I came across a Discussion Board question asking why would a university switch to moodle or sakai when they already support BlackCT? I wanted to share my reply with the community and if anyone wants to add points, please feel free to do so.
You ask a great question and one that I assume many others are asking as well. We have several online degrees and hundreds of online courses and we use Blackboard (BlackCT). So why would we look into Open Source when we are so vested in Blackboard (BlackCT)? There are several reasons. I will give you just a few of our reasons. (Note: most of my reasoning comes from a lot of reading on the topic and a year of mostly positive experiences experimenting with Moodle.
Open source software can protect your University from a propriatary software company dictatorship.
example 1 - A proprietary LMS (Learning Management System) can embed itself into the university so deeply that there will come a time when there is no turning back. Teachers become familiar with it and are finally using it. Students are familiar with it. Staff use it. At that point the LMS company recognizes your dependance on them and can raise the price on you, weaken support, and force you to buy other plug-ins to make it work and there is nothing you can do about it. example 2 - If one needs system support, one HAS to rely on the proprietary company for the fix because one can't see the code. With Open source, you can fix it yourself or pay some other company to support you, which is usually WAY cheaper than the propriatary company charges because of the competion factor. Plus, if you have a bad experience with one comany, you can go to another for support. Moodle lists about 20 different companies you can pay to support you. Although, if you have a decent IT staff, this won't be neccessary.
Customizable - Moodle is amazingly configurable and customizable. Open source code is free to the public so one can customize the system to their own technical and pedagogical needs or hire a progammer to do so. For example, if the university wants a module that can do XYZ then they can build it themselves or they can submit it to the open source community and a programmer there might build it for them for free. I am no progarmmer, but was able to set up Moodle on a server, create courses, install additional modules, and troubleshoot problems with the help of the Moodle.org community.
Support - The levels of support for a good open source program is amazing. The Community, internal IT, and outside companies are all options. Quality - Some times Open source software, as in the case of Moodle and Sakai, are equal to and superior to Blackboard/WebCT in areas. Since a community of educators, computer scientists, and instructional designers are the ones developing Moodle, you end up with a product that meets the needs of the users. For example, Moodle has pedagogical tips built into the system because it was built by educators for educators. Moodle is supported by a huge community of educators - Some very technical and others more pedagogical. This a good thing considering they are the ones using the Learning Management System. Freedom - You have many more choices and never have to feel like a slave to the software.
International appeal - Because Moodle has such a huge global community, the software has been translated into 70 languages and is used in 138 different countries. I had a tough time finding one popular propriatary software company in 10 different languages. Moodle, like any true open source technology, is FREE for anyone to download and use. People usually associate cost with quality, however, this is not the case with these open source products. Open source uses a different business model than we are use to. In this model, companies understand that other revenue streams are generated by open source so they can capitalize on those streams. For example, one might start a Moodle consulting company and hire a programmer to help develop the software and share it with the community for free so that more people use it and then the consulting company has more business potential.
Opportunity for student engagement projects. Think how neat it would be to give your computer science class the opportunity to build a module for the school LMS. One could build a nifty plug-in to enhance the LMS in some way and then share it with the global community. If it is a cool enough module, it may get implemented in the overall Moodle design which is released every 6 months by the lead developer of Moodle. Because of it's moduler design, building modules for Moodle is fairly simple if you know the PHP programming language. Open source uses a model similar to what we are doing here. You submitted a question and I provided an answer. Chances are, someone out there using Moodle has gone through something similar and has an answer waiting for you. you can join BlackCT discussion forums, but you can only do so much because the code is closed off to the public so the technical help really has to come from BlackCT. If you want, you can listen to a recent podcast interview with Moodle founder and lead developer, Martin Dougiamous. http://technosavvy.org/?p=329
Great post Terence, thanks!
An example of this:
At that point the LMS company recognizes your dependance on them and can raise the price on you, weaken support, and force you to buy other plug-ins to make it work and there is nothing you can do about it.
In version 6, Blackboard disabled SSL support in Blackboard Basic and then charged us $4000 to 'upgrade' Basic to SSL.
Wow! That is, how should I put it, a natural monopolistic behavior by BB!! Can you please share with me how much on average BB costs?
BB Learning Suite
1-500 Students- $13,600
BB Community Suite (required to have separate sites for the two schools)
$10K-11K per week
For our installation, it would have added up to:
Instead, we utilized an unused 2U Dell server, a lowly Business Analyst (me,) and Moodle to produce this in 1 week.
Not bad for an old software guy... with props to Julian for the Clouds theme and Martin (et al) for a rocking platform...
Thanks again for an excellent summary of what makes OS LMS and Moodle special.
Merry Xmas, Matthew.
Safeguard yourself against corporate buy-outs - A good example is what happened to all of the folks that were using Web CT. They are now owned by Blackboard and Blackboard has the right to do whatever they want with that program and again you find yourself in a corner. This can be similar in open source if the developers lose interest in the project, however, as you all know, the best open source projects have the backing of a huge community ensuring both greater support and longevity of the system. If Martin decides to stop supporting it, there are a lot of other people and company's who will continue to support it.
I wish my university had seen your (Ternece) reply before introducing Sakai as the formal LMS. Some lectures were previously using Moodle but it was not a standard within the University only a personal preference. I’m sure if they had your information, the decision may have gone the other way. Unfortunately in a few years from now (maybe less) they may find the LMS budget having to increase due to the some of the issues mention here and realise their mistake.