Moodle Practicality

Moodle is an open-source and community-supported content management system. It is available for anyone to download and use free of charge and has a strong support community to assist users with problems that may occur. However, like other web-based CMS software, you must have server space to install and use Moodle. Since many institutions choose to support only one CMS package (such as WebCT), you may find it difficult to convince your institution's information technology department to install and support a copy of Moodle, or you may find that the web space provided to you by your institution does not have the necessary features (such as a database) to run Moodle. I ended up purchasing web space from a private company (~$65/year) and had no difficulty getting Moodle running. Additionally, the Moodle site also maintains a list of hosting providers that support Moodle, which I would recommend for individuals without a strong web publishing background. This does present itself as a potential drawback to using Moodle—setting it up on a server and maintaining it may require more work on your part as an instructor if your institution does not support it.

Once installed, the Moodle program is very easy to set up and maintain (especially in comparison to programs like Drupal or Mambo which have substantial learning curves). Novice users can spend two hours or less and have their Moodle classroom sites up and running with ease—including modifying the site colors, educational modules, navigation systems, and features. Advanced users or those interested in development might create new modules for their sites or develop custom layouts or designs. As open-source software, the Moodle community also has released a series of additional modules and features you can add to the basic Moodle package.

Overall, I found the Moodle software to be a very stable package mostly free of glitches or errors, and when errors did occur, the Moodle community helped me solve the problems quickly and effectively. During my first semester of using Moodle, my web hosting provider upgraded its servers, and my Moodle chat feature (which I was using for online conferencing and interaction) stopped working. I posted about my issue online, and within 24 hours, I had many responses with suggestions and feedback. A patch to the Moodle system several days later was able to restore the chat feature problem.