Things a small training company should know about Moodle

  in  Online Learning

With over 300 million registered users, Moodle is possibly the most popular learning management system in the world and there are some good reasons why Moodle has become so popular.

Firstly, the software is free to use, this is great if you only want a basic implementation of Moodle for a small number of learners. You will almost certainly still have to pay for hosting, but even then there are low cost options available.

Moodle is also open source. That means you can modify and adapt the software, for commercial or non-commercial use. Moodle also has a fantastic developer community across the world. It is not too difficult to find software developers and consultants to advise on the implementation and help with any issues you may encounter when using the software. Moodle also has a large library of plugins, ranging from tools to help build your online course, convert legacy word and pdf files into courses, and integrate with other software your company may be using.

In terms of features, a basic implementation of Moodle has a lot of what you would be looking for when providing online learning. Learners get a personalised dashboard, showing their courses, course progress, and any upcoming assignments. They also get an all in one calendar, which automatically updates with any set assignments helps them see all their work in one place. A built in progress tracker helps both learners and teachers keep track of progress, making it easy to highlight any issues that learners may be facing.

Admins can generate more detailed reports on activity and engagement, on a course level or a sitewide level. Moodle’s collaborative tools are great. It has forums, wikis, glossaries and more, allowing learners to work together on tasks.

Moodle admins also have full control of site design and layout - so you can present Moodle in a way most suitable to the education you’re providing.

Authentication of users and user enrolment is well covered. Admins can manually create accounts for users or can give users the options to create their own accounts. Similarly, admins can enrol learners individually, as part of a cohort or give users the option to enrol themselves, either for free or upon payment. You can also enrol users from a database, such as MySQL. Courses can be created from pre-existing documents, like PDFs, media can be added, and courses can be added in bulk, backed up and restored with ease.

So Moodle seems like a great choice for a small training provider, but there are a number of issues you should be aware of before deciding to implement Moodle.

There are grumbles about the Moodle UI. For new users, the dated style, with endless submenus and lack of colour coding can be difficult to navigate; it can take time to find what you would consider as simple settings.

People also complain that as the number of people using Moodle increases, the software begins to slow down. This is an issue, learners are less likely to engage fully with slow software, and teachers and admins will find it harder to upload and keep track of new content. It’s important, if you are hosting your own Moodle instance, that you run it on the right level of cloud infrastructure.

Also, an increase in students can mean an increase in complexity with the system. It may be at that point you need to dedicate someone as your Moodle enthusiast, or you may have to turn to a Moodle consultancy expert. Like all big implementations of open source software, Moodle is not a zero cost option.

Furthermore, if you want to begin to take advantage of Moodle being open source and modify it to suit you training needs, you will either need a dedicated programmer with a good knowledge of Moodle or you will have to outsource to one of the many bespoke Moodle development companies, again increasing the running costs of something that was initially free.

It’s important to know that Moodle does not come with a built-in CRM system, though plugins exist to integrate with many established CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics, Arlo and Zoho. If a simple integration plugin one does not exist for your chosen CRM software, you may find yourself having to either switch CRM software or move off Moodle altogether.

Another important thing to remember is that open source software isn’t really free. You need to pay for hosting, there’ll be set up costs and over time you (or one of your colleagues) will have to develop the skills and expertise needed to manage Moodle as your learner numbers increase.

Moodle has its own partner network – a community of businesses approved by Moodle who can help with hosting, integration, customisation, support, training, consultancy and implementation. You may find yourself paying for one or many of these services from one of these companies if you don’t already have the resource or expertise.

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