Moodle is a free, open source Learning Management System used by educators to provide online courses or training. We put together a quick guide for businesses, schools and developers who are looking through the options and trying to find the best LMS for them. This Moodle review is geared towards site operators who would be building the courses, not necessarily the students and end users.
- It’s free!
- Open Source, so you can edit the software to meet any needs.
- Fairly good documentation.
- Robust online forum and support community.
- Well known by programmers. It’s fairly easy to find a coder who knows Moodle if you need extra development.
- TONS of features. If it’s not built in you can usually find a plugin that will do what you need: moodle.org/plugins
- Support for different media types like video, audio, SCORM and web pages.
- Great reporting features for teachers.
- Multiple authentication methods. Moodle can integrate with ‘most’ user databases.
- Great quiz builder.
- Ability to add different user types all with different permissions. ie. students, tutors, teacher assistant, etc.
- Sales system that lets you charge for content.
- Lots of activities to build course content.
- Courses have a very structured and easy to follow format once setup.
- It’s not a Content Management System. Moodle is not like WordPress or Joomla, it main function is e-learning, not site building.
- Built for universities. The core structure of Moodle is built to operate like a university. Businesses using Moodle for training or certification may run into some walls to get it working like you want.
- Constant maintenance. Don’t plan on setting this up and letting it run, you’ll need at least one tech savvy person on hand at all times to keep things running smoothly.
- Large learning curve. Moodle is not intuitive and can be very frustrating for new users.
- Will probably need a dedicated server to run it.
- Lack of good templates. Most Moodle sites look very similar, it’s difficult to build a really nice looking site with Moodle.
- Difficult to add items to the side menus. Editing the side menus can be nearly impossible.
- The file upload system is ridiculous, every file upload is encoded and saved in the Moodle data folder so that you can never find it again.
- Difficult to upgrade. Most upgrades will break something on the site.
- The code can be confusing if you need to make customizations. Moodle has a lot of its own functions and figuring out how to use them properly can be confusing.
- The cron script. Most web systems make updates on the fly when an action occurs. Moodle has a cron script which has to be run every 5-10 minutes to update certain site information. This can be very confusing to users who might need to wait 5 minutes for certain tasks.
- SCORM integration. Many people have trouble getting SCORM to report back to Moodle, for example to record grades.
- Can get very technical, most novices will have a very difficult time getting Moodle to run they way they expect.
Overall, Moodle is a great choice for online learning and it’s more affordable than most subscription based solutions. Moodle is a monstrous beast, don’t expect to install it and have your site up and running in an afternoon. The most ambitious users might have a working site in a few months. And getting Moodle running is just the first step, you also need to build out your course material. The task of creating and organizing lessons can be a daunting task in of itself.
Try to use existing features and avoid customization as much as possible. There’s going to come a time when you want Moodle to do something that it wasn’t built for, and the temptation with open source code is to jump in and start editing lines of code. Moodle is exceptionally complex and small changes can spiderweb into huge system wide bugs. Not to mention incompatibility of Moodle upgrades and 3rd party extensions.
Despite all of its issues, I still recommend going with Moodle. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than 99% of what’s out there. There’s no other free solution that even comes close in terms of features and support. Most paid software lacks the expandability of Moodle’s huge plugin library, plus you’re locking yourself into a partnership with another company where you rely on them 100%. Relationships like that can become very one sided.
If you have experience with Moodle or can recommend some other options we’d love to hear about them. Have a great day and happy Moodleing!