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.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Great post. I think having the “hate” side of views in discussions, blogs posts, forums, etc. expose what improvements need to be made.

    It’s all about what tool(s) are the best for classroom application, whether it’s Moodle or not. I personally, don’t have some hidden agenda trying to “sell” Moodle like it will benefit myself, it’s just that I think it’s overall the best LMS to work with right now.

    Of course us “Moodle-Lovers” will defend the software but I doubt many will turn a blind eye if they see a flaw!

  2. Really well said! And I’ll remember that quote about Moodle being the worst LMS except for all the rest. I agree about how healty it is to have the negative side put forward in the forums – sometimes they’re down to plain lack of knowledge; often they really do “could do better” areas. Currently there are a lot of moans about Moodle 2.0 -and I think they’re serving to speed up the bug fixes and raise awareness of issues that need watching and sorting before upgrading. So you could say -even the Bad is Good:)

  3. I find the biggest reason that people “hate” Moodle is due a lack of quality training in using it. Staff need to be inspired to use it by friendly passionate and keen Moodlers. Even if Moodle became as slick as WordPress, teaching staff would still need to be taught how to use it and would need to see examples of good practise to kick start their Moodle journey. What usually differentiates the “haters” from the “lovers” is often down to the support and training they receive. Needless to say, I love it! Some say a little too much…

  4. I love Moodle; there, I said it!

    That said, I find myself defending it no a daily basis in my workplace where our LMS of choice is Moodle (primarily because it was open source).

    The main problem I find is not only a complete lack of staff training (as mentioned before) but also that a large proportion of my peers believe that Moodle should just “do” everything right out of the box.

    What they do not seem to realise is that Moodle is simply a set of tools that, if used properly, can be used to build wonderful eLearning creations. But you can’t build a table with a hammer and a screwdriver if you don’t have the wood!

    It always helps to hear the negative opinions because they, more than anything, drive the improvements. Although the chappy who tweeted me the other day with…

    “@RED20TWENTY Because compared to a real #LMS like #blackboard, Angel, Sakai, or Canvas #Moodle is crap and is not free”

    …is the sort of Moodle hater I do NOT like!

  5. I love moodle to a most of the time, I echo Lewis’s comments above.

    I find it a great HUB for creating and linking learning resoursces.

    Institutions expect it to be a panacea / magic pill but with out the correct investment and support to help it be adopted by everyone the full benefits will not be realised.

    I find it the best of a bunch of VLE applications.

    all software has faults these need ironing out and folks need to learn gradually and be supported in their skill set development, crawl first think about running later.

    Play with it and enjoy experimenting with some kind mentoring.

  6. Mike, thanks for sharing. I’m a fan of your theming and customization at RedTwenty. Keep up the great work!

  7. Lewis, Great point about the training aspect and so true.

    The best way to grow Moodle in a positive way in a district in my opinion is (1.)start off with [volunteer] tech savvy, eager teachers (2.)give them training that focuses on pedagogy and not just “how-tos” and (3.) let other teachers see what these Moodlers are doing and wait until they ask “how can i get a Moodle course?!”

  8. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with it. As an admin though, there’s nothing more satisfying than finally getting it to do what I need it to do, though that means I dread the upgrades when I have to do it all over again.

    At this point, after hearing so many teacher questions about it, I’ve become quite good at developing new content.

  9. After another dismal day of course development at my online school, it’s time to vent. I’m definitely a Moodle hater.

    Our school used to build courses via an HTML template designed by teachers, and a web server that hosted our Dreamweaver-built courses. But now, because the techs decided they needed an LMS system, we are stuck with Moodle 1.9. I’ve gone from loving my job to hating it, and it’s mostly because of Moodle.

    Moodle is painfully slow to build with. Page refreshes take 2-4 seconds at least, much more than with Dreamweaver. I think I “click” about 5 times more than what I used to when building in Dreamweaver. Moodle is NOT WYSIWYG. What the edit mode looks like and what online mode look like can be two different things; you’re never really sure. And why do I have to turn editing on… TWICE? Why is the text rendering and kerning so awful? Why is there a database set of files, AND a “course files” set of files? Why does the bottom HTML view not save unless I change the view mode? Why does Moodle do such a piss-poor job of importing code from other programs, like Dreamweaver and GoLive?

    Moodle also does a terrible job of discussion groups, esp. compared to FirstClass. And its testing software is so Byzantine that it makes LXR, our older but much more capable testing system, look like child’s play to operate.

    And on, and on, and on.

    What really gets me is that Moodle was implemented primarily for control and centralized power. Our admins and techs check up on us all the time with Moodle. They tightly control access to styles and fonts. They forget to tell new teachers that if teachers build courses in Moodle (without first building them in, say, Word), they’ll have nothing to show for it if they ever go back into a regular school. It’s stuck in Moodle!

    And, to top it all off, we have spent a fortune implementing this mess. It has to be the most expensive “free” program ever.

    End of rant, but not – unfortunately – the end of Moodle.

  10. I loved Moodle 1.9 – it made it possible to run a 4-way split class with no real management issues. So far, 2.x has been anything from a disaster to barely acceptable. First, course conversion from 1.9 has been so difficult and time-consuming that we had to bring in a contractor. Second, the new teacher user interface takes about twice the time to perform everyday activities like marking. Icons are tiny requiring either screen magnification or leaning into the monitor. That might be the skin we’re using to some extent, but at this point, if I had known what 2.x would be like, I would have recommended we stay with 1.9 and wait to see what 3.x looks like. Sorry, just the way it is.
    I am frightened by the prospect of teaching my 4-way split class next semester with 2.x.

  11. I absolutely HATE Moodle. It is the most poorly written LMS I’ve ever seen…it’s SO BAD but since it’s free, my employer’s consultant recommended it, and it’s been a complete waste of our time and resources.

    It’s impossible to do basic things like customize a confirmation email, and we struggle and struggle to make it look pretty (and yes, we’re using Rocket theme…and it stinks!)

    For all of the extra time we’ve spent on managing this piece of _____, we could’ve written the whole site from scratch and had a much better product. Hate, hate, hate, hate.

  12. Oh, and on top of that, I haven’t even been able to get a confirmation email from Moodle’s own support site, so I can’t even participate in the forums and ask questions! When I contacted their support, they didn’t even understand the problem…which was simply the fact that I couldn’t confirm a user account, and therefore I couldn’t get help.

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