Moodle’s Muscles Are Too Much

After a couple months of playing around with moodle I’ve finally decided to throw it out. This is actually my second look at the platform. The first time I passed it over because I felt it fostered the building of walled gardens, which might be good arrangements during a school’s transition from brick-and-mortar to the web, but aren’t things we want in the long run.

But this time, after experimenting with my senior students I have to say that while it’s very powerful, it has a steep learning curve for both teachers and students and I’ve found this to be a significant barrier to school-wide use. Our work with WikiEducator came to a similar conclusion–the editor was too complicated–and so people were putting their energy into making the tools work instead of making content.

Now, I like the ideas in moodle, and to be to be fair to it I have to say we are a small school with limited resources and maybe a bigger operation could put more people into developing the platform. But that doesn’t get around what I think is a more fundamental problem. I’ve been told moodle was developed as a tool to manage distance learning; but even if that’s not true, it is a tool that requires a lot of centralized management and it’s a tool that fosters lock-step instruction. It takes a fair amount of work to create an online lesson in moodle and if I am going to invest that time, it would have to be for something I was going to use over and over again (a legacy of its distance-learning roots?) But I very rarely use exactly the same material in my teaching from year to year and even when I do I very rarely teach the same thing the same way twice. Each year my mix of students is different, I’m different, and the way we interact and what we collectively know is different, so I just don’t find a battery of lessons and quizzes all that useful.

Moodle is just too muscly for me. I do like the way it handles calendaring and student submissions, but I think I can’t get that in the more nimble and user-friendly Edmodo. My Grade 8 and 9 students and I are playing with that platform right now. We’ve only just set it up, but the initial response is more favourable than it was for moodle.

I’ll keep you posted.

5 Comments

  1. Reply
    Carl November 21, 2009

    Interesting.. I like Moodle, have used it for several years now. I like building a course and then modifying it to handle changes that happen from year to year.If you think Moodle is difficult, you should see what Blackboard is like.However, I do not like the text base interface, ATutor’s interface is easier to use and work with. But then, not many know about ATutor.

  2. Reply
    Braddo November 22, 2009

    I did some due diligence before trying moodle–it seemed to come out ahead of Blackboard, as in this comparison. Moodle is also free.But in any case, they both seem to be top-heavy. I wonder if their rising popularity comes from them giving schools a feeling that they have taken big steps toward web 2.0 (or whatever we want to call the phenomenon) when in fact all they have done is electronically replicate the traditional school structure of teacher as gatekeeper.But I’ll have another look at Balckboard anyway. And I’ll give ATutor a spin, too.Thanks for the comment and tip.

  3. Reply
    Learn Teach Tech November 22, 2009

    In the grad school class I teach, we have to use Blackboard. It’s complicated and the feature set is huge. I think the school has done a great job of modifying it for use. We recreate it every semester and the students have amazing work on this platform. However, these are all adult learners.I tried to use Moodle. It was too much work. The learning curve is huge for something that I’m not required to use.Then I found Edmodo (http://edmodo.com). Easy. Low learning curve and the students compare it to Myspace and Facebook (even though it is not like either of those). I love that it is created for education and the people behind it are so easily accessbile (twitter.com/zemote).Just my two cents.

  4. Reply
    Braddo November 22, 2009

    Interestingly, my students also say Edmodo is like FB, even though, as you say, it’s not really so.Glad to hear the folks there are approachable–I need to talk to them about their grading piece.Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Reply
    Ed Tech in Review | Stick in the Sand February 19, 2010

    […] around on Edmodo. They’ve revamped their service and I think it’s outstanding and vastly superior to Moodle as course management software for 21st century teaching. Try blogging. Trial: I think we have to set up a blogging project with […]

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