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Top 10 Moodle Myths

 
Picture of Josie Fraser
Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I've been out and about recently, talking to people about our Moodle roll out and listening to the reasons they've considered but decided against Moodle. Many of the comments have been fair and rational, but too many have been based on misconceptions about open source in general and Moodle in particular - for example, that you need a developer in your team in order to consider using Moodle. With thoughts on HUGTOB (http://www.helpusgettobett.com/) and simple, effective resource making, I thought it would be useful to throw together a Top Ten Myths About Moodle document, with concise and snappy replies to the strange ideas some people have. Something that could be reduced to A4 or blown up poster style. I'll put the document together -if people are willing to contribute their 'pet peeve' Moodle misconceptions.
 
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Picture of Charlie Wilson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Moodle Is the same thing as Blackboard...
Moodle is not powerful Since it is open source...

i'll let you know if i think of any more... great idea...
 
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mberry
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Brilliant idea Josie.

How about these misconceptions:

  • Moodle won't scale
  • Moodle is difficult / time consuming to install / administer / use
  • Moodle is a security risk
  • Moodle isn't standards compliant
  • Moodle won't interface with an MIS

Be interested to know what the other ones that you heard on your travels were.

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers
  • Proper support is not available with open source software
  • There's nobody to blaim/sue if it all goes wrong
 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

The arguement I keep hearing is "We would rather base our online commitment with a commercial company that has a history and is likely to be around than take our chances on a public shareware type of product."

What people taking this position fail to realize is that Moodle is every bit as commercial a product as Blackboard. This has been accomplished by creating certified "Moodle Partners." These partners provide all the same services and support that Blackboard provides to its customers, through commercial contracts that are enforceable by law. However, the big difference is that you don't have to pay for the Moodle license, so that $100,000 budget that Jack is talking about now become 100% training, support and customization.
The pitch that we try to make for our company FutureU is that the money recoverd from eliminating the license fee can be used for additional faculty training, which we will be happy to deliver.
 
That brings up some of the other benefits of Moodle that may or may not fit into the Mythbuster document, but here they are for what they're worth:
 
Pros for Moodle
1) If you want to do something that hasn't been done before, you can create a new module yourself. 
2) By law (the license) you must share your module with the Moodle community for free. There is already a huge library of modules that have been created that way.
3) If you don't like the service or solutions your getting from the Moodle Partner your working with, you simply buy from a different Moodle Partner.
 
Cons for Blackboard
1) Blackboard has its own roadmap that may or may not include the feature you were hoping for.
2) Blackboard offers building blocks, but they are mostly commercially licensed whereas the Moodle modules are all free under the Moodle open source license.
3) If you don't like the service or solutions you get from Blackboard, there's nothing you can do about it except switch to WebCT (oh, wait, you can't do that anymore!).
claude big grin
 
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Picture of N Hansen
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I think you've got it confused, by law, you are not forced to share your Moodle module with anyone. You can keep it all to yourself. You can even sell it, but then you can't stop others from giving away what you sell for free, which basically removes the financial incentive to sell it.
 
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Picture of Zbigniew Fiedorowicz
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Even this is not strictly true. If you can separate your module into two parts:
  1. a standalone application which functions entirely independently of Moodle
  2. a Moodle module which interfaces with (1).
then you can sell (1) as a strictly commericial application,  without allowing your customers to redistribute it.  Only the Moodle interface (2) is covered by the GPL.

A good existing example is the Hotpot module.  The existence of the Hotpot module in Moodle does not bring the original Hotpot system under the GPL.

I also recall that someone wrote a Moodle interface to some commercial course administration system and that is also the same story.

 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Your right. I stand corrected.

But the other part of what I was trying to say, still stands, though. There are already a bunch of modules that people have decided to share, so the idea that Blackboard's building blocks somehow make it a better choice than Moodle can be argued with on that ground.

claude thoughtful

 
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Picture of Etienne Lévy
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
you wrote
There is already a huge library of modules that have been created that

Where is it possible to have a watch inside?
I must be in Berlin next month for EOB and I would be delighted to show what moodle contains.
Meleze
 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

See http://download.moodle.org/modules/ for a list of modules.

See http://moodle.org/mod/forum/index.php?id=5 to view forums on each module.

claude

 
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Picture of N Hansen
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Here's a myth about Firefox and Moodle.
 
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Picture of Ralf Hilgenstock
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersTranslators
Next Myth:

  • You have to work hard in the community to get support.
 
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Picture of Charlie Wilson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Since Moodle is free there is no where to go for help....
 
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Picture of Ulrike Montgomery
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Documentation writers
Josie,
I could write a novel about Moodle myths.
Here are the ones I heard most frequently:
As an admin
  • you have to have a degree in information technology.
  • you have to have the technical expertise to download Moodle to a server and do you own upgrades.
  • you have to be a php programmer.
  • your school has to have a sophisticated webserver.
As a teacher
  • you have to know all modules and functions perfectly (in addition to excel and power point) before even thinking about Moodle.
  • language teachers should stay away from it at the moment. They might get training 5 years from now (maybe - if they are at least willing to learn html).
  • it's just a toy of a few crazy teachers - they should get down to teaching again instead of playing around on the Internet.

 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

but too many have been based on misconceptions about open source in general and Moodle in particular - for example, that you need a developer in your team in order to consider using Moodle.

If you are planning on rolling-out Moodle on any significant scale (University LMS to replace something like Blackboard for example), then this isn't a myth. Anyone would be foolish, in my opinion, to do that without an in-house developer(s).

Steve

 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

I thought the whole point of having a Moodle Partners program was so that institutions that don't have in-house developers don't need them.

Schools using Blackboard usually don't have a developer on staff. I can't really see why a school using Moodle Partner would need to either.

claude

 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I thought the whole point of opensource was that you don't need a partner (company you are purchasing from) smile. What's the point of switching from BB to get away from a commerical LMS and buy Moodle from someone else?
 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
1) Your core business model can't be dramatically changed by market changes. You rent BB, you don't buy it. If BB gets bought by someone else, goes bankrupt, changes their business model, your cost or even rights to use the license all of your courses depend on may dramatically change in a very short time.
2) You can change your support partner without changing your LMS
3) You don't need a partner, you can easily run Moodle with the same number of staff that you run Blackboard with following the same precautionary principles you should be using with BB.

 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

IMHO, The whole point of open source is that it is community-based and community-supported and the Moodle Partners are an important part of the community.

claude

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
Sounds like an open source myth to me. Open source does not mean not having a partner, but if you do have a partner it is probably not the company you are "purchasing" from. This is the genius of Martins Moodle Parners plan. Rather than attempting to do it all himself he is building a network of 3rd party support so you have a choice of where you get your support from. Its similar to if you are going with Linux, do you go for Community supported Debian or People with Bricks and Morter like RedHat or SuSe?

The chances are you keep your pointy headed bosses happy with  RedHat or SuSe, even if personally you feel Debian might have done the job just as well with zero financial outlay.
 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
With Blackboard we've always stayed several .x numbers behind the latest release and carefully checked the web boards for bugs. Frequently the latest releases have been quite buggy.

If you hit bugs in the latest version of BB, you may have to wait months for fixes.

The same strategy should work fine for Moodle, eg. if I had no development experience or desire to learn, I would download 1.4.5 for now and wait until all of the kinks get worked out of the 1.5 branch (which 1.5.3 is looking like it will take care of).

Why would you need a developer to roll out 1.4.5?

On theother hand, I would say you need a competant LMS Admin to roll out any LMS on a significant scale, if you are rolling out BB or WebCT or Moodle, a 'competant admin' should know some html, jsp/js (for BBCT--you better at least understand Tomcat error messages8-0) or php (for Moodle), but I certainly wouldn't say you need a professional "developer" as in 'programmer/analyst' to run the system.

A competant LMS Admin should be fine with 1.5.2+, I don't see any need for programming skills above those needed for a large scale rollout of Enterprise/Vista for Moodle 1.5.2.

It isn't like BB is entirely stablesmile.
 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

I wouldn't so much be worried about kinks in 1.5. Again, one of the big "selling points" of opensource is that if it doesn't do what you want it to do, then you can change it...which you can't necessairly do with a commercial system.

Just a day or two ago, someone asked about moderating forum posts in Moodle and got the answer frequently given here that that doesn not fit the philosophy of Moodle. You work on a university campus...can you imagine passing that response on to your faculty smile.

True...they wouldn't get the functionality from Blackboard either, but I don't think it would be very wise to sell a campus on switching to Moodle and then depend on the community to meet your campus needs. If you do it, you had better be ready to be self-sufficient in support and development...you developed a content management feature for Moodle (and a nice email feature)....without programmers you wouldn't have those items that are standard in Blackboard.

If I were to move my university faculty from BB to Moodle today, I had better be ready to do some programming to be able to respond to requests for changing, adding to, modifying, etc. a lot of things in Moodle. There is no way I would travel down that road without a good programmer.

Steve 

 
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Art Lader
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Documentation writers

The University of South Carolina just "upgraded" its BB installation last week. Far from perfect. See for yourselves: http://uts.sc.edu/ars/handouts/bbissues.shtml

-- Art

 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Ture...BB has problems. I'm on a Blackboard campus and provide BB support to college of education professors, so I'm well aware of the problems. I choose to use Moodle for my own courses for several reasons...one of them being that, overall, I do like it better than BB.

I'm not defending BB, I'm just not inclined jump into the "groupthink" mode that is prevalent in these discussion forums. Many here talk about Moodle as if it were their "first born child"...prettier than all other children and perfect in everyway smile. It's great to be committed to something, but it's easy to become blinded by your own passion.

Blackboard has flaws...Moodle has just as many if not more. I've used both platforms extensively. Do an honest feature-by-feature comparison between BB and Moodle and you may be surprised...Moodle will win some, but will lose just as many....Look and feel--Moodle wins; Discussion forums--BB wins; chat features--Moodle wins; Assignment features--BB wins....etc...

On our campus we have one BB administrator...thinking that we could move this campus from BB to Moodle and only need a Moodle administrator is naive to say the least. If we were a campus with no existing LMS, then incorporating Moodle would be a lot easier, but when people are comfortable with one system and you remove it and introduce a new one, then you open a whole new "can of worms" that you had better be ready to deal with.

Steve

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone move from any one LMS to another (for  isntance CE to Vista or CE/Vista to Blackboard's upcoming AYB system) without extra staff.

I was talking about the staff needed to run an Enterprise LMS, not transition from one LMS to another.

Sorry if I was unclear.



 
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mberry
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

"Many here talk about Moodle as if it were their "first born child"...prettier than all other children and perfect in everyway smile. It's great to be committed to something, but it's easy to become blinded by your own passion."

Now, this is interesting. AFAICT you don't get the same level of commitment, no, passion, with most VLEs, certainly not in the UK BB community at least, nor with the platforms provided by our regional broadband consortia. Why is this? OK, for the developers, fair enough, but for the rest of us? Perhaps it's the moodle.org community - we feel part of a movement, and even though we've not contributed a single line of code, still feel that it is, in part, 'our baby'.

Anyhow, I see this as a big plus for Moodle: that such a proportion of its users care as passionately as we do about a bit of software. At St Ives, this extends down to the pupils too - I posted in my school blog about DfES plans to provide 'learning platforms' at LEA/RBC level, provoking this response from one of my 10 year olds:

"Will we have to change moodle to the new thing because I like it the way it is."

 
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Porsche Panamera
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Are you away of any other Schools in South Carolina using Moodle?
 
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Picture of Tom Walton
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Agree entirely with Steve: "Anyone would be foolish, in my opinion, to do that without an in-house developer(s)".

I'm responsible for the technological side of the Moodle set-up for an institution just starting with Moodle. I'm not really qualified to do the job but the assumption has been made that "Moodle is dead easy" (a myth?).

The computer programmer who works with me on our other projects, note, says he can't help because he doesn't know any php.

I couldn't possibly have got even as far as we have without expert help (a) from other colleagues and (b) from postings on the Moodle forums.

Thank goodness for both of those (and I also certainly agree that it's a myth to say you can't get help with Moodle)!
 
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Picture of David Scotson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

I'm intrigued to know what you would have the computer programmer do if he did know PHP.

Because if you had BB or WebCT instead then there's not much he could do as a programmer with them. (Building Blocks etc. being mostly nibbling around the edges).

Are we not getting mixed up between what you can do with Moodle (get access to the code, contribute changes to the community, fix bugs according to your own priorities and schedules), and what you need to do to install and run Moodle.

For a large institution, I would think that any software that is going to be used by the entire staff and student base (e.g. email) would need some administration, but not programming.

Maybe this is just a case of educationalists being a bit free and easy with IT terminology that I, as an IT guy, see clear demarcations between.

 
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Picture of Tom Walton
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
True, but that's the whole point:

I'm not an IT expert, but I'm still one of the most expert in the institution I work for. And I can't fix some of the problems Moodle inevitably gives.

So I turn to someone a lot more expert than me, a computer programmer. He says, "I can't help you, I don't know nuffink about php". Hell, who am I to argue? I don't even know what php is!

The myth (?)  is that just anyone can install and set up and run and fix and debug Moodle.

Yeah, yeah! Moodle is great, amazing, fantastic, hugely superior to BB etc! But -- like anything else in technology -- it's going to produce its problems.

If you've not got someone expert in the technology, or at the very least expert at troubleshooting technology, Moodle is not going to be as easy as it would be nice to make out.


 
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mberry
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
"Yeah, yeah! Moodle is great, amazing, fantastic, hugely superior to BB etc! But -- like anything else in technology -- it's going to produce its problems." (emphasis added)
By their nature, web-based virtual learning environments are complex things, nevertheless my feeling is that Moodle is far easier to install and maintain than most of these, and if something does go wrong, you or a competent admin can probably fix it most of the time, without having to endure the purgatory of technical support.
OK, I know our installation is down the low end of the scale, but I have far more problems maintaining our Windows XP network than the Linux servers, including Moodle. I don't think anyone's claiming that a novice user can set up a site wide Moodle themselves (although, thinking about it...), merely that it's a lot easier to do than a lot of people make out, and I'd say a lot easier than many of the things which IT support folks get called on to do.
 
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Picture of John Rodgers
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
As an extreme novice, I installed moodle using a service provider and began testing it in earnest with our school.  It really just worked.  It was really easy to maintain and upgrade.  I even had some really bad habits (wrecklessly installing new features, fishing around in the guts) that never seemed to go awry.

This summer I met with the head of IT, the Superintendent of Secondary education and our curricullum lead and discussed installing a dedicated server on the Board network.  I strongly recommended linux, and definitely recommended not using MSSql.  The head of IT had some appropriate reservations:
  1. They were a MS SQL department.
  2. No one knew linux for sure (although there were some OS X people).
We discussed the other reservations as well (Its free...why that sounds like communism.)

The install was up and running in appropriate time frame (and appears to be running extremely well).  I have since heard through the grapevine that it was, in fact, one of the most seamless installs the department has had.smile


 
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Picture of Mark Stevens
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Moodle Course Creator Certificate holders
Myth:  You need a PHP programmer to run Moodle.

We've been running our Moodle site with 2,400+ users for a year, and we haven't written one line of php code.  The installer script wrote the config.php, and everything else in our installation is 100% out of the box.  (Nearly a million page views.)

It sounds like your IT are making excuses.  Are they overworked and underpaid like the rest of us? smile

Nevertheless, I wish we had PHP programmers smile  Then we could do some really cool stuff smile
 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

My IT people aren't making excuses...this topic isn't being discussed on my campus.

Your last line pretty much sums it up when discussing the want/need for a programmer.

Steve

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
Hmm, I would suggest you bring the topic up.

The LMS market will likely further consolidate, there are bigger players in education than Blackboard, and still bigger ones who might like to sell a single ERP/LMS solution.

Further dramatic change in the LMS market is likely in the next decade, I'd advise folks in any institution where the LMS is mission critical to be investigating alternatives and planning how to manage changes in the event of major changes in the LMS climate.

IMO, a mininum it's an earthquake/firedrill, it's best to at least have discussed the issue and scoped out escape routes out of what is becoming the most populated building (albeit virtual) on campus.


 
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Picture of Ed Borasky
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I'll issue a hearty *amen* to this! I can't give any names, of course, but the recent consolidation of PeopleSoft and Siebel into Oracle has caused chaos in a project or two that I'm involved with, at least peripherally. IMHO PeopleSoft deserved to die; they messed up some customers truly royally.
 
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Picture of Jay G.
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Hi, I am new to this whole world of LMS and VLO etc, regarding the points in this particular thread, I wonder what your advice would be with regard to this exit planning. I assume this means ensure that your VLO's (and independant resources) are tagged to death with meta so you can port them straight into the latest and greatest portal?  
If so, what meta standard do you follow? heck, to a newbie there appears to a plethora of differing standards and guidance notes. Do you build in SCORM compliance now to save time in the long run?
I guess the answer is that this whole environment is still pretty developmental, and as a developer one has to take gambles and risks with software choices and hope that everyone makes the same choices so you are not left out in the cold on your own....
(I'd still really like some advice about the whole metadata thing smile)
 
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mberry
Metadata (was Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths)
 
Maybe worth starting a new thread on metadata and tagging.

The more I think about this, the more metadata tagging seems so web 1.0: it relies on some Authority saying once and for all what a particular learning object does, who it's for, and how it should be used. Being able to find the learning object then relies on hitting just the right combination of tags that were attached to it in the first place. What's more, almost nobody actually likes doing this work.

I'd like to see someone take the whole folksonomy/social tagging idea and apply it to learning objects - I'm sure this could work really well, and would give an important voice to LO users in place of their producers. The social construction of LO metadata fits pretty closely with the Moodle world view as well.

Take as an example the bookmarks for webpages that I might use with my classes. We have in place pretty good systems for tagging these already, like del.icio.us, so this could work straight away without too much effort: I have a bookmark to say a really good online tutorial on coordinates: I add this to my del.icio.us list with a few appropriate tags. This isn't hard work for me, because I want to be able to get back to it again, and have chosen to use this as a way of organizing my resources, also, of course, this makes it available to other people too. But they might also have added it to their del.icio.us lists with some similar tags, so the search engine at del.icio.us will prioritize the ones that lots of people use and match the tags most closely, what's more it suggests other related tags too, which brings other learning resources to my attention that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. You could go further, and say, eg, I know Miles's links are usually pretty good stuff, so I'll try a few other of his suggestions, or better yet, build them up as communities, rather than just individuals.

Now, extend this down to the learner's level, and you have the basis of a system for providing personalized learning resources, which is built around people and networks rather than the merely automatic suggestion of further LOs which is what Ruth Kelly seemed to have in mind in the DfES E-Strategy:

"I am particularly excited by the idea of giving every student and learner a personal online learning space [...] And in the future it will be more than simply a storage place - a digital space that is personalised, that remembers what the learner is interested in and suggests relevant web sites, or alerts them to courses and learning opportunities that fit their needs."

Now, this is a way off, but I wonder if those folks who're working on repositories and the mymoodle interface could see their way through to building in some of this.
 
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Picture of Leon Cych
Re: Metadata (was Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths)
 
Miles it will be more specific than that there will be PLR's (Personal Life Recorders) but, as has already been pointed out - there would then be a need for personal life aggregators once that happens. But I can see your point - but for me the whole RDF debate was one way of going down this route but, of course, everything has a philosophical or political basis so peer groupings and the blogosphere is one counter I suppose. In many many ways I see the whole educational infrastructure deconstructing once all this all gets underway.

 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Well, I'll agree with that, but I'll leave the university talks to someone else.

I'm a 9-month faculty member with a half-time release to provide tech support for our college. I would prefer to spend my energy actually providing Moodle training and classrooms to my graduate students--practicing teachers--as part of their ed-tech course, and developing a more user-friendly ePortfolio using Moodle for our undergrad students--future teachers.

We are in the process of developing a web-enhanced doctoral program in ed admin...if I have my way, the web-enhanced part will be done with Moodle, but whether or not I get my way remains to be seen smile...and, I already have one of the best programmers on the planet working for me in the college tech department (wouldn't do it without him or someone like him), so we're set to provide the support and customization needed.

Steve

 
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Picture of Mark Stevens
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Moodle Course Creator Certificate holders
Wanting a PHP programmer to write a new block, assignment type, module, or etc. (what I meant by something really cool), should not be confused with needing a PHP programmer to install/run/maintain an out-of-the-box deployment of Moodle. smile (Maybe that's another myth: A standard Moodle install isn't something really cool smile)

Not needing a PHP programmer is exactly what has angered the powers that be on many campuses. Many of us have seen LMS proposals where Moodle was assigned 3 FTE compared to 2 for Bb and/or WebCT. It's the myth that Moodle requires more support and/or a PHP programmer.

I repeat: our year-old 2,400+ user Moodle deployment with 10,000+ page views a day has no PHP programmer.
 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
I like the myth that you need a PHP programmer to run Moodle. I am a PHP programmer, I run 2 moodle sites and none of them contain a single, I emphaise not a single line of Moodle running code that has been changed by me. (I say Moodle running code cos I have put in a line that puts up some rotating advertisments but that has nothing to do with the actual Moodle that is running).  
 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Did you move a large faculty from an existing system to Moodle or is Moodle the first LMS they have had? If you moved them from an existing LMS and you haven't had to change anything, then you have a very, I emphasize Very, understanding and easy to please faculty.

If we were to move our faculty from Bb to Moodle, there would be a long list of changes from faculty in order for them to feel like they were not losing some functionality. Discussion forums are still the heart of asynchronous online course facilitation....we would need to do some major work in that area to provide the functionality they would be losing. High on their list would be a feature like "Safe Assignments" in Bb. I don't know everything that would be on the list, but there would be a long one and if we were not able to respond with changes and customization, we would have a lot of unhappy campers. It doesn't matter that they would gain functionality in other areas...you had better be able to provide everything they currently had and more if you are going to make this kind of move. You can't do that without some programming....and you had better have a few extra support people as well.

This doesn't even consider all the implications of tying Moodle to our student management system (Banner) and establisnig other systems like student enrollment, course creation, grade reporting, etc....

A lot of people are misled by a "sample of one", thinking what works in one situation will work in all situations. I have implemented Moodle in a couple of public schools without changing much of the code, but I don't just assume this would apply at my university...I know it wouldn't.

Steve

 
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Picture of David Scotson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Is this conversation going round in circles now, or is it just my imagination?

I'll try to sum it up as otherwise I fear we will all continue to talk past each other:

  • introducing an LMS (such as Moodle or Blackboard) is hard work, the larger the institution, the harder the work
  • running a large University scale LMS, hosted on your own server requires IT staff familiar with the platform (i.e. LAMP for Moodle, Oracle, J2EE, .Net etc. for Blackboard/WebCT)
  • changing from one LMS to another is even harder than introducing a new one as people have expectations, habits and skills gained from the previous system. Extra resources and staff time may be necessary to convert content, train staff and generally hold people's hands and make them feel comfortable during the transition period.
  • using Moodle does not, at any stage, require a PHP (or any other kind of) programmer
  • Moodle allows you (to a much greater degree than Blackboard's Building Block program) to modify it's functionality by hiring a programmer
  • a cost/benefit analysis for implementing Moodle at a large university will almost certainly find that there is a net benefit to hiring/contracting/applying the time of current employees towards customisation and enhancement of Moodle.

To editorialize a bit: it seems we are still confusing what is possible and what is needed. If people were moving from Blackboard to WebCT (more likely the opposite direction actually) then if things were different then you would just have to deal with it. I have seen this with my own eyes in various software 'upgrades' where vital, and sometimes not so vital, features were sacrificed, to general dismay, as part of the move. The ability to optionally change the code and replicate or integrate current functionality is an extra benefit of Open Source solutions, not a boogey man to scare potential users with.

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
And for completeness, my growing list of quotes from folks who have switched.

Maybe we could get Ellen Feiss to do a video?


 
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Picture of Frances Bell
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

This is a good summary of one sub-thread David, but seems to cover the situation once decision to move to Moodle is made. The Top 10 myths de-bunking is (presumably) aimed at decison-makers or those who influence them, and they will be looking for case studies and hard evidence on total cost of ownership and user satisfaction in transitions similar to their own.

The next thread in this forum is coming up with some interesting suggestions for changes to Moodle (many already in progress apparently).  It is a strength of Moodle that it is in continuous evolution but this moving target effect does make evaluation more difficult.

 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
Well, moving targets are the nature of this area, imagine all those folks who thought they were done with migrations for a bit after they  evaluated the market and chose WebCT Vista.surprise

 
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Picture of David Scotson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

Yes, sorry, I should have been more clear that I was summarising just the part of the thread on the topic of:

  • Myth: you need a PHP programmer to run Moodle

which is kind of a subset of

  • Myth: Open Source is always more difficult to install/use/administer

These are just two of the misleading things people might have heard when they first consider Moodle.

 
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Picture of N Hansen
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I'm not using Moodle with a university-it's just me and my Moodle. I don't have any sort of infrastructure to support me, nor do I have a bureaucracy and the inherent financial mismanagement of a university to get in the way. I'm not a programmer although I understand html and css pretty well. The only structured lessons I ever got in PHP was reading a 4-6 page tutorial about the very basics of PHP. However, I have been able to make a lot of little customizations to my Moodle, even to contribute some lines of code here or there to the standard Moodle, simply through having read that tutorial and studying the actual Moodle code. If I want to change something on a page, I look at the rendering of the page, and I look at the underlying code to figure out what code produces what effect. Then often I just copy a line of code and modify it slightly to do what I want it to do.

Now, if I can do that, don't tell me no university can find the money to get a real PHP expert. If any university simply monitored its internet usage and identified all the employees who were spending university time visiting pornographic web sites (let alone other non-work related sites) instead of working, and then restructured their positions to account for the actual time they spent working, those universities would probably be able to create several Moodle related positions. I've been in universities the last 16 years, and I've seen so much money wasted on staff that weren't doing anything at all that I am certain any university if it cared about efficiency could find the money.



 
 
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Picture of Drew Buddie
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

What a LOVELY expression N (sorry dunno your first name to be less formal )-  "it's just me and my Moodle" .

It makes a lovely tagline for some www.helpusgettobett.com publicity I have in mind - have I your permission to use it?

 
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Not a PHM :-)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Yea....we're all just a bunch of porno-surfing bumbs...probably wouldn't have time to use Moodle if we had it, what with all porno sites out there yet to see evil
 
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Picture of N Hansen
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I didn't say it was the techies who were surfing the porn sites. They would probably be smart enough to cover their tracks. It's other types of employees, who not only waste their time on such sites, but also manage to infect whole office systems with all kinds of nasty stuff due to such habits, which then require IT specialists to come clean them up when their time could be better spent elsewhere. I've worked in more than one university office where coworkers engaged in this kind of behavior. Or employees who take extended breaks running about chatting with other employees in other departments when they run out of work to do, and their bosses simply don't care and tolerate it, when the position could easily be made half time and save some money for other things. Now, there certainly are some people in universities who work hard, but when it comes to parts of the university funded by grants both government and private, I've seen so much money being wasted and mismanaged with my own eyes I've been left really disillusioned.
 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
If you've not got someone expert in the technology, or at the very least expert at troubleshooting technology, Moodle is not going to be as easy as it would be nice to make out.

And the same thing goes for BlackCT: your Blackboard admin better at least know what tomcat is and have an idea what the error code means, and/or be able to write shell scripts that detect runaway processes and reboot the machine. They should know enough html/js to debug display errors when someone dumps a complex word file into html, they need to know what to do when a Mac user uploads a file with no extention, etc. Most of the user problems we have here, with either BB (other than the occasional odd tomcat error or runaway java process) or Moodle, have to do with how content creation software (Office, A/V, imaging) and web browsers/computers work rather than  with sql/java/jsp or sql/js/php

You could of course go hosted with Blackboard and let someone else admin it for you, and you could do the same thing with Moodle (moodle.com).

So I would say the myth here is that you can effectively run an enterprise grade LMS at  a large institution without trained technical staff or offsite support, regardless of the type of license the LMS is released under.
 
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Picture of Tony Hursh
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
BlackCT

BlackWeb evil

Shelob
 
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Wellingtonia Tree
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Perhaps someone could define 'Developer' for me as I seem to have a view in my mind that Developer equates to programmer / technical expert / technology security expert / ideas extrodinaire and so forth. The sort of person that any regular UK FE college could probably not afford in a month of Sundays. Is this the sort of person other people mean when they say developer or have I got an extreme view and the wrong end of the stick?

What exactly is a developer ?

Thanks

 
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Picture of Darren Smith
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Superb idea.

I think most people seemed to have missed the bit about coming back with snazzy replies smile. My replies aren't snazzy so feel free to amend smile

It can't be any good because it's free
What about air, water and love shy

Moodle is difficult to set up
The installation process is automatic and can be complete within 5 mins - the main thing you will need is a database username and password from your webhost.

You need to know about linux
You can install it on your windows laptop if you want!

Migration to moodle is difficult
Commercial systems don't want loose your money so they have a vested interest in you not being able to change system. Moodle is free so has nothing to loose.




 
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Picture of David Scotson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

It can't be any good because it's free

What about air, water and love?

My favorite myth is the opposite of this and they work well as a one-two combination:

We don't want a commercial system, we'll get an Open Source one instead, because companies and making money are evil!

Moodle is both Open Source and commercial, and there is absolutely no conflict between these two goals. In fact it has an entire ecosystem of individuals and companies that are making a living by providing valuable services to Moodle users, just as the average Moodle user is being paid to provide education.

In both cases you wouldn't want end users being taken advantage of for purely monetary reasons nor people and companies rushing into the field because it's an easy way to make money, but neither do you want talented individuals to switch to other careers, or for exciting projects to fail, purely due to lack of funds. By being both Open Source and commercial, Moodle offers the best of both worlds.

 
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Claude Whitmyer
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Here! Hear! Well put! David.

claude approve

 
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Julian Ridden
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersPlugin developersTranslators
Love is free? My wife costs me a fortune big grin
 
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Picture of Frances Bell
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Will you be showing her this Julian? or should I email it to her evil
 
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Picture of Mike Churchward
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersPlugins guardiansTesters
> Love is free? My wife costs me a fortune big grin

No, its free. The maintenance costs can be high though...

black eye

 
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One poor developer...
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
Another common myth (used in the past) could be:

"Moodle won't be Open-Source once stabilised"

Ciao smile
 
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Picture of Dale Jones
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
These are the myths I hear most often, and some snappy replies I'd like to give:
[edit: sorry, just realised the replies get out of the realm of snappy.   I'll try harder in future wink ]

Moodle is difficult to administer

No it's not.

Moodle is difficult to install

No it's not.  Worst case, find someone who's already done it and they can talk you through it.  30 mins later you have a nice new Moodle AND you've had time for a cup of tea and a chat (you might need Skype!).

It will be difficult to learn a new/different VLE from the one I already use

No more difficult than learning your first one.  Book some of hte high-quality training from a Moodle Partner if you need it.  And look, Moodle has the best interests of LEARNING embedded in its philosophy (That might be a novelty for you, coming from another VLE!) so it's WORTH learning how to use it.   It's dead easy to learn anyway.

I won't be able to use my existing content on Moodle (it's usually Powerpoint or Word files anyway)

Oh puh-LEASE! Of course you can.  And the way that Moodle lets you embed them into learning pathways will be advantageous to the learner; they won't just be standalone resources, you can make them into starting points for THINKING to take place.  The structure of Moodle encourages collaboration and will therefore give opportunities for construction of knowledge within the learner's own context.

Although Moodle is free, the total cost of ownership will be way too high for me to absorb

Depends, but unlikely.   What price do you place on an ubiquitous learning system?  What price on a system that gives real value-added to learners, with their needs at the core rather than technical issues?  What price on something that your learners will WANT to use?  What price on a system that so many educators and developers around the world are so PASSIONATE about that development is continuous and positive, and whatever you don't like you can CHANGE it anyway? 
erm...and by 2008 in the UK you'll need some kind of learning platform anyway.  Just go for Moodle; you'll not be tied in to a learning platform that you'll come to hate, and even if you do you'll be able to move elsewhere without penalty clauses.  If you have any problems, you can ask the Moodle community for help FOR FREE!  Try that one again...FREE SUPPORT (potentially - there might not be an answer to your problem, but you could always get some paid-for consulting).


 
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Picture of Frances Bell
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Dale wrote "Although Moodle is free, the total cost of ownership will be way too high for me to absorb"
This is a very important issue to address, and whilst Moodle enthusiasts can give personal testament to the "cost" (in time) of ownership of small, personally supported Moodle installation, and Moodle partners can give costs for hosting, what published evidence do we have of total cost of ownership in larger implementations? Has anything been published from New Zealand project?
I know that you could ask the same of Blackboard/Web CT.
My gut feeling is that Moodle has a chance of gaining a foothold in schools but in universities, who have already been through (at least) one expensive procurement round, IT services and management will want some hard evidence before moving to any Open Source product. I think some of them will do pilot projects in Moodle, but it is hard for these to be taken seriously if they are seen as the province of enthusiasts. The passion that Moodle generates is a double -edged sword (I can feel one edge coming my way soonwink ) - it's an important part of Moodle's development and community but may be off-putting to hard-headed decision-makers.
On our CABWEb project, we are very pleased with the service offered by Mediatouch, our Moodle partner, but when I try to imagine Moodle being implemented at my University, I can see that this would involve interfacing with a number of systems, staff training, political will, etc. All this on top of users who have a different set of expectations, and reduced goodwill compared with the pre-VLE environment.
Anyway, enough! I think these Top Ten Myths are a great idea and can have some "passion" in them , but we also need some "cooler" analyses of implementing Moodle. These should be critical in the positive sense of the word so that they can influence large businesses like Universities.  Businesses are adopting Opensource and expect this to increase.
 
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Picture of Zbigniew Fiedorowicz
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Here is an example of Moodle myth making by the Gartner Group:
http://www.csuchico.edu/tlp/LMS2/gartner_3-17-05.htm
to the attention of Michael Penney.
 
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Claude Whitmyer
Garter as (sic) Expert
 
Wow! Completely unbeleivable. The Gartner Group got most of their "expert" facts wrong. I've run across them several times in the last few years in situations like this. They are seen as the big "research" firm that should know how to "advise" us. And they just toss of a quick opinion (or more accurately, anecdotal story) as if it were gospel truth. I wonder how much the poor folks at CSU Chico had to apy for this lousy advice.
 
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Picture of David Scotson
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developers

I was actually surprised by how accurate that report was. Perhaps my expectations were just exceedingly low.

Apart from the standard passing on out-of-date 'conventional wisdom' as if it was insightful fact (e.g. Oracle == stable, PHP == low end) it gives WebCT, BlackBoard and Sakai fairly thorough goings over with only the occasional burst of analyst-babble, e.g. "As far as scalability, both Blackboard and WebCT had a pretty clear vision."(?)

I think the paragraph on Moodle can accurately be translated as "we don't know much about this, therefore it can't be important, or else we'd look silly for not knowing much about it." Though to be fair they are there to tell people who don't know what the safe 'nobody ever got fired for buying IBM' option is, with an additional CYA paper trail that shows they did everything they possibly could to choose the 'best' option.

And that stuff is important when you follow their recommendations and six months later your choice gets bought by one of the also rans. Whoops.

 
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Julian Ridden
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersPlugin developersTranslators

I am completely gobsmacked. It is never easy to sum up any app in a paragraph, but:

Moodle is NOT scaleable NOW. It is designed for smaller institutions. It is written in PHP as a low-end solution for now. It has a large international support community, but not in the USA yet. There are commercial support options.

First of all, "Not Scalable"? You gotta be kidding me. With known installations from 10- 10,000+ in size. Modules constantly being added and the ability to expand to demand. I thought this was great example of scalability. Sure it may be resource heavy at higher loads, but no worse than WebCT.

And what about support. "A large international support community, but not in the US", I thought part of international support includes US. Ohh, I forgot, America doesn't recognise the outside world. (Sorry, diatribe kicked in). The support community is truly international. I have built and developed sites in the US and Europe. I have had support from the Netherlands, US and local. So what gives?

I have nothing against true and detailed analysis. Moodle does have its flaws. But this post definately deserves to be highlited up there with the top 3 Moodle myths.

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

One of the things that amuses me about scalability is the myth that Java will always offer greater performance/scalability (note search on the words Java and my name at Google and you will see I am not a Java knocker). The reality is that PHP offers a bigger bang for your CPU buck than Java does.  At the low end Java consumes valuable CPU cycles emulating that virtual CPU. At the upper end you need specialist infra structure to support Java scalability, and strangely enough you do as well for PHP.

Gartner are the kind of people in the business you lending them your watch and they tell you the time.

 
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Picture of Frances Bell
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

As I said in an earlier posting "what published evidence do we have of total cost of ownership in larger implementations? Has anything been published from New Zealand project?"

Have evaluations of large-scale implementations of Moodle been published?

I know that feelings run high but just because flimsy evaluations are aired at a Gartner  meeting, does not mean that Moodle's reputation as a scalable product will be built from Moodle-org community enthusiasm alone.

What can we do as a community to critically evaluate Moodle's scalability?

 
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Martin Langhoff - Sailing
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I'm part of the NZVLE project, and the answer is: Just search for it. Head over to the Servers and Performance or Comparisons and Advocacy forums and search for NZVLE. You will find heaps of references and documentation. The NZVLE project has a Documents area linked froom its homepage:
https://eduforge.org/projects/nzvle/

Moodle 1.4.5 and higher have shown that they can scale to tens of thousands of users on well tuned small to medium range server clusters. We are working towards dealing with over a hundred thousand users (with several thousand actually using the server each day).

It's here, and it's happening wink Gartner is for gullible people, I doubt anyone with more than 6 months in IT and some common sense would consider them trustworthy. On the other hand, PHBs are PHBs -- but they don't need Gartner to defy common sense and everyday smarts sad
 
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Picture of Brian Koontz
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
At the last minute, I dropped a couple of the myths that have been posted here in my Moodle/OSS presentation at the League for Innovation CIT conference going on in Dallas (several Moodle presentations being held!).  They were well-received, and generated quite a few questions and "I thought so"-type comments. 

Oh, and Michael Penney--someone asked about a Blackboard vs. Moodle comparison, so I mentioned your name and the HSU study.  So if you get any inquiries about it from someone who says they were at the League conference, you'll know why.

  --Brian
 
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Picture of terence armentano
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Please include the Myth and a Response:

Myth: Moodle is free(open source) software? It must be inferior! What is the catch?
Response:
  • Free software does not mean poor quality. For example, the majority of the world's Web servers have used open-source software.
  • See how it compares to Bb, WebCT, and eCollege here
  • See a comparative study of Bb and Moodle here
Myth: You can't expect our faculty to learn another new system? What about all of the content they created in Bb?
Response: Can't we expect our faculty to practice what they preach and be life-long learners. This includes learning new technology. Besides, there are built in help functions in Moodle which is not found in Bb and there are many people that believe Moodle is easier to use than Bb.

Myth: Open source is not as secure as a closed system. If everyone has the code, won't they be able to break in more easily?
Response: Open source is not like giving away the keys to your house. It is more like sharing your blueprints with others.

Myth: Moodle is not capable of scaling for a 20,000+ campus.
Response: Yes it is. Check out New Zeland's Polytech campus. (need more info here about scalability)

peace
Terence

 
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Picture of Andy Diament
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Can someone give a quick reply to this one I heard at a recent meeting?

  • Moodle can't handle Flash
Andy D
 
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Picture of Helen Foster
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersDocumentation writersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTestersTranslators
Myth: Moodle can't handle Flash

Response: Links to swf files are displayed as Flash movies, thanks to Moodle's media plugin filter e.g. bubblewrap.swf
 
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Julian Ridden
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersPlugin developersTranslators
Also just added the ability to use flash video files (FLV) as well.
See post: http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=33209#154457

So yeah. Moodle handles flash like a pro.
 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Core developersParticularly helpful Moodlers
Did they ever try embedding flash in Moodle? 
 
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Picture of Josep M. Fontana
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Not only can Moodle handle Flash but it also has something no other VLE has: the Flash module, developed by Jamie Pratt. This module allows you to develop interactive Flash movies that will exchange data with the Moodle database with all the possibilities this opens up.

Josep M.
 
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Picture of Andy Diament
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Nice about flash - will try to put 'learning flash and actionscript' higher on my to do list!
 
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Picture of Josie Fraser
The Final Countdown
 
I wish I hadn't picked that title, I've got that awful song in my head now.

Wow. I've really enjoyed this thread, which has turned out to be a powerful resource in it’s own right! Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful replies – several of which I can see have revived painful memories!

After all that, I feel a bit under qualified to come up with the list, but I think that people will respond well to a brief, concise overview which directly addresses some of their concerns. So I’ve whittled it down to the following ten. I’ve tried to cover a range of considerations, not just technical ones, since we all know that often the people making the decisions aren’t necessarily interested in knowing about the spec. mixed

Please do feel free to let me know if something is missing or if something is too superfluous. I’ll endeavor to get the questions up to scratch with the accompanying snappy-ish answers this weekend.

1. Once Moodle is stable, it will be put under licence. If it was any good, they’d already be charging for it.
2. There’s no point in looking at Moodle unless you have a full time, php developer on your staff. At the very least you need a lot of technical support to run it in house.
3. Moodle won’t be compatible with our other systems/software.
4. Moodle just doesn’t have the commercial experience we’re looking for.
5. You can’t just use Moodle out of the box – the basic Moodle install just isn’t that sophisticated.
6. There’s no documentation, training or support available – you’re on your own.
7. The total Cost of Ownership is actually higher for Moodle than it would be with a wholly commercial platform
8. Moodle is just no good for an institution as large as mine.
9. Moodle is just not designed to cope with my specific group of learners or customers.
10. We have all our stuff on *******, it’s just not worth the hassle of switching to Moodle
 
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mberry
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I don't know how snappy-ish I've managed to be, but I've written a first draft of responses on the docs wiki at http://docs.moodle.org/en/Top_10_Moodle_Myths
Do please take and improve.
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

In the future we won't have anymore long discussions in these forums, but we will exchange page numbers like: see the docs, topic Myths, page 3? 

 
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Think I am older now :)
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
Documentation writersTesters
I like that.  The old prisoner joke.   Short version new prisoner finds out there is a joke book and other prisoners call out the page number of the joke and everybody laughs.  He gets the book, memorizes the pages.  One night he calls out "45". All was quiet, etc etc.  Punch line "some people just don't know how to tell a joke."

All Martin should have done was post 1 April  tongueout
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Moodle myth number One: the better product always wins.
 
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Me and Ray
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
I agree with you their Ger 100%. I am amazed. I am not sure if it is me, but my attempts to persuade people where I am have fallen very flat and my university persists in purchasing, and even attempting to create, LM systems that I fear will not come close to the functionality of moodle. However, I am still hoping that the better product will win.
Tim
 
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Picture of Alfredo Ascanio
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
Moodle es un excelente producto.
A. Ascanio
http://askain.blogspot.com approve
 
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Picture of Ger Tielemans
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 

Alfredo, I understand that you - as Dokeos user - are a little envy....

But come on, from all the BlackBoard clones you are the first one who can imitate our fabulous famuos course-overviewscreen-in-several-flavors with the new Dokeos option 'learning line'  smile

 
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Picture of Benoit Brosseau
Re: Top 10 Moodle Myths
 
1) Moodle wont cut it for big installation its good for single teachers and stuff but university wide systeme need heavy stuff like j2ee and oracle.

2) Moodle is only good for teachers and university. There is no use for this in healthcare/buissness/LE/etc...
 
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