Comparisons and advocacy

Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.

 
Picture of Paul Gobée
Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
 

Doubting between Drupal and Moodle - Experiences/advice asked. We received a grant to develop an open learning platform on anatomy that will contain both repositories for anatomical data and learning functionality using these data. The anatomical data comprises images, separate terms, coordinates, folders with Google-maps-like image tiles, video, 3D data, etc., all to be multi-tagged. The learning functionalities are for instance quizzes, flash cards, 'drawing on image'-assignments, peer-review, ranking, competition, serious games, etc.

We are considering either Drupal or Moodle to build the platform on, possibly supplemented with a repository system such as DSpace.

We are looking for companies or developers with extensive experience in creating educational applications preferably with both Drupal and Moodle, for advice and possibly for building this platform.

During our investigations so far we heard contradictory views. We would like to hear comments on these views:

  • “Moodle is rigid and doesn’t allow developing such varied things as Drupal does”. Others deny this. If so, how does the rigidness of Moodle show? What kind of things cannot be made or done or require far more effort in Moodle, that would be possible (easier) in Drupal?
  • “Updating Drupal is a headache, especially if you have a site that uses a lot of extensions. And developing in Drupal does require a host of extensions. Moodle handles updates better due to its stricter OO set-up”. Is this recognizable?
  • “Developing learning activities in Drupal is possible but requires 2-3x more development time than in Moodle, because there are far less educational possibilities/extensions in Drupal than Moodle has out of the box”. Is this correct?
  • What are important differences in the programming architecture of Drupal vs Moodle?
  • Are there any limits to the styling and lay-out of a Moodle based site (asssuming diving in the CSS)?

 Thank you for any information!

Paul Gobée.

Leiden University Medical Center, dept. Anatomy & Embryology, Netherlands

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Of course, you are not asking in a place that is likely to be impartial...

To me, it's not that difficult. Moodle is about Courses and learners (and teachers) in courses. So, if your material is organised into discrete classes/modules/courses and you want to control access to those courses then Moodle's model makes sense. 

Drupal is a content management system and is about making content accessible in a more open way. So, if your material is openly available to everybody then Drupal may make more sense. 

The rest of your questions are just 'stuff'. They are both popular applications with loads of support. If you don't want to make a big mistake it's absolutely vital that you install both and have a play yourself (if you haven't) or you will never be able to ask informed questions about either.

I can't tell you if the plugins you need are available - because I don't know what functionality you require. Yes, that sort of thing can be make or break too. 

You could always use both of course...

Just my $00.02 as they say...

Oh...and I'm moving this to Comparisons and Advocacy forum smile

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

It's a bit like turning up at the Ford owners club and asking for an opinion on Chrysler cars smile

If you wanted a general content management system (CMS) I'd pick Wordpress because I know it or Drupal because it has an excellent reputation and I'd like to learn it. 

If I wanted a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)  I'd pick Moodle.  

 
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Picture of Paul Gobée
Re: Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
 

Thank you Howard for your swift reply.

I understand this forum is not impartial..., I posted the same question in the Drupal education forum. I'm hoping to find people that have in depth experience with both platforms to compare, because we seem aiming at a kind of middle ground and are unsure of the best fundament.

The envisioned platform jumps out of the dichotomy box: 'open'=CMS versus 'closed in courses'=LMS. The most material will be open to anyone. But the goal is learning, so it also will have all kinds of exercises and there may be series of activities in a path as a mini-course. Sometimes the materials and exercises can be open (for students to exercise themselves or look things up), sometimes they will require log-in (if registration is wanted).

The idea is a platform that specializes on the learning of a specific topic and to that aim holds specific content and has specific tools. To compare, just as booking.com focuses on investigating and booking hotels, second-hand-stuff sites focus on coupling people with surplus stuff and people wanting to have it, other sites focus on keeping updated on people wink, on patient self help, on sharing things, etc, etc. All these have specific content and tools. The idea is that teachers in teaching that specific topic can refer to the platform. If they wish to use it in class as a teaching aid and don't need registration, there is no need to log in (think of virtual microscopes, tools for practicals). If they do wish to register student's activities, log-in is needed and the results will need to be transferred to the school's over-all LMS after completion of the activity. So the platform will be a topic-specific tool that can be used in itself or as a specialized 'add-on' refered to from within an institutional LMS.

So, yes, lots of open content--> think Drupal, but also all kinds of exercises and teacher needs--> think Moodle. There's our 'dilemma'...

Installing both platforms and trying out is a good advice that will give us important experience, but I thought it wise to also invite in-depth experiences by seasoned users.

Thank you and we remain welcoming any further information.

 
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Tim at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Re: Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Moodle can be quite open (e.g. if you make most courses open to guests, and turn on the 'auto login guest' admin setting). However, people will still need to log in with a real account before they can do anything interactive like post in a forum (which is pretty reasonable).

Moodles main focus is courses. That is, and organised programme of learning (of whatever size) with activities and resources.

Here is an example of a fairly open site build entirely with Moodle: https://learn5.open.ac.uk

Here is a site that is Drupal in the front-end, for browsing the list of courses, etc. then at the back end there is Moodle, once you get to the actual learning: https://www.open2study.com

Of course, mashing up two systems like that means learning (and possibly customising) two systems, so you have to decide if it is worth it.

 
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Picture of Brendan Anderson
Re: Drupal or Moodle for platform with repositories plus learning tools? Experiences and advice asked.
 

"... but I thought it wise to also invite in-depth experiences by seasoned users."

I think truly seasoned users of both systems are going to be rare. I am actually an experienced Drupal developer who has recently been tasked with maintaining a Moodle installation. So my experience is heavy on the Drupal  and light on the Moodle. These are my thoughts for what they are worth:

The best thing about Drupal is it's community. It's active and gigantic. There are tons of excellent modules that add bits of functionality that you can use to build just about anything you can imagine. This makes Drupal super flexible. If the module you need does not exist, development is easy and straightforward, the API is well documented and there is a ton of learning material to consume. Dev learning curve is steep but climbable and you can probably hire a developer with Drupal experience tomorrow. But you basically get very little out of the box. You get a first rate permission system, a flexible content model, an OK block system and a decent theming system. You have to build everything else out of contributed modules and your own custom modules.

The best thing about Moodle is that it is an LMS full of LMS features that you didn't even know you needed. Instructors, Students, Grades, Courses, Assessments, granular notification system, and more LMS stuff than I even know about are baked in and you get them as soon as you install it. That is all stuff you have to build yourself with Drupal. But if you find that you need some development to meet your needs, developers are harder to come by and the learning curve is steep. Learning materials are fewer and worst of all, Moodle still uses an old API for lot's of stuff which means that there are situations where you need to do something and the only way to accomplish it is to hack Moode. This is never the case with Drupal.

"So, yes, lots of open content--> think Drupal, but also all kinds of exercises and teacher needs--> think Moodle. There's our 'dilemma'..."

Yeah it all comes down to how those weigh against each other. If the exercise and teacher stuff is pretty simple, then build it with Drupal. The more complicated that is, the better Moodle looks.

 
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