Moodle v. Blackboard: PCM&D

The aim of this report is to feed a few paragraphs into the VLE Review at the Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry

Moodle at the University of Bath

Moodle was introduced in June 2006 at the University of Bath as the centrally supported VLE. The University of Bath had previously been using Blackboard Basic. Part of the migration was to provide integration with other institutional systems, including student records. We currently have around 8000 unique users access ever week, and have no major performance problems.

The use of Blackboard was limited, as individuals and Departments tended to use their own web space or shared folders to distribute learning and teaching materials. In addition, the School for Health had been a piloting Moodle with their distance learners.

Overall, the application is very robust, out of the box it’s maintenance requirements are low. They are similar to Blackboard in requirements for regular patching etc.,

Has the implementation been a success?

“Based on the indicators used, the evidence suggests the implementation of Moodle has been effective, as usage has continued to grow and the user satisfaction level is generally referred as very high or high.” From Was the introduction of Moodle a success? Reflections on the effectiveness of introducing Moodle in 2006 (http://www.bath.ac.uk/lmf/download/40753)

Moodle compared to Blackboard

It is very difficult to compare the two systems, and in terms of functionality I’m not sure how useful is the comparison. The bottom line is you can achieve pretty much the same in the two systems. Where they differ is Moodle isn’t a commercial system, with a driver on reporting, e-commerce and providing a suite of tools out of the box to meet all your needs. So, I tend to look at Moodle as the VLE, and I’ll look at other tools from different vendors for e-Portfolios, Document Management, etc.,

However, at first glance, when using Moodle 1.9 compared to Blackboard 6 there are a few points to observe. Firstly, the comparison of tools indicates the current functionality of Moodle (out of the box) is lower than Blackboard in terms of gradebook, tracking, conditional release etc., In terms of blogging, wikis and podcasting again it offers lower functionality. There would also needs to be a serious look at the objective assessment engine, in terms of a direct comparison.

Another comment regularly raised when people look at the two systems is, most people use it in a content and support model (i.e., document repository for their teaching), therefore, in Moodle most courses involve a significant amount of scrolling if they’ve not thought through the design aspects.

It does offer some very nice approaches which I hadn’t seen in Blackboard, especially around the area of peer assessment and review.

Many of the tools will be enhanced in Moodle 2.0 – available in Spring 2010, and the University of Bath will upgrade in Summer 2011.

Where will Moodle be in the next few years?

I get the feeling the Moodle community is starting to make much better explicit relationships with other vendors and systems. For instance, Moodle 2.0 offers much easier connections to ePortfolios, document management systems etc., I’d also suggest as a product it has matured to the point where the local software developer making significant changes in their local versions is coming to an end. The next phase will be more institutions using Moodle out of the box (which works fine), not branching from core code (as we’ve not the resource to support a branched version), and our energy will be directed towards providing the glue between Moodle and other systems, and collaborative efforts (with other institutions) to enhance particular tools or tasks (i.e., peer assessment) and feed these back into the future versions and core code.

What would be needed for a successful migration?

Well, ignoring the issues of trying to migrate content and activities (which I’d assume wouldn’t be easy), there would need to be a significant emphasis placed on staff development. The systems look different, you’ll need to win both hearts and minds. So in terms of the commitment, I think you’d need to re-allocate resource currently being spent on annual licenses towards FTE to support and develop Moodle.

Two years in, would I go back to Blackboard?

The answer is no. This is not because of any dislike for Blackboard (I’ve still got a soft spot for the software), however, I feel Moodle offers me more interms of what I could do with it. I’ll admit, given resources and conflicting priorities I might not do anything with it, however, I could if I wanted to 🙂 This is a very empowering feeling.

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2 comments

  1. Andy

    Hi,
    Seems a shame that you were using Blackboard 6, and not the current version, 9. It offers a lot more in the area of Peer and Self Assessment, Blog and Journal tool, and much better support around Grade Centre and student participation.
    Andy

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