Teaching with Moodle

My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options

 
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Matt Bury
My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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OK, this article is about finding Moodle hosting options but aimed at teachers, instructional designers, curriculum developers, and anyone who only needs a small Moodle online for personal projects and pilot schemes. I hope this is the right forum for it.

Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options

Every year, web hosting and installing web apps becomes less technically demanding, quicker, and simpler and it's getting to the point nowadays where it's a consumer level endeavour. Here's a few of the easiest low-cost options for hosting Moodle that I've seen so far.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the hosting providers mentioned in this article, neither am I endorsing any of their services. I'm citing them, without prejudice, as examples of types of Moodle hosting and they are by no means the best or only options that are available.

Read more: http://blog.matbury.com/2014/08/23/free-low-cost-moodle-hosting-options/

Happy reading!

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

I can't find a good argument for not using a decent web host such as hostgator or gogethosting. The major problem for the teacher is getting the course resources, and for the teacher to design and manage their own courses, and Moodle partners can't offer such services. It doesn't take a computer geek to operate Moodle once installed, although I do have worries about when the time comes necessary to upgrade a fully functioning Moodle with students. On reading this forum, I have no doubt that most of the posts here have a bigger problems upgrading Moodle as to installing a fresh Moodle. 

As a classroom teacher they have a curriculum to work from, and their students have their coursebooks. We must be careful that Moodle's commercial competitors don't start making claims such as Moodle, although free and open source is more expensive to run, in comparison as to what they have to offer. I saw this claim on one website.

Alternatively there are free ready made Moodle sites such as http://www.gnomio.com/ Disadvantage with this site is students putting up with their advertising. But its well worth trying out this site as a beginner. It looks good and they even have bigbluebutton ready, a live interactive classroom with whiteboard. For 15 euros a month these adverts can be removed.


There is also Moonami http://moonami.com/pricing/ Costing minimum 25 dollars a month. There is a free months trial availabele. So good for beginners to give Moodle a test.

It must be realised that many teachers who want to try moodle are individuals with low budgets, they might be school teachers who haven't yet got financial backup from their schools, or perhaps individual private teachers who need to expand their small business of teaching face to face to going national or even international online. Every possible opportunity must be made available to those who are not computer technology experts, but would like to learn and be teachers online using Moodle.


 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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Hi John,

Thanks for sharing the other Moodle providers. Here's something I noticed:

gnomio.commdl2.com

http://whois.domaintools.com/gnomio.com and http://whois.domaintools.com/mdl2.com

Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: WHOISGUARD PROTECTED
Registrant Organization: WHOISGUARD, INC.
Registrant Street: P.O. BOX 0823-03411
Registrant City: PANAMA
Registrant State/Province: PANAMA
Registrant Postal Code: NA
Registrant Country: PA
Registrant Phone: +507.8365503
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: +51.17057182
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: E7EFA478869243A4AF1079F95F7050E2.PROTECT@WHOISGUARD.COM

Strange that they'd register 2 domains and use 2 names to run the same service, and then hide their identity by using Whoisguard.

BTW, I asked HostGator, BlueHost, and a long list of "regular" hosting providers, providing them with recommended minimum specs for running Moodle, and none of them could confirm that Moodle 2.5 or later would run on their shared hosting services.

 
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Floyd Saner - Tail of the Dragon, U.S. 129, NC
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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I run Moodle 1.9 up through 2.7 on Bluehost shared servers.  However, I don't recommend a shared server for production systems.  I use them only for testing and development purposes.   The main problems are limitations on database connections and server processing power.

My first advice is use a Moodle Partner.  If that is too expensive, use some other hosting company that is familiar with Moodle.  In the end, host it yourself.

And... if you do not use a Moodle Partner, make a contribution to the Moodle Trust Fund.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Most definitely every Moodle user should contribute  to Moodle, once they have a profitable business. It helps Moodle, it helps you and others for Moodle to continue to progress and be the best. And don't forget all the other open source software that is part of Moodle.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hostgater and gogethosting are running well with Moodle. both have the latest PHP, I know because am using both of them with moodle 2.7.1, and I'm surprised neither of them have informed you of this. They are both very helpful and knowledgable, if you have a problem.

You'd be better off asking them about how they handle CMS and LMS. No, they are not Moodle specialists, and I'm not the only Moodle user satisfied with their services so far. But there are a lot of hosts who have no idea what they are doing and are not helpful, and looking at recent posts here the biggest, being Godaddy, is not a good idea for Moodle users.

As far as Gnomio, I personally wouldn't use them seriously, but they are certainly useful for a newbie to join for free and explore the possibilities of Moodle. And what do you think about Moonami? Are they suspicious? They look pretty genuine to me. Again I prefer having a carefully selected web host. To avoid disappointment only risk a 1 month payment deal, you could always go for an annual agreement once you are satisfied with their services.

 
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Picture of S Moodle
Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options - not always smooth going...
 
I can't find a good argument for not using a decent web host such as hostgator or gogethosting. 

I've used various inexpensive webhosts over the last 10 years with moodle.  Yes, it's getting easier and easier for the regular person to rent one of these $8/month hosting services and get moodle up and running.  I won't give you a good argument for not using bluehost, hostgator, site5, goDaddy, 1&1, Fatcow, etc, but.......

A few thoughts:

  1. You get unlimited bandwidth, diskspace, but the most important is the limited PHP processer load. 
  2. Shared hosts really limit how much php processer time you get.  So yeah, five concurrent students taking a quiz is no problem, but a classroom of 30 with immediate quiz feedback can make your hosting provider shut you down.
  3. When hostgator shuts you down, they will be happy to hard upsell/upgrade you to a $60/month VPS. (yeah i know about the $25/month VPS, but installing Centos from scratch is no picnic.
  4. The newest version of Moodle always seems to use a version of PHP that is a year newer than what a shared host has installed.  This makes sense, if you are hosting hundreds of php apps on a machine, you don't want to immediately update php in fear of breaking things.

Again, I've jumped around as not all hosts run the same, but this is just food for thought.  It's really hard to find a site that reviews hosts, because they all all so fluid in the services they provide and it depends on demand.

Most hosting providers have a web app one click install for Wordpress, Moodle, etc, which makes it really really easy.

Thoughts?


 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options - not always smooth going...
 

Thank you,Your post as it  is food for thought. (in future terms)

I have just started with two hosts using Moodle, and not yet fully functioned with a lot of students. But I still believe that using a low cost host is the best way for independent starters who cannot afford large fees.

If and when the time comes that there are problems of having too many students on your Moodle site at the same time, will be the time to move on to the next stage of upgrading or using the services of a moodle expert for example. When this time comes, I would assume that due to the amount of income received by these students, we would have a budget to pay for these extra costs.

So, using a webhost is good for a self starter, and also when this time comes , we would have gained a lot of experience using Moodle.

You need a  website anyway, to promote your courses as an independent.

I will certainly inform this forum If I do come into problems of using a web host, but $60 a month for example wouldn't be a big deal if you have 1,000 paying students enrolled.

You do have to chose your web host carefully, not all of them support the latest Moodle, and if you use an old moodle, then you have to upgrade earlier than necessary. And you don't have to use the one click install, you can install moodle yourself  and I have already given you the youtube tutorial link above on how to do that.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options - not always smooth going...
 

There was a post here way back that was doing a survey of webhosts, possibly written by one of the moderators here, it was worth being a sticky.

with a chart of what hosts offer, which was intended to be constantly updated, but wasn't. It might be useful to contribute and update this post. If I find it again, I will let you know. Bluehost had good statistics at that time.

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options - not always smooth going...
Group Documentation writersGroup Moodle Course Creator Certificate holdersGroup Moodle HQGroup Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup TestersGroup Translators

The section on How do I start using Moodle? in the documentation About Moodle FAQ might have the link you are looking for, and sending teachers looking to use Moodle to About Moodle FAQ is a good starting point anyway.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options - not always smooth going...
 

Useful and interesting section, and it does mention that you should take care and trust your host. I'd be weary about freebies, if you are like me who actually has to make a living in this business. They are likely to have ads, or give you one of their sub domain addresses, or will only allow you to give courses free of charge, or even worse, steal your students and use your courses for themselves.

What I saw was someone starting a thread with a chart showing various specifications oof webhosts, for example bandwidth, price, PHP, myql, etc. It was asking fr others to support and give specification of others. Obviously such a post would need a lot of support coming from other forum members.

If there is anybody out there who has used a web host for about a year, has about 50+ students, and is satisfied with their service, or who has had a bad experience, please let us know.

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hi Matt:

I just want to thank you for your post. I already setup a site using mdl2. It is very promising; It will give me the opportunity to review and test moodle features that I can´t test in my university´s site, or at least do it faster. It will also allow me to work on personal courses. In general I feel it is opening many opportunities.

Thanks again. Let´s be in touch.

Jose

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Mdl2 is also Gnomio.com. Yes I can see it can be useful for testing, might even be useful fully functioning if you pay to have the adverts removed. You have your own web address for , without even purchasing a domain or host service.


Have you tested their live video conference and whiteboard? Big blue button.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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Personally, i don't feel I can trust any person or organisation that obscures or hides its true identity. Both MDL2 and Gnomio do this. I have no idea who they are or how long they're going to operate this service for. They might even be part of a phishing scam and try to con any learners that enrol on your courses with messages sent from your account, as if they were from you. They may be legit but from the information they provide, you just can't tell.

Who's the owner of Gnomio and MDL2? Where are they based? (Their server is apparently located somewhere in Germany. Exact location not specified.) How can you contact them? -- Basic requirements for a trusting relationship.
 
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Gmads
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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I think it might represent a good option for people wanting to do some testing, trying out or just getting familiar. For anything more than that, who would place his or her business in a non-professional site? As they emphatically say:

"Remember - we are not a company."

One nice business model, though; they receive donations but as they are not a company, they aren't actually obliged to provide any kind of support, assistance or whatever beyond taking out the ads, increasing the cron frequency and enableing automated backups.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 
Do you honestly believe that forming a company, or being a company (especially a LTD company) is more respectable and trustworthy than someone who does business as himself, eg sole proprietor, entrepreneur, sole trader, or partnership? Because believe me , I know from past experience that is not the case. To form a company is to avoid personal liability, and you try suing a director for payment, when they cease trading, only to form another company free from debt.

However all businesses should be honest as to who they are, and where they come from.
 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hi John:

I haven´t checked BBB yet but I will. I am thinking how to use this service considering Matt´s comments. It seems good only for testing. 

I set up an account with http://www.educadium.com but it is limited in terms of admin rights etc.

I'll keep looking. 

Regards, 

Jose

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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Hi Jose,

I had a look at Educadium's LMS here: http://www.educadium.com/

From the video tutorials and the activities and facilities that are available, it looks like they've re-skinned Moodle 2.x. $100 per month for very limited control and limited numbers of learners doesn't look like good value to me.

At that price, I'd ask around for virtual private server (VPS) and dedicated server hosting packages and if you're not comfortable with installing web apps yourself, see if they'll set up Moodle for you. Many hosting providers offer one-click-install packages for a number of free and open source web apps including Moodle.

My hosting service, https://www.heartinternet.uk/ , didn't offer Moodle initially but when I asked them about it and recommended it to them, they added it to their list promptly. However, they're not good at dealing with security and hacking issues.

What looks like the best low cost option for a production installation of Moodle I've seen so far is from Bitnami.com (It's actually hosted on Amazon Web Services). With this option you can also hire trusted, reputable developers with Moodle experience to do work on the server for you for whatever you need, e.g. to install daemons for more efficient chat and/or an Etherpad for Google-like collaborative docs without the Google hassle and privacy issues. There may be other providers that offer similar services for similar prices.

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Matt, bitnami looks very robust. I setup a free account for a cloud testing server for Moodle (2.7.1-1) and they say it is available for one hour (I guess per day?). It gives most if not all admin rights.  

Let´s see how it goes. At some point it would be necessary to pay for the hosting. 

Thanks a lot for your suggestions. 

Jose

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
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Hi Jose,

It sounds like you've chosen the developer option and have created a temporary instance for testing purposes. You can also set up a VPS instance and keep it running indefinitely.

AFAIK, Bitnami doesn't charge anything for "micro instances" on its services. The only charges you incur are from Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting. You'll need an Amazon account and if you haven't used AWS before, you can get a micro instance for free for the first year. A free VPS for a year sounds pretty good to me.

For a personal Moodle for use with one teacher and small numbers of learners (100 or so) would probably come to around $200 or more per year - That's a lot less than some "Moodle providers" are asking. If you want something with more support, scheduled backups, cPanel, etc., here's some reasonably competitive pricing: https://www.heartinternet.uk/vps (Ignoring the promotional discounts, the cheapest is £11.99 (£12 = ~$20 USD), you have to pay extra for cPanel or Plesk, and doesn't include 20% in taxes). They're UK only so good for Western Europe. Accessing it from other continents/regions might be a bit slower but still acceptable.

If anyone knows of similar deals in north America, please let me know! smile

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hi Matt:

As you mentioned I set up the VPS on bitnami using AWS, but it wasn´t easy for me. I will be checking it to see if it is not too difficult to work it out since I am not very knowledgeable on these kind of technical aspects. Frankly I think for me it´s better a service like the one provided by mdl2 which allows to have admin rights (altough they don´t allow installing external plugins as bitnami does) for Moodle without the need of much technical knowledge about servers etc.  I understand a VPS is more powerful but at the same time it requires more knowledge or to have support. 

It is unfortunate to have doubts about mdl2 as you mentioned it before in this conversation but let´s go one step a a time.

Thanks again. Regards, 

Jose

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Hi Jose,

I guess it's true that the more you know about this stuff and the more you can do yourself, the less you have to pay for it and the greater the autonomy and control you have.

The Bitnami.com VPS that you're playing with is designed with developers in mind and it isn't the easiest option they offer; you can pay more for more support. I haven't used their support options so I can't comment on them.

If you're a knowledgeable sysAdmin or know someone who is, you can set up a micro instance VPS with Moodle directly on AWS (or Rackspace) and pay a very low price for your usage. This is essentially what most Moodle providers are doing and then pocketing most of what you pay them as profit. What you're really paying for is convenience and support.

For experimental and testing purposes for small numbers of people, if you have a high speed home broadband connection (the up speed is important: 2MBps is enough for small projects) and your ISP allows incoming HTTP requests, you can set up a localhost server with Moodle on your home computer and make it available to the outside world. This would give you complete control over the server, Moodle, and everything (It's your computer!). The URL will be your home IP address + whatever directory Moodle is installed in on the server. However, I would only send the URL to people you know and who would use your Moodle for a limited period of time; you don't want hackers probing your computer for vulnerabilities or get heavy traffic coming in through your home ISP connection. Also, it'd only be available when your computer was on and the server was running.

Here's 3 options that I've tried:

Bitnami AMP stacks: https://bitnami.com/stacks/infrastructure or ready-made "one-click-install" Moodle stacks are also available.

WAMPServer (Windows only): http://www.wampserver.com/en/

XAMPP (The official Moodle localhost distro uses this one): https://www.apachefriends.org/index.html Moodle distro: http://download.moodle.org/windows/

i think learning to use phpMyAdmin (for managing databases) and cPanel or Plesk for managing files, installing web apps, etc. (They're all GUI's so you rarely need to write any code) is really helpful and empowering for elearning professionals. Even if you never actually do it on production servers, it's good to know how it works and it puts you in a better position to get things done when talking to IT support staff and contractors.

Just my €0.02! smile

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hi Matt:

I tried Bitnami and AWS and at least for now I won´t use them. As I mentioned their services are very robust, but too technical for my expertise. I am going to try mdl2  and see how it goes. I also like the idea of having Moodle in my computer; in fact, I had it some years ago but I don´t have the time rigth now for this. 

I appreciate a lot your time sharing with me and the whole Moodle community. I also appreciate John and Guillermo´s contributions.

Let´s be in touch.

Best regards,

Jose

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Hi Jose,

Thanks for sharing your perspective on this issue too. It's good to get a variety of views and use cases to build a more detailed and nuanced picture of what different users want and why. smile

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Jose, taking into consideration that your serious work is with an established Moodle in your university , and you just need this gnomio as a testing ground, I think you have made the right choice.

However, for other self starters, such as private teachers starting online, or teachers at schools who haven't yet got full financial support of Moodle from their school, and require a moodle with active students and teachers for real, then perhaps the other options might be considered.

Some of the other options are not that technical, and wouldn't require a lot of time to learn from a non- computer geek teacher.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Hi John,

Yes, and there's probably a lot to be said for teachers, resource developers, curriculum developers, and IDs who are new to Moodle to limit their explorations to the standard features and activities available. It's only when learners' and teachers' needs can't be met in any other way that we should consider 3rd party plugins and/or modifications.

Using 3rd party plugins means trusting that the developer(s) will continue to maintain and update them as Moodle evolves and changes. If you come to rely too heavily on a 3rd party module and it stops working correctly on a future version of Moodle, and the developer(s) are no longer maintaining it, you're pretty much stuck with that version of Moodle until you can find a work-around and then you have to apply that workaround to all courses and activities that use it.

Lots of 3rd party plugins also makes updating core Moodle more difficult and time consuming and can generate some unpleasant errors, although Moodle's plugins and upgrading console tries to warn you about them.

So in this sense, vanilla Moodle is preferable if it can do everything you need.

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Hi John, as the title of this conversation says, we should keep an eye on finding "Free and low-cost hosting options" from trustful providers, that allow self starter "power" teachers in terms of their knowledge and use of Moodle, to have their own site not only to set up courses but also to administer it and have the capability of configuring the platform, adding plugins, querying the database and other not too technical tasks. I'm sure there are many, like me, that even being employed, want to have the independence to work and advance on personal projects, and keep learning how to maximize the use of this powerful platform, but using providers that give you confidence in the long run.

This conversation can be where we can share this kind of information as we find it.

Thanks a lot for your comments. 

Jose

PS. Maybe what people like me need, who are much more into instructional design, is something similar to what you see in the legal profession: "low-cost, trustful, full-fledged Moodle administrators or consultants" smile It just occurred to me.

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Jose, you have taken the words right out of my mouth. And as us our little LMs grows to say a thousand students or even 500, we may well  need expert assistance, such as Moodle Partners, employees, and be in a financial position to donate to Moodle's growth and development, because in such a situation, one individual can't teach, administer, and be a course author all at the same time. 

Reminds me of the situation in Britain, Britain's current growth rate is due to the fact of success coming from small independent businesses, collectively beating the big international companies hands down. I suppose it has always been called the nation of shopkeepers, and it's doing it again.

Same applies to Moodle, collectively and  potentially there is a much bigger turnover of income that could come from private tutors, teachers, course writers, etc,  etc, in comparison to the fewer big universities in the world.

So my point is, give the little individuals starting up on business with a low budget as much help and support as you possibly can, because that's Moodle's future.

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

John, I liked a lot your comment and the analogy with Britain´s small indepedent businesses. I think you are talking about something that Moodle´s leadership and community should aim for. 

I didn´t know Britain is called the "nation of shopkeepers"! nice! smile

Jose

 
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Matt Bury
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Plugin developers

Couldn't agree more with you John and Jose. Moodle's a "community centric" project and needs people and organisations at all levels of involvement to keep it relevant to as broad a user base as possible.

It's also helpful if you work in an organisation using Moodle, with their own particular set up and the specific permissions they give you and features that they activate, to see the whole of Moodle, i.e. your own Moodle, as an administrator so you can see how it all works, what's available, what isn't, what you can add, and what things do. That way you're in a better position to ask for changes in your organisation's Moodle that would help learners and teachers, and show them to your colleagues in your own Moodle.

How do you know what to reach for if you don't know what's possible?

 
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Picture of Jose Londoño
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

Matt and John:

Should it be a midway service between these forums which act as a community support (excellent BTW), and the Moodle Partner companies, which probably are more for organizations using moodle? I mean, consultants or "personal coaches" from either or both, the software and instructional design point of view. Because, for instance, I would like more personalized and continuos support and advice from a "Moodle software expert" than the one the community can give me, and at the same time, prefer (and probably can afford) to work with an expert I feel confortable with, instead of a company like a Moodle Partner. 

I found an example of an expert, not on Moodle,  but who can illustrate my point, and who even does pro-bono work. This guy is listed in a private sector company, which should act as a "trust filter" between clients and these experts.  It should be something similar related to Moodle.

Regards,

Jose

PS: Do you know if it is it possible to get notications only on a conversation like this?

 
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Picture of john Simpson
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

For me, after a bit of shopping I use http://gogethosting.co.uk/ for less than 6 GBP a month. I can't understand where all these other prices are coming from, they make no sense.

After asking gogethosting for the latest Moodle 2.7 they happily provided it, and is now available for everyone. I've had it several months now, and have no problems.

I also have http://www.hostgator.com/ with moodle, so usa and UK companies, and I am in Russia. Server speed no difference from either country. For those against the idea of one click installs, you can always install moodle yourself. Here's a hostgator tutorial.




 
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Picture of Amy Chambers
Re: My latest article for teachers and IDs: Free and low-cost Moodle hosting options
 

I've signed up with https://www.rosehosting.com and been running Moodle for over two years now. Their support is awesome. They installed Moodle on my vps and made some changes to the .htaccess file and php configuration. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a reliable hosting with great support.


 
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