Is Moodle your LMS?

Last week I attended an eLearning Guild webinar about their recent release of Learning Management Systems (LMS) Report. The webinar was as much about their data analysis/display tools as it was about the LMS report. The data tools were very cool and allowed you to splice up the data in a thousand different ways. It would be great to have a dynamic tool like that for evaluation data. I could probably make the results say whatever I wanted. The coolest thing is that the data was live. The tool pulled the data from the actual online data base, so if people were answering the survey questions during the webinar, the results would change to reflect the new responses. The data parsing software is from Tableau Software, if you’re interested in checking them out.

Anyway, enough about the toys, on to the report findings. Unfortunately, I didn’t shell out the $1300 for the entire report (I think that was the cost they mentioned in the webinar). That’s just not in my budget, but I did read through the synopsis, which is available on the eLearning Guild web site. You might have to be a member to view it. Here’s the direct link to the PDF.

If you follow the LMS market, then the report won’t surprise you much. The big name players are all there with their market shares. What did surprise me was how much of an impact Moodle had on the survey. Based on this survey, Moodle enjoys a significant market share, even in corporate environments. For organizations with fewer than 5000 people and fewer than 5000 learner, Moodle is the most used LMS. That’s significant. Even if the eLearning Guild’s data has a wide margin of error, Moodle still has a large install base in smaller organizations. My theory is that these organizations don’t have the budget to spend on commercial systems, so they choose the most economical product – Moodle. Moodle also offers a robust feature set that rivals many commercial products, so not only do you save money, you’re likely getting most, or all, of the features you need. The synopsis also discussed return on investment, cost per learner, and satisfaction. Needless to say, Moodle scored very high in these categories.

So, what does this mean to the average eLearning practitioner? If you’re shopping for an LMS then you definitely need to look into Moodle. It has matured to a point were it legitimately competes with, and often beats, commercial products. While the software itself is freely available, you have to consider installation, configuration, and maintenance. Those are not free, and Moodle itself doesn’t offer any of those services. Moodle isn’t a company, but there are people out there that offer Moodle install/setup/config services. Moodle is open source, and thus has a huge support base that you can tap into to answer questions and get help. You can also customize it to meet your specific needs.

More importantly, because of Moodle’s success other open source tools could start to be used more widely across all organizations. Corporations and government agencies tend to be a little fearful of open source products, maybe because they don’t come with support. The truth is they do come with support, but that support comes from the community. The more people that belong to the community, the better the support becomes. That is one of Moodle’s strengths. Now that a lot of people use it, you can find help online and there are many books available as well. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were an authoring tool that had the same open source community? Your eLearning budget could focus on making better training, not upgrading tools every year. Software is a huge cost that can quickly get out of hand, not to mention keeping track of licenses.

I look forward to the day when my software budget is $0.