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Learning Management Systems: Moodle vs The Rest

A brief comparison of Moodle versus Blackbook and a few other LMS's followed by more detailed information about Moodle and why it is the preferred platform.
by

Rebecca Drayton

on 19 February 2013

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Transcript of Learning Management Systems: Moodle vs The Rest

Pros Blackboard Blackboard is the most popular Learning Management System on the market. It currently accounts for approximately 51% of the market. Moodle Pros The Quest for a perfect LMS Learning Management Systems Open source software
Has all of the standard features for creating, sharing, communicating and assessing content and course work.
Has a cute Lego-themed diagram that explains user rights on their platform.
Integrates with other open source software including Drupal, Joomla and Postnuke.
It's open source status means that it supports plugins and the development of new plugins.
Moodle is an Australian-based business, operating out of Perth.
There is potential for us to become certified Moodle partners Cons Moodle (and Blackboard) are designed for established schools/institutions that have a campus and an existing student body. They are designed to be a tool to assist the classroom learning program. While they can be manipulated to fit the learning program of a course that is 100% online, it is not their true purpose.
Moodle assumes that you already have an enrollment and payment program - you can import users into the system, or have a 'guest user' option where the user can gain limited access, but there is no feature that allows the user to enroll and pay for the course online.
Design - the design is clunky and ugly; often with open-source software, the contributors focus on new features and usability but not necessarily the aesthetics of the software. Pros There are multiple versions of Blackboard with tools tailored to meet different purposes - eg. Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Engage, Blackboard Collaborate, Blackboard Connect.
Blackboard are a one-stop-shop for the client; they don't need technical knowledge, they don't need to figure out their own hosting - Blackboard takes care of everything.
Support system - if there is a bug or an issue, the client doesn't need to go onto a forum to try and find a solution.
It's not often that I say this about a piece of software, but Blackboard is sexy!
Blackboard can look after EVERYTHING - they even have a OneCard Transaction tool that takes care of all on campus monetary transactions.
They've got their mobile platform sorted. Cons Blackboard is expensive. It is designed for large scale universities and costs are determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on what tools and features are required.
I have been able to find limited information on pricing for large scale university style learning institutions, but Blackboard Engage, which is designed for primary school learning starts at about $10,000/year, depending on the size of the student body. Sakai Project Open Source (Free)
Integrates with Google Docs
Tools: grade book, live chat and forums, assignment uploads, online testing, wiki, drop box, polls, presentation slides & user profiles. The Sakai Project is an open source platform that has all of the standard features for online learning - online tests and assignments, content sharing, presentation slides and content creation, forums and chat etc. Cons Community consists of approximately 300 institutions.
Open source, but only certain stakeholders, institutions and commercial affiliates are allowed to contribute to the code.
The system is Java-based. Verdict: At a glance, there is not a lot of difference between Sakai and Moodle - they are both free learning management systems. While Sakia is java-based, this wouldn't be too big of an issue because realistically, we would need to set each client up on their own server because of bandwidth issues.

The main issue is the size of the community - Moodle is the true definition of 'Open Source'; a collaborative community where anyone can produce and contribute code. Moodle has lots of plugins and downloadable 'extras' that have been developed by community members. Sakai, on the other hand, is free software but not everyone is allowed to contribute to the coding. The size of the community is a lot smaller, meaning that it grows and develops at a much slower rate then Moodle. Verdict Blackboard is a great option for established universities that can afford it. It is a professional program that you would expect to see at elite schools like Harvard, Yale or of course, UQ, where the students are paying thousands of $$ to go.
It is safe to assume that Blackboard will not be within the budget of most of our clients - especially if the online learning institution is a new venture for them and they do not yet have a strong student body.
Blackboard is an option that should be considered once the client has a very strong reputation and large consistent numbers of enrollment otherwise the Blackboard fees will eat a considerable portion of their profit. Joomla LMS Website Pricing Enrollment & Payment Quizzes & Assessment Features Joomla LMS has all of the necessary content creation, assessment, communication and learner performance tools.
Forums
Chat
Announcements
Email
Live conference
Survey and Quiz Creation
Feedback Configuration
User Roles
Audio, Video, HTML, pdf course content
File Library
Course Material Release Dates
Build Learning Paths All of Joomla's assessment options are automated and configurable. They revolve around quizzes and survey style options.
While Joomla can't compete on the ability to have short answer or essay style assessment options, this will not be an issue for our purposes. Joomla LMS is the only system that I have been able to find that allows automatic enrollment and on-site payment options.

The other platforms that I have reviewed have designed for institutions that have a campus; they assume that the enrollment and payment process has already been taken care of and that the purpose of the LMS is purely to assist in the on-campus learning activities.

Joomla LMs on the other hand, assumes that you are a start-up business looking to cash in on your knowledge, and that you need a one-stop solution that takes care of everything, from enrollment, through to assessment and certification. Joomla LMS fills the gap between Blackboard and Moodle - it isn't free but it is not nearly as expensive as Blackboard.

The prices vary depending on the required features and the size of the student body, and the selected package can up upgraded at any time if necessary to accommodate for more students.

The cheapest option available starts at $329/year for 100 students on the 'Standard' package.

The most expensive option is $6,819/year for unlimited students on the 'professional' package. Considering that a 'basic' version for a limited amount of students starts at $10,000 for Blackboard, this is a very considerable price. Joomla LMS is the only LMS that allows you to build your website and your LMS on the same platform.

While Moodle and Blackboard do integrate with some website platforms, you would still have two separate products - a website built on a CMS, and a LMS hosted on a separate domain or sub-domain.

The Joomla LMS will work a lot more seamlessly with it's parent website then any other website/LMS combination.

The Joomla LMS will automatically pick up the website's styling for the graphic user interface, or you can develop a separate design if desired. Joomla LMS was designed for us. It is exactly what we need; it is the most self-sufficient system I have been able to find.

While there is a cost involved for this platform, it is a lot more affordable then Blackboard, and the fact that the website and the LMS integrate seamlessly means that the client will save time and money on managing enrollments, fees and assessment.

It cannot compete with Moodle and Blackboard in regards to the quantity of tools and modules, but a lot of the features that it is lacking are ones that we wouldn't have used anyway, such as the ability to submit and assess short answer and essay style assessment online - but the quiz and survey features are fully developed and meet our requirements. SharePoint LMS SharePoint LMS is based on the Microsoft SharePoint Server Platform. Pros Great file sharing and file collaboration tools.
Has most of the standard features: learning path, tracking/reports, SCORM Compliance, collaborative tools, shared question pool, web conferencing, receive and create quiz certificates, check for plagiarism, chat, forums, session recording etc.
Good option for clients already using or used to Microsoft SharePoint software packages. Cons HAS to integrate with Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server platform.
Won't run on standard Linux or Windows server.
Subscription License - means that it could become very expensive if you have a large student body.
Very limited user registration tools, the user types (admin, student, teacher) are pre-defined and not very flexible.
No e-commerce features.
Works best on intranets using PCs, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer - using non-Microsoft products to run could be problematic. Verdict: Microsoft SharePointLMS is a viable option for clients already using SharePoint software - it is an add-on that will integrate well with their existing operating system and the navigation and usability of the platform will be easy for them to pick up.

For clients not already using SharePoint, it is cumbersome and not very flexible. Choosing a platform that uses a more common server set up such as Linux or Windows and that runs well on any browser would be a much better option. Standard Package Pricing:
100 students:
500 students:
1000 students:
5000 students:
10,000 students:
unlimited students: $329.00 $659.00 $1,099.00 $1,649.00 $2,199.00 $2,859.00 Professional Package Pricing:
100 students:
500 students:
1000 students:
5000 students:
10,000 students:
unlimited students: $879.00 $1,649.00 $2,419.00 $3,849.00 $5,169.00 $6,819.00 What's the difference? The professional package is completely un-Joomla branded, has open code to allow for customization, allows recurring payments via PayPal and has allows custom role and permission creation. Recommendation? The no-branding option can be added to the 'standard' package for an extra $199.00. Therefore, I recommend that unless the client needs special customizations or the recurring payments feature, then we sign the client up for the free 30-day trial package which we use to build the courses, and then when it is time upgrade to a paid version, we get the 'standard 100 students' package plus the 'no-brand' add-on for a total cost of $529.00.

When the client gets close to 100 enrolled active students then we can upgrade them to the next level package as necessary. 100% learning online: 100% assessment online: White label / unbranded: Online enrollments: Processes fees online: Moodle Blackboard Saikai Project Free: Joomla LMS SharePoint LMS The LMS market is dominated by two main players, Blackboard and Moodle - the general consensus is that there is not much difference between the features and usability of the two platforms - the main difference is the price; Moodle is free while Blackboard is requires licenses to use. While there are hundreds of Learning Management Systems (LMS) available, the market is dominated by a small handful: Propriety: Blackboard
Desire2Learn
eCollege
Sharepoint LMS Open Source: Moodle
Saikai Project
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