Reflections on Moodle after returning to Blackboard
Stephen Lackey | TrustRadius Reviewer
September 15, 2015

Reflections on Moodle after returning to Blackboard

Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

2.6

Modules Used

  • default; no optional modules where installed

Overall Satisfaction with Moodle

At my prior college, Moodle was used as the Course Management System, somewhat in conjunction with Campus Technology's CampusCruiser email/courseware offering. The two systems were not integrated, requiring a duplication of content. Both Moodle and Campus Technology offered online file storage and online calendar. CampusCruiser served also as email, in conjunction with the usual PIM stuff somewhat integrated (a calendar, tasks, email, contacts). Moodle had online file storage but only in connection with a specific class. Content shared between multiple sections of the same course required duplication, manually importing each file. This overlap typically caused confusion among students and instructors alike, creating even less consistency between courses and instructors than a typical LMS alone.

Many Moodle features were useful, including the ability to stage content with MultiMarkdown or plain text formatting. Other products often present either a MSWord-type interface or a raw HTML editor. AFAIK, Markdown content wasn't directly uploadable and converted, but had to be composed in (or cut/paste into) a text edit window.

Moodle has a number of open source modules that looked interesting, but I have not directly used them. These include integration with the content management system Drupal. Moodle's weakest point would seem to be the management of content, something which is readily solved with a CMS. In my opinion, a learning management system without adequate Content Management support somewhat defeats the purpose of a true LMS, since content can easily go stale without adequate management tools to update and leverage content across multiple courses.

Rubrics are present, but the management tools for rubrics are inadequate. Most grading criteria should be reusable across courses and instructors, for consistency. Using rubrics in Moodle seems to result in their being duplicated for each assignment, which became unmanageable across 4 classes with a couple dozen graded tasks per course. Rubric management for assessing instruction quality does not appear to be present in the default installation, but would be strongly encouraged. You do use consistent criteria for grading each assignment, right?

More advanced LMS features such as adaptive release for learning content, SCORM integration are present, but awkward to use. Moodle isn't a content creation or content management tool, and default integration is cut and paste. Adaptive release and SCORM content are very prohibitive without effective tools for creating content.

Like most open source projects, Moodle is free, as in the same sense as "free puppies". For a budget-strapped organization, free is very appealing. Keep in mind that the product doesn't run itself, so adequate staff skill is required to keep it running. The real value of Moodle would seem to be in customization to integrate with the organization's existing IT assets. If you don't mind learning an API and writing PHP code, there is an extensive amount of customization possible, that commercial products like Blackboard do not allow. If adopted, Moodle support and maintenance must still be budgeted.

For a non-education sector use, I believe Moodle is still a valuable asset, if used in conjunction with a content management system and adequate staff support. Alternative tools I've previewed seem to be excessive and less economical in terms of delivering instructional content. Internal training is necessary in all organizations, and an inch thick employee manual isn't always the best way to accomplish this. But, building useful learning content is a skill in itself, but a valuable one to develop.
  • Availability of third party open source modules to extend functionality. The stand-alone Moodle product is useful, but limited by the effort in setting up courses and content. The ability to integrate with Content Management systems (or possibly Document Management systems) is critical, and provides additional benefits to managing employee training and productivity.
  • Use of rubrics. These are external, explicit grading criteria to improve communication between instructor and learner regarding expectations and ways to improve performance. A management plan for rubrics is necessary, and not readily done internally within the Moodle default installation.
  • More complex learning schemes are supported, such as SCORM and other adaptive learning systems. However, for non-trivial course development, external tools for building this content is required.
  • Rubric Management. This may have been addressed in a plugin module.
  • Better tools for examining outcomes from exams and rubrics across a class, course, or organization. This may have been addressed in a plugin module.
  • Improved content management within the default installation. While there are modules that support products such as Drupal, building into the default product would ease adoption.
  • Since I used it in the capacity of a faculty member of a college, the default benefit is just the cost of doing business. If set up properly, it can accelerate the speed and flexibility of assessment and feedback.
  • Outside the education sector, monitoring the training steps completed (particularly for refresher training) would be greatly improved. Such seemingly dull tasks like "how to use the phone system" or the photocopier would benefit from small online training classes, since the majority of features in modern office appliances go unused.
Blackboard has clear advantages in rubric management, and offers a content management system of its own. The largest barrier is cost for smaller or financially-disadvantaged organizations. However, as in any IT project, adequate resources must be made for even "free" software.
The most important one would be the resources available to support it. While this is true of any LMS product, the flip side of the flexibility and customization advantages is the cost and time to support the product.