Why our small college pays for Blackboard instead of Moodle, an open source software product.
September 18, 2015

Why our small college pays for Blackboard instead of Moodle, an open source software product.

Annaliza Marks | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Software Version


Modules Used

  • Blackboard Learn

Overall Satisfaction with Blackboard

I work for a small liberal arts college that is state run. We use Blackboard primarily for supplemental course materials, such as PowerPoints, assignments, assessments and student grades and we use it for 100% fully deployed online courses. We average about 40-60 online courses and 250-300 supplemental courses. About 85% of our students use Blackboard in some manner. We also work with the K-12 community and off campus programming. Web courses, webinars, business meetings and dual credit courses for high school students are being used in Blackboard. We also have a full online program developed specifically for the Department of Military Affairs and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Our newest project involves online courses that are combined with our students and international students developed through the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) initiative. We currently have three COIL courses that work specifically with students in Spain and have plans to develop other courses in a few different countries.
  • Blackboard is very detailed. It has all the bells and whistles anyone can ask for in a Learning Management system. Especially for the instructor. Features like the retention center keeps the instructors engaged and helps students who may need a little extra attention.
  • Blackboard is very easy for the students and the instructors to use. There are a lot of training materials developed by Blackboard (and by other schools), including written manuals and videos that students and instructors can watch.
  • Blackboard has a lot extra features in modules that can be downloaded and installed by the administrator that can make your instance unique to any other school.
  • Blackboard is very helpful and quick to provide a solution when there is an issue. The technical support is fantastic and are always willing to help you with any issue.
  • The mathematical functions in Blackboard are weak and hard to use for our math instructors. Most people don't even know that a whiteboard containing mathematical functions exists and when they do learn, it is so confusing that the instructor gives up.
  • The mathematical calculations in the Grade Center are weak. It does not take into account the null values so the averages are sometimes skewed. I have to remind instructors that they have to put a zero into the null value or their averages will not be correct. It is also very difficult if an instructor wants to create an average, then add them together and then average the total points. In other words, if the instructors wans to do anything besides a basic class average, it requires quite a bit of work.
  • The browser compatibility issues need a lot of work. Most of our students expect to use Internet Explorer and then have a lot of issues with Blackboard, or Java does an update and everything doesn't work like it should. Blackboard needs to find a better, faster way of keeping up with the updates in browsers and Java. Our students get frustrated, and I get frustrated, when I have to constantly remind them to use a browser other than Internet Explorer.
  • Blackboard claims that it is customizable however to make the "look and feel" of the Learning Management System unique is very limited. The log in screen is customizable however doing so is difficult and requires some coding knowledge. Although I have managed to customize our log in screen (because I am a software engineer), I have spoken with a lot of other schools who did not have someone on staff who could write code for the customization.
  • I have heard complaints from students that Blackboard is difficult to use. We have had some students leave because they could not figure out Blackboard. Some of them just had difficulty with it, some of them refused to ask for help.
  • We have instructors who refuse to use Blackboard. They are not "technically savvy" and have difficulty understanding how it works. This prevents us from developing fully online programs and degrees because these instructors are the ones who teach the courses needed for a particular degree.
  • Our revenues have increased dramatically due to online courses. This has allowed us to maintain updated labs and use the extra funding in areas that need help.
  • Blackboard has helped our school stay on the cutting edge of technology. It is something that we can be very proud of. Our distance education program has grown tremendously in a short amount of time. We understand that distance learning is the future and we embrace it.
We piloted Moodle for two semesters. We found Moodle refreshing and easy to use and comparable to Blackboard. The first initial reaction to Moodle was that "free" price tag that open source software has however after using it there were a few snags.

1. Although Moodle is "free", it requires someone knowledgeable in programming to install it on a server, set it up and maintain it. You still have the cost of the server and the labor to set it up and maintain it.

2. There is virtually no technical support other than forums for Moodle where as Blackboard has a team of people who are easily accessible. For our campus, I am the only software engineer. If we had Moodle and something happened to me, our college would be in trouble.

3. Blackboard is very robust and has a lot of bells and whistles. Although Moodle has most features, it is still lacking when you compare the two.

4. I am on a state wide distance education committee. We have pooled our resources together and get discount pricing for the state. This makes Blackboard very affordable for all colleges in West Virginia since we use a hosting company through our state committee.
The first question I ask is, "what are they planning to use it for"? I believe the number of users will make a difference in whether or not they should use Blackboard. Blackboard is a very robust system and may not be needed for a small amount of users. It would not be cost effective and using an open source system like Moodle, may be a better [option]. I also would have to look at who they have on staff. Blackboard is a great LMS out of the box and provides a lot of support if there is an issue. Some of the other LMSs do not have the same kind of support. For example, Moodle has no support so unless they have an expert on staff, they could run into issues that would be difficult to manage or repair.