Top 10 Moodle Myths

Apr 03, 2006

Miles Berry

Back in October, as part of the HUGToB campaign, Josie Fraser compiled a list of the ‘Top 10 Moodle Myths‘. I’ve had a go at putting together some responses, as my first contribution to the Moodle docs project.

Once Moodle is stable, it will be put under licence. If it was any good, they’d already be charging for it

Martin Dougiamas is on record that Moodle will always be free and under the GPL. Even if it wasn’t, the community could take the latest GPL code and continue development from there. One of the reasons why Moodle’s so good is that it’s open source code, and so the world wide educational community can contribute to making it better still.

There’s no point in looking at Moodle unless you have a full time, php developer on your staff. At the very least you need a lot of technical support to run it in house

There are plenty of institutions running Moodle as is, without any php developers in sight. You don’t need to know any programming if you just want to run a copy of Moodle. That said, PHP is actually a fairly easy language to pick up, and the Moodle code is well documented, so if you did want to help with development, it’s a fairly gentle learning curve.

It’s fair to say you need a certain amount of technical know-how to run your own instance of Moodle securely, but this is more to do with getting a web-server, SQL database and scripting language up and integrated than the Moodle scripts themselves. If you can run your own webserver, you should be OK to run Moodle on it.

You don’t actually have to run Moodle in house though – there are well respected Moodle Partners who’ll run Moodle for you, some of the more enlightened Local Authorities and Regional Broadband Consortia will provide Moodle hosting, and Moodle will work on plenty of commercially hosted webspaces too.

Moodle won’t be compatible with our other systems/software

Moodle will run on Linux, Windows and Mac OS-X. It’s compatible with a huge range of databases through ADODB integration. There’s a whole host of authentication and enrolment mechanisms, including LDAP. Moodle will allow teachers to integrate content in a range of different formats, including SCORM, Flash, MP3s and RSS feeds. On the Roadmap for future releases is a Web API which will allow easy integration with other web-based applications.

Finally, remember that this is open source software, with a well documented data and file structure. If Moodle’s not compatible with a particular application at the moment, then you can pay a developer to code up that integration, or develop it in-house.

Moodle just doesn’t have the commercial experience we’re looking for

Check out the partners. Moodle’s already being used by some big name corporate clients for in-house CPD.

You can’t just use Moodle out of the box – the basic Moodle install just isn’t that sophisticated

Have a look at the feature list, all of which comes as standard. Additional themes, blocks and activities are easy to integrate and the vast majority are free, open source code too.

There’s no documentation, training or support available – you’re on your own

There’s excellent documentation online, provided by the user and developer community. The Open University’s Jason Cole has written an excellent introduction to Moodle for teachers, available as a proper book from O’Reilly.

Becuase teachers find the interface so intuitive, there’s not as much need for training as for some commercial alternatives, and many institutions will be able to run this in-house. Some of the partners also specialize in training.

High quality, timely support is available from the user and developer community in the Using Moodle course on, some LAs and RBCs are happy supporting Moodle in their areas, and there are also commercial support contracts available from the partners.

The total Cost of Ownership is actually higher for Moodle than it would be with a wholly commercial platform

Stop and think for a moment. With both Moodle and commercial platforms, you’ll still need to pay for hosting, support, training and content, one way or another: with Moodle, more of these costs can be brought in-house, because the code’s open source and Moodle’s great at providing the tools teachers need to write online activities themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to.

The difference is that with Moodle, there are no licence fees to pay. None. The money you do spend goes back into making the software better, or remains within the educational community for the common good. None of it needs to go to meet shareholder dividends or pay back the venture capitalists. Furthermore, you’re not exposed to the costs when commercial suppliers unilaterally increase their licence fees.

It’s therefore not that surprising that when they examined the Total Cost of Ownership of open-source software on desktops in UK schools, government agency Becta found significant savings compared to commercial alternatives. The savings on support costs were particularly impressive. It’s likely that these savings would have been greater still had they examined web-based applications like Moodle.

Moodle is just no good for an institution as large as mine

So, that would be one larger than the UK’s Open University, with 180,000 students, yes? The OU has announced that they’re moving to Moodle as their institional VLE, and there are plenty of other large institutions officially using Moodle, and a good number of others where sections are.

Moodle is just not designed to cope with my specific group of learners or customers

Moodle’s being used successfully from elementary education, including early years provision, up to higher education, in all subject areas including art, languages, the humanities and mathematics. It’s also established itself in the world of life-long learning, teachers’ CPD and corporate training.

We have all our stuff on ***, it’s just not worth the hassle of switching to Moodle

The switch may not be that much of a hassle, as Moodle will happily import content in a wide range of standard formats, including SCORM. There are an increasing number of Further and Higher Education institutions that are making the move.

Pedagogically, there’s much to be gained from moving to a VLE which puts social, collaborative learning at the centre, and acknowledges the vital role that learners have to play, as well as providing teachers with the tools that they need to build effective on-line learning communities, rather than just presenting resources and activities.

From a financial perspective, the costs involved in switching to Moodle should be quickly recouped through savings in licence fees.