Friday, June 15, 2007

Learning Management Systems: Open Source is Still Best

Being in education for 5+ years has been enlightening for me. I have found that educators will be more likely to choose the quick way out, rather than the best way. What am I talking about? I'm talking about Distance Learning management systems. Too often have I seen state-regulated education facilities spend thousands of dollars on a learning management system that has limited application to what they really want.

The reason why I get so incensed regarding these decisions is because it's completely unnecessary! There are several learning management systems out there that are 100% open source and free to use, and still offer a simple management setup. One of which is Moodle. Moodle offers the same features that any paid-for LMS would offer, but is completely free. The best part of it all is that each module that is developed is published for the whole Moodle community to utilize. There is even a project that is integrating Moodle with Second Life, providing a synchronous virtual learning environment along with the asynchronous learning environment that is commonly associated with Distance Learning.

So why am I mentioning this? Because in going over my old Masters program papers, I saw one I did on WebCT. At the time, I had only experienced WebCT as a learning management system, while getting exposed to then separate Blackboard. Since my paper was written, the two LMS's have been merged into one large company.

Now, don't get me wrong, WebCT can be very useful. There is a reason why it has been chosen by the Educational Board of Reagents. It represents a well programmed (in Perl, mostly), well thought out LMS. The only real problem I have with it personally is that it costs so much, and education is one place where money is very limited. If it were my decision, I would probably offer up Moodle as a learning management system, particularly with any distance learning programs within K-12. Higher education would also benefit, but as they generally get private or government grants, money isn't nearly as much as an issue as with K-12 programs.

Since finishing my degree, I started looking for LMS solutions that would provide a learning environment that is quick, easy, and simple to deploy. I found Moodle, and installed it on my Mac laptop. I instantly fell in love with it. I have since not needed to use an LMS (a Wiki is fine for my development currently), but one day I hope to start offering some distance learning classes of my own and will be utilizing Moodle for that function.

If you are working on a learning management system, trying to decide which to go with, or need something to help deploy your classes/online training sessions at work, I would highly recommend checking out Moodle. If for nothing else, it would provide a good experience into what can be done when the right people apply themselves to a financial problem.

1 comment:

mike said...

Hi jeremy:

I've also used Moodle and currently working on the ANGEL platform at the unversity of waterloo in onatrio, canada.

I've worked on the desire2learn platform and would love to discuss merits and pitfalls of OS and proprietary systems.

mike harttrup