What is Moodle?
Moodle is a learning management system (LMS) provided, maintained, and continually improved through the Open Source software development model. Originally arising from a PhD research project by Martin Dougiamas, version 1.0 of Moodle was released on August 20, 2002. In fall 2007, Moodle was selected as the LMS for ISU.
Designed to be extremely flexible for teachers and learners, Moodle can be downloaded and used on nearly any mainstream computer, and it readily scales from single-teacher or departmental websites to 50,000-student universities (see http://www.moodle.org/).
Why move from WebCT?
In the fall semester of 2005, ISU was informed by WebCT that our current platform - WebCT CE 4.0 - would no longer be supported after July 2007. The new version (WebCT CE 6.0) was identified as requiring a significant shift in personnel and equipment support and resources. Soon after the version 4.0 "end of life" and support deadline was announced, Blackboard Corporation, which makes a competing LMS product, announced its acquisition of WebCT. This merger was finalized in April of 2006 and created additional concerns for product directions, pricing, and support requirements. Consequently, the issue of upgrading an existing platform became complicated by issues of upgrading to which product - WebCT CE 6.0 or, in view of this corporate acquisition, moving to a Blackboard product. The consideration of a Blackboard option necessitated a review and evaluation process of our existing LMS needs and planning for future campus-wide requirements and requests.
LMS Review & Selection Process - Overview
The first step was to determine our choices in either migrating to the new version of WebCT or to identify another comparable product. Data was collected from WebCT to determine costs to migrate from CE 4.0 to CE 6.0. Other commercial vendors (e.g., Blackboard, Angel, or D2L) have been evaluated over the previous two years internally by the Instructional Technology Resource Center (ITRC). None of those commercial alternatives has proven to be a viable option when comparing price, usability, and support. Changing to another commercial product would offer another layer of challenges that make it difficult to discontinue WebCT.
After surveying the major additional alternatives, Sakai and Moodle emerged as the two main Open Source LMS solutions worth being evaluated against WebCT. Open source LMS products evolve through community cooperation and development. Such communities are composed of individual programmers and educators who freely develop and share product ideas (this is a viable approach to product development and support - for example, Open Source Apache web servers currently hold a 63% market share). Both Moodle and Sakai offer cost-effective solutions that can be comparable to our current WebCT LMS, and in some cases offer more flexibility with teaching and learning tools. As part of evaluating Sakai and Moodle, ISU support staff from ITRC, ETS, and ITS communicated and visited with other Universities implementing both products. San Francisco State University, Humboldt State University, Portland State University, and Indiana University provided useful information regarding our evaluations of Moodle and Sakai.
LMS Review & Selection Process - Faculty
In selecting a new LMS, pedagogical issues focused around design, delivery, and interface of each product. The ITRC encouraged participation of the faculty and student population, because the users of the product needed to have a significant voice in this evaluation process in order to make it meaningful and reflective of our campus community and instructional technology needs. Based on current usage of WebCT, three faculty groups of WebCT users were selected and one group of non-users was selected. Faculty members were selected according to the percentage of WebCT usage in the various colleges (Deans were also asked to submit additional faculty names for this process, as desired).
The 23 faculty members that participated in the focus groups initially indicated that WebCT technology is more familiar and would provide an easier transition, but the majority felt the Moodle LMS would be easiest to learn if something other than WebCT were selected. Most faculty members agreed that Moodle was a favorable option if it provided the same level of flexibility and instructional application as the current version of WebCT. Faculty consistently regarded Moodle as having the most potential; they also observed that it appeared to be a better teaching and learning tool than the other products. With respect to the prospect of having to change the LMS platform again should Blackboard's acquisition of WebCT soon result in a single, Blackboard-based product, faculty members were concerned about adopting one product now yet having to move again in a couple of years. Faculty preferred and requested a dependable, long-term solution. Moodle was a strong favorite in the final review, with 15 faculty choosing it as their first-choice (vs. 6 selecting WebCT first, and 1 choosing Sakai).
LMS Review & Evaluation Process - Students
Student participants in the LMS review and selection process were randomly chosen by the ISU Student Senate. The students demonstrated various levels of WebCT knowledge, from low- to high-level usage and experience. Students found Moodle to have advantages in supporting their learning needs. The students specifically requested that any new LMS include quick access to grades, improved assessment instruments, and an interface or visual approach and display that will help differentiate file types. Their overall rating of all three products concluded with Moodle unanimously ranked first by all student participants.
LMS Recommendation - Moodle
Based on the data collected from its review process, Moodle was selected as the future LMS of choice for further evaluation. During the fall 2006 and semester, 15-20 faculty members are receiving ITRC support with instructional design and technology production to begin prototyping their courses in Moodle. This was expanded in the spring 2007 semester, 50 faculty members are receiving ITRC support to begin prototyping Moodle. LMS survey instruments will be designed to integrate with each course to evaluate levels of student and faculty success in both fall and spring semesters.
This process will involve reports from faculty and students enlisted in the evaluation. The future direction of web-based, instructional technology resources provided by our chosen Learning Management System will depend on the success (or lack thereof) while prototyping courses in summer and fall semesters. The information thereby collected will provide the University with the appropriate evaluation information needed to invest in a future LMS. (1) move all current WebCT courses to Moodle by July of 2008, (2) continue our investment in WebCT, or (3) expand the pilot into the spring semester.
For a more comprehensive discussion of review and selection process that led to the choice of Moodle, please see the complete LMS Focus Group Report.
Moodle Pilot Report (Fall 2006)
The Moodle Pilot Report evaluates feedback from faculty members and students who have reviewed the Moodle 1.6 LMS software package in the fall 2006 semester. Based on the data collected from the student and faculty results, the ITRC proposed to expand the Moodle pilot into spring 2007 from 20 to 50 faculty members. For a more comprehensive investigation of the fall pilot study, please see the complete Moodle Fall Pilot Report.
FINAL Evaluation and Recommendation Report (Spring 2007)
Based on a year-long analysis of ISU's needs and an evaluation of several Learning Management Systems (LMS), ISU has decided to adopt a new system to replace WebCT. The new system, called Moodle, is currently in operation in the Instructional Technology Resource Center. In addition to supporting the use of "traditional" online content and activities in an intuitive, effective fashion, Moodle also offers a wide array of features to support innovative pedagogical techniques. In particular, Moodle excels at providing student-centered, active learning activities.
Over the course of the 2008-2009 Academic year, the ITRC helped instructors currently using WebCT to migrate their courses to Moodle. By the time our license for WebCT expired in July of 2008, all WebCT courses were moved to Moodle. Training in Moodle began the summer of 2007.
For a more comprehensive investigation of the entire study, please see the complete FINAL Evaluation and Recommendation Report