Need help with LMS decision....is Moodle that great?

Greetings fantastic elearning Heroes and Heroes in training! I need to pick your wealth of experience as related to LMS options.  Right now all of the buzz with Open source is Moodle.  I've never had any experience with Moodle but all the articles discuss how easy it is...am I missing something?  The website is super confusing and it seems I need more developer skills than I have to understand?  I am thinking that I may be overlooking something with Moodle, but at this point I have not been able to effectively launch this on my computer.  I wanted to get your thoughts on which systems you have used both proprietary and open source.  Which ones would you recommend?   

I'm researching like crazy and trying to demo as much as I can, but would like to get the perspective of users.

Much appreciated for your time!!!

54 Replies
Tim Slade

Hi Sarah,

I agree with you, I found the Moodle site to be very confusing. I haven't worked with Moodle directly, but I have worked with a product called Totara through a company called Kineo. Totara is built off the Moodle platform to create a front end LMS. I really enjoyed the product. 

Right now, in my current organization, we are exploring the Absorb LMS. This has been by far my favorite LMS. I think it looks the best and has been the easiest to use. They gave me full access to a sandbox, which I've been playing with over the past several months. They take user interface design seriously, and it has paid off (both on the users end and admin end). They're also pretty cheap as compared to a few other vendors.

Personally, I'd suggest staying aware from Oracle and SumTotal. I've worked with both of these platforms and they've been subpar and expensive.

Good Luck!

-TIm

Marta Burda

Hi Sarah,

I've been using Moodle (1.9, 2.2 now upgrading to 2.4) for some time now so I can tell you what I know:

- Moodle is open source which means that you can have custom modules bulit for your company if needed

- it is free for as many users as you want (you pay for hosting services only)

- Moodle has a great community, new versions are available every year (version 2.4 released in December, 2.5 coming up in May), I believe future releases will be much more user friendly (in terms of setting up and managing)

- it works well with the most popular tools (Articulate, Adobe, etc.)

- it will fully support mobile users shortly (Moodle Mobile app is now in beta)

On the contrary, you have to keep in mind that:

- you have to install and set it up on your own (I recommend that you have the IT person install it for you, setting up is 

not problematic since you have tons of books and resources on the subject)

- there is no technical support, you solve your issues on your own

- if you want to customize it, you either buy a custom theme or have a graphic designer build it for you

- let's be honest, Moodle could be a tad more user friendly, but once you get the hang of it, it is not that bad

I think I covered the most important stuff. Let me know if you need more info.

Cheers,

Marta

Michael Heckman

We've set up, configured, and customized  Moodle for many government agencies unable or unwilling to pay for a commercial LMS. You'll find opinions all over the place. If you want to get valuable insights, I respectfully suggest that you tell us a bit more about your specific requirements. I would not recommend Moodle or any other LMS without knowing how, why, where, and with whom you intend to use it.

Generally speaking,  Moodle's strengths include its flexibility and vast global developer community. It's particularly well-suited to academic environments, especially those with dedicated IT departments who can support it.  There are also some great companies dedicated to hosting, supporting, and customizing Moodle. 

I personally would not  consider Moodle  if you're a small training department solely responsible for every aspect of LMS setup, maintenance and administration. Hosted solutions like Articulate Online are probably a better starting point for that set of needs.

Sarah Noll Wilson

Thank you all for sharing your insights and experiences. I especially appreciate hearing about what systems you have used that you have both loved working with and those who have been subpar.  There are sooo many options.   It has been really helpful as I have not had any luck in getting Moodle downloaded onto my MAC computer.  But everything I read is how many users Moodle has and how popular it is.  Based on what I am hearing, because I don't have IT background or support is leading to my confusion with how Moodle should work. 

To provide additional information about what my needs are for this project.  I am working closely with a large social media group who is looking to provide online courses in the related field both for free use as well as for purchase.  In addition we are looking to partner with a site that would also allow our group members to upload their own content for free use or purchase.  We don't currently have IT support, but if necesssary could explore that as an option.  This has the potential to have a very large amount of users taking courses as well as uploading. 

So the basic needs are these:

Commerce capbilities

User friendly both from administration, as well as end users

Customization

Community building options such as chat boards

Easy integration with multiple eLearning authoring software and

Preferably web based as users will from all over the world

If possible a structure that wouldn't require major IT support

I hope that gives a little bit better picture of what I am exploring.  I recognize my needs are a little different than those of a singular company or academic setting. 

Thanks again for all your great suggestions!

Marta Burda

Sarah, about your requirements:

1 You can integrate Moodle with Paypal 

2 Once you've set up the site, adding or editing new content is rather easy (again great resources available)

3 Moodle themes are available (both free and paid), plus each course and activity page can display different blocks

4 It has chats and forums

5 It works with the most popular tools, plus you can create content within Moodle (I especially like block that displays definitions from the Glossary interaction - very useful)

6 Once you install it on a server, users just use their browsers

7 Honestly, you should have one person who knows IT stuff (there are many ebooks and community forum which can help him or her get to know Moodle administration and troubleshooting)

In the end, it all depends on your budget and IT skills.

Hope it helps

Stefano Posti

Hi, how many users should you manage? Are you speaking about thousands of users?

I'm asking you because both LMS stability and LMS administration are really important point to consider. A server of your own could not serve many users, unless you are heaviliy supported by an It Dept. (als in terms of networking and balancing issues...)

Are you considering a LMS installation at your site, or a hosted or cloud one? That is another important point....

A truly "free" LMS is hard  to use in a professional way for large numbers of users; a Cloud or hosted installations are the best choice, in my opinion...

you could start with a minimum number of users and then scale gradually...

Moodle Totara, Docebo, eFront, are all great! Absorb is amazing! 

To be sure and avoid mistakes, start with Totara or Docebo, according to your budget...if I may suggest

hope it helps

Sarah Noll Wilson

Stafano, we don't know yet how many users, but based on the large number of active members could easily get into the thousands.  That is what makes this tricky, to begin with it may be a few hundred users or could begin much bigger with 5-10K +.    The choice has to be flexible to adapt to a potentially large amount of users. 

Stefano Posti

Yes, I agree with Daniel!

Phil could really help!

But apart of the LMS choice, I'm afraid you definitely will need a partner.

You could give Totara moodle or Docebo a try! It's free and you can get confident on administering  courses and users.

Switching to stability, hosted and managed installations in server farms can free you from IT worries and performances concern...

I personally use a cutomized hosted Moodle installation (similar to Totara) clustered on 9 servers in 3 different italian cities, and this allows thousand of simultaneous users.

Yes, because it's matter of concurrent users and web requests... they could easiliy down your server, if IT infrastructure is not appropriately sized to allow multiple requests. ...

Phil Mayor

Not sure you need me here, moodle is a little quirky but as others have suggested when you get used to this it will do most of the things you want without having to do much work.

I would agree with Stefano you need a partner, especially if you want to run Totara.

Concurrent users is something that is difficult to calculate (the user needs to be accessing the database at the exact same time to be concurrent otherwise you could have 3,000 users logged in not doing anything with out having a problem on a single server (probably an exaggeration).

Moodle is Scalable and most good partners will ensure your service does not go down.

Like I say, not much to add here, there is plenty of documentation out there, the moodle site when you get to know it is full of stuff (it is built on moodle which i dont think was the best option for the site).

Jon Fila

Sarah Noll Wilson said:

Right now all of the buzz with Open source is Moodle.  I've never had any experience with Moodle but all the articles discuss how easy it is...am I missing something?  The website is super confusing and it seems I need more developer skills than I have to understand?  I am thinking that I may be overlooking something with Moodle, but at this point I have not been able to effectively launch this on my computer.  I wanted to get your thoughts on which systems you have used both proprietary and open source.  Which ones would you recommend?   

I'm researching like crazy and trying to demo as much as I can, but would like to get the perspective of users.


If your goal is to host it yourself then there is a slight learning curve to that. I remember when I first installed it without any prior knowledge it took me about two days and a few breaks to calm down when things didn't go as planned. I have found that the documentation for installing under all kinds of circumstances is easily available with a little searching.

To answer your questions about why it might be superior, I've just started blogging about that. You can see my first (and second) post about it here: http://mrjonsclasses.blogspot.com/2013/03/moodle-vs-insert-lms-part-i.html I'll likely have even more to say about it in the next few days as I have time to write. At this moment, I don't think there's anything out there that is even close. Not to mention, if you have any courses you'd like to start with you could always see if you can find one on MoodleShare.

Hope that helps,

Jon

Todd Thornton

@sarah

If you are planning on having active forums (assuming that's what you mean by chat boards) as crazy as it sounds, Moodle 2.4 still does not allow email subscriptions on one discussion within a forum. (You have to subscribe to the entire forum and thus users would get emails not necessarily related to their specific interests) There's talk about changing forums in 2.5 to a version created by Open University (ForumNG) which allows individual subscriptions per thread, but since you referred to creating a robust community, if you choose Moodle, I think you'd probably want to use something else for the forums part. I think there was one plugin that tried to make an adjustment to standard Moodle forums, but I never heard much about it. You could install the NG plugin from Open University, but they don't have one ready yet for Moodle 2.4. 

In your situation I think Stefano is right on with suggesting Docebo as one possibility if for no other reason you don't need IT to begin with, no upfront costs, and you don't have to worry about total users, but users actively accessing within the last month. The annual Totara license fee (not hosting) is based on number of users and there's a pretty big bump from 3,000 to above that number. 

Todd

Nicole Iovine

I have used Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Edvance360, and Moodle.  I concur with you, the Moodle website is confusing.  Even though Moodle is open source there are costs associated with it.  For instance, hosting, maintenance, updates, programming modules, purchasing modules, etc.  The Moodle design is very plain and did not seem user-friendly.  We ended up select Edvance360, www.edvance360.com, as our LMS.  It is a hosted platform and upgrades are as easy as the click of a button.  Edvance360 also had all of the tools (discussion forum, tests, Wiki, chat, lessons, etc.) that we were searching for in a LMS.  The customer support is awesome too.

Sarah Noll Wilson

I know you guys know you are amazing, but please let me reiterate....everyone is so amazing here!  Your insights shared here as well as in previous posts about LMS systems has been incredible helpful for me to hone into 4-5 options for us to further review.  We still have a lot to define as far as the specific of how we want the experience for user and administrator to flow which will help us as we vet through the different options. 

Based on your feedback, reading reviews, blogs, testing some of the software, talking with vendors I've come up with these 5 options to explore further based on our basic needs:

Moodle (w/partner) *Currently have calls out to different Moodle partners to better understand their approach and pricing.

Docebo

Absorb

Totara

Desire2Learn *need to confirm they support selling of courses

Since Moodle sparked this whole conversation.  Thank you for those who validated I wasn't crazy    With your comments combined with a long conversation with my little brother who is in the IT world, it all makes sense now why it didn't make sense initially.  I've decided that Moodle is like the Matrix...all of a sudden it becomes clear and you can see the code ;)

If you have additional insight please feel free to share, this is great information!

I'll be sure to follow up with this thread once we have spent more time vetting through to provide another point of insight. 

Thanks again everyone!!!

Clare Marsh

I have worked with MOODLE for the last 4 years and I love it - however we had it hosted by an external company (onclick) so any upgrades etc they where there to advise.

From a course creater/reporting point of view it is lovely, it really does not take long to learn and I have had good feedback from those who use it.  In fact 81% of our organisation accessed this in the last year, considering we are a government ran organisation I feel quite proud of that.

Take Care

Clare

Dennis Hall

I have worked extensivly with Moodle, Docebo, Ed, SumTotal, Saba, built my own "poor mans" LMS, and modified or worked with about 7 or 8 other unmentionables.

In every case below, I've customized the LMS's at the code level and can say the following:

Free systems:

Moodle: Great software architecture, very scalable, supports many languages, can be modified at the code level bloated as heck, terrible work-flows (although you can create your own work flows) for users and worse for admins.

Docebo: Clean and simple software architecure, great user workflows - that you can customize totally, very easy to customize (via code, or just admin configuration) and you can edit in all 32 languages, create custom client portals with their own work flows, courses, catalogues, etc..., not recommended to 100+ simultanious accesses.

Paid:

Ed: Amazing LMS, do anything with anything, supports any SCORM, and AICC, incredible dashboard, supports Certifications, skills, competencies, production planning, feature rich like no other, very like and intuitive work flows, extremely expensive (like 150,000+ to get started with your own server, or about 10.00 / month per active user for hosted) - This system was originally designed for aerospace manufacturing.

SumTotal, far too expensive, user work flows are terrible (example: My Completed Courses is a collapsed (hidden) areas below My courses (rather than a tab t the left where all other user page navigation is), Admin functions are divided into 4 round buttons accross the header, after you select one, you get to guess which of the 5 menus below you need to use to do a task, and the pain goes on...

Saba, got 150,000.00 so they can send their expert to answer your questions, then give you the product to install, next, you still have to pay them per user when you exceed teh number that the original cost covered, btw - you are not allowed to customize it at code level - oops, been there - done it, not goin' thar agin'

My own LMS: Absolute failure compaired to all of the above (although I ran simulators off it which no one is yet doing today), also not available anymore

I hope this information can be of help.

Best Regards,

Dennis Hall

Andreas Freiman

If you're looking for free LMS solution you can also try Sakai http://www.sakaiproject.org/ — it's more user-friendly than Moodle.

As for paid LMS, I prefer Docebo. I agree with Dennis, it's good solution for up to 100 trainees

if you want to store your courses somewhere, you can use Articulate Online or iSpring Online.

Dennis Hall

Hi Stefano:

To clarify my statement, that is 100+ simultanious users. I use 4.0.4.

Actually, there is no issue with Docebo itself for more than 100 users...

You will need a very robust PHP server to serve 100+ users simply because Docebo is not a distributed or enterprise solution such as Saba, Moodle, Sumtotal,and others can be configured.

In short the single servers workload cannot be shared amongst many servers (with the exception of templates) in docebo, therefore all users must enter and communicate with one server. An example, would be the 100 users finalizing their course at the same time sending at least 64000 X 100 bytes of information for the server to process at once. In most PHP servers, something's gonna give

Saba, as my monster example; can be configured to have multiple portals (LMS), multiple content servers (LCMS), and uses a connector to offload the project processes and source files to developers to send, retrieve, and version RLOs on the content servers. Saba can also be purchased with Saba Publisher Pro (known in the real world as Lectora) so it accomodates the whole ADDIE life-cycle over many servers and developers workstations connected from around the world.

Moodle can connect servers to share content, catalogues, etc. in its enterprise configuration.

Server power make all the difference in each case above.

Best Regards,

Dennis Hall

Annika Brown

Hi Sarah,

as a good alternative to open source free lms solution you've been shared, I can recommend a paid but not less effective JoomlaLMS (www.joomlalms.com). I've been using it for a while and find it really easy and intuitive. As for your needs, it enables courses selling oline.

Hope it would be helpful.

Ruhollah Damavandi Kamali

Hi all

I'm working with MOODLE and i have some experiences with Claroline, Docebo, dokeos, ATutor, eFront and ...

I know if anybody want start a learning management system as Commercial Use MOODLE is the best choose.

Other Open source LMS have problem with High user!

It's very important your LMS have acceptable responsive for all user.