Moodle Cubed

I use it every day and still find it fascinating.

Moodle is an open source Learning Management System (LMS) that provides a framework for elearning course delivery.  The LMS is a shell through which “customers” offer course content.  Moodle provides a wide range of tools to facilitate online interaction between students and offers the administration functionality required to enroll, grade, and monitor student and teacher users.

Face 1 – Market Type

Moodle is being used in the K-12 sector and corporate training but has found its biggest niche at the post-secondary level in fully online courses and blended classrooms.

Face 2 – Offering

Moodle offers two services.  The first , branded as (the product) is a completely free and open source software platform.  The second, (the service) is a company that offers hosting, support, and customization through country-based Moodle partners that pay royalties to Moodle (which are then used to support development of the product).

Face 3 – The Buyer

Moodle the product is usually acquired at an institutional level (school, school board, university, corporation).  Due to the free nature of the product the decision to utilize Moodle does not always come through the usual channels and often takes a grassroots approach as instructors and technicians pilot the platform.

Moodle the service is purchased by organizations who wish customization of the product, in-house training, and feature development.

Face 4 – Global Markets

As an open source project, Moodle has the benefit of a large client based contributing back to the product.  As such, the Moodle interface has been translated into 81 different language interfaces (Moodle, n.d.).  Since content is developed by the customer, the product is viable in any wired market.

Moodle partners offering a wide array of paid support services operate out of 33 different countries offering a wide range of language support and local suppliers (Dougiamas, 2007).

Face 5 – Development of the Market

Within the scope of the wired marketplace, learning management systems are well-supported and in growing demand as institutions look to offer online or blended learning environments.  Additionally, acceptance of open-source software is gaining acceptance for use at the enterprise level with successful products like Linux, Apache, Firefox, and OpenOffice being recognized as equivalent or superior to their commercial counterparts.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

While the impetus for competition varies globally with jurisdiction, there seems to be a trend in wired markets for elearning technologies to augment or replace traditional classroom settings (Howell, Williams & Lindsay, 2003).  Whether this is market driven where students are demanding the flexibility to study at their convenience and maintain work schedule; or government/corporate policy to reduce cost in infrastructure spending on brick and mortar learning spaces.

Dougiamas, M. (2007). Moodle: A Case Study in Sustainability. Retrieved Sept 24, 2009 from

Howell, S., Williams, P., & Lindsay, N. (2003). Thirty-two Trends Affecting Distance Education: An Informed Foundation for     Strategic Planning. Retrieved September 28, 2009 from

Moodle (n.d.). Moodle UTF-8 Language Packs.  Retrieved September 24, 2009 from


1 Barrie Carter { 09.26.09 at 6:37 pm }

Hello Jeff:

Have you used other open source systems like Joomla!, Plone, or Drupal? If so, how do they fair to Moodle?

Also, is Moodle a stand-alone E-learning system, or does Moodle have to be ‘attached’ to an external web site?

For ETEC 565, I used Vista as my LMS shell, not Moodle. Hence, the above questions.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,


2 Cari Wilson { 09.27.09 at 10:25 am }

Having nor been forced to use Moodle for two course in the MET prgoram, I have begun to get used to it, and I totally understand the appeal (free, lots of help from mass community of users, etc) so I can see its ability to grow. I still don’t like it, though….

3 Colin Cheng { 09.27.09 at 2:30 pm }


I have never used Moodle but look forward to becoming more familiar with it as our group has adopted it as our communication platform.

I’m interested in hearing from others on how it compares to the applications that Barrie mentioned (Joomla!, Plone and Drupal), none of which I have used before.

4 Amy Frank { 09.27.09 at 6:39 pm }

Cari, I agree. I don’t like it either. Definitely free is appealing, but I find it really limiting. We have clients who are wanting to switch to our platform, but can’t export anything from Moodle. Also (unless this has changed), it isn’t SCORM or AICC compliant. I am not sure about 508. I have used it for MET courses and found that the back-end reporting is pretty lame. With that said, I can understand why it is so attractive to groups, especially those that cannot invest in expensive LMS and authoring software.

5 Jeff Laird { 09.27.09 at 8:09 pm }

Have used Joomla and Drupal (not plone). These are both excellent Content Management Systems but Moodle specializes as a Learning Management System and incorporates numerous features such as Quizzes, Assignments, integrated gradebook (improved in newer versions), instant messaging, and a variety of other education-specific features. The pedagogy of the platform is very constructivist in nature and therefore leans to promoting constructivist-stlye courses.

Moodle is definitely a full, stand-alone system. I have worked in WebCT back-end support and management and definitely prefer the functionality and control of Moodle more.
However, it is not for everyone – some find the interface a little busy if you are used to Vista, WebCT, or D2L; the default “theme” of Moodle doesn’t have the solid feeling of Vista but the look-feel of Moodle is easily changed with a little CSS play or picking up one of the many free themes.


Moodle is scorm 1.2 compliant ( though I note that scorm2004 is not yet fully implemented; looks like there is pressure from Dougiamas on the developers ( but that the funding for this issue has not been a high priority in the community (though this is starting to become one and some groups are coming forward with cash

However, lots of forums noting that professionally produced scorm packages are working just fine – seems sequencing is the current issue.

but I agree, it is a concern for the future – however, if just a fraction of the amount of money a few institutions spent on commercial LMS went towards Moodle development, issue would be solved.

I am interested in what issues you have with the back-end reporting?

Can’t stand Vista myself, though I recently went to a Desire2Learn dog and pony show; aside from the terrible presentation, the product looked like it has significant promise.

Running my own system at the highschool level for a blended classroom – Moodle is the only option for me (unless I can finally get the alchemy lab up and running and turn teenage angst into gold).
I would love to see some nice AJAX features incorporated for a slicker interface.


6 davidp { 09.27.09 at 8:28 pm }

For those seeing “free” as a differentiator here, we’re talking about “free” as in “kitten.” Lots of care and feeding required, no matter what the platform of choice. I’m a proponent of Open Source, but it is not immune to total cost of ownership (TCO) vectors.

I’ll leave the rest of the commentary for the module teams that tackle Open Source technologies.

Jeff, good job in framing this one as well as in responding to detailed question re. SCORM compliance.


7 Jay Dixon { 10.11.09 at 8:26 am }

Jeff & others,
After being introduced to Moodle in 565 I find myself using it daily. I had not thought of “Moodle Cubed”. You have framed it well into the categorizes. I would agree that it is a “grassroots approach as instructors and technicians pilot the platform”. As David points out it is indeed like a “free kitten” it takes plenty of tlc and time in order for Moodle to function smoothly the way you like it. It can be an open source tech that will be as much or as little as you invest into it. Good post Jeff.

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