I don't claim this to be an "objective" evaluation...
However I need to make the case before my school administration for switching to Moodle, or sticking with Blackboard, by this Tuesday.
Here are my thoughts, after having used BlackBoard (popular commercial Learning Management System) for 2 semesters and playing around with Moodle for a few weeks now.
Our educational program http://PresidioWorldCollege.org is a mix of distance learning and face-to-face. Our exams and quizzes are, at this point, all face to face. So are all our lectures. We meet only 3 days per month even though it is a full-time program.
Therefore, we use the LMS (learning management system) most for:
- Forums (by far the most important feature for us)
- Course documents organized by teachers for downloading by students.
- Submitting assignments
- Live chats
- And very importantly, the Group Permissions feature must be strong on the LMS, as we have several cohorts within each year/grade; and within each cohort, we have study teams which must have their own private forums.
As a result, here are my evaluations of Blackboard vs. Moodle...
How Moodle Rocks BlackBoard:
- Much easier to read threads instead of just individual posts. In Blackboard, you need to click the boxes next to messages you want to read together, and then click "collect". Even after doing so, it only organizes the messages by date, not by threading or nesting. And if you read an individual message in BlackBoard, you have to click OK
- WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") editor. and ability to toggle back to HTML coding.
- Within a course, you can separate the various forums by categories and headings. Blackboard cannot do this.
- Emoticons are surprisingly important in terms of building the community culture online! BlackBoard has no emoticons.
- Tables can be easily and intuitively created in Moodles WYSIWYG. BlackBoards forum postings cannot create tables at all, unless you use HTML coding.
- Subscribe to forums is possible in Moodle and the resulting messages in your email inbox look quite nice. BlackBoard has no subscribe feature at all. The problem/opportunity with Moodle, though, is to install a subscribe to topic/thread feature. That would be so useful!
- Moodles show parent feature is great, and not available in BlackBoard-- sometimes one message is lost in a long and complicated thread. This is often the case in threaded forums, and Moodle solves that problem to a certain extent. BlackBoard does not.
- Customizable avatars (pictures of users) make Moodles forum a lot more fun to use than BlackBoards.
- Breadcrumbs at the top of every Moodle page which shows the user where the page being viewed is located. BlackBoard does not have this, and this has been a problem: a fellow BlackBoard user will give you the URL of a post... and when you go there, it takes you awhile to figure out which course youve landed in.
- Moodle allows you to search in all forums at once whereas in BlackBoard you may only search one forum at once. However, Moodles search feature is still weak (see problem/opportunity below).
- Moodles chat loads faster than BlackBoards. However, it is not clear to me whether Moodles chats are easily archived.
- Moodle's chat is compatible for both PC and Mac. BlackBoard's virtual chat gives Mac users lots of problems.
How BlackBoard still beats Moodle:
- In addition to how many messages total, BlackBoard shows how many new (unread) messages per forum. Moodle doesnt do this. This is a big minus for us. Students and teachers have found it extremely helpful to have an easy glance at how many messages are new/unread for the forums. I hope Moodle can have this soon!
- BlackBoard allows you, with one click of a button, to show only the unread messages and when you click on an unread message, you will see the message, then at the bottom, the title of the message in context within its thread (other posts show only titles as well). This is intuitive. Moodle does not give the option of toggling back & forth between all and unread messages.
- Continuing with the useful read/unread feature, BlackBoard allows you to click a message even after youve viewed it, and unread it, so that it shows up as a new message so that youll know to come back to take care of it later.
- I find it annoying that when you type Enter (carriange return) in Moodle, you get 2 line breaks, instead of just 1. BlackBoard, which doesnt have a WYSIWYG, of course, just gives you the typical and more intuitive 1 line break when you do a carriage return.
- Moodles search feels like it gives way too many results per page. Blackboard allows you to choose how many results to display per page. Moodle does not give that option. Blackboard also allows you to choose how to sort your search results (by author, date, or subject) while Moodle only sorts by newest first.
Please feel free to add to, or contest, any of these points.