Moodle myths, busted

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Is Moodle coming of age? Elearnity's Adrian Jones tells the community how best to put the software to use.
For the last ten or more years, the corporate learning management market has been dominated by specialist LMS providers. Whilst new entrants emerge on an ongoing basis, corporate LMS procurement projects are dominated today by the large specialists; with little variation other than the enterprise HR systems' own LMS option and an occasional learning outsource discussion. Against this backdrop, the reputation of the LMS market place has suffered and Moodle has been increasingly touted as a potential solution to put these wrongs to right. Through some innovative packaging it has started to gain traction as a potential LMS within a corporate environment. But, are these claims fair and realistic? Is Moodle REALLY an enterprise LMS? Can you embrace it as the perfect LMS solution?  
 
"There is significant interest in the potential to use Moodle for corporate learning...but our research shows that corporate usage of Moodle today is quite limited"
There are probably few in academia who have not encountered Moodle, the open source course management system. During the last nine years it has established itself as one of the most common systems in use in the educational sector, with over 58m users. Historically, Moodle has been primarily used as a virtual learning environment or VLE. A VLE's primary role is to support the delivery of learning, through a structured educational programme, resources and collaborative activities.
In reality even academic institutions do not typically use Moodle as a LMS, other than on a tactical basis for small scale standalone pilot projects. Large academic organisations will have completely separate systems, typically referred to as Managed Learning Environments (MLE) or Student Information Systems (SIS).
There is significant interest in the potential to use Moodle for corporate learning, especially in smaller organisations, but our research shows that corporate usage of Moodle today is quite limited, and there are still very few public domain large-scale corporate Moodle case studies. Few large corporate organisations have adopted Moodle as a strategic learning technology platform. And if they have, Moodle is typically just one component of a more traditional learning technology infrastructure.
The most common role of Moodle within corporate organisations today is as a tactical, low-cost elearning launch platform where an organisation does not have a suitable LMS already. Some organisations have used it on a more extensive scale but even then it is for a distinct audience or to meet a specific need. Despite Moodle's success in the academic market, there is limited evidence of corporates using Moodle to deliver a blended approach.  
When Moodle is married with the right tools and the right requirements there is no doubt that it can be an extremely powerful tool. It's a relevant and potentially compelling solution for corporates, but in its own right it is far from being a true LMS. Despite the claims to the contrary, it clearly does not provide that functionality; unless you find someone to buy the additional, non-academic, modules from, and the wrapping software and services that makes it attractive corporately. In this instance you are starting not to just buy Moodle, but a whole suite of vendor-specific code and supporting technologies. That Moodle is appearing in new forms under commercial distribution, like Totara and the more established Joule and ELIS, is clear testament to the fact that Moodle isn't a LMS.
 
"It is critical to understand the overall landscape in which you place it. For corporates this means understanding Moodle's place in their wider learning, talent and performance agenda."
So, what does that leave us with? Where can it be successful? Where can you find the most value from Moodle? Perhaps the biggest clue to where the power of Moodle lies in the environment where it originally grew. Moodle's DNA has been engineered, if not evolved, to thrive in an academic environment. That is to say, it has been shaped to excel in the facilitation of defined syllabuses. So, if you have these discreet syllabuses and there is little or no engagement in the wider capability, talent and performance management agenda, then Moodle may be right for you; in the guise of either a VLE, a learning portal, or an elearning launch and tracking tool.
Solutions however are seldom planted in isolation and there lies the key to getting the best from Moodle. It is critical to understand the overall landscape in which you place it. For corporates this means understanding Moodle's place in their wider learning, talent and performance agenda. It also means understanding the operating environment and model that supports it.
That corporates are often approaching Moodle as a tactical quick fix seems to indicate that this wider perspective is not being fully considered and this is where the ultimate problems may lie. Only by articulating your needs, the operating environment and the deployment approach will you establish whether Moodle is the right answer.
 
Elearnity’s latest Insights report: Insights into Corporate Moodle can be downloaded free from the Elearnity website
Adrian Jones has been involved in all aspects of the learning technology field for the last 12 years and was one of the pioneers of using elearning in a large scale retailer. A frequent speaker at major elearning conferences, Adrian has also contributed his thought leadership and practical experiences of the realities of corporate elearning to many industry forums and magazines

About Adrian Jones

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