Comparisons and advocacy

Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit

 
Picture of david skole
Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
 

We are in the process of migrating a non credit Moodle training course to our university's servers. The course is supporting international development capacity building and will be used as a demo site. Users with access will be minimal and light, with not many accesses (less than 100 pages per week). Our IT folks are unenthusiastic about taking over the management on their servers, noting:

"Basically to keep Moodle, RHEL, and their underlying shared components secure and up-to-date, it would take manual, and potentially risky upgrades on a regular basis – due to how the technologies interoperate. I would prefer to not go down this road if at all possible…"

 Any insights? Seems odd to me. They are advocating D2L instead

 
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Mary Cooch
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
Documentation writersMoodle Course Creator Certificate holdersMoodle HQParticularly helpful MoodlersTestersTranslators

Hello David and welcome to the Moodle Community. I'm replying just to let you know that I deleted your other, duplicate post as it could fragment any replies you get - let's give this one some traction and hope you get a lot of useful suggestions. Your IT department sound as if they could do with either some help supporting Moodle or an increased basic understanding of how it works.

How big is your university - or rather -how many users would need access to the site? If the IT people don't want to host it themselves maybe a paid MoodleCloud option might be useful? (managed by the people who make Moodle and therefore no worries for you at all)

 
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Picture of Dave Perry
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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+1 for this, especially if it's just a demo.

Longer term, if you got down the in house route, upgrades are much simpler if your site is simple. Ours is big, complicated and has some hacks in to make functionality we wanted work - so upgrades are always a harder task.
If someone can admin a web server / upgrade a small open source web app, they should be able to handle moodle's requirements.

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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"They are advocating D2L instead"

If they are advocating D2L because of some function or feature that is fine, if it is because it is hosted by the D2L people, that is not a good reason. Although Moodle can be, and frequently is, self hosted there is a global network  of Moodle partners who will manage all your required Hosting. This means you get experts to look after the upgrades, but perhaps as importantly you have a choice of which experts do it. With cloud solutions you typically have only one vendor to do the hosting and if you have an issue with them you would have to move to a different product. Also if you get it hosted by a partner you can negotiate to get it customised rather than use the one size fits all that tends to come with cloud solutions.

Moodle Partners are carefully vetted organisations (disclaimer I work for one and we are awesome),  and pay a "royalty" back to Moodle HQ as a contribution to its continued development. Many of the other contributors to these forums work for Moodle partners and are very, very experienced.


 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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Hi

Your IT Admin said:
> to keep Moodle, RHEL, and their underlying shared components secure and up-to-date, it would take manual, and potentially risky upgrades on a regular basis

This is a well-know divide, not only specific to Moodle: There are two diagonally opposite schools of server administrators: the conservatives who stand on well tested ground and the bleeding-edge crowd, under the motto "latest is the shiniest". For example, the IT of a bank is forced to be conservative whereas the typical desktop user is either bleeding-edge or forced to be one.

The same discussion has been carried many times in moodle.org. The safe summary is that the Moodle development is high speed, the old versions are quickly abandoned. (@old-timers, please don't start the LTS dicussion again!) Your IT speak of RHEL, so they belong to the former. The rest follows!
;-/
 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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My boss often says, "You are either investing in yourself, or you are investing in others".


Do you invest in staff, your school, and your students with time and effort to maintain Moodle. Or, do you just offload that to some 3rd party?  

We love knowing that our teachers will not wake up and discover their hard work in building classes will not be wiped out due to a funding issue or a software provided going out of business.  They love knowing we are not switching platforms every 3 years when the initial contract runs out and prices are too high to be affordable.  

There is stability in knowing you operate your own LMS for long term planning and skill building with staff.  

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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If you are surrendering control to a third party, they you are effectively giving someone else the opportunity to hold you to ransom. I do not suggest that this is true in all cases, but all too often I have heard of organizations dropping a third party product as it has become too expensive to maintain. 

If you have a developed upgrade policy, that is, you will install not the latest version, but the one back, once per year, you have the opportunity to maintain a stable platform, in a regular pattern. This keeps everyone happy. 

This requires three things, an IT staff who are competent, a management who are confident and competent, and a certain amount of trust between staff, IT staff and management. I have frequently found all three are lacking, and sadly, why organizations go for the glossy presentations of marketing departments rather than really useful tools. IMNSHO.  

BTW, I used to admin three small Moodles, the largest being about 120 users, often floating, and Moodle is still used by those organizations. On the other hand, the largest Moodle, currently, is I believe, in the UK's Open University with about 300,000 or so users. Under those circumstances, I am not sure the logic being employed by your IT department is really about any perceived technical difficulty. 

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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Hi Chris, hi Colin

I understand your comments,
Chris:
> wake up and discover their hard work in building classes will not be wiped

Colin:
> giving someone else the opportunity to hold you to ransom

as: if an institution outsources its LMS (Moodle), there is a good chance that the institution will lose its data once the contract is terminated. Is that really so?
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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HI Visvanath, I was thinking more about the money actually. It never ceases to amaze me how costs always seem to escalate beyond CPI, and right now, in most Western nations wages growth is stalling. So I find it hard to accept that costs increase well beyond 10% when hardware costs are decreasing, wages remain stagnant, and line rental costs are fairly constant. I hadn't considered the data being held hostage..smile 

Having said that though, another thought occurs. One of the really positive things I have found with Moodle partners has been their willingness to hold archived courses and such for years. Obviously, sooner or later they are going to be deprecated, then eventually deleted, but so far, the Moodle Partner we use here in South Australia hasn't made any noises about that, even though they have provided Moodles to a lot of schools for almost a decade now. I know that another organization that provides a very popular SMS will not hold non-essential, or non-regulated, data for more than the current school year. How can a school build an archive for future reference without it? So I wonder if other SMS or LMS hosts or providers do the same as Moodle Partners or as the other organization?     

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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Hi Colin

I am glad to hear that the "ransom" you were talking about is not for the data. It is most logical (to me) that the termination of contract means, no service anymore. The data belongs to the institution and should be returned. Well, if one fears that, he should add a clause to the contract, saying that a full site back-up will be handed over when the contract terminates. Or for that matter, the institution may ask for site back-ups at certain intervals, for example, to run a test or development site in house.

Yes, if a provider keeps the data beyond that, that would be generous. But the question is, if an audit needs some old data, here we are obliged to have them ready for 10 years, how does one access the data, if they are with a former supplier?
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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As always, you ask an interesting question, Visvanath, but have you watched the video that Chris Kenniburg has made about self management of the Moodle in this discussion? It is, I suggest, a brilliant advocacy of Moodle and Open Source learning tools. He makes a very strong point about this very concept and I hope that David, and others, pay attention to it.   

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit [OT]
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[OT]

Colin, yes, we've drifted away from the said IT Admin unit!
wink

And thanks to your reminder I found Chris Kenniburg's report https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=358911 and already rated it. Will definitely revisit.
 
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Picture of Michael Penney
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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They are advocating D2L instead

Make sure to have the IT folks check the integration ability of the candidate LMS with your other tools. Canvas, Blackboard, and of course Moodle, have fairly robust ability to import/export data to/from SIS and CRM/ERP, and all offer off-site hosted options. If they want off-site hosting, they could compare Blackboard, Canvas, and Moodle via a parter or Moodle hoster (like Joule, RL, etc.)

A million years ago you had to choose between supported self-hosting and rolling your owns self-hosted FOSS solution, now there are a few more options wink. Integration often becomes the do or die of the LMS success story, hence products like Conduit, Datahub, LTI, etc.

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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Very good point about integrations Michael. People usually want integrations with things like a school management system, perhaps an identity system (e.g. something based on LDAP), perhaps a plagiarism detection thing. I believe D2L is certainly respectable competition for the products you mention, though it is mentioned less frequently than them.

 
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Picture of Dave Perry
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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Personally I'd be wary of a 3rd party tool dialling in from off site to access LDAP - our IT people would be too (even LDAPS).

Certainly Moodlerooms have some kind of sync tool (I forget the name) which sits on site and provisions courses / users / enrolments etc based on SQL and LDAP (we looked at them recently, as an alternative when finding out management watned Canvas without consulting anyone in eLearning...). Similar to Google's Cloud Directory sync, it'll run on one of your servers and push account / enrolment / course changes to the cloud.

I can't speak for other providers as to sync options.

The other thing I'm not clear on is if you work for an educational or business organisation? Educational IT will understand hosting an academic system better than a business IT unit, potentially.

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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I just meant that people use their own LDAP for authentication so they have a central canonical id. If we mentioned external people being able to dial in to access LDAP to our Network people the reaction was significant excitement (and not in a good way). 

My main point is that any significant VLE will need to integrate with other systems and to investigate that before selecting a product.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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It is the idea of integration that was Chris Kenniburg's point, I think, in the post mentioned above. There is another issue he mentions, one I hadn't considered actually, but he has. 

The worst is that it takes years to get real buy in, then real mastery over a product. If you are unhappy with the product, the service, the constraints placed on you, then you change to something else when your current contract runs out. Sames rules apply with another vendor, so you shift again. Where does the buy in occur, it doesn't, so everyone struggles. Watch the video and spread it around. A few simple tools and a very powerful outcome.      

For me, we have been so busy trying to adapt the technology to the classroom, and failing so badly we really haven't noticed. How about we adapt the classroom to the technology and this is where Chris' organisation's solution has succeeded, I suggest.   

 
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Picture of Chris Kenniburg
Re: Moodle is not advocated by the IT Admin unit
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My advice would be to go to a Moodle Partner if your IT staff is not up to the task for in-house support.  The issue with other software is the lock-in.  With a Moodle partner you can have outstanding hosting and if you ever need to you could bring things back in-house and not miss a beat.  Same tool. Same content.  With switching systems you will have a mess to transfer stuff.  


Invest in yourself and make the tool do what you want it to do.  Take that money you'd have spent on hosting and each year do one major project to build upon Moodle by adding custom features.  People don't think about that.  Imagine what a Moodle partner could do with $20,000 for your school.  Imagine if teachers came to you and said we want our LMS to do this and in short order you could make the LMS do just what they wanted.  

We had just such an experience with a Moodle partner when we developed the Socialwall Course Format.  We thought that format might get more teachers on-board but what really helped were features I outlined here: https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=358911  Working with a Moodle partner was a great experience. I wouldn't hesitate to do so again if we find funding again.  

 
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