Opinion: Moodle Love/Hate

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I’ve used two LMS systems (Moodle 1.9+ and Blackboard Learn 9.0) on a daily basis for nearly a year.  Prior to that I was using only Moodle (1.8.3 through 1.9).  While Blackboard helps my company StraighterLine deliver low cost courses to students nationally (and world wide), my use of Moodle c0uld almost strictly be labeled as a hobby activity.  Writing on a daily (weekdays) basis here on Moodlenews is definitely a hobby.  To my wife’s dismay, the two ads (thanks Wiris and WiZiQ!) provide a little pocket change and help to pay for the hosting, domain registration and sometimes an order of carry out which is a gift to a few of the guest writers who publish here every now and then.

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Lately I’ve noticed that at any given time most Moodlers fall into one of two distinct camps (which have some common characteristics).

I Love Moodle: generally upbeat about their Moodle site and Moodling.  They have a course or site that’s working the way they designed it, possible after dozens or 100s or 1000s of hours of configuration and working.  Or they’ve found that a basic configuration does exactly what they want and with a little guidance have created a digital drop box for their students to submit homework or forum to capture some student to student discussions.  I’d like to think that the majority of Moodlers fall into this camp, contribute to Moodle.org and pay it forward in terms of introducing a colleague or passing along their enthusiasm to use the product.

Certainly they’ve noticed the number of clicks it takes to create a resource and the various idiosyncrasies of their respective distribution/version of Moodle.  They probably even have a wishlist of the 3rd party modules of customizations that they’d like to see their Moodle have in the short/long term (but not necessarily the programming skills or funds to spur that development).  I’d wager that the majority of Moodle users (those with the teacher editing role and below, including students) fall into the Moodle-lover category.

I Hate Moodle: ironically, Moodle-haters probably are still directly engaged in using, administrating or supporting Moodle.  I’ve known a few developers who griped about the code base of Moodle and the underpinning design.  A lot of individuals with install and upgrade issues wondering “why can’t it be more like WordPress?” (I’ll agree…Wordpress’s upgrade process is both seamless, no fail and easy) also probably fall into this camp.  Whether from frustration of working with the back-end and code or frustration with the click frenzy necessary to create a large course only to realize, “$h!#, it doesn’t work correctly when I switch to the student role”, it’s real frustration that gets vented and contributes to the overall public view of Moodle (the negatives of using Moodle have a pretty strong showing at Moodle.org in both the forums and the docs).

In any event, users with a negative view of Moodle are still contributing tons of improvements, voting up bug fixes and working through difficult problems with other users across the web.  In addition they’re making some great blog posts and series which focus on exactly the issues that administrators should be wary of when using free open source software (especially if they’re doing it with limited resources/staff).  Only together do the two perspectives offer a holistic view of the LMS.  Without that side of the coin I’m not sure the Moodle community would be as robust.

Am I a Moodle-lover?  At the moment, guilty as charged.  Why else would I spend my pre-dawn mornings writing a few posts and sharing cool new Moodle themes I found?  Sure there are a lot of features and usability issues that really turn me off.  But after using another LMS for an extended period and testing several more systems, Moodle still holds a lot of value for me.

Moodle may be the worst LMS; except for all of the rest.  Which is to say I’m quite happy with my wish-list of features (which would make the perfect Moodle) and try to refrain from bashing a collection of code that provides so many millions of users with free access to online education online.

Does my view of Moodle help me put forth a view of Moodle absent of the warts and blemishes?  Yes, but I never claimed that Moodlenews was fair and balanced.