Another day, another university citing performance and reliability issues among the reasons why it decided to jump over to Canvas, in lieu of Moodle, as the institutional LMS.
This time, for the CSUN Sundial, Tandy Lau reports on the end of an 8-year partnership between California State and Moodle. A one-time outage in 2013 on a Texas-based Dell server, seemingly during a general school deadline, serves as the main reason the school feels Moodle is unreliable. At the time, CSUN’s LMS was serviced by Moodlerooms (Blackboard’s open source arm). It is unclear whether the Moodle Partner was still providing support for the public institution when the decision to switch was made.
As a provider of cloud-based solutions, Canvas downtimes are the proprietary’s direct responsibility, but the same cannot be said for Moodle. Depending on the size and the budget, customers have several support options, but often these are not clearly laid out to them. For organizations with the internal means and necessary skills, Moodlers can not only troubleshoot even the most obscure error through self-help or from helpful Moodle Forum experts, but also track and prepare for downtime, usage spikes by the community, and even prevent and prepare for cyber attacks.
In any case, anecdotes of poor performance (warranted or not) remain on the minds of users and have repercussions for Moodle’s reputation, sometimes years after the fact. For users with a sour memory of the LMS, Moodle’s fast evolution in performance, usability, and functionality in recent years is likely to stay away from their FOV. Usually, when news breaks about a large institution’s decision to make the switch, previous anecdotes of the same kind are included, as in Lau’s reporting. This starts to suggest that, at least in the US, investing in marketing or PR could be a way to thwart Moodle’s dwindling adoption rate. By contrast, some people in the Moodleverse, including the Moodler in chief himself, don’t see a reason to worry, let alone “betray” Moodle’s principles.
This is not to say that Moodle and PR have nothing to do with each other. It is common to find promotional materials by US Moodle Partner eThink Education (a MoodleNews sponsor) reporting a 90% 10-year customer retention rate. Canvas does not offer similar indicators, but it is not difficult to find the good, the bad, and the ugly from the proprietary LMS. On the unfortunate side, untimely customer support, an apparently inevitable period following the switch where it falls out of favor among users, and recurring criticisms over pricing transparency (not to mention a fair share of outages) are a dime a dozen too. The difference is that Instructure, Canvas’ parent company, seems better suited to manage its image in the minds of those who matter most when it comes to the bottom line.