive opinions Yes I understand now it would be "quite hard"; I guess if I did this I would have to have a specific/narrower focus and age range. In terms of getting to know other LMS (Joseph's point) I had planned to survey users of other LMS (because I can't see myself spending years using them myself!) but I do take Joseph's point as well. The "collaborative mind map" Mark mentions is a great idea - I remember one being started by a group of UK educators in 2008 but again (regarding depth of study) it was merely a "Moodle has this/Fronter doesn't have this" kind of document)
All food for thought I would really like to do some research along these lines, especially (as Tim says) it would help improve my writing of Moodle documentation, but I will ponder the caveats carefully first- I wouldn't wish to prove the sceptical (which I spell with a 'c') Joseph right!
I checked out Google Scholar http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&q=Moodle+research&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C5&as_sdtp= and, with exception of Martin's 2003 article, there does seem to be little critical mass.
There is a much more substantive literature on F/OSS and researchers on Moodle software/ specific cases could mine this eg this excellent article by Brian Fitzgerald http://www.idi.ntnu.no/grupper/su/courses/tdt10/curricula2010/P2-1-Fitzgerald06.pdf The Implications section would also be useful for those orgs implementing Moodle.
Rich qualitative single cases can shed light as long as they are 'critical' and grounded in good literature. With complex organisational implementations, there is unlikely to be one 'best' technical solution (hence the limitations of comparisons that you identify), it's the human and organisational issues that can make or break an LMS implementation.