Opinion: The Social Learning Environment and Moodle


With the introduction of several new learning platforms in 2011 (Instructure, Sophia, CourseKit, OpenClass and others) there’s a new buzz word in the realm of LMSs: “Social”.  Which is ironic since Moodle was built to introduce the “use of Open Source software to support a social constructionist epistemology of teaching and learning” [emphasis mine, link].  Check out a few of the “Social Learning Platforms” below:

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My personal opinion about any specific Learning Management Systems is driven by two things: 1 the ability to control/customize the system to do what is necessary and 2 the availability of content and resources that can be integrated into said LMS.  Those two driving forces really open the door to utilize any learning management system (and deep down if you really look they all provide the same basic tool set and could each be customized to mimic one another, Blackboard included).

The most recently released LMSs have embraced a few distinct usability features.  Specifically, they each showcase activity streams, updates, email and text notifications, social network integration.  These are all great ways to make a learning management system sticky, but the real value I think comes from the community and here’s why:

  • A community of developers provides additional LMS capacity and capability (and/or the wherewithal to contract your own customizations)
  • A community of practitioners have a depth and wealth of knowledge on how to take X and delivery Y
  • A community of users equates to a worldwide repository of content for all levels, subjects and uses

I’m certain that each new learning management system offers something novel and great to its growing user-base.  I’ve had a chance to try each one or at least get an in-depth view through a webinar or online tutorials and each works to put the learner central to the experience.  While social is the buzzword, learning-centered is still the most important feature and I think that Moodle is the leader by miles.  As it goes with LMSs though, it only achieves this with the right configuration.

Is your Moodle learner centered? How do you ensure that students have a simple and easy interface? What’s your opinion of the other “Social” learning management systems?


  1. Right after Canvas went open-source, I spent a ton of time researching it and comparing it to Moodle, as our school district was in the midst of choosing a LMS. I fell in love with Canvas, but we felt like it was too much in its infancy to adopt the open source version. I think what frustrates me about Moodle is that it still looks and feels like something from the mid 90’s, whereas Canvas looks and feels much more modern. I know the essential argument here is about pedagogy and not design and usability, but Moodle frustrates a lot of our students/teachers for this reason.

  2. Greg, thanks for the comment. Interesting perspective from the front lines. As aesthetics are concerned though a little design work can go along way. Have you checked out some sites like the University of Sussex ? Their UI/UX is extremely customized and changed compared to standard Moodle [link: http://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/elearningteam/2011/08/10/recent-activity-in-moodle/ among others].

    Also, what about using myMoodle as the homepage and other configurations like that? Other course formats can really change UX as well. Just a few thoughts on how quick changes go a long way.




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